4-H group assembles ‘Buckets of Thanks’ for area farmers

Jan Shepel
Ava and Kian Kelroy joined their dad Brian Kelroy in assembling the Buckets of Thanks for farmers on October 15. The care packages for area farmers included a variety of items, including cheese, sweets, gift cards and tie blankets made by the kids.

DE FOREST – In the buzz of harvest time, it’s easy for farmers to forget that other people are thinking about them, wishing them well and hoping they have a good and safe harvest season.

As part of their celebration of National Farmers Day last week, the DeForest Handy Helpers 4-H Club met to assemble care packages and then spread out across farm country to distribute them to local farmers.

A group of exuberant kids, parents and 4-H leaders convened at the home of Vicki Janisch in rural DeForest, across from the dairy farm where she grew up. She said club members made tie blankets to include in some of the “Buckets of Thanks.” A project like that is safe for all ages of members and is easy to accomplish, she said.

The 50 care packages they assembled also included gift cards, cheese, baked goods and food from the locally based Little Potato Company along with handwritten thank you notes, written by members of the club.

A group of 4-Hers from the DeForest area gathered last week to assemble 50 buckets of goodies for local farmers to thank them for all they do. The buckets and many of the items in them were donated by area businesses, 4-H families and others.

“The kids came up with the grant project last year with the idea of supporting farmers. It started out as a small token of appreciation and it grew with ag and non-ag businesses wanting to make donations. It’s hard not to fill these buckets,” Janisch added, as she and other leaders worked to get the project done while keeping kids masked and socially distanced.

She said a side benefit of the project is that it will help bridge the gap between 4-H kids who may not have an agricultural background and the ag community. “We want to expose them to this, get them thinking about what farming is and then have them meet farmers as they deliver these packages tonight and tomorrow,” she added.

“We are hoping that this helps farmers take a deep breath and hear that they are valued,” Janisch added. 

“I truly believe that the opportunity of being raised on a farm, as I was, is priceless and if I can expose others to it even a little bit, then that is another value of this project.”

The DeForest Handy Helpers 4-H Club includes 25 families and about 40 kids, ages 5-19. The project was helped along and grew ever larger with donations from local businesses and several of the families who all wanted to share their appreciation of the farming community.

Rhonda Knapp and her three kids, Mason, Claire and Tessa were on hand to add sausage snack sticks to their 4-H club’s Buckets of Thanks to farmers. The kids earned money selling vegetables they grew and used the proceeds to buy the snack sticks. All were careful to wear masks and keep their distance from other club members.

Rhonda Knapp, one parent who brought her three kids – Mason, Claire and Tessa – to help fill the Buckets of Thanks, said her kids normally take vegetables as a project to the Dane County Fair and this year was a great year for vegetable gardening. But without a fair to enter, the kids grew and sold their vegetables through an on-line marketplace.

The contact-less sales were accomplished by putting the veggies online and placing them on a table outside for those who had purchased them. The family used their veggie sale proceeds to purchase 50 packages of beef snack sticks from a local meat market so they could include them in all of the Buckets of Thanks.

Sitting in the back of a car and keeping socially distanced and masked, Mackenzie Mayr, DeForest, wrote thank you notes to farmers for all of the care packages, telling them that they were appreciated.

When she wasn’t helping assemble the goodies in the buckets, Mackenzie Mayr, was busy handwriting notes to all the farmers who would get the care packages. “Thanks for all the hard work and long hours you put in,” she wrote. “We appreciate you today and every day. Happy Farmers Day.” One of the thank-you notes was tucked into each of the buckets as they were filled.

Lisa Schleicher, an organizational leader, said the Bucket of Thanks project was funded by a Dane County 4-H Leaders Association Endowment Grant, meant to support community projects that provide service learning. Those grants are funded from proceeds of their food stand at the Dane County Fair each year.

She explained that it’s an agriculture partnership project to give 4-Hers a way to say “thank you” to farmers. The project was created as a way to celebrate local farmers and all they do for their communities.

Schleicher noted that National Farmer’s Day, now celebrated on October 12, traces back to the 1800s and was previously known as Old Farmer’s Day. The origins of the commemoration go back to when a greater number of citizens were involved in agriculture. The date in mid-October was chosen because in the 1800s and 1900s that was traditionally when the harvest ended, giving farmers a chance to enjoy a celebration.

A group of DeForest Handy Helpers 4-H Club, along with parents, leaders and other volunteers, gathered last week to assemble care packages for local farmers to show them that people are thinking of them and recognizing their efforts. Lisa Schleicher, organizational leader, at right, said the project was funded by a grant from the Dane County 4-H Leaders Association. She was careful to make sure all the volunteers wore masks and stayed a safe distance from each other – thus, no picture of the group with all the buckets was taken.

“We know today technology has extended the harvest and changed the landscape in which our farming community works,” she added.

Each of the buckets was stuffed with a unique mix of items, based on what was donated, made or added to them.

Bucket of Thanks donors included: Culvers, Kwik Trip, Partners in Production Seeds, Fleet Farm (which donated all the buckets,) Dairy Management Inc., the Kohout Family, Mid-West Farm Report, the Little Potato Company, Weyauwega Cheese, Dominoes, Compeer Financial, ABS Global, Kemps, Furst McNess, the Janisch family and the Knapp family.

Organizers said they hope the project would serve as an opportunity to bridge the generational gap and make connections between farmers and youth who might not have their own family ties to the agricultural community. They also hope that it would expand the perspective of the 4-H members so they could see the “endless possibilities available in agriculture,” Schleicher added.

“We not only want this to be an appreciation project, but educational and building long term relationships with our farming community,” she added. “In today’s world let us continue to harvest resilience in times of uncertainty and know we are in this together, reaching out a helping hand and showing our support today and every day.”