Small Rural School Builds Positive Leaders Using Farm to School

Here in Lyons, the Center’s hometown, a mentorship program at the local school is turning students into positive leaders. New principal Derek Lahm calls it “Empower Your Genius.”

Twice a month, the entire school, grades K-12 - approximately 250 students, is dismissed from class at 2 pm. Elementary, junior-high, and high school students pair up for the mentorship activity.

Last October during national Farm to School month, the focus was on food. Ag Instructor Kevin Anderson took the reign at planning events. He began with a video about food sources. Students were struck by the idea that the milk on their lunch tray starts out with a cow grazing in a field. A second grader came home proudly quizzing, “Did you know that milk starts with a cow eating grass?”

During the event, younger students worked with older students to make homemade pretzels, ice cream, and, since it was National Apple Crunch Day, a dessert called “Apple Delight.” Students learned where the ingredients came from. They also talked about different avenues to source food items, such as a grocery store, a roadside farmers market, or directly from a family farm.

Empower Your Genius is a great example of how Farm to School in the classroom can be used to create leadership skills, build discussion and awareness, and teach hands-on skills. It begins the dialogue early in children’s lives about where their food comes from, how food choices and sources affect them, and how to make healthier choices.

Fortunately, since the Lyons-Decatur is one of our Farm to School pilot schools, they already have several goals. School staff is identifying food products, producers, and delivery streams to incorporate into their menus.

Their work is coming full circle, making lasting economic, educational, and health connections. By teaching hands-on skills and critical thinking about where food comes from and how it is made, the students are gaining lifelong lessons that can lead to better health and brighter futures.