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Southwestern groups collaborate on annual Thanks-4-Giving campaign

Ag Club students in the Institute of Agricultural Technology program at Southwestern Michigan College propagate lettuce in their on-campus greenhouse for distribution through Thanks-4-Giving.
Date Posted: December 19, 2023

Christmas may be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the holiday season, but it’s hard to argue that meek, featherweight Thanksgiving doesn’t do a better job upholding the warm, generous spirit of this special time of year. 

That’s if Berrien County has anything to say about it, anyway.

Every year Berrien County Farm Bureau collaborates with local 4-H clubs, Farm Bureau Insurance’s Agent Charitable Fund and the MSU Ag Club at Southwestern Michigan College on Thanks-4-Giving, a campaign to provide local families in need with a bushel basket brimming with everything necessary for a classic Thanksgiving feast.

And with the growing success those collaborators have seen in recent years, they’ve learned that making it happen works best if they divide and conquer:

Berrien County Farm Bureau provides the turkeys, pies and rolls, and arranges for milk and butter vouchers for each basket.

Local 4-H clubs collect and donate potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans or corn, gravy, stuffing and cranberries.

Salad greens are provided by the Ag Club rooted in Southwestern Michigan College’s MSU Institute for Agricultural Technology (IAT).

“Students grow and harvest the lettuce in our own campus greenhouse,” explained Thomas Green, coordinator of Southwestern’s IAT program.

Plants are started from seed and propagated in the weeks leading up to Thanks-4-Giving harvest, packing and distribution. 

“The students get to use their knowledge from the classroom and apply it to grow the best crop possible — for a worthy cause, like feeding those in need,” Green said. “They get to interact hands-on during the whole process.”

And while that educational component is important, especially to Green’s students, the more rewarding facet is in providing food for local families in need. Unfortunately that end of the equation’s seen steady growth since the program’s inception.

Thanks-4-Giving in 2018 assisted just more than 60 families — a number that grew steadily and has now more than doubled to 125 families in 2023.

If you know of similar needs in your community, it’s never too late or too soon to work with your county Farm Bureau, 4-H clubs, FFA chapters and Collegiate Farm Bureau groups to make something similar happen for your own neighbors. Work with your county Farm Bureau and MFB Regional Manager to get the ball rolling locally!

Katie Eisenberger headshot

Katie Eisenberger

High School and Collegiate Programs Specialist
517-679-5444 [email protected]