Jackson County Farm Bureau’s annual Project RED (Rural Education Day) was among the hundreds of casualties COVID claimed last year, but the volunteers behind making it happen weren’t about to let the virus drench their parade again.
“Last year obviously we couldn’t do a Project RED so we wanted to make sure we were able to offer that again this year,” said Becky Heim, the volunteer who tag-teams with Jackson P&E Chair Loren Faist to coordinate the event.
“We started thinking outside the box — started brainstorming and came up with the idea of doing videos featuring each participating farm. So we filmed several different videos with farmers from around the area, talking about their farms.
“There’s about a 10-minute video on each farm,” Heim said, including dairy, honey production, beef cattle and other representative operations. “They’ve got a lot of the same content as the live event, only in video form.”
After some editing and posting to YouTube courtesy of board member Andrew Hasenick, a link to each of the videos will be shared with the 50+ third-grade teachers at more than a dozen schools across Jackson County — all of them regular RED attendees. Rounding out the virtual component was a pair of presentations from the county’s FFA chapters, based in Springport and the Jackson Area Career Center.
Designed to pair with the videos are goodie bags Heim and Faist packed the previous week alongside County Administrative Manager Janelle Walworth. Early morning April 20, Faist and Heim loaded up with bags at the county office and set off to deliver them across the county.
Springport Elementary was Heim’s last stop of the day.
“Inside each bag we’ve got an Ag Mag for each student, ag-accurate books through Farm Bureau — and an educator’s guide for the teacher that goes with the book,” Heim said. “We’ve got farm facts and figures, pencils, honey sticks, packets from the Michigan Soybean Committee, hand sanitizers, items from Michigan Corn Growers, and these great propagation packets from the Jackson Area Career Center so kids can start plants right in the classroom.”
Sponsoring this year’s teacher bags were the Jackson County Conservation District, Curtis Farm Market, Choate’s Belly Acres, Hilltop Farm, Greenstone FCS, Blain's Farm & Fleet, Michigan Corn Growers, Chrisinske Farms, Consumers Energy and Carol & Tim Prine.
Heim lucked out with the timing of her delivery and was able to chat with one of Springport’s third-grade teachers, Marcie Furnal.
“This is my second year teaching third grade and we’re all really looking forward to it,” Furnal said. “I’ve taught second grade here previously so I know the kids always really enjoy Project RED and love going out to the fairgrounds.”
Furnal said her students take readily to agricultural themes being incorporated into the curriculum.
“Given that Springport is a farming community, it’s pretty well woven into what we do. We’re talking right now about what local farmers are doing in the fields and how they need to know how to plan that out.”
Furnal added that she’s looking forward to queuing up the virtual RED videos as soon as state-testing season is behind them.
“We’re all really excited about it.”
Board director Tonya Sears and new member Lori Fitzgibbons also pitched in and helped make Jackson County Farm Bureau’s virtual RED a success. Visit Jackson County Farm Bureau’s website for more information.