Proud to be producers  

Mike Landers, left, and Jeremy Silsby, are members of the board governing the newly established Royalton Hartland Agriculture Foundation, whose mission is to take the Royalton Hartland school district's agriculture education program from "good" to "great." (James Neiss/staff photographer)

The newly established Royalton-Hartland Agriculture Foundation is the Roy-Hart school district's newest "booster club," operating separately of the district but able to fundraise for a school team, affording it transportation to major events, new uniforms and equipment.

The difference is, it's not a sports team that's being boosted, it's a farm team, figuratively, and it's representing a vital part of the Roy-Hart community, according to district Superintendent Hank Stopinski.

The identity of Roy Hart — the school as well as the larger community — is found in its "small community feel and the agricultural foundation," Stopinski said. “It’s supported by dairy farmers, apple orchards and fruit growers. We feel that’s something we want to celebrate and recognize.”

RHAF's mission is to help create and maintain a “high quality” agriculture education program for the district, one that exceeds basic ag education and is "exceptional," Stopinski said.

“It’s going to take us from good to great.”

Mike Landers of Howell Motors is the president of RHAF and he says the immediate goals are gathering together community leaders in the area and securing grants for agricultural initiatives in district schools.

“The members of the foundation are high charged and excited about this,” Landers said. “And it’s our job to get the rest of the community on board with understanding what we’ve got and get them to buy in, join us, be a part of it and send us to new levels.”

RHAF's board members include an educator, growers/producers and operators of other area businesses including Bob Confer of Confer Plastics, Dan Conley of USI Insurance Services, Mike Drum of Drum Oil & Propane, Steve Giroux of Middleport Family Health Center, Bob Masse of Frontier Airlines, Jeremy Silsby of Silsby Settlement Farms and Debi and John Sweeney of Maple View Dairy Farm. Carisa Masse, representing JFK Middle School, is also a voting board member. Stopinski and Matt Sweeney, the agricultural teacher at Roy-Hart, are non-voting members.

“We’re hoping for possibilities to partner on with other organizations to work together with them to help create more opportunities for the students and the school district,” Landers said. Such opportunities could include speakers, field trips, apprenticeships and job shadowing programs.

“In this unprecedented time for education, due to the pandemic and reduction in state contracts, it is heartening that these high-profile community leaders are rallying others to learn about the exciting agriculture initiatives and programs in our schools,” Stopinski said. “Their leadership is gratifying to our school board, teachers and staff.”

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