Monday, November 25, 2019

‘We don’t need a reason to help others’

Montcalm Community College Ag Club students are helping bring Thanksgiving dinner to the tables of 25 Montcalm County Head Start families and are providing books for the children, too.

More than a dozen students have spent much of fall semester working on ideas to support their project.

Merry Kim Meyers, who serves as one of the club advisors as well as the Michigan State University (MSU) Institute of Agricultural Technology (IAT) program coordinator at MCC, said the project has taught students about production agriculture, education, and marketing and promotions.

“We have a new Collegiate Farm Bureau chapter here at MCC. Michigan Farm Bureau generously offers Collegiate Farm Bureau Grants to support community outreach and agriculture education activities, and we were awarded a grant to support our Thanksgiving project,” Meyers said.

“With our new agriculture operations students who began this fall, this project was an opportunity for them to blend with the current ag students and use the greenhouse facility on the college’s campus to learn more about production agriculture in a controlled environment while also sharing their agricultural knowledge with the community,” she said.

The students said they are enjoying helping others.

“It kind of puts the spotlight on the positive aspects of Thanksgiving,” said Jason Schneckenberger of Cedar Springs. “It just reminds us that we don’t need a reason to help others, it just makes sense to do it.”

“I think it’s pretty much us helping people who are less fortunate by being able to provide produce and things they need to have a nice Thanksgiving,” said Henry Ravell of Howard City. “We’re trying to help them have a nice meal and also understand what we do as farmers.”

The students partnered with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Greenville, which provides a complete Thanksgiving dinner for the families. In addition to growing tomatoes and a mesclun salad mix in the college’s greenhouse, apples from Anderson & Girls Orchard in Stanton and onions from Pierson Orchard in Ionia were provided. Further, the club purchased “ag appropriate” children’s books to share the story of agriculture as well as bookmarks made by the MCC Library staff. All of the items were packed in reusable grocery bags for delivery.

Some of the book selections include “The Beeman,” a rhyming story and picture book written by Laurie Krebs and illustrated by Valeria Cis, that explores a year of beekeeping from the point of view of a little girl helping her beloved grandpa, who’s known in the town as the Beeman; “Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter,” written by Eugenie Doyle and illustrated by Becca Stadtlander, offers a captivating exploration of how a family gets a farm ready for the snow of winter; and “Right This Very Minute: A table-to-farm book about food and farming,” by Lisl H. Detlefsen, aimed at inspiring readers of all ages to learn more about where their food comes from – right this very minute.

“The most important thing to me is giving the kids the books, and that they contain true agriculture information,” said Kylie VanHouten of Kent City. “I think that with how people are raised now, they just don’t know the real facts about it. They only know what they are told, so I think it’s really important to share the facts with them.”

“My family volunteers with churches a lot and there are so many kids have told us they have never had a good Christmas or a good Thanksgiving, so it feels nice being able to actually help make a change in that. We aren’t able to help everyone, but we’re able to help some, which is definitely better than none,” said Tiffany Miller of Edmore.

Meyers, who is a co-advisor of the Ag Club along with MCC Biology Instructor Michelle Gibson and part-time Agriculture Instructor Dan Rossman, said the project is fulfilling on many levels.

“As an advisor, I felt like I was planting seeds, too, to grow a new group of students,” Meyers said. “What we have are these marvelous students who are using their leadership and their empathy in ways that we cannot teach.”

Abigail Wester, of Lowell, said she appreciates the experience.

“We’re really learning how to do things on our own instead of having a teacher that would pick up and help us through these situations,” she said.

The MCC Ag Club provides agricultural students a structure to enhance their training and experience through hands-on technical projects, social events and interaction, industry involvement and community service.