HAMILTON – Members of the Hamilton FFA gathered at the school on a recent cold December morning to put the finishing touches on a special project – their “Thank-a-Farmer” holiday baskets. Chapter members spent their time packing the baskets with a variety of items before setting out to make deliveries to area farmers.

“We identified 24 farmers who work tirelessly all year long for others. These farmers are selfless individuals who care for their animals, the land and others because they love agriculture,” said Johanna Bossard, chapter advisor. “We wanted to find a way to thank them for all they do for others throughout the year.”

Bossard explained that the project began in 2016 with a $400 donation from Farm Credit East. When returning to Hamilton after receiving the check, Bossard asked FFA member Kallie Jaquay what they should do with the money. After a short time, Kallie suggested they do something to show their appreciation to area farmers for all they do.

“We decided to do it not just for dairy farmers this year. We chose all types – dairy, vegetable, horse, any type of agricultural business,” said HCS senior and FFA member Shelby Curtis who led the project.

This year’s baskets included a ham, 5 pounds of potatoes, corn, stuffing, cranberry sauce, a dozen rolls, a cheesecake, fresh garlic and yogurt. FFA members also had a "cookie bake" and made platters of fresh Christmas cookies for each farmer as well. There were also oranges from the organization’s annual fruit sale, log centerpieces created by HCS agricultural mechanics students, and a handwritten thank you card in each basket.

Shelby said she reached out to area businesses for support for the project and Chobani stepped forward with a $500 grant. This grant, along with another $400 from Farm Credit, helped make this year’s project possible, she explained.

“Thank-a-Farmer” took on a true community spirit when Sue Baker, owner of the Hubbardsville Mall, supported the project by helping the students buy necessary goods through the store and save a great deal of money. Colgate University also donated homemade cookies that had been made for their annual cookie exchange, and, in addition to yogurt, Chobani provided other keepsakes such Chobani aprons, hats, chip clips, and water bottles.

“Chobani stepping up was a big part of our success this year,” said Shelby, who added that 13 FFA members took part in the project. “It was just a lot of fun. Everyone took the initiative and worked to make it happen. We are so grateful for what Farm Credit East, Chobani and Sue did to make this possible.”