Auburndale School District uses $25K grant to teach students meat, syrup processing
AUBURNDALE — Local educators have put a $25,000 grant to good use by teaching students and community members how to process and preserve their own food.
The America’s Farmers organization awarded the grant to the Auburndale School District through its Grow Rural Education program. Educators used the funds to purchase new equipment for processing and preserving meat and maple syrup.
The nationwide program, sponsored by the Bayer Fund, awarded nearly $2.3 million in early 2019 to rural school districts to help improve science, technology, engineering and math education.
Among the new equipment at Auburndale High School is a commercial smoker, a meat band saw and a hydraulic sausage stuffer, said Mark Cournoyer, an agriscience instructor and a Future Farmers of America adviser at Auburndale High School.
"It's like a full-service butcher shop in a classroom," Cournoyer said. "(The students) are all hands on deck and all hands in the products."
The district also purchased maple syrup taps that students can use in the school forest and a maple sugaring machine to make candy.
Teaching students these skills is meant to pique their interest in an under-represented occupation, Cournoyer said, and to spur some interest in processing at home or lead a student to pursue a career in a related field.
In the spring, the district plans to open the food science lab to the public. Community members will be able to bring their own meat or maple syrup for processing.
Cournoyer said a lot of the meat and maple syrup used in the class is brought in by students or donated by community members or the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Students are then able to bring home what they've made in class.
Since 2011, the America's Farmers Grow Rural Education program has awarded nearly $18 million in grants to further STEM education.
School districts throughout the country are nominated for the grants by local farmers. The Bayer Fund then notifies school districts of its nomination and educators are asked to submit a grant application. The Farmer Advisory Council, which is composed of math and science teachers, as well as 30 farmers from around the U.S., choose the winning districts.
Erin Glarner, community outreach manager for Bayer, said the Farmer Advisory Council was impressed with the thoughtfulness of Auburndale School District's proposal, which will have a positive impact on students and the community.
"The Auburndale educators pointed out that food processing is a lost art," Glarner said, "and it's impressive to see how they intend to utilize the Grow Rural Education grant to help students, teachers and area residents master these skills."
The program is accepting nominations for 2020. Farmers can nominate a local school district until April 1 by visiting AmericasFarmers.com. Once a school district learns of its nomination, school officials will have until April 15 to submit their grant application, with winners being announced in early August.
Cournoyer said the new equipment allows the district to have 21st century technology in a small community setting.
"It makes our small school and community very unique and very forward thinking," Cournoyer said. "It’s a blessing to have these opportunities for our students."
Contact USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin reporter Melissa Siegler at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Marie2Melissa.
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