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Bushels for Beef Offers Wins for School, Community

The Bushels for Beef program has two primary goals: to serve Greeley County students high quality, locally-raised beef; and to highlight a key Greeley County product and industry.
At their Friday morning Greeley County Farm Bureau board meeting, board members discussed the program, which is in need of additional support to continue. 
“We noticed another Kansas community - Stafford County - doing a similar program and thought Bushels for Beef was something we could do here,” said Ben Fisher, Greeley County Farm Bureau board president. 
The program asks  farmers, landowners, and community members to donate grain (or cash) to help pay for the purchase of a local cow for meat. The funds generated also support processing costs, which run around $800 per animal.  The board also welcomes whole animal donations.
 The beef is donated to Greeley County Schools, who uses the supply to make protein-rich, beefy meals. 
Christina Marquardt, food service director for Greeley County Schools, takes over from the point the meat is dropped at Percival Packing in Scott City. Percival Packing is a USDA-inspected facility, one of the requirements of the schools’ food service program.
Marquardt communicates  cutting instructions to the locker and picks up the beef when it is finished. 
“It has been a learning experience,” she said. “We needed more hamburger and less roast than I had done the first time. It’s a guessing game with lots of variables.”
Marquardt, who grew up on a ranch near Kit Carson, Colorado, is familiar with locally-sourced beef.  As a child, she helped her family as they processed their own cattle and said she was wrapping and stamping packages then. Her first job after graduating with a degree in ag business from Panhandle State University was at a locker in Flagler, Colorado. 
Though the students’ favorite meal is hamburgers, the beef has been used to make a variety of meals throughout the year. 
“We’ve had kids say ‘this is so much better,’” said Marquardt. 
So far, 6,728 meals have been prepared for Greeley County Schools using the meat provided.
For Marquardt, the quality is impressive, as are the savings to the school’s budget.
“The biggest impact is financial,” said Marquardt. “The amount of money it is saving the school is incredible, especially with the cost of everything else.”  
Marquardt, who was new to her position as of the start of the school year, said she couldn’t imagine how expenses would look without the additional beef. Even with rapid inflation, Marquardt said the school’s month-to-month food costs are running about even with the previous year’s expenses. 
The school has utilized three processed animals so far and will need an additional two to finish out the school year. 
“The beef is locally sourced, high quality, and supports our local agricultural industry,” said Jennifer Hopkins, Farm Bureau board member and Greeley County Schools third grade teacher. 
Farm Bureau Ag Ambassadors and Greeley County students Kashen Nelson and Layton Hopkins agree. 
“It’s way better than the old stuff!” said Kashen Nelson. 
Beef is second largest ag industry contributing to the county’s economy, trailing grain farming. 
According to the Kansas Department of Agriculture, the beef cattle industry (specifically described as ranching and farming, including feedlots and dual-purpose ranching 
and farming) accounted for a $48 million dollar economic output to the Greeley County economy in 2021. 
“We would like to continue the program in partnership with the school to ensure a heart-healthy, nutritional needs of our students are being met at school with the highest quality meat possible,” said Jennifer Hopkins. 
The Bushels for Beef program has proved educational, too.  
“Some kids don’t know where beef comes from,” said Kevin Nelson, Farm Bureau board member. 
Jennifer Hopkins said that some teachers are using the beef as a way to teach about agriculture in the classroom. 
“It helps illustrate the pathway our food travels to get from the farm to the plate, “ Jennifer Hopkins said.
Flyers posted around the multi-purpose room have caught the attention of parents from other schools during concession stands. 
“They ask each other ‘Why aren’t we doing this’?” said Christina Marquardt. 
Kori Davis, Field Services Manager from Kansas Farm Bureau, said “I was tickled when Greeley County Farm Bureau decided to do this. Tribune is such a community-minded place and it is an idea that can hopefully grow into some other counties.” 
Both Greeley County Farm Bureau and Marquardt expressed their appreciation for the community’s support of the program. 
“It is making a difference for our school and for our kids,” said Marquardt. 
Those interested in supporting the program are encouraged to make tax-deductible contributions to Growing The Vision: A Foundation for the Future of the County. 
Contributions can be mailed to the Foundation at P.O. Box 656, Tribune, KS 67879 or dropped off at the Greeley County Community Development office Tuesday-Thursday from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Donors should write “Bushels for Beef” in the memo line.  
Those with questions or interested in donating an animal should contact Ben Fisher, Greeley County Farm Bureau president, at (785) 565-8463.

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