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Local farmers show students where they get their food

Columbine curious about horse and bee keeping
Students at Columbine Elementary School look at food for livestock at a farm-to-table event Wednesday

The chickens were interesting and everyone wanted to know how bees make their honey. But the big star at Wednesday’s farming show-and-tell at Columbine Elementary was Westley, a 16-month-old horse who likes to show off a bit.

“Oh he loves it,” said Westley’s owner, Niwot High School senior Lilly Thomas. “He also likes little kids.”

Curious students at Columbine were enamored with Westley, peppering Lilly with questions about Westley’s diet, where he came from and what exactly Westley does all day.

“This is good,” said Theresa Spires, Wellness Coordinator for Nutrition Services for the St. Vrain Valley School District. “This is what we wanted to do. Educate our youth about local agriculture and help them understand our food system.”

Columbine students and teachers took part in Colorado Proud School Meal Day by enjoying a school meal composed of locally-sourced items. They then spilled onto the school’s playground and visited with Westley and local experts to learn about chickens, bee keeping and what is best to feed a horse.

Beth Stevens, dietetic intern for the St. Vrain Valley School District, explained to the students about the proper grains and grasses needed to keep livestock healthy and well-fed. Inquisitive students sniffed and held the feed in their hands.

Stevens said she grew up in rural Georgia and is well-acquainted with cows. “I grew up knowing that milk came from cows,” Stevens said. But many students aren’t familiar with the process of getting food from the farm to the table.

“I hope we can help them see how they get their meals,” Stevens said. “I think this is a good experience for them.”

St. Vrain Valley School meals served through the Nutrition Services Department meet all USDA nutritional guidelines monitored by Colorado Department of Education Child Nutrition and the Colorado Adult and the Child Food Program, according to a St. Vrain Valley news release. 

The school district served 2.34 million meals over the 2019-2020 school year, which increased to 3.53 million meals over the 2020-2021 school year, the news release states. The district has served over 546,000 meals from Aug. 17-Sept. 15, 2021.

Lilly —a member of the Future Farmers of America — said she grew up on a ranch and learned early about raising horses. She said she enjoyed fielding all the questions from the Columbine kids and feeding their curiosity about agriculture.

“It was fun, you can tell they are really interested in what we do,” Lilly said.