Danedri Thompson
Pizza doesn’t grow in the supermarket or in the restaurant downtown, fourth graders from Gardner, Edgerton, Spring Hill and Olathe learned Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon.

Students learn about soil erosion during a Slice of Ag program that explains where all the food in a slice of pizza comes from. Johnson County Conservation employees used a model farm to teach the lesson. More than 450 fourth graders in schools in Gardner, Edgerton, Spring Hill and Olathe visited the Johnson County Fairgrounds over the course of two days for the program

Students learned how food gets from fields to the dinner table during a “Slice of Agriculture” event at the Johnson County Fairgrounds. Lyneta Rogers, Johnson County Farm Bureau county coordinator, helped arranged the event that saw busloads of more than 450 students learn about food from a slice of pizza.
“(The program) is to teach these kids where their food comes from,” Rogers said as children filed past her headed to collect slices of pizza for lunch.
Pizza lunch concluded the event, but before eating, students visited eight stations designed to teach them about different aspects of their food.
“What vitamins are in milk?” a presenter asked a group of about 25 students at a dairy station. Students at the station were enthralled by a dairy cow on loan from Deanna Rose farm for the event as they learned the benefits of dairy products.
At another table, a presenter discussed a variety of fruits and vegetables. Holding up a dish of fresh blueberries, she asked probed students about the benefits of antioxidants.

A dairy cow showcased a session about the benefits of dairy and how it’s used in pizza. The dairy cow was on loan from Deanna Rose Farmstead.

Near a pen on the fairgrounds, another set of students attempted to pet three piglets and a pig as a presenter discussed pork.
Other stations taught students about grains, beef, the machinery in farming and conserving the soil and water.
Many of the eight stations were manned by volunteers including local farmers who loaned livestock, machinery and their time to the program.
“This is harvest season, so the farmers here are leaving at the peak of their work,” Gayla Speer, Johnson County Conservation District Manager, said.
Speer led a station on the environment, in which the students learned about soil erosion. She said the state’s fourth grade curriculum covers erosion, but not until later in the school year. So the goal is to give the students an idea so they’ll recall it later. She said every once in awhile, she’d see a student who lives near a creek or lake who really understands the concept of erosion.
“It does surprise me,” she said. “You’ll have a kid who understands more and has extensive knowledge of how it all works.”
Speer said the organizations that arranged the event, including the Johnson County Farm Bureau, K-State Research and Extension, Johnson County Conservation and Spring Hill High School Future Farmers of America, first learned of a similar program in Texas and brought it back to Johnson County. Speer said the county, once known for its nutrient-rich soil, is becoming more and more urbanized.
“With our urbanizing county, there’s less awareness. It’s easy to lose those roots as we urbanize,” she said. “This makes kids aware that their food doesn’t begin in the supermarket.”

Fresh vegetables and fruit sit on a table as students listen to a presentation about the produce and its benefits during the Slice of Ag event on the fairgrounds Wednesday morning. Eight stations described how each ingredient in pizza moved from farms to tables. Staff photos by Danedri Thompson