Ag Addition

Weakley County Schools Production Farm Takes One Step Closer to Gate to Plate
Posted on 12/08/2020
This is the image for the news article titled Weakley County Schools Production Farm Takes One Step Closer to Gate to Plate“Gate to plate” or “farm to table,” whatever the terminology, Weakley County Schools Livestock Production Farm is one step closer.

Last year, agriculture students experienced what it takes to not only raise the animals but also witnessed the steps involved in processing the meat and seeing it served in Weakley County School cafeterias.

School closures meant that Jason Kemp, a teacher at Dresden High School and the farm manager, had to scramble to utilize all the product which had been headed to schools. The exercise involved some dreaming and as a result, he applied for and received one of the Tennessee CARES Act grants focused on COVID relief. And now $33,319 of Supply Chain Enhancement funding has allowed for the purchase of a walk-in freezer, two reach-in display freezers, and the purchase and installation of a new generator to support the equipment.

Kemp points to the addition to the program as further reinforcement of the farm’s mission: “Weakley County Schools Livestock Production Farm seeks to be the premiere high school agricultural complex that is both multi-disciplinary and multi-species. We are on a mission to serve the needs of our students seeking relevant careers, industries needing a trained workforce, and the communities in our area by providing products that will feed families and our economy.”

Without the freezer and refrigeration units, students could only observe the business aspect of livestock production in theory and on paper. Now, notes Kemp, marketing and customer relations will be among the hands-on learning opportunities as students help to plan for and staff what is hoped to be a storefront option for sales of sausage, premium cuts of pork and beef.

Currently, the animals are processed off-site at a USDA-approved facility, a requirement for the sales to schools. Kemp says he hopes that students will eventually have the opportunity to participate in the processing. They are already invited to observe.

“In the first phase of our ‘gate to plate’ work with the schools, we were limited to sausage production only,” explained Kemp. “The freezers and fridges will mean we can focus on prize cuts like Boston butts, bacon, and chops and sell those to the public using our own branding.”

Presently some student-raised cattle and swine are sold to individuals who then turn to area businesses for local processing. With the movement toward a storefront, students will become much more involved in the business of pork and beef sales.

“The farm is already a source of pride for Weakley County,” said Randy Frazier, director of Weakley County Schools. “This addition will open up even more opportunities for our students to learn and to prepare for work study options and future careers. I am grateful that Jason pursued the funding and the Tennessee CARES Act funding team saw the value in supporting his request.”

students explore new freezer
Dresden High School students (from left to right) Ethan Milam, Janelle Tanis, Gracee Adams, Spencer Davis, and Chloe Rommell explore the new walk-in freezer and reach-in display freezers purchased and installed with Tennessee CARES Act funding for Supply Chain Enhancement. The new equipment moves the Weakley County Livestock Production Farm one step closer to an anticipated storefront.