Missoula, Mont. – The Western Montana Fair in Missoula attracts large crowds every August. Besides the carnival rides, agricultural fairs are the biggest attraction. Naturally, the Montana Farmers Union was there, helping to support and promote the efforts of other agricultural groups.
“The FFA and 4-H programs are for all students, and you don’t have to grow up on a farm or have any knowledge of agriculture at all,” said Christy Roth, agriculture teacher and FFA advisor for Missoula County Public Schools.
Whether it is the pride of learning responsibility or gaining leadership experience, the FFA program attracts students for several reasons.
“You can have your own animal, and you can keep it at a really cool agricultural center, but we can also go on a lot of trips and competitions, and it’s really fun,” Ivory West, parliamentarian for the Missoula FFA chapter, said.
One of the long-term projects of the FFA Missoula chapter is their taco truck, which is not only a fundraising effort, but also teaches teamwork.
“At this taco stand, when it gets too crowded, you have to work as a team, otherwise everything goes south,” said AJ Skarkey, a member of the Missoula FFA chapter.
“You have to learn a lot about different businesses and how they produce food, make it, and then sell it,” said Grace Fritz, secretary of the Missoula FFA chapter.
In addition to the 100-acre Ag Center and agricultural science laboratories, Missoula Public Schools operates School House Meats, designed to give students experience in processing the end of food production.
“I started School House Meats about 5 years ago, so we were able to produce ground beef at the school and then be able to take that ground beef and sell it out of the taco truck…” Roth said.
“We’re really fortunate to have our facility. It’s the only state to have inspected a meat processing plant in the United States, in a high school,” said Tom Andres, another agriculture teacher and FFA advisor for Missoula County Public Schools.
Seeing the need, the Montana Farmers Federation stepped in to improve the capabilities of the school district’s School House Meats and the Missoula FFA’s taco truck.
“We purchased this freezer truck and donated it to their schools, so now they can deliver meat to schools all over the state in this truck,” said Walter Schweitzer, president of the Montana Farmers Federation.
While at the show, the Montana Farmers Union also raised awareness about how little farmers get for their efforts. By making up the difference, the farmers union allowed FFA to sell the tacos for the same price the farmers would earn from selling the ingredients.
“They usually sell tacos for four and a half dollars. But the farmer’s share is only sixty-five cents,” Schweitzer added.
Look for the taco truck at future events in the Missoula area! Your next taco may not be sixty-five cents, but you’ll be supporting FFA and Montana agriculture students.
For more information about Montana Farmers Union, visit MontanaFarmersUnion.com.