MISSOULA — The program is only three years old, but Tuesday served as proof that a Missoula agriculture program offers a lifetime of opportunity — and the director of Montana's Department of Agriculture agrees.
Christy Clark took a tour of the Missoula County Public Schools (MCPS) Student Agriculture Education center and saw for herself that Montana's leading industry is in good hands. School House Meats is where students get to see firsthand the life cycle of livestock.
“And this is where science comes to life out here on the school farm,” explained Ag Education teacher Tom Andres.
“It really connects the kids to where their food comes from,” added Clark.
“Producing a workforce that's going to be valuable for our community. But then we're also producing a product. You know we produce about 30,000 pounds a year from this farm, you know that that goes a lot to feed in our community in addition to that we're producing beef for the school lunch program so we're producing a nice lean healthy local grown product that our students are able to eat, right here in the school lunch.” - Ag Education teacher Tom Andres
Students from Big Sky, Hellgate, and Sentinel high schools come and learn from Andres for anywhere between 40 and 120 minutes each school day.
The program allows students to raise their own animal until they are brought to the slaughterhouse. Students then learn about the processing of meat and go on to sell their products to the Missoula community.
“At the end of the day they raise the cattle or the sheep, or the pigs or whatever they're doing, and then they have an opportunity to process that and to see the process all the way through from the start to finish,” said Clark.
Clark came to Missoula to visit the program and see what their program is like firsthand, "really trying to get a sense in our industry, where's the best places for state resources."
School House Meats has been the recipient of several state grants, which helps keep their facility and curriculum competitive with others across the nation.