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Thursday, Apr 27, 2017

Richey Elementary students get lessons in nurtrition, origins of eggs from local farmer

— When state Sen. Wilton Simpson gives a lesson on eggs, those props he’s using are the real thing.

That became clear at Richey Elementary School this week during a program aimed at observing National Farm to School Month and promoting the nutritional value of eggs.

Simpson, R-Trilby, a lawmaker who also happens to be an egg farmer, was speaking to the children about his area of expertise when an egg slipped out of his hand, plummeted to the floor and created a gooey mess at his feet behind the lectern.

Simpson shrugged off the mishap and waved away offers to help clean it while he was still speaking.

“I’m good,” he said. “I’m used to this.”

Simpson was just one of several visitors to the school at breakfast time Wednesday. Others included Superintendent Kurt Browning, Pasco school board Chairwoman Alison Crumbley, Assistant Superintendent Ray Gadd and representatives from the state Department of Agriculture’s Division of Nutrition Education and Outreach.

“Our job is all about teaching kids about agriculture and that nutrition education can be fun,” said Debbie Bergstrom, the Nutrition Education and Outreach manager.

The National Farm to School Network advocated the creation of National Farm to School Month by Congress in 2010 and now organizes the annual celebration in partnership with dozens of organizations, according to the group’s website.

National Farm to School Month’s aim is to demonstrate the growing importance of farm to school programs as a means to improve child nutrition, support local economies and educate children about the origins of food.

That’s where Simpson came in at Richey Elementary.

His family’s Simpson Farms Inc., in operation since the late 1970s, produces about 750,000 to 800,000 eggs a day.

Simpson took questions from the children and explained that at his operation, after the hens lay their eggs, the eggs are then taken by a conveyor belt to an area where they are washed.

A computerized machine grades the eggs. Any cracked eggs are separated out.

The eggs are then packed in cartons, based on size, and delivered to supermarkets in refrigerated trucks. The eggs are kept at a temperature of 45 degrees or less, Simpson said.

Keith Marcelle, general manager for Simpson Farms, said the farm has only hens, no roosters. The farms gets the chicks that will eventually grow into egg-laying hens from a hatchery in north Florida.

Ensuring that the hens are in good health is a key to the success of the operation, he said.

“We want to make sure we do every thing we can to take care of our birds,” Marcelle said.

rblair@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1853

Twitter: @RBlairTBO

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