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Monday, November 5, 2012

Locust Trace students raise hens, broilers then share their bounty with God’s Pantry

The Locust Trace chicken pen consists of two merged chicken tractors - lightweight, mobile structures that give the birds plenty of room to move around. (Photo from FCPS)


By Tammy Lane
Fayette County Public Schools

A truck from God’s Pantry Food Bank pulled away from Locust Trace AgriScience Farm with 27 dozen fresh eggs and 193 pounds of frozen chicken, all raised by students eager to share the bounty.

They had bought the laying hens and the broilers using a grant from Food For All, which works with grocery retailers and other producers such as Locust Trace to benefit community-based nonprofits such as God’s Pantry.

“To get a partnership like this going locally, and especially if it can develop into a substantial amount on a consistent basis, it would be great. Every little bit helps. We’ll get started with this and see where it goes from there,” said the food bank’s Manuel Howard, who picked up the initial donations.

Students raised the broilers last spring and prepared them in June using Kentucky State’s mobile processing unit. Shane Norris, who is in his first year teaching animal science at Locust Trace, took the handoff on this project and followed up with God’s Pantry.

“The 43 chickens are whole broilers so they’ll be very useful this time of year. It’s getting close to the holidays, so it’s in demand,” he said.

This fall, his students take turns tending to the laying hens, which arrived as day-old chicks. Senior Whitney Ott noted how her agriculture power mechanics class built the wooden laying boxes and the chicken tractors, which are two mobile pens the students subsequently merged so the hens would have more wing room.

Students loaded nearly 200 pounds of frozen chicken. (Photo from FCPS)

“They can move around and graze and won’t be as stressed,” senior Travis Mink noted. The pen, which sits between the classroom building and the barn, is surrounded by an electric fence “to keep raccoons, possums and coyotes from coming in and snatching a hen.”

“We’ve got a chicken coop coming to keep them warm and laying through the winter,” added Norris, who said Southside Technical Center students are building the coop.

Locust Trace wants to involve as many people as possible. Math teacher Crystal Dean is also on board as her classes track patterns and correlations between how much feed the hens eat and how many eggs they lay.

“Kids can take what they learn on the farm and tie it back to an academic class,” Norris said.

Meanwhile, his students will have another 100 broilers to raise starting in early November. The chickens should be grown and ready for processing and delivery in February.

“We’re learning anatomy and physiology, feed management, proper nutrition, and understanding egg production and collection. When students can see where the eggs actually come from, it makes a big difference and leaves a profound impact,” Norris said. “Not only do they see the science and agriculture part of it, they take a little more pride because they realize we’re helping the community.”

Rebecca Wallace, the development director at God’s Pantry, thanked the students after they loaded the first batch of eggs and frozen chicken onto the truck.

“Part of our mission is to reduce hunger through community cooperation, and this is a great example of a partnership,” she said. “It’s also great for us to get such good product to give to people who’ll really appreciate it. You all are literally feeding your neighbors.”



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