School emphasizes ‘reverence’ during chicken harvest

North Country School Farm Manager Joshua Feller explains to a group of students the safety precautions for a chicken harvest. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

LAKE PLACID — Every fall, North Country School harvests its chickens.

On Tuesday, after 18 months of feeding them, cleaning their coops and sometimes providing medical attention, the staff and students of this agriculture-focused boarding school were ready to harvest 70 birds for meat and broth.

The experience involves slaughtering, scalding, plucking, eviscerating, cleaning and weighing chickens. It can upset a few students. Some look away or begin to cry. A small percent opt out entirely and harvest vegetables from a greenhouse instead. The point is not to scare the students or have them go vegetarian, but rather to have them gain respect for animals and from where food comes.

It’s not like going into a supermarket and buying meat from a company that may be involved in factory farming, overproduction or animal cruelty. This is genuine and simple. It builds a relationship between farmer and livestock.

“Reverence” is often used to describe it.

Teacher Kyra White of North Country School holds a chicken that will soon be harvested for meat and broth Tuesday. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

“We’re very intentional about the way that we prepare students for chicken harvest,” school Farm Manager Joshua Feller said in a previous interview with the Lake Placid News. “We will spend the evening before talking about the process. These are birds that they have raised from a day old all the way to the day they’re slaughtered. So we really emphasize reverence. We work to connect the process of what they’re eating to the process of taking care of [the birds] and the slaughter itself. It’s important for us to be respectful and responsible, taking the best possible care that we can of the animals all the way up to the day that they’re harvested.”

(Editor’s note: At the request of North Country School, the Enterprise chose to not publish the last names of students pictured here.)

History teacher Joshua Briggeman, left, hands a scalded chicken to student so that it can be plucked while math teacher Garth Cilley, right, watches. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

North Country School students pluck feathers from a chicken Tuesday. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

Dean of Students Ted Sonneborn, left, and biology teacher Stephanie Durell, center, work at the evisceration station, showing students how to properly remove parts of the chicken such as the talons and organs. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

Justin bags a chicken to be weighed. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

From left, students Kendiu and Abezu opted out of the chicken harvest and instead chose to pick brussels sprouts from the North Country School garden. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)