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Hillsdale delivers Rural Education Day to local 4th graders

Jay Williams’ Project RED demonstration about drone technology.
Date Posted: May 6, 2022

By Janelle Walworth

Last fall the Hillsdale County Farm Bureau announced it would facilitate a Project RED — Rural Education Day — after the county Ag Council announced it would no longer accommodate the program.

“Since the Ag Council disbanded, I’m glad the Hillsdale County Farm Bureau has taken over Project RED,” said previous RED coordinator Nicole Ladd. “It’s a very important educational program to keep kids in touch with agriculture and how important it is to their everyday life.”

RED was designed to bring a hands-on learning experience to fourth-grade students to enrich their knowledge and understanding of agriculture beyond the stereotypical pitchfork-and-overalls perception of farmers.

Participating students enjoy a half-day, six-session event, visiting one learning station after another, each lasting about 15 minutes and varying in demonstration style.

Ladd and County President Kayla Lewis led the activity back to an in-person event located at the Hillsdale County Fairgrounds. Joined by Jan Sober, Jenny Leininger, Joe Draper and Denese Belson, the committee met several times to brainstorm options for this year’s sessions:

  • Goats — Jessica Smith
  • Veterinary —Dr. Jon Skinner
  • Drone Technology — Jay Williams
  • Poultry — Erin Ladd
  • Michigan Diversity — Crystal Hepker & Britney Dickinson
  • Water Conservation — Allison Grimm & Cody Birdsell

“This is a wonderful event that teaches students about how their food gets to their table,” shared Hillsdale teacher Brianna Crall. “The students learn things from amazing people who are passionate about what they do and eager to share. Students always engage with the presenters in positive ways and come out all smiles.”

After the students learned about various commodities produced in Michigan, they were given a delicious, freshly made donut donated by the Donut Hut. Walt Zinzer, Ann Zinzer, Keith Blonde, Don Girdham, Ned Bever and Roger Pitts graciously spent the prior evening preparing the donuts for the students and volunteers.

Volunteers also enjoyed lunch in between the morning and afternoon sessions provided by Erin and Joe Ladd, alongside their children Layne and Hayden.

Jan Sober coordinated the teacher-student boxes of materials, partnering with Linda Blonde, to extend the agriculture education beyond the one-day event. A book titled “Right this Very Minute“ and the corresponding educator guide will provide teachers with additional insight on how to incorporate agriculture in their classroom for years to come. Each student received materials within different commodities such as dairy, cherries, pork, corn and poultry. Each student and teacher also received a Farmers Care t-shirt.

“Project Red is crucial to our school districts around here,” said Camden teacher David Follis. “Most of these kids crave agricultural lessons because they live it. Animals and farming is what it’s all about here in Hillsdale County, and it gets proven at our fair and FFA competitions throughout the year.

“Camden-Frontier really loved this day!”

Not only did the county Farm Bureau see tremendous volunteerism for this event, they were also astounded by the community response from people supporting ag education. The Hillsdale County Farm Bureau appreciates the many sponsors who helped make this “agventure” possible:

  • Hillsdale County Agriculture Council
  • Hillsdale Conservation District
  • Porkchop Hill
  • Pitts Farms
  • Denning Farms
  • Dauer Farms
  • Sanders Insurance Agency
  • Briner Oil Company
  • W & W White Farms
  • GreenMark Equipment
  • Finish Line Resturant
  • Blain’s Farm and Fleet
  • Anderson’s Farm Center-Litchfield
  • Waldron Grain & Fuel
  • American One Credit Union
  • Reading Nutrien Ag Solutions
  • Ranger Power
  • Market House
  • Prattville Fertilizer & Grain
  • North East Fabrication Company
  • Belson Farms
  • Stoney Ridge Farms
  • Wells Equipment Sales
  • Powers Clothing

The Project RED committee wrapped up the event with a final email to teachers with additional online resources, videos and an opportunity to win a Farm Crate courtesy of the Promotion & Education committee.

“Project RED is perfect because we learned about animals,” commented one Hillsdale fourth-grader. “We got to learn about farms, drones, plants and animals. We learned about the local famers supplying local stores, such as the pig farm that supplies Meijer.”

“Thank you to all the presenters for volunteering their time to educate our kids,” said President Lewis. “This is a fantastic project for the kids in the county and a great way to connect the community to agriculture. Also, thank you to the sponsors who contributed to this event. I hope to see Project RED continue for many more years to come!”

If you’re interested in getting involved in agriculture education, contact the county office at 517-437-2458. For more information about upcoming activities, visit or HillsdaleCountyFarmBureau on Facebook.

Janelle Walworth is administrative manager for the Hillsdale County Farm Bureau.