Seymour ag students complete corn fundraiser, give back to community

A recent project by 12 Seymour High School agriculture classes was threefold.

For one, students sold frozen bags of sweet corn and ears of corn to staff members at the high school, middle school and administration building as a fundraiser for the ag department.

They also gave some of the ears of corn to the SHS cafeteria and some of the elementary schools to cook and serve to students at lunch.

Plus, corn was given to Anchor House Family Assistance Center and Pantry and The Alley Kitchen to distribute or serve to clients.

While the fundraiser has been conducted for four years and corn has been given to food pantries before, giving to the meal site was a new concept, said Micah Dillman, one of the Seymour ag teachers.

“A big part of food science is just agriculture current events,” she said. “There’s a lot of discussion around food insecurity, and I have really tried to think of ways that we could use the ag department and address some of that local community food insecurity.”

Dillman’s food science and advance food science classes along with ag business, principles of ag and animal science were among those involved in the project.

“I think that this is just one way that we can be teaching our kids how the process and the production, the farm to fork, if you will, works but also give back to their communities and address another issue that goes along with food insecurity,” she said. “If we can be growing this and helping people who might need a meal or want to use it with a meal, then that’s also teaching them to give back.”

The corn was planted by ag teacher Jeanna Eppley in June on a 1-acre plot in Freeman Field. It’s known as a special FFA hybrid sweet corn, and the seeds again were donated by Spurgeon Seed Service LLC of Freetown.

“We intentionally plant this corn later so that it’ll come on here at the start of school, about three to four weeks in, so then we can have student involvement,” Dillman said. “It’s all hands on deck, so all of the ag classes do something.”

Students in Eppley’s classes and Charlotte Guinn’s classes did the picking.

“Some of them have never picked corn, so it’s nice to see them actually doing that,” Guinn said. “Even in a farm community like this, you are surprised at how many kids don’t realize where corn comes from, so that’s nice to do that.”

The next step was to shuck the corn, and then it was brought into a classroom in the Seymour Ag-Science and Research Farm building to blanch, which is boiling in water for a short time. The corn was then placed in ice water before being cut off of the cob and placed in bags to freeze and sell.

Dillman said nearly 500 quart bags of frozen corn were sold to staff, and there also was around 200 dozen ears of fresh corn sold.

Part of the food science class covers the preservation process.

“We really hit food safety hard, so you’re going to see all of these kids with hairnets on, they are going to have gloves on,” Dillman said.

“This is a really great lesson because they have to apply that food safety because they are serving food for other people, so we talked beforehand about types of contaminants and really trying to prevent any type of cross-contamination,” she said. “Then we practiced food safety, and we made sure that they know that is going to the public, so they take pride in that.”

The students also thought it was neat to see some of the corn be served in the cafeteria.

“They are helping feed their peers,” Dillman said.

“I think they were all really interested in the idea that we actually provided it to the cafeteria,” Guinn said. “They all thought that was cool. I do think that was a neat little thing that we’ve done differently than we’ve done in the past. I thought that was nice.”

Giving it to the food pantry and meal site was a bonus.

“It’s important to not just sell it to make money but to also give it to the people that need it and help people out,” junior Cooper Murphy said.

“I like how just everything we’re doing is really helping out Seymour,” freshman Jayden Matlock said. “I know there are people who could not afford much food, and corn is delicious and you can use it for so much. I like how we’re just helping out our community. That’s one of the things they should start teaching more in school.”

The project also benefited the students.

“We could do some team building and teach people to work together and efficiently,” Murphy said. “I could use this later in life. If I wanted to do corn on my own, I know the process of doing it all. It has been a fun learning experience.”

Freshman Brylee Brewer said she liked the hands-on aspect of the project.

“I’d say a lot of people found where they fit in, where they would be best at, and I think it’s cool that everybody is working together for our school to raise money,” she said. “It’s also good to give back, and I feel that it’s going to help a lot go toward our food pantries.”

Dillman said there may be more collaboration on the horizon.

“The administration’s food service department, I know we’ve met with them and they are really interested in trying to use more local resources,” she said. “They approached us last spring and asked if there was something that we could do, and I said, ‘Hey, we’re already doing sweet corn,’ so they were all on board for that. They are also trying to source out some of their food locally.”