Keeley Pape embodies an enduring, reliable truth about Farm Bureau involvement: that even a new leader, given passion for the industry and a drive to see a project through, is ideally qualified for pulling off an impressive event.
Appointed Lenawee County’s Promotion & Education chair just last fall, Pape recently carded a win by pulling off a marquee event — Project RED — in her first time up at bat. She cites several factors in the success, including guidance from seasoned local leaders, the support of more than a dozen solid volunteers, and a commitment to serve the community that’s served her so well since childhood.
“I grew up with amazing parents who always volunteered their time, using their gifts and talents to give back to their community,” Pape said. “When I was approached about P&E, I knew it was right up my alley: giving back to my community and doing something I’m truly passionate about — educating people about how agriculture really works.”
The experience she lacked in orchestrating the event was somewhat offset by years as an attendee.
“Since I was in middle school, I have volunteered with my local 4-H club and FFA chapter at our county’s Project RED, so I've been part of Project RED for about 10 years but had never planned one,” she said. “As P&E chair I was very excited to take on the daunting task of planning it.”
But even natural leaders can’t accomplish much without a good team to lead.
“I had the best committee an eager new P&E chair could ask for, filled with people who have been part of Project RED for years: extension agents, previous P&E chairs, active Farm Bureau members, and local farmers.
“They kept me on track and helped make our first in-person Project RED since 2019 a success.”
The event brought 671 students from 25 classes and 10 school districts to the Center for a Sustainable Future, a small farm integrated into the Lenawee Intermediate School District TECH Center.
Theresa Shoemaker, administrative manager for the Lenawee County Farm Bureau, attested to Pape’s determination to stretch her farm-friendly outreach beyond even Project RED itself.
“She organized Farm Crates for classrooms of those grades not able to attend Project RED — 31 classrooms altogether, reaching another 900 students!” said Shoemaker, whose support helped buoy Pape throughout, alongside that of Lindsay Garrison and Janelle Stewart.
“It wouldn’t have been possible without our amazing volunteers — 14 who helped between the two days,” Pape said, “not to mention the students from the LISD TECH Center who filled in when needed.
“My friends always ask why I get involved in so much and I always go back to why I took the position in the first place: I tell them I’m passionate about agriculture and giving back to the community that’s given me so much.”
“At age 23 I have the time. I’m three years into my career and just trying to make a good name for myself in the industry I love the most. So why not?
“I’m looking forward to another great year!”