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C magazine

Students learn food processing skills

Ag instructor Desi Severance teaches students how to produce and process food at home as part of the Wyndmere (N.D.) High School ag program.
Matthew Wilde
Jun 5, 2023

Producing and processing food at home, such as canning vegetables, is a waning skill in rural America. Families in the Wyndmere Public School district, Wyndmere, N.D., expressed those concerns, which inspired high school ag instructor Desi Severance to offer a new ag products and processing course.

The class sparked Severance to apply for and receive a CHS Foundation teacher grant to outfit a mobile produce processing lab for the school, which will be shared with eight other school districts. The Wyndmere Public School district was awarded $15,000, which will also be used to implement the ag processing curriculum.

“Almost all of us [area school districts] started planting orchards, school gardens and building high tunnel greenhouses within the last three years so soon there will be an excess of produce that some programs do not have the ability to deal with,” Severance wrote in her grant application. “A mobile processing lab, along with supplements and a shared curriculum for an ag products and processing course, would help programs expose their students to the world of food preservation.

“Anytime we can get our students to get their hands dirty and delve into the process of anything hands-on, we are igniting the spark of interest in them,” she continued. “Learning different methods of freezing, canning and trying recipes for different products is an experience not many receive at home anymore.”

New leaders in ag education

Severance was one of 15 teachers to receive CHS Foundation grants during the 2022 CHS Annual Meeting. The grants provide students with ag education and skills to help feed a growing world. The foundation celebrated its 75th anniversary by awarding $75,000 in grants to teachers to bolster ag education programs at their respective schools.

Three top grants of $20,000, $15,000 and $10,000 were given to support experiential agricultural education and projects that align with the foundation’s purpose to develop new ag leaders. Another 12 honorable mention finalists received $2,500 each.

“CHS Foundation investments in the future of agriculture are broad — just like the industry we support,” says Megan Wolle, CHS Foundation president. “We need to help develop a robust pipeline of individuals across multiple disciplines in agriculture from agronomy and precision ag to finance and information technology.”

Learn more about how the CHS Foundation is helping develop future ag leaders.

Exploring food science

Severance says she hopes the experience will encourage students to process and consume homegrown food and consider careers in food science and food production. The new semester-long ag processing course focuses on fruits, vegetables, honey, dairy products, cereal grains, fiber products and more. The mobile processing lab will put learned skills to use.

The grant will help buy a 7-by-16-foot trailer, a freeze-dryer starter kit, an apple grinder and fruit press, canning equipment, knives and other equipment. More than 150 students are expected to use the lab.

“This mobile processing lab will allow us to take [what’s produced from] our gardens and orchards and allow us to go to the next level. [Students will] really experience the food science side that sometimes gets forgotten,” Severance says.

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