COMMITTEES Farm to School
Farm to School Feature
Local Beef raised by Local Youth
BY BECKY O’CONNOR HARVEST NY In 2019, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Erie County 4HLivestock Educator Tami Kron asked Farmto School Coordinator Becky O’Connor if she thought schools would be interested in beef raised by area youth. The answer was a resounding “YES!” The Erie County 4-H Dairy Steer Program grew out of a necessity for new market opportunities for the county’s 4-H-ers interested in raising livestock. Youth weren’t satisfied with the traditional beef sales at the 4-H market auctions, but still wanted the opportunity to raise cattle. While 4-H Dairy Steer programs were offered by some other counties, it’s not something Erie County had ever participated in. But Tami knew there was a great market opportunity: school food service. Many schools in Erie County had begun focusing on procuring more local foods, and that year several were planning to apply for the 30% NY Initiative. Local beef was something these schools were actively seeking out and getting from a few very local farms as well as Slate Foods. In January 2019, Tami and Becky met with the 4-H Dairy Steer Program steering committee: a group of adults who would guide youth through the program. Becky discussed what the requirements would be for schools: the beef would need to be processed in a USDA facility, and the maximum price would be $4.50/lb. delivered. The steering committee already had a coveted spot at a USDA processing facility, and a relationship with a meat wholesaler who would store and deliver the meat. They discussed processing options and settled on ground beef and stew meat, which would be versatile and inexpensive. In January 2020, six 4-H youth ages 9 to 15 purchased dairy calves from their parents’ farms. These newborn calves were cared for by the youth from birth at their own farms and homesteads, where they raised them until August 2021. The 4-H-ers received guidance from the steering committee, but it was ultimately up to them to decide what and howmuch to feed the cows in order to get them to their goal weight. The youth covered all the costs related with raising the cows along with finacial records and health records for their animals. In August 2021, the 4-H youth presented their cows during the Erie County Fair’s first ever 4-H Dairy Steer Auction. The youth sold the loin portion of the steer, offering the Porterhouse, T-Bone, Rib Steak and
Brisket in a Smoking and Steak Package to recoup the unexpected increase in cost of raising the cows due to COVID-19. The steers were then processed and the ground beef (2,044 lbs.) and stew meat (214 lbs.) stored before being purchased by 4 Erie County school districts for use in their food service (3 districts) and Family and Consumer Sciences programs in December 2021. The final cost came to $5/lb., an increase the schools were amenable to. $3.90/lb. went to the youth that raised the steers; $0.90/lb. went to the processor; and $0.20/lb. went to storage and delivery. Sales were processed through CCE Erie County. Laura Watson, the Food Service Director for Springville-Griffith Institute (a public school district) said: “We used our [beef ] on our Farm to School Thursday. We made Spaghetti with meat sauce, garlic toast, gourmet tossed salad with variety fruit cups, and we also sampled root vegetables from Harvest of the Month. We were so proud to have the opportunity to showcase locally grown beef by FFA students and look forward to the opportunity again....it was one of our largest participation days to date!” Anne Rich, the Food Service Director for Hamburg Central School District said: “The beef purchased through CCE from our local 4-H youth group was AMAZING!!! Lean and delicious! We made NY Beef Stew with NY potatoes and onions too. It was the first time we made it and hopefully not the last!” If you have questions about this program, you can contact Becky O’Connor: email@example.com or 845.706.0293
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