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Farm Trips Include Food System Lessons With Three Little Pigs

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Manhattan Country School Farm got new piglets last week.


We buy them when they’re about six weeks old, and raise them until they reach marketable weight, which usually takes about six months. Then they are sent off to slaughter and return to the MCS Farm as bacon, pork chops, ham and sausage. This process provides a clear-eyed view of how meat arrives on one’s table. MCS students have a better understanding of food supply than most kids, and probably better than a great majority of adults.

The “pig pail”

Our pork program is also a good example of recycling. MCS Interim Farm Director Ed likes to say, “We don’t waste our table scraps, we use them to grow pigs.” All leftover food and table scraps are saved in the “pig pail”—every breakfast, lunch and dinner. Then at chores time, twice a day, the students will bring the pig pail out to the barn and feed the pigs.

We feed the pigs before we feed ourselves. In the evening the pigs will get the table scraps left over from our breakfast and lunch before the students go inside for their own dinner. So often the pigs have, say, pancakes and tacos for dinner (maybe with some cake left over from snack time). And students doing morning chores feed the pigs before everyone else is awake, with the table scraps from the dinner the night before, so the pigs might have pizza and salad for breakfast.

These are some of the best-fed pigs in all the world. They’re quite omnivorous and seem to enjoy just about everything that is brought to them.

Our pork program meshes well with our other food growing, all of which winds up on the tables at the MCS Farm and at MCS in the city. We raise chickens for eggs and for meat. We raise cows and steers for milk or beef. We grow tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli, carrots and other vegetables. The students contribute to all of these with care and hard work. They know what goes into everything they eat.