Farmers in training
Students at Catawba Elementary School love eating bacon and ham. Until Thursday, however, many of those students didn't know where that meat comes from.
First-graders from Catawba Elementary traveled Thursday to Red Wolf Farm in Maiden, where they learned how food, including pork, corn and goat milk, is made.
The 45-acre Red Wolf Farm on Water Plant Road in Maiden is operated by Josh Grant and his wife, Amanda Cline-Grant. The couple makes it their mission to teach the benefits of the local food movement to the community and beyond.
"It's about eating local and knowing your local farmers," Josh said.
Josh and Amanda open their farm to thousands of area school children throughout the year in an effort to teach students where their food comes from.
"It let's them see that food isn't just something packaged at the grocery store," Josh said.
When Josh asked students about where their favorite pork products came from, many students didn't make the connection that their morning bacon could come from pigs similar to the ones living at Red Wolf Farm.
"I tell them, 'That's what (the pigs) are here for,'" Josh said. "They don't make old folks homes or retirement homes for pigs."
Josh and Amanda became full-time farmers about a year and a half ago. The average age of farmers in North Carolina is 60, and the couple realized younger farmers are needed to carry on the tradition of local growers.
Josh said the increasing amount of food being outsourced to other countries should make people stop and think about what they're eating.
Children who visited Red Wolf Farm on Thursday saw goats, chickens, pigs and rabbits.
"I liked to look at the rabbits," said Catawba Elementary first-grader Mia Bankert.
Students rode on the farm's tractor, toured the property and enjoyed a picnic lunch outside. Red Wolf Farm also offers an outdoor play area for students, where they can climb in a vat of corn kernels, slide down a hay bale structure, escape from a corn maze and race tiny tractors.
Students also learned about omnivores, herbivores, conservation, the food chain and the importance of clean water.
Thursday was the farm's last Fall Harvest event before the winter, but that doesn't mean activities stop at the farm as colder weather approaches. When Amanda and Josh aren't teaching school children about farming, they grow and produce their own pork products, organic eggs and many other garden-fresh vegetables.
"Everything we do is organic and sustainable," Amanda said. "We're taking the steps to be as sustainable as we can be."
The couple lives on the farm in a renovated house from the 1940s. They are working to outfit the property with sustainable solar panels for energy efficiency.
Even the concrete covering the driveway, which was recycled from an old textile mill in Maiden, is sustainable.
The farm will reopen to students in the spring for a Pizza Garden exhibit, which teaches children that the ingredients in their favorite pizza can be found growing in the garden.
For more information about Red Wolf Farm, visit www.redwolffarm.com or call (828) 428-1445.