Six-year-old Tanner Rovey gathers eggs at Cove Schools Agriculture Education and Marketing Center. Rovey and other kindergarten classmates gather and clean eggs every morning under the direction of sophomores Hailey Hulse and Conner Logoz. (Kelly Black/For The Observer)
by Kelly Black/For The Observer
On nearly three acres in Cove,
“Can you move the chicken?” asked 6-year-old Tanner Rovey.
Rovey and kindergarten classmates Paisley Miller and Ryan Shaefer are on a mission to gather eggs. Every morning at 9:15, kindergartners gather and clean eggs under the direction of sophomores Hailey Hulse and Conner Logoz.
“Egg sandwiches are my favorite,” Miller said.
Back at the kitchen in the Cove Agriculture Education and Marketing Center, the kindergartners carefully dry the eggs and package them in containers.
“When I dry them off really good, they show spots,” Rovey said.
The chickens produce more than 70 eggs daily, which the students sell to teachers and the community for $2 a dozen. They also sell compost for $3-per-one-cubic-foot bag.
“We are going to make a sustainable cycle,” said sophomore Josey Koehn, who oversees marketing for the Future Farmers of America. “We’re feeding the chickens from the garden. The garden is being fertilized from the chickens, and we’re selling the eggs.”
Hulse is working to get the eggs USDA certified so the students can sell the eggs back to the school, at the farmers’ market in La Grande and to other retail outlets.
The chicken production started about two years ago. When foxes threatened chicken longevity, the shop class made two new chicken coops with automatic doors set to timers that close in the evening to keep the foxes out.
Toby Koehn, Cove FFA adviser and high school agriculture teacher, started the agriculture program in 2005. He wants the students to get a real-life look at the concepts and principles of small-scale sustainable production.
“We can create a system where we are continually recycling products from our own production to put back into the system,” Koehn said. “So chickens are just one of the cogs in the wheel.”
Koehn and the students have big plans. In addition to selling compost and eggs, the students are preparing to sell hanging baskets, bedding plants, flowers and produce. They might even start using products from the gardens to make and sell sauces and jams.
Logoz is working on the marketing plan.
“This is expanding my knowledge of business and marketing,” Logoz said, who would like to manage his own business in the future.
Josey Koehn is focusing on advertising and communications, including Facebook, Twitter, a blog and writing stories for local media. She may pursue a college degree in communications or public relations.
Principal Mat Miles believes the agriculture program teaches applicable life skills, such as working independently on projects or practicing math not on a worksheet but rather in calculating production.
“Foundational to our whole school is that learning is not isolated to things that go on during the school day,” Miles said.
Teacher Pat VanNice said her kindergarten students feel a lot of ownership in the program.
“The chickens are theirs,” VanNice said. “They get the experience of having a real job and they know people are buying their eggs.”