Students from a culinary arts class at Omaha's Metropolitan Community College recently took part in a field trip to a cattle feedlot near Dodge, with a different perspective of feedlots and how they operate.
The class, led by MCC chef instructor Jo Anne Garvey, visited the feedlot operated by Joan and Steve Ruskamp to learn more about beef production. Joan is a CommonGround volunteer who travels the state to discuss food production with consumers.
CommonGround is a farmer-driven, volunteer program created to clear up misconceptions and enhance the trust and awareness among urban consumers for today's agriculture and serves as a partnership between the nation's soybean and corn checkoffs, she says.
Garvey said her primary reason for taking her students to the Ruskamp operation was to give them the experience of seeing a working feedlot.
"Often these students, unless they were raised on farm, haven't any idea about the farm-to-table process. It is important for them to see where their food comes from. Too often we associate our meat with a plastic package," she added.
One of Garvey's culinary arts students, Anthony Hubert of Omaha, found his preconceived ideas about feedlots were off the mark.
"When I heard we were going to a feedlot, I thought it was just a place to bulk up cattle and force-feed them to the point where they could sell them for the most profit," Hubert said. "I was wrong. The farmers with CommonGround really care about all of their animals and are not just out for profit.
"Food production and processing is a great thing for all chefs to know and understand," he said. "The more you know about a product that you're selling, the better."