Every summer, the Arizona Beef Council along with agriculture groups and the University of Arizona plan and execute the Summer Agriculture Institute (SAI) program, a five-day tour designed to teach K-12 teachers about food and fiber production and help them incorporate that knowledge into their classroom curriculum. SAI combines hands-on learning about agriculture with practical curriculum development. In fact, today marks the final day for the 2016 program and although survey results aren’t in yet, we think it was another successful year.
Each year the program focuses on a certain part of the state with this year’s focus being central and northern Arizona with many stops scheduled to cover all aspects of Arizona agriculture. We are excited to note many stages in the beef lifecycle were covered this year, giving teachers a better understanding of how cattle are raised in Arizona.
Groseta Ranches, a beautiful ranch in Cottonwood, Arizona working on its fifth generation of ranchers, was the first cattle stop of the week. The teachers heard from Andy Groseta about how the ranch works (For more info on cow-calf ranches, click here) and then covered the many issues they face. A delicious Fiesta Beef Salad lunch along with many yummy desserts was also provided by the Yavapai Cowbelles and Andy’s wife, Mary Beth.
The next stage in the beef lifecycle was demonstrated at Heiden Land and Cattle, a family farm which has been operated by the Heiden’s for 60 plus years, led by Paul Heiden. This is the stage after cattle have reached a certain weight and arrive at the feed yard to put on weight while maintaining their health. Many steps go into ensuring the safety and health of the cattle at the feed yard including the utilization of veterinarians to advise on proper health care along with a cattle nutritionist who studies the feed products available and determines which combination will be the healthiest for the animals. This stage of the beef cattle lifecycle is important to the marbling and quality of the beef at your grocery store.
The final stage of the lifecycle was shown at Perkinsville Meat Processing. This segment is where cattle are turned into beef. A slaughterhouse can cause some a sense of apprehension and anxiety. However, Lori Aquilone, a teacher on this year’s tour, approached us today at the wrap-up lunch, stating she didn’t eat meat before this tour because of concerns including safety, cleanliness, and humane treatment. She was excited to announce her fears were put to rest and she now felt safe and comfortable consuming beef and other meat products after visiting and learning the process. If you are interested in seeing the actual process from start to finish, check out Temple Grandin’s Glass Walls Project. Please be warned, this video could be considered graphic to some.
This week-long journey is exhausting for both teachers and volunteers but one which is important in our society which is so far removed from the farm. Currently, the average citizen is 3 generations removed from any sort of agriculture work so it’s understandable how some might not understand how things work. The teachers who participate in this tour are able to see many aspects of agriculture, first-hand, and take that important information back to their students. We are grateful they take a week out of their schedule to spend time with us!