Farm Bureau News

By Katie Eisenberger

Teenagers!?! Am I right??? We want to connect with them, but sometimes figuring that out isn’t as straightforward as reaching elementary students.

Our kindergarteners enjoy meeting a farmer and reading an ag-accurate book while sitting on their classroom rug. Third-graders look forward to the FARM Science Lab arriving for a day of hands-on learning. Fifth-graders engage with the FARM Crate or a county Project RED (Rural Education Day) event.

Then we have our middle schoolers, who turn into high schoolers, who then graduate to attend a trade school, college or head into the workforce. To help county Farm Bureaus develop stronger engagement points for grades 6-12 and beyond, the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture has set up the 2021 MFA High School and Collegiate Pail Program. (Play your cards right and it might also strengthen your membership pipeline at the same time.) 

County Farm Bureaus can recognize, connect and strengthen relationships with high school students and Collegiate Farm Bureau members with MFB feed buckets pails filled with resources that can spark conversations and connect the county with these future members. Four add-on packages can boost your county’s giveaway game at career fairs, honor state FFA degree recipients or graduating students, and boost brand awareness at county fairs and farm visits.

Each basic pail ($9) includes Collegiate Farm Bureau and Young Farmer program promotional material; an “Engage at Any Age” postcard (customizable for your county); networking and engagement tips; a panel of county-specific information (customizable); and suggestions for other county Farm Bureau touch points, like scholarship information, Young Farmer contests, social media and website links.

Four add-on packages are available for an additional $3 per pail:

  • Be Agriculture is for use at career fairs or college nights. Present one to FFA chapter officers or 4-H county representatives during National FFA/National 4H Week, or as giveaways or participation prizes during farm or industry tour. Contents include a career-themed Ag Mag, ‘Be Agriculture’ sticker and a Be Agriculture student handout.
  • On the Farm packs are great for giving to youth participating in youth safety events, livestock shows or county fairs. Connect with FFA Greenhands (first-year members) during your local FFA chapter’s Greenhand Ceremony, or give them away at farm visits to help promote Farm Bureau events. Contents include an MFB-branded first aid or sewing kit, a copy of Michigan Farm News and an MFB-branded emergency phone number magnet.
  • Recognition add-ons are good for presenting to county FFA and 4-H members earning state awards in Proficiency, Academic Excellence or State Degrees during their chapter/club annual banquet. Use them to award top showman in each livestock specie/age division at the county fair or local livestock show; to honor graduating FFA, 4-H or Collegiate members, or your county scholarship recipients. Contents include a customizable congratulations certificate and an MFB vinyl file folder with Collegiate membership and Young Farmer program information.
  • Be Mindful packages are aimed at encouraging students to practice good wellness and mindfulness practices. They’re good gifts for 4-H or FFA seniors as they move into their next phase of life, whether in post-secondary education or the workforce. Contents include a farm-stress post card, MFB stress ball or fidget spinner, and a Farm Bureau-themed journal/coloring booklet.

Through cost-share support from the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture, county Farm Bureaus will get half off their first $600 of pail purchases made by April 30 through the Michigan Agriculture in the Classroom store. Orders must be made by the county administrative manager from March 1 through April 30; click here.

Direct your questions and orders through your county administrative manager. Like I do with my 13-year-old, set some phone reminders and post a checklist on the bathroom mirror so you don’t miss the April 30 deadline. Your county won’t want to miss a chance to recognize, connect and strength relationships with your future members!

Also feel free to contact me with any questions!

Last year was tough and we’re all eager for 2021. Even if the New Year isn’t magical it still gives us a sense of light at the end of the tunnel and a new beginning. With that new beginning, one thing remains the same: We’re still all in this togethe

Continuing our series of real talk with real experts about the real issues facing Michigan farmers, Farmers After Hours: Rural Access, Wellness and You will explore the struggles and resources available for rural healthcare, wellness and support. By breaking down the building blocks of overall health — medical healthcare, rural health trends and mental health — this series will help viewers build awareness of their current health habits and connect with resources to improve their overall well-being.

  • March 17: Live Farmer Panel
  • March 24: Rural Access: The Struggle is Real; healthcare & broadband; Eric Frederick, Connect Michigan
  • March 31: Creating Connectivity: Resources for Rural Areas; healthcare & broadband; The Rural Broadband Association and Rural Health Association
  • April 7: Rural Health Trends; mental health, suicide and cancer; Drs. Elena Stoffel and Joe Himle, University of Michigan
  • April 14: Rural Trends: Diffusion and Meaningful Solutions; mental health, suicide and cancer; Kim Vapor and Dr. Joe Himle, University of Michigan
  • April 21: Farm Stress: The Physical and Mental Toll; real-life stressors, tolls and stigma reduction; Charlotte Halverson, AgriSafe
  • April 28: Combating Stress: Tactics, Resources and Networks; Eric Karbowski, MSU Extension
  • May 5: Live Ask-the-Expert Panel

Register for the new Farmers After Hours series here. Catch up on previous series here on YouTube.

MFB staff contact: Kate Thiel517-679-5741


Continuing our series of real talk with real experts about the real issues facing Michigan farmers, Farmers After Hours: Rural Access, Wellness and You will explore the struggles and resources available for rural healthcare, wellness and support.


Tricia McDonald joined Gratiot County Farm Bureau in 2017, first getting involved simply because she had friends to go to events with. Fast forward three short years and Tricia notched an outstanding achievement as the top membership writer statewide. In the 2019-20 membership year, she signed up 15 new regular members.

As Gratiot’s then-new Young Farmer chair, McDonald originally set out simply to share some of the value she’d found in the organization, starting with some friends who weren’t yet members. But she quickly encountered an obstacle that dogs membership writers everywhere: Many of her prospects had been members previously but lost sight of that membership’s value.

The question is legendary and worth a good think: What does Farm Bureau membership offer that’s valuable enough to attract prospective members?

Tricia started with her own Young Farmer group’s current events and how they might be enhanced to provide more value.

“That really lit a fire and led to our Young Farmer group committing to hosting events and facilitating programs that met members’ needs and showcased the value of membership,” McDonald said. “We did a Young Farmer barbecue, which was later paired with a membership ice cream social.

“It also led to us developing our Feed-a-Farmer program.”

Feed-a-Farmer was the brainchild of a previous Young Farmer chair who ran out of time to execute it. When COVID restrictions made traditional events difficult — or impossible — McDonald thought it warranted revisiting as a way to demonstrate membership value even within healthy safeguards.

The way Gratiot’s Young Farmers drew it up, Feed-a-Farmer eligibility only required the recipient farm’s primary contact to be a member — but the whole crew got fed a solid meal livened up with a generous sprinkle of Farm Bureau seasoning…

Back at the clubhouse, McDonald turned her attention to striking a better balance between new-member recruitment and existing-member retention.

She encouraged her Young Farmer peers to bring a non-member friend to the group’s annual chili cookoff and cornhole tournament — a fun networking opportunity already on the calendar. Each cornhole team was to have at least one current Farm Bureau member onboard to help ensure good interaction between existing and prospective members…

Next thing you know? Tricia’s the state’s top volunteer writer of new regular members.

“Farm Bureau impacts every individual in the ag industry in a different way, but it’s valuable to everyone in some way,” McDonald said. “Find someone in agriculture, whether a farmer or industry professional, and really listen to them.

“Learn what’s important to them, and it’ll help you find the value they’re looking for. Once you know their interests, talk about how the organization could benefit them through its various programs, discounts, or just the ability to network and meet others in the area and industry.

“Most importantly, remember it doesn’t hurt to just ask. Now might not be a good time for them to join, but at least you’ve planted a seed for the future.”

Planting seeds. That is how we grow.

Tricia McDonald joined Gratiot County Farm Bureau in 2017, first getting involved simply because she had friends to go to events with. Fast forward three short years and Tricia notched an outstanding achievement as the top membership writer statewide

By Nicole Jennings



Farm Bureau events like Rep. Moolenaar’s Dinner on the Farm took on a different look during the pandemic. Moving forward it’s important to stay mindful of the some of what we’ve learned over the past year.

If you’re anything like me, you probably look back at 2020 and still wonder, “what the HECK was that?!?”

But in the swirl of uncertainty, a global pandemic, social distancing and stay-at-home orders, county Farm Bureaus across the board still found made massive success. From a fantastic membership year, events abiding by restrictions, county annuals, board meetings, tele-town halls… You name it, the county Farm Bureaus did it. At a time when much of the world took a pause, our members persevered and found alternative ways to accomplish their goals and showcase the value of membership in our organization.

In doing so, leaders and members switched up a lot this past year and walked away with new and exciting ideas. We all mastered the subtle art of virtual meetings, sitting through our fair share of calls via Zoom and WebEx.

Unique ideas like virtual coffee hours with legislators, online trivia nights, online contests, virtual 5-Ks and virtual farm tours are all options that can bring people a little closer together even when we can’t join in person.

Social distancing is a term we’ve all come to know all too well over the past year. Yet many events were still able to take place.

Drive-through county annuals were happening throughout the state! Members revived drive-in movies, organized countywide scavenger hunts and convened outdoor summer picnics and tailgates.

Utilizing some of those skills we’ve all acquired will come in handy as we plod through winter. Sledding, snowshoeing, ice fishing tournaments and skiing are all snowy engagement opportunities that Farm Bureau leaders can provide for members and hopefully take some of the chill out of Old Man Winter.

New ideas are one thing. Now, how do we share our upcoming events with members? Social media, postcards, Farm Gate and your county Farm Bureau website are all great ways to spread the word.

Also, think back on how you got involved in the first place. How did you first find yourself at an event? Most of the time it was because another member personally invited you. Never underestimate the power of a phone call and reaching out to the uninvolved — they may very well be the next great leader your county Farm Bureau’s been looking for.

If any of these event ideas speak to you directly and you think might work in your county Farm Bureau, drop everything and reach out to your county Farm Bureau board or district director. If they don’t already have plans, they can help you make it happen. And they’d just love to hear from you.

MFB Staff have come up with a new planning and promotional guide we hope will help county Farm Bureaus brew up “alternative engagement” plans that fit their needs. Click here to see and download it! 

Originally from a Genesee County grain farm, Nicole Jennings is now an MFB Regional Manager serving members across District 9, in the Benzie-Manistee, Mason, Missaukee, Northwest Michigan and Wexford County Farm Bureaus.

Unique ideas like virtual coffee hours with legislators, online trivia nights, online contests, virtual 5-Ks and virtual farm tours are all options that can bring people a little closer together even when we can’t join in person.

Networking, communications, problem-solving, critical thinking, cultural awareness and social skills are just a few of the qualities today’s employers look for. World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute fosters those skills while encouraging young people to explore a variety of jobs and careers related to food security, science and agriculture.

The Institute is a one-day event coordinated by Michigan State University (MSU) where youth:

  • Present research and recommendations on how to solve key global challenges in a short speech and small group discussions with local experts.
  • Connect with other student leaders from across Michigan to share ideas, identify solutions to these problems and build lasting friendships.
  • Interact with global leaders in science, agriculture, industry and policy.
  • Take part in educational sessions to explore current research and issues in food, agriculture, natural resources, international development and life sciences.
  • Meet innovative professionals, researchers, professors and college students working to end hunger and poverty and improve food security in Michigan and around the world.

This year’s Institute takes place via Zoom from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 6; participation is free.

Students in grades 7-12 during the 2020-21 school year are eligible to register by submitting a two to five page paper (see link below) by April 1. Online registration for youth participants and their adult teachers or mentors begins March 1 at https://events.anr.msu.edu/wfpmiyi2021/

Top-performing participants will be considered as possible delegates to represent Michigan at the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute in Des Moines, Iowa (or virtually) this October.

Check out this video for more information, or contact Katie Eisenberger or your local 4-H county coordinator.

World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute fosters those skills while encouraging young people to explore a variety of jobs and careers related to food security, science and agriculture.



The third class of Michigan Farm Bureau’s Academy for Political Leadership is set to convene with a pandemic-adjusted summer schedule instead of its usual winter time frame. COVID-19 restrictions led the group to put off meeting in person until a time when they can, hopefully, convene in person.

Eight participants are scheduled to meet in June, July, August and September:

  • Ed Scheffler — Lenawee County
  • Allan Robinette — Kent County
  • Loren King — St. Joseph County
  • Maria Carlin — Shiawassee County
  • Logan Crumbaugh — Gratiot County
  • Nadene Berthiaume — Saginaw County
  • Byron Fogarasi — Arenac County
  • Brad Lubbers — Allegan County

We’ll learn more about the participants as this year’s academy approaches.

MFB’s Academy for Political Leadership is designed for Farm Bureau members interested in politics and government. Some participants aspire to public office themselves or seek to learn how to support office-holders, while others simply want to learn more about how government works.

Content addressed through the course of the academy includes what it takes to run an effective campaign, election law, fundraising, and more.

The academy takes place every other year in non-election years. Contact your county Farm Bureau if you or someone you know is interested in taking part in a future class.

MFB staff contacts: Matt Kapp, 517-679-5883, and Melissa Palma, 517-323-6740


The third class of Michigan Farm Bureau’s Academy for Political Leadership is set to convene with a pandemic-adjusted summer schedule instead of its usual winter time frame.
Rebecca Gulliver

Last year was tough and we’re all eager for 2021. Even if the New Year isn’t magical it still gives us a sense of light at the end of the tunnel and a new beginning. With that new beginning, one thing remains the same: We’re still all in this together — and we’re always stronger together.

American Farm Bureau Federation’s Virtual Convention concluded this week with that theme: Stronger Together. Over the course of five days convention sessions were held, Young Farmers competed, awards and recognitions were given, and live sessions were facilitated.

One of these sessions, Farm State of Mind – Responding to the Challenges of Rural Mental Health, reminded us to lean on one another for support and check in on our friends, even the strong ones.

This workshop was a farmer panel (pictured above) led by Colorado Farm Bureau member Chad Vorthmann. Each panelist shared their own personal stories about how mental health, stress and suicide touched their lives and communities: Robin Kinney from American Farm Bureau Federation; Randy Roecker of Rolling Acres, LLC; Marshall Sewell, Bayer Crop Science; and Meredith Bernard from This Farm Wife Inc. all helped break down barriers in a real conversation on a tough topic.

A consistent need for adequate mental health care in rural America — and professionals who know how to work with farmers and their unique challenges — was made very clear throughout.

Bernard mentioned how farmers are all big-time gamblers without ever hitting the casino or buying a lottery ticket — and we all know that’s the truth! Between the weather, erratic commodity prices and the constant pressure of maintaining a multi-generational legacy, farmers carry a lot of stress and anxiety with them every day. Add to that the common “go it alone” mentality many have come to work under as the problem solvers and entrepreneurs all farmers are.

Before the panel opened up for questions, each panelist shared some powerful takeaways from their conversation.

Roecker, who overcame a battle with depression following the dairy crash of the 1980s, shared that farmers need to support each other, if only because we all understand the uniqueness of agriculture. It takes proactively checking in with one another regularly, even your strong friends.

Bernard lost a friend by suicide and reminded her virtual audience that none of us are ever really alone: we are worthy, our lives matter, our stories matter, and that no one should suffer in silence. Seek a friend!

Sewell reflected on what he would have said to his dad the last time he saw him alive, prior to taking his own life, and how he would strive to find the good things in the day and the value we all add: the world may be crammed with people, but it still needs YOU.

Kinney stressed the importance of a mental wellness check being part of a normal, physical health check. We check the oil in our tractors and address routine equipment maintenance, so don’t forget to do the same with ourselves.

Not sure where to start? Uncomfortable with the topic of farm stress and mental health? Rural Resilience Training provides a comprehensive understanding and is a great place to start. This program is a partnership with American Farm Bureau and the National Farmers Union, and facilitated by Michigan State University Extension.

Meredith said it best: “When people feel seen, they get help.” So let’s not be blinded by everything that’s going wrong in our world. Let’s check in with each other — even our strong friends.

Rebecca Gulliver is MFB’s Regional Manager in the Saginaw Valley (District 8) and a member of our Farm Stress & Mental Health team.

Resources

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
  • Avera Health Farm and Rural Stress Hotline: 800-691-4336
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 800-662-HELP
  • Crisis text line: text HOME to 741741
  • FarmStateOfMind.org
Last year was tough and we’re all eager for 2021. Even if the New Year isn’t magical it still gives us a sense of light at the end of the tunnel and a new beginning. With that new beginning, one thing remains the same: We’re still all in this togethe




The 2020 #SpeakAgMichigan Challenge supported by the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture recognized the top ten high school FFA chapters and top three Collegiate Farm Bureau members with $7,000 in cash prizes.

This year’s challenge was a twist on the traditional award program, which recognizes FFA chapters and collegiate members for ag-literacy efforts in their communities, sharing a basic understanding of producing food, fuel and fiber. With schools closed last spring, limiting the ability to provide programming in person, #SpeakAgMichigan turned to social media, challenging high school students and Collegiate Farm Bureau members to engage with consumers, develop advocacy skills and earn some funds for their chapter! 

The purpose of the #SpeakAgMichigan Challenge was to develop and implement a four-month social media challenge highlighting designated commodities — the ones focused on in our Fall Teacher FARM Crate subscription boxes: apples (September), pumpkins (October), turkeys (November) and Christmas Trees (December).

From demonstrating a piece of equipment related to the commodity to visiting a farm to offering a recipe or growing tip, our top-10 high school FFA chapter winners and their competitors together laid out a thorough plan to accurately and effectively connect with consumers.

“My students learned a TON through these challenges,” said Ashley FFA Advisor Amber McAllister. “They’re collaborating online to collect information and debating which is best to share with our community, as well as growing leaps and bounds in technology!

“This has been a fantastic learning experience for us.”

Help us congratulate our winners and participants in both divisions by liking their pages and supporting their efforts:

FFA Chapters

Collegiate Farm Bureaus

  • First Place ($500): Madelyn Cary, Gratiot County; MSU Main Campus
  • Second ($300): Michael Ceja, Gratiot County; Delta Collegiate
  • Third ($200): Jewel Lantis, Livingston County; MSU Main Campus Collegiate

In the collegiate division, cash awards were awarded to the top three Collegiate members and their respective Collegiate Farm Bureau chapters.

The Michigan Foundation for Agriculture, is a 501(c)3 governed by Michigan Farm Bureau’s Board of Directors, positively contributes to the future of Michigan agriculture through leadership and educational programming.

For more information, contact MFB High School and Collegiate Programs Specialist Katie Eisenberger.

 
The 2020 #SpeakAgMichigan Challenge supported by the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture recognized the top ten high school FFA chapters and top three Collegiate Farm Bureau members with $7,000 in cash prizes.
Lisa Robb

Kalamazoo County Farm Bureau has several of each of the current farm crates in stock and available for loan. We would like to loan them out to any local school teacher or parent that is home schooling. The farm crates are meant for grade school children grades 3-5. If you or anyone you know has an interest, please call Lisa Robb at (269) 342-0212.
We are looking forward to helping to educate the children in Kalamazoo County on the many different agricultural commodities.
Farm Crates available for loan.

Way back in February, the 2020 Voice of Agriculture Conference was the last time members got to enjoy personal contact and tours of Michigan ag facilities — in this case Thiesen Greenhouse in St. Clair County.

In a Dec. 11 message to county Farm Bureau leaders, MFB President Carl Bednarski broke the bad — but not wholly surprising — news that the organization’s winter 2021 core programs will be canceled to safeguard the health and well-being of members and staff alike.

“For months we’ve been holding our breath and hoping for a change in the state’s health situation and restrictions,” Bednarski said. “After soliciting feedback from state committees, county presidents and staff, the MFB board of directors has made the difficult decision to cancel the 2021 Growing TogetherLansing Legislative Seminar and Presidents Capitol Summit.”

Note that those three named events actually represent five: Growing Together is a combination of the Young Farmer Leaders and Voice of Agriculture conferences. And the Presidents’ Capitol Summit brings together the Council of Presidents’ Conference and Washington Legislative Seminar.

That clears the slate of the organization’s usual wintertime “meeting season,” the normally predictable sequence of events and conferences that gathers a head of steam with county Farm Bureau annual meetings then kicks off after Thanksgiving with the State Annual Meeting.

Clearing the slate of the wintertime “meeting season” rests on a lot of solid reasoning:

  • Meeting-size limitations from both the state(s) and the privately-owned hotels and conference centers would have shrunk any of the core program events to a fraction of their normal size. Limited venue capacities make tours and breakout sessions functionally impossible.
  • State and federal legislators’ offices are closed and most won’t attend large gatherings.
  • Advanced notice is required to avoid cancellation penalties from venues hosting events. Canceling those events early also means more time to plan alternatives.

State-level leaders are conferring with staff and county Farm Bureau presidents to find alternative means of working toward core program objectives through county, district or regional events or programming. Among those goals:

  • Provide resources, training and leadership development for county Membership, Promotion and Education and Young Farmer chairs
  • Offer leadership development for county leaders and boards
  • Enhance member relationship building with state and federal officials
  • Host Young Farmer district discussion meets
  • Conduct Policy Development discussions
  • Promote collaboration amongst counties and districts

Delegates were surveyed at their district meetings in November; their responses will help district directors, county presidents, state committee members and regional managers plan alternative programming for 2021.

County Farm Bureaus contribute to a core program fund according to their membership, partially underwriting the cost of those statewide programs and enabling counties to send an allocated number of attendees to each event.

“These resources will be redirected as determined by district directors, county presidents and state committee members,” Bednarski said.

“We appreciate your grace and patience as we make decisions in the best interest of our members’ and organization’s health and safety. Stay tuned for alternate programming announcements and opportunities in January!”

In a Dec. 11 message to county Farm Bureau leaders, MFB President Carl Bednarski broke the bad — but not wholly surprising — news that the organization’s winter 2021 core programs will be canceled to safeguard the health and well-being of members and

Farmers After Hours’ next series, Boosting Your Bottom Line, will build on the financial foundation laid during the previous series, Financial Fundamentals and Profitability. This iteration will explore business planning, connect individuals with grant or loan sources and explain USDA resources and programming.

Live panels flank a series of five mini-sessions where subject-matter experts dive into resources and information to bolster farms and agribusinesses. Each live panel allows participants to join anonymously and ask questions of presenters.

Tune in at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays to catch fresh content, or catch up by checking out MFB’s YouTube channel. Here’s an overview of our next series:

  • Jan. 20 — Live farmer panel; register via Webex
  • Jan. 27 — Building Your Business Plan; GreenStone
  • Feb. 3 — Exploring Funding Sources
  • Feb. 10 — Decoding USDA Programs
  • Feb. 17 — Tips for Low Interest Loan Applicants; GreenStone 
  • Feb. 24 — Grant Dollars: The Do’s and Don’ts
  • March 3 — Live expert panel; register via Webex

The Farmers After Hours series is a special project of the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture, in partnership with GreenStone Farm Credit Services. The Michigan Foundation for Agriculture, a 501(c)3 formed by Michigan Farm Bureau, has a mission of positively contributing to the future of Michigan agriculture through leadership and educational programming.

Farmers After Hours’ next series, Boosting Your Bottom Line, will build on the financial foundation laid during the previous series, Financial Fundamentals and Profitability. This iteration will explore business planning, connect individuals with gra
By Jeremy C. Nagel









From top to bottom:
Mike Sell
Mitch Bigelow 
Amanda Sollman
Jeff VanderWerff
Chris Creuger 

Normally the phrase “phoning it in” refers to someone doing the bare minimum to get the job done. But Farm Bureau members taking part in MFB’s Dec. 2 Annual Meeting didn’t get that memo, and didn’t let the challenges of a remote format get in the way of expressing their stances on the 2020-21 policy docket.

One of the big unknowns heading into the event was the toll an all-virtual format might take on the policy deliberations at the heart of the event. With hundreds of members participating remotely — calling in through computers and voting via smartphone — it was easy to imagine some feeling silenced by the distance.

Not to worry.

Neither technology nor the abbreviated time frame hindered a free exchange or kept members from taking an active role in this most sacred of Farm Bureau institutions: delegate-floor policy deliberations.

Steeled for the long game 


Regardless of the meeting format, one of the more daunting delegate feats is introducing, supporting and defending a concept that doesn’t go over as well as you’d hoped.

“We thought it would be a slam dunk but it got tossed out,” said Wayne County Farm Bureau President Mike Sell about a proposal to raise the profile of diversity and inclusion language.

“Let’s just say I could’ve been a little more tactful — I kinda shut myself down,” he added. “Here in Wayne County, we talk about it frankly: Farm Bureau needs to clearly state we need to be inclusive of those people who meet the membership requirements.”

Opponents cited the presence of very similar language already included in the company’s Code of Conduct.

“We view the Code of Conduct as an HR (human resources) tool — it’s about staff, not members,” Sell said. “It’s not the policy book.”

The issue’s dismissal, he said, has only energized his membership and steeled them to dig in for the proverbial Long Game.

“You need to keep even, constant pressure on it,” Sell said. “Others will come onboard but it’s going to be a slow process.”

The cause wasn’t without allies; Bay County delegate Mitch Bigelow offered a convincing defense of the proposal.

“I think it’s important having policy not just saying we’re inclusive but actively promoting and searching out diversity,” he said afterwards. “A lack of policy around inclusion is not indicative of how inclusive we are.

“The more times we can put that in the policy book — and not get hung up on where it goes — the better,” Bigelow said. “As a general farm organization, we’re only as strong as how active we are at getting different segments represented and heard in our policy.”

Go to the microphone


The overarching concept of policy as the organization’s enduring definition was also tested by attempts to codify therein some members’ skepticism about the integrity of the 2020 general election.

Saginaw County’s Amanda Sollman wasn’t letting that go without sharing a firm, concise opinion on the matter.

“We already have laws in place,” she said — existing laws guarding against the alleged voter fraud one recommendation alluded to. “Our policy should be timeless.

“I didn’t even phrase it as a motion,” she said afterward, admitting she expected scant support for her position.

“It’s really important for Farm Bureau to speak with a unified voice when we speak with representatives and stakeholders. We’re an organization made of individuals with a wide range of opinions. It’s vital people go to the microphone and make their voice heard — bring those perspectives to the forefront for consideration.

“People have to take into account different angles and different points of view. If they don’t hear them from somebody, they may never hear them,” Sollman said. “It’s hard to go into that group knowing you hold a different perspective. It’s easy to feel alone.”

We're all guilty

Of course she is not alone; Amanda has good company in those members who aren’t the least bit shy about expressing themselves with conviction.

“I struggle a little with what I even said. I’d heard this notion and it hit a nerve with me,” recalls Jeff VanderWerff, the outspoken Ottawa County apple grower who spoke assertively in favor of an ag-labor housing GAAMP.

Beyond the obvious practical benefits, such a move would dramatically elevate the profile of an ongoing, high-priority issue common among specialty crop growers who know providing quality housing for the seasonal workers they rely on is key to attracting those workers in the first place.

But in an arena dominated by highly mechanized row-crop, livestock and dairy farmers, it may sound like pie-in-the-sky fantasy.

“The simple reality is we’re all guilty: We don’t necessarily understand the challenges other producers see every day,” VanderWerff said. “We have to try to keep an open mind and seek to understand the perspective of our fellow growers.

“Michigan is so diverse, not only agriculturally, but culturally as well, with varying political views, cultural views,” VanderWerff said. “And when you have an organization like Farm Bureau that has as big a tent as it does, and which truly wants to represent all sectors, you have to be willing to speak up for your individual commodity and region.”

Death & t*x*s

Sometimes the challenge comes in reminding folks of certain fundamental truths they readily understand but will go to their grave cursing.

“I don’t like paying property taxes any more than anyone else, but Chris had a point,” VanderWerff said about his peer from across the state: Tuscola County Farm Bureau Delegate and Pioneer Seed man Chris Creuger.

“Nobody likes paying taxes, but how will we fund public services we’ve all come to expect?” Creuger said. “Public schools, fire departments, police, road funding, infrastructure… It all has to be paid for somehow. Those things don’t just happen.

“Specifically about taxation, we have to consider policy resolutions holistically.

“Annual meeting is a great place to have an open discussion to present the facts and let the delegates decide for themselves,” Creuger said. “But it’s important to have all  sides represented, and when you see something on the screen that you feel doesn’t meet that criteria, it’s important that you speak up.

“We’re a diverse organization that represents a lot of different commodities and our needs and desires don’t always fall in line, but at the end of day we try and come up with policies that serve everyone.”

Normally the phrase “phoning it in” refers to someone doing the bare minimum to get the job done. But Farm Bureau members taking part in MFB’s Dec. 2 Annual Meeting didn’t get that memo, and didn’t let the challenges of a remote format get in the way
By Audrey Sebolt


Most agritourism ventures in Michigan lean hard toward the autumnal.



Michigan produces more than 300 different agricultural commodities. Add breathtaking views from hilly apple orchards and wide open spaces for corn mazes and Christmas tree farms and it’s no small wonder Michigan is home to a thriving — and growing — agritourism sector.

As the intersection of agriculture and tourism, agritourism allows for the public to connect with agriculture, experience farm life and taste its bounty. Activities can encompass everything from picking produce like strawberries, apples and blueberries to experiencing exciting adventures such as corn mazes, pumpkin catapulting and wagon rides. Agritourism allows families to celebrate events such on-farm weddings and holidays by choosing and picking your favorite pumpkin and Christmas tree.

The agritourism industry relies heavily on good weather weekends for visitors to enjoy. For the agritourism business, weather that keeps family and friends at home means lost revenue.

This summer, Michigan experienced its busiest summer on record due to COVID-19 restrictions and the cancellation of most other activities. The busy summer meant most strawberry operations had to close their doors, after being open for only a few hours, because all of the available ripe berries were picked before noon.

I myself visited a small operation where the owner had to close the gates 45 minutes after it opened. Compare that to last year when I picked berries at another operation and saw late-season berries rotting on the vine. When I asked the owners why, they said they’d had two very rainy weekends back-to-back, so visitors didn’t come to pick and a tremendous amount of revenue was lost.

Michigan’s agritourism operations invested a tremendous amount of time this year preparing to open their doors to the public while implementing COVID-19 precautions to ensure their customers’ safety.

U-pick strawberry patches offered new containers for customers and asked them to keep last year’s container at home. Many large u-pick apple operations offered the ability to reserve time slots online so crowds could be managed and adequate staffing was ensured. One large operation hired staff specifically to safely sanitize high-touch areas.

Despite such successes, Michigan agritourism felt two huge gaping holes this year.

The first was on-farm weddings that were cancelled due to crowd restrictions, meaning thousands in lost revenue. The second were cancelled field trips — a lost season of educating young people about the significance of Michigan agriculture.

The last agritourism segment to open its doors this year will be the choose-n-cut Christmas tree farms. Thanksgiving falls late on the calendar this year — Nov. 26 — so there are only four weekends between it and Christmas! Christmas tree farms are expecting an extremely busy 2020 season, managing a lot of customers in a short period of time.

And unlike other agritourism segments, Christmas tree customers rarely stay home because of the weather!

Questions 

  1. Discuss the state of agritourism in your county and region. How has it changed (presumably grown) in recent decades?
  2. How well (accurately) do agritourism ventures in your area depict the realities of food commodity production?
  3. With the exception of summertime berry picking, Michigan’s most common agritourism ventures are primarily autumnal: apples, pumpkins then Christmas trees as winter approaches. What opportunities might be feasible for expanded agritourism activities in the winter and spring.

AND/OR submit one of the following to [email protected]:

  • Suggest a CAG discussion topic your group is dying to chew on.
  • Describe a local issue impacting farmers in your area that nobody seems to be talking about.

How to Respond (Please include your name & CAG affiliation.)

  • Email: [email protected]
  • Conventional, postal mail: MFB Community Group Discussion, ATTN: Michelle Joseph, 7373 W. Saginaw Hwy., Lansing, MI 48909
Michigan’s agritourism operations invested a tremendous amount of time this year preparing to open their doors to the public while implementing COVID-19 precautions to ensure their customers’ safety.



MFB Board Member Mike Fusilier presents Washtenaw County member Katelyn Packard with the 2020 Young Farmer Ag Leader Award at the Dist. 3 policy meeting Nov. 11.


District policy meetings got underway Nov. 9 as county Farm Bureau delegates statewide met for regional discussions about new and amended policy recommendations on the docket for Michigan Farm Bureau’s hybrid-virtual 2020 State Annual Meeting, Dec. 2. Regional meetings took place in 10 out of 12 Farm Bureau districts across both peninsulas.

District 10 

In the northeastern Lower Peninsula, District 10 was first out of the gates, meeting in the morning of Nov. 9.

Leona Daniels was reelected district director and we had good discussion,” reports Northeastern Regional Manager Sonya Novotny. “I believe we’ll have some amendments come through from our district and they are working on those before the November deadline.

Eldon Barclay, our state PD representative, did a wonderful job presenting policy and leading the policy discussion.”

District 1

In the opposite corner of the Lower Peninsula, District 1 met that same evening with 50 members gathered for food, fellowship, recognition and policy discussion.

“The event went very well,” reported Southwest Regional Manager Sarah Pion. “State Farm Bureau leaders Brigette LeachJulie Stephenson and Mitch Kline all did a great job at presenting our county members with their awards and recognition.”

On the recognition agenda were MFB Educator of the Year Steve Rigoni and state Young Farmer Employee Award winner Tera Baker, as well as State Young Farmer Award finalists Riley Brazo and Andy Heinitz.

“State Policy Development Committee members Cliff Lipscomb and Melissa Morlock were very effective at presenting this year’s proposed policy resolutions and walking through the issue ideas with our delegates and facilitating the policy discussion.”

Delegates in the southwest discussed the ongoing meat processing and packing issue, as well as bovine tuberculosis and state road funding.

District 5

District 5 delegates met in Owosso Nov. 10.

“It was nice to get out of the house, see other Farm Bureau members and talk about current issues, said Ingham County member Don Vickers.

Central Regional Manager Hannah Lange said District 5 delegates also welcomed a special guest, MFB President Carl Bednarski, who dropped in to share his thoughts on the importance of continuing business through a crisis.

District 3

District 3 met in Howell Nov. 11 to start working through its policy agenda and recognize state-level Young Farmer Ag Leader Award winner, Washtenaw County member Katelyn Packard.

Delegates from across the southeast confabbed on a wide range of policy matters: utility wire placement, urban and legislative outreach, the Michigan Ag Council Ag Ambassador program, mandatory vaccinations and the tax implications for pandemic-forced home-schooling.

District 7

Farm Bureau members from across District 7 convened Nov. 11 in Reed City.

“We have a great group of both new and experienced members,” said West-Central Regional Manager Bridget Moore. “Everyone had great attitudes and were excited to still be able to come together and focus on policy.

“The motto of the night was ‘making lemonade out of lemons.’ Our members did a great job of that and are looking forward to live discussion on Dec 2.”

District 9

Northwestern Regional Manager Nicole Jennings reports District 9’s Nov. 11 meeting in Cadillac saw exceptional engagement from several first-time delegates just getting their policy-development sea legs.

“For our first-timers, much of this process was very new,” Jennings said, “but our state-annual veterans stepped into their leadership roles to help the newer attendees understand and take part in this process.

“Even as we faced the challenges of 2020, member involvement in the policy development process has remained strong. Thorough discussion led by the members and for the members, as it has been and should be.”

~

Farm Bureau members also met last week in Districts 6, 8, 11 and 12. Regional meetings wrap up Nov. 19, with sessions that day in Districts 2 and 4.

District policy meetings got underway Nov. 9 as county Farm Bureau delegates statewide met for regional discussions about new and amended policy recommendations on the docket for Michigan Farm Bureau’s hybrid-virtual 2020 State Annual Meeting, Dec. 2

As of Nov. 20, Michigan is at less than 50% of its deer TB testing quota required in a USDA/MDARD agreement. Failure to meet the testing quota could prompt USDA to reevaluate Michigan’s TB status, leading to additional testing requirements statewide of the state’s beef and dairy herds. (Photo, MDNR) 

Deer hunters in a dozen northern Lower Peninsula counties are urged to turn in the heads of harvested deer to an MDNR check station or drop box for bovine tuberculosis testing this hunting season. If testing quotas aren’t met by year’s end, the USDA could reevaluate the entire state’s TB status, imperiling Michigan’s beef and dairy farmers. 

“The new memorandum of understanding between USDA and Michigan requires a significant number of deer heads to be turned in for TB testing in the Modified Accredited Zone and surrounding counties,” said Ernie Birchmeier, MFB’s dairy and livestock specialist. “It is imperative that we all collaborate to achieve those goals.

“Failure to meet the requirements could cause USDA to reevaluate the TB status of the entire state of Michigan. Lowering the state’s status could lead to additional testing requirements statewide, which would be a significant challenge for our beef and dairy farmers.”

While more than 2,000 animals across the Northeastern region of the state had been tested as of Nov. 20 (current numbers are available online), it's significantly under the MOU testing requirements.

Per the MOU, signed this past February, MDNR is required to conduct active surveillance for bovine TB in free-ranging white-tailed deer. Michigan’s Modified Accredited Zone (MAZ), which includes Alcona, Alpena, Montmorency and Oscoda counties, is required to test 2,800 deer annually. 

As of Nov. 20, only 1,220 deer — just 43.6% of the number required — had been tested collectively in the MAZ.

New annual testing quotas are also required for the seven counties surrounding the MAZ including 500 free-ranging deer in Presque Isle County, and 300 each in Cheboygan, Crawford, Iosco, Ogemaw, Otsego and Roscommon for a combined total of 2,300 deer. 

Thus far only 798 deer had been tested in those counties — less than 35% of the number required in the USDA/MDARD agreement.

“It’s imperative we hit those testing quota numbers,” Birchmeier said. “Harvesting a large number of deer and getting the heads tested for TB can help reduce the overall population in areas that have a significant number of deer and we can help to prove to USDA that we are containing the disease and working to eliminate it.”

“Sixty percent of deer that test positive show no signs of the disease, so testing is important,” said Emily Sewell, DNR wildlife health specialist. “It’s important that hunters take precautions like wearing latex or rubber gloves when field dressing. If they notice any lesions on the lungs or in the chest cavity, they should avoid cutting into the lesions and bring the deer to a check station.” 

Check station and drop box locations are listed below and online at Michigan.gov/DeerCheck

For more information visit Michigan.gov/BovineTB or contact Sewell or Birchmeier directly.

DNR Drop Box Locations

  • Alanson — Oden Hatchery Visitor Center; 24-hour drop box; 3377 Oden Road, Alanson; 989-732-3541 ext. 5031
  • Alpena Field Office — check station, 24-hour drop box; 4343 M-32 West, Alpena; 989-785-4251 ext. 5233
  • Atlanta Field Office — check Station, 24-hour drop box; 13501 M-33, Atlanta; 989-785-4251 ext. 5233
  • Cheboygan Field Office — 24-hour drop box120 A Street, Cheboygan; 989-732-3541 ext. 5031
  • Curran BP Gas Station — check station; M-65 & M-72, Curran; 989-348-6371 ext. 7477
  • East Tawas State Harbor Dock — check station; 113 Newman St., Hwy. US-23, East Tawas; 989-275-5151 ext. 2039
  • Gaylord Customer Service Center — check station, 24-hour drop box; 1732 West M-32, Gaylord; 989-732-3541
  • Grayling Field Office — check station, 24-hour drop box; 1955 Hartwick Pines Road, Grayling; 989-348-6371 ext. 7477
  • Hale — Alward’s Market, 118 S. Washington St., Hale; 989-728-2315
  • Hillman BP Gas Station — 24-hour drop box; 27400 M-32 West, Hillman; 989-785-4251 ext. 5233
  • Indian River Field Office — 24-hour drop box; 6984 Wilson Road, Indian River; 989-732-3541 ext. 5031
  • Lincoln Field Office — check station; 408 Main Street, Lincoln; 989-736-8336
  • Lupton — Rifle River Recreation Area; check station; 2550 E. Rose City Road, Lupton; 989-473-2258
  • Mio DNR Field Office — check station, 24-hour drop box; 191 S. Mt. Tom Road, Mio; 989-275-5151 ext. 2722030
  • Onaway Check Station — Tom’s IGA, 20597 State St., Onaway; 989-785-4251 ext. 5233
  • Posen Check Station — behind Huron Oil Co., 10941 Michigan Ave., Posen; 989-785-4251 ext. 5233
  • Rogers City — Adrian’s Sport Shop; 24-hour drop box; 335 N. Bradley Hwy., Rogers City,
     989-785-4251 ext. 5233
  • Roscommon Customer Service Center — check station, 24-hour drop box; 8717 N. Roscommon Road, Roscommon; 989-275-5151 ext. 2722039
  • West Branch Field Office — check station; 410 N. Fairview Road, West Branch; 989-345-0472

Related Stories:

State updates bovine TB quotas for 7 counties

Another Alpena County beef herd confirmed TB positive

Deer check and CWD, TB testing changes for 2020 hunting season

 
Deer hunters in a dozen northern Lower Peninsula counties are urged to turn in the heads of harvested deer to an MDNR check station or drop box for bovine tuberculosis testing this hunting season. If testing quotas aren’t met by year’s end, the USDA

The “hybrid-virtual” format of this year’s Michigan Farm Bureau Annual Meeting marks the event’s biggest makeover since it outgrew and left the Michigan State University campus in 1970. Wrinkles are still being ironed, but what’s coming slowly into focus are the promising opportunities for refreshed member involvement at the county and regional level.

That grassroots activity is at the heart of the monthlong agenda, and there’s a lot to accomplish between the Nov. 4 kickoff and Dec. 2 business sessions.

District-level meetings Nov. 9-19 will offer a new kind of delegate experience for those chosen to represent their county Farm Bureaus. Delegate registration will be open Oct. 12-23; substitution deadlines will be forthcoming.

Delegates should be prepared to review the resolutions booklet online beginning Nov. 1; printed copies will be available at district meetings. Reviews should prioritize looking for possible amendments and potential omissions. Members will be encouraged to address either; procedures for doing so will be forthcoming.

“What we anticipate is something like what our old open-policy sessions used to look like,” said Deb Schmucker, director of MFB’s field operations division. “Delegates will need at least a smartphone or a tablet to vote.”

Staffers from MFB’s public policy and commodity division will attend each district meeting to help facilitate those conversations.

Even-numbered districts will also have to squeeze elections onto their agendas.

See below for a complete list of district meeting times, dates and locations.

~ ~ ~

Prior to all that, the Nov. 4 kickoff session will take place entirely online and therefore viewable by all members with high-speed internet. MFB President Carl Bednarski will launch the monthlong process with his annual address, which will include announcements of the 2020 Volunteer of the Year and Distinguished Service to Agriculture winners.

That agenda will also include reports from CEOs Scott Piggott and Don Simon, Treasurer David Baker, representatives of the rules and credentials committees, and approval of last year’s annual meeting minutes.

~ ~ ~

The Dec. 2 business and policy session will take place in person or virtually by district, based on COVID phase restrictions; they’re also listed below.

All 12 districts will join as satellites around a hub composed of MFB leadership and the state Policy Development committee to manage the proceedings:

  • Nomination and election of district, Young Farmer and P&E directors
  • Election of MFB President
  • Policy resolution discussion – reaffirmation style
  • Policy resolutions

~ ~ ~

Look for more details as they develop in Farm Gate and all your usual Farm Bureau communications channels.

~ ~ ~

District Meetings 

District 1

  • Nov. 9 — 6 p.m.; Essenhaus Inn and Conference Center, 240 US-20, Middlebury, IN; dinner included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 2

  • Nov. 19 — 6:30 p.m.; Hillsdale College Dow Hotel and Conf. Center, 22 E. Galloway Dr, Hillsdale; dinner included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 3

  • Nov. 11 — 6 p.m.; Crystal Gardens Banquet Center, 5768 E Grand River Ave, Howell; dinner included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 4

  • Nov. 19 — 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; Railside Golf Club, 2500 76th Street SW, Byron Center; lunch included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 5

District 6

District 7

  • Nov. 11 — 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Reed City Fire Department, 523 Morse St, Reed City; dinner included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 8

  • Nov. 12 — 6 p.m.; Jeremy and Kayla Enser Farm, 8290 Kochville Rd, Saginaw; dinner included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 9

  • Nov. 11 — 6 p.m.; Evergreen Resort, 7880 Mackinaw Trail, Cadillac; dinner included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 10

  • Nov. 9 — 9:30 a.m.; Arenac Community Center, 583 E Cedar Street, Standish; refreshments will be served
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 11

  • Nov. 10 — 6:30 p.m.; Courtyard Marriott, 1866 Mkwa Place, Petoskey; dinner included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 12

  • Nov. 10 — 11 a.m. EST; Sweet Grass Convention Center, W 399 US 2 & 41, Harris; lunch included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST; same location; lunch included
The “hybrid-virtual” format of this year’s Michigan Farm Bureau Annual Meeting marks the event’s biggest makeover since it outgrew and left the Michigan State University campus in 1970. Wrinkles are still being ironed, but what’s coming slowly into f
Kent County Farm Bureau member Kylee Zdunic-Rasch speaks on a policy amendment at the 2019 Michigan Farm Bureau State Annual Meeting.

If anyone worried COVID would dampen the grassroots spirit of county Farm Bureau members involved in the policy development process, they were fretting over nothing. They’d also be wrong to think a mere pandemic would jeopardize the quality of policy recommendations submitted by Michigan’s county Farm Bureaus. If anything, 2020 appears to have strengthened our members’ resolve and sharpened their talent for crafting meaningful, well-thought-out policies to protect and enhance Michigan agriculture and our rural communities.

Michigan Farm Bureau’s state policy development committee recently spent two days in Lansing deliberating nearly 500 policy recommendations from 60 county Farm Bureaus and 12 state advisory committees. The result is a carefully crafted slate of resolutions that 400-plus delegates to MFB’s 101st annual meeting will debate and approve, setting the organization’s course for 2021.

Unlike any previous annual meeting, county Farm Bureau delegates are encouraged to spend time preparing for the all-virtual delegate session Dec. 2 — the first of its kind in MFB history and certainly an unforgettable way to kick off the organization’s second century.

In his capacity as chair of the state policy development committee, MFB Vice President Andy Hagenow’s guidance is firm and simple:

“Attend your district delegate meeting,” Hagenow urges. “We’ll have limited time to discuss the policies during the delegate session, so it’s important members get together to determine what questions they have.

“Members should try to prepare amendments in advance to make the best use of our time during this year’s abbreviated delegate session.” 

A small sampling of policies with significant amendments are summarized below. The complete policy docket will be available online in early November.

COVID-19 and Emergency Powers 

To no one’s surprise, delegates will consider numerous amendments stemming from COVID-19, conflicting government authority, and food and agriculture industry disruptions.

“There were a lot of resolutions specifically dealing with COVID and executive orders that have been embedded all over the policy book,” said committee member and District 7 Director Mike DeRuiter. “That’s one of the pieces I would definitely focus on as a delegate.”

Among the amendments:

  • Provisions requesting that proper security, identification and safety protocols be followed by state agency personnel when visiting farms, including compliance with executive orders (Policy #16 Food Safety).
  • Opposition to a segment of the workforce being targeted for mandatory testing or regulatory compliance (Policy #47 Agricultural Labor).
  • Support for allowing healthcare facilities to decide to remain open during emergency circumstances (Policy #62 Health).
  • Language stating that rulemaking authority should be limited by legislative actions and state government should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act when emergency powers are enacted (Policy #67 Regulatory Reform and Reduction).
  • Support for government checks and balances during emergency power situations and that those powers should be valid for a maximum of 28 days without legislative oversight (Policy #68 Streamlining Michigan Government).
  • Support for liability protection for employers providing proper training, personal protection equipment, and working in good faith to protect employee health (Policy #69 Tort Liability Reform).
  • Support for a refundable income tax credit for businesses shut down due to government-issued executive orders (Policy #91 Taxation).

Transportation

Delegates will also review an overhaul of MFB’s longstanding policies on transportation.

State committee member Jarris Rubingh explained that a new “Transportation Improvement” policy will replace existing policies #95 Highway Improvements and Maintenance and #96 Highways and Funding.

“The transportation subcommittee went through the book, and we have a lot of policy on transportation, whether it’s road funding, improvements, rights of way, etc.” Rubingh said. “We tried to organize it so that it would make more sense and be easier to find specific things.

“Read through the whole transportation policy, because we deleted very little… It’s just moved around to make it more concise.”

Meat Processing

County Farm Bureaus also had strong feelings this year about challenges and opportunities for the state’s meat-processing industry.

“We probably had over 20 different county policy recommendations for the meats industry and processing side,” said John Bowsky, state committee member representing district 6. “We crafted a brand-new policy under commodities and marketing, so you’ll be seeing all-new language.”

The proposed “Michigan Meat Processing Industry” policy would add language supporting:

  • Studying the meat-packing industry’s retail sales, custom-exempt facilities, market access, expansion opportunities and regulatory issues.
  • A partnership between MSU, community colleges, career technical schools and the livestock industry to establish a livestock harvest/meat processing certification program.
  • Investment in and promotion of more mobile agricultural processing labs.
  • Creating a Michigan-based meat inspection and licensing system for in-state processing.
  • Limiting regulatory burden for small and medium-sized meat processors while protecting and enhancing food safety.
  • State funding and low-interest loans for small and medium-sized facilities to comply with regulatory requirements.
  • Greater utilization of the meats laboratory and professionals at MSU to support the meat industry, educate students and train industry professionals.

Environmental

Delegates will review proposed changes to the structure of the organization’s environmental policies.

A new policy, Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP), was created by relocating MAEAP-specific language from policies #73 Environmental Protection and Authority and #80 Nonpoint Source Pollution and Watershed Management. If approved, the shift would streamline some of the bulkiest policies in the book.

In terms of new language, delegates should look for the addition within Policy #73 Environmental Protection and Authority calling for evaluation of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting process in Michigan and supporting an MFB study committee on the topic.

Bovine Tuberculosis  

Policy #34 TB – Mycobacterium Bovis Tuberculosis, continues to be a priority as delegates consider language to support requiring heads from all deer taken on private and public lands in the Modified Accredited Zone and surrounding TB surveillance counties be submitted for testing. The amended policy also calls for supporting the movement of cattle out of the region to maintain market access, if testing and other requirements are met.

If anyone worried COVID would dampen the grassroots spirit of county Farm Bureau members involved in the policy development process, they were fretting over nothing.


Collegiate Farm Bureau continues to provide opportunities, both virtually and in person, for college students this fall. Registration is open for undergraduate students (age 18-35) interested in networking with peers and industry professionals, building career and leadership skills, and developing your voice as advocates for agriculture.

Thirteen chapters across the state organize and host events designed by chapter members for chapter members — everything from speed networking and public policy workshops to organizing Thanksgiving baskets for needy families and engaging youth in agricultural activities during community events and open houses.

Interested students should reach out to the Collegiate Farm Bureau advisor at their school (see list below). Returning members can click here to update their information and re-enroll for the 2020-21 school year. (Depending on your browser, you may need to hit refresh or type the direct link into the address bar https://collegiate.michfb.com.)

Students can learn more at the Collegiate Farm Bureau website and are encouraged to reach out to their advisor:

Does your student attend one of these colleges but isn’t enrolled in an ag-related major? That’s okay! There’s no requirement for any specific major to join. You just need a passion for agriculture, a willingness to experience a variety of activities, and the desire to network and connect with others!

For more information or questions, please contact an advisor or email Katie Eisenberger, MFB’s High School and Collegiate Programs Specialist.

Collegiate Farm Bureau continues to provide opportunities, both virtually and in person, for college students this fall. Registration is open for undergraduate students (age 18-35) interested in networking with peers and industry professionals, build

The Johnson family hosted an entire K-12 student body at their potato farm near Sagola.

Champion of Excellence Awards recognize county Farm Bureaus for outstanding grassroots efforts implementing member-developed policy, advocating organizational positions and promoting Michigan agriculture.

Activities are evaluated based on the innovation and effectiveness of programs executed over the preceding program year. Successful programs are shared with other counties so great ideas can spread, enriching Farm Bureau and Michigan agriculture overall.

This is the second batch of Michigan’s 12 district-level winners; look for more in the weeks to come. One state-level winner will be announced at the 2021 Council of Presidents Conference.

District 5

Clinton County Farm Bureau coordinated ‘Clinton County Ghosts, Trivia and Great Food,’ a summerlong scavenger hunt that had participants sampling local fare while learning about the area’s farming legacy.

Guided by a booklet or mobile app, members visited 14 locations, each with clues and questions for points. Winners were selected at the subsequent annual meeting, each earning cash donations for the local school, 4-H or FFA group of their choice.

Participants included local Farm Bureau Insurance agencies, 10 local restaurants, 40 regular members, nine volunteers, 20 non-members and 25 associates. All learned more about how Farm Bureau benefits the community while promoting leadership development, current issues and connecting local residents with agriculture.

A top priority was engaging new and uninvolved members. Program leaders encouraged volunteers to embrace components that interested them, communicate with and support other volunteers, and represent Farm Bureau and Michigan agriculture.

District 12

Iron Range Farm Bureau coordinated with a local school to host a daylong education day at the Johnson family’s potato farm near Sagola. The entire student body, K-12, visited learning locations explaining different aspects of the farm’s operations with mini lessons tailored to each age group.

Each station was manned by a different presenter, including the farm’s own family members, retired teachers and MSU educators, each covering topics suited to their expertise. Together they covered the potato plant life cycle, evolving mechanization, the farm’s history and deep local roots, food safety, irrigation, water quality and storage.

Each presenter linked their presentation to classroom lessons in math, science, mechanics and other areas. Offering content for every age group at one event meant even the school staff learned some things, including the effectiveness of reaching a lot of students in a short time. Altogether 450 students, teachers and chaperones attended, and everyone left impressed by one facet or another, from the heavy equipment to the mountain of potatoes.

Coverage in the local newspaper ensured the event reached into the greater community, far beyond the farm and school. That was a community-relations win for the local farm community, as an abundance of information was shared about crop rotation, water quality and food safety programs, illustrating to all attendees the level of responsibility and environmental stewardship local farms embrace.

District 10

Clare County Farm Bureau’s Tract-or-Treat event last October saw local farmers lining downtown Clare with decorated tractors and implements. Families walked their children from one machine to the next, collecting goodies and enjoying activities along the way.

Treats included farm products like cheese sticks, apples, popcorn, maple sugar candy, honey and mini pumpkins — each with educational information attached.

Rooted in Promotion & Education, the effort informed attendees about locally raised farm products and the equipment used to raise them. Members took questions from children and grown-ups alike, connecting farmers with the community in laid-back, informative conversation.

Over the course of two hours, 13 Clare County members interacted with more than 250 people and handed out information on 15 different fruit, vegetable and livestock commodities — all in a family-friendly setting that dramatically boosted the local Farm Bureau’s profile.

~ ~ ~

Look for another batch of Champions of Excellence district winners in the next Farm Gate, Oct. 20.

Champion of Excellence Awards recognize county Farm Bureaus for outstanding grassroots efforts implementing member-developed policy, advocating organizational positions and promoting Michigan agriculture.

Champion of Excellence Awards recognizes county Farm Bureaus for their outstanding efforts to implement member-developed policy, advocate organizational positions and educate and promote Michigan agriculture.

Grassroots activities are evaluated based on the innovation and effectiveness of programs executed over the preceding program year. Successful programs are then shared with other counties so great ideas can spread and multiply, enriching the greater organization and Michigan agriculture overall.

Following are the first three of Michigan’s 12 district-level winners; look for more in the weeks to come. One state-level winner will be announced at next year’s Council of Presidents Conference.

District 1: Berrien

 
Last November the Berrien County Farm Bureau partnered with 4-H clubs and the Southwest Michigan Collegiate Farm Bureau in “Thanks-4-Giving,” providing bushel baskets full of seasonal edibles to local families in need. Volunteers collaborated to collect and package food, then deliver finished baskets to underprivileged families across southwest Michigan, helping neighbors in need.

By filling gaps left by local agencies, Farm Bureau members led by example, demonstrating it’s better to give than receive. Each participating group contributed, experiencing the rewards of helping the less fortunate while sharing the abundance of southwestern Michigan agriculture.

The project was innovative for its multi-organization collaboration. On packing day, the youth building at the county fairgrounds resembled a food distribution warehouse: rows of food, stacks of baskets, coolers filled with frozen turkeys and a human assembly line circling the room.

From Clover Buds to senior Farm Bureau leaders, everyone worked side-by-side to fill the baskets to overflowing. Excited chatter about fat turkeys and the aroma of fresh-baked rolls filled the air — plus a warm camaraderie knowing their efforts meant giving local families more to be thankful for.

There’d never been a local drive in which those donating the food also delivered it, but by noon that day all 110 baskets (4,400 pounds of food!) were in the appreciative hands of local families — some delivered, some picked up from the fairgrounds.

Another benefit was closer relations between the county Farm Bureau, Collegiate Farm Bureau, and more than a dozen local 4-H clubs. Local agribusinesses (including some previously uninvolved members) and a Farm Bureau Insurance agent also donated.

Finally, many of the recipient families met Farm Bureau and 4-H members as a result, tying the local farm community closer to those whose food they raise.

District 4: Barry

With in-person events off limits but still eager to make a good first impression, the Barry County Farm Bureau coordinated a remote new-member-welcome meeting via WebEx. They introduced the board, outlined county Farm Bureau structure and summarized the benefits of membership. Embodying the organization’s grassroots ethic and reaching many new members at once, the experiment proved a successful means of welcoming newcomers while respecting everyone’s health and safety — just like the good Farm Bureau family members they are.

Even through the abstract format of a computer screen, everyone involved was able to find common ground and start building the relationships at the core of the Farm Bureau experience. One newcomer interested in the Young Farmer program was connected with the county chair; others asked general questions about the policy process and member benefits.

While the focus was on new members, any regular member was encouraged to join in. Those who did helped drive home the value of membership and the extensive networking opportunities Farm Bureau offers. The first-of-its-kind event met membership-campaign requirements, spurred leaders to lead and offered practical new skills for everyone involved.

District 2: Calhoun

 

Calhoun County Farm Bureau event combined intergenerational networking and policy chatter — plus a touch of stress management — in its Float Down the River. Even Mother Nature cooperated to make the family-friendly excursion a success, including lunch on an island for the 25 participants.

The Float achieved two key goals: member networking and policy discussion. It attracted several Farm Bureau newcomers and brought some long-uninvolved members out of the woodwork. Everyone found common ground quickly and enjoyed discussing shared issues and challenges, learning from each other and reaping value from their membership.

Everyone chipped in with loading and unloading the boats and helping others board their vessels, labeled with the names and farms of each participant.

The Young Farmer committee took the lead organizing and promoting the event, reserving canoes, buying food, arranging signage and transporting vessels — all within budget.

Board members heard about other farmers’ concerns, younger farmers connected with their elders and active members shared which Farm Bureau activities they most enjoy and find most effective.

Many participants appreciated the fresh new approach, the opportunity to leave farm stresses behind for a day and forge new relationships with like-minded peers.

~ ~ ~

Look for another batch of Champions of Excellence district winners in the next Farm Gate, Oct. 6.

Champion of Excellence Awards recognizes county Farm Bureaus for their outstanding efforts to implement member-developed policy, advocate organizational positions and educate and promote Michigan agriculture.

The “hybrid-virtual” format of this year’s Michigan Farm Bureau Annual Meeting marks the event’s biggest makeover since it outgrew and left the Michigan State University campus in 1970. Wrinkles are still being ironed, but what’s coming slowly into focus are the promising opportunities for refreshed member involvement at the county and regional level.

That grassroots activity is at the heart of the monthlong agenda, and there’s a lot to accomplish between the Nov. 4 kickoff and Dec. 2 business sessions.

District-level meetings Nov. 9-19 will offer a new kind of delegate experience for those chosen to represent their county Farm Bureaus. Delegate registration will be open Oct. 12-23; substitution deadlines will be forthcoming.

Delegates should be prepared to review the resolutions booklet online beginning Nov. 1; printed copies will be available at district meetings. Reviews should prioritize looking for possible amendments and potential omissions. Members will be encouraged to address either; procedures for doing so will be forthcoming.

“What we anticipate is something like what our old open-policy sessions used to look like,” said Deb Schmucker, director of MFB’s field operations division. “Delegates will need at least a smartphone or a tablet to vote.”

Staffers from MFB’s public policy and commodity division will attend each district meeting to help facilitate those conversations.

Even-numbered districts will also have to squeeze elections onto their agendas.

See below for a complete list of district meeting times, dates and locations.

~ ~ ~

Prior to all that, the Nov. 4 kickoff session will take place entirely online and therefore viewable by all members with high-speed internet. MFB President Carl Bednarski will launch the monthlong process with his annual address, which will include announcements of the 2020 Volunteer of the Year and Distinguished Service to Agriculture winners.

That agenda will also include reports from CEOs Scott Piggott and Don Simon, Treasurer David Baker, representatives of the rules and credentials committees, and approval of last year’s annual meeting minutes.

~ ~ ~

The Dec. 2 business and policy session will take place in person or virtually by district, based on COVID phase restrictions; they’re also listed below.

All 12 districts will join as satellites around a hub composed of MFB leadership and the state Policy Development committee to manage the proceedings:

  • Nomination and election of district, Young Farmer and P&E directors
  • Election of MFB President
  • Policy resolution discussion – reaffirmation style
  • Policy resolutions

~ ~ ~

Look for more details as they develop in Farm Gate and all your usual Farm Bureau communications channels.

~ ~ ~

District Meetings

District 1

  • Nov. 9 — 6 p.m.; Essenhaus Inn and Conference Center, 240 US-20, Middlebury, IN; dinner included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 2

  • Nov. 19 — 6:30 p.m.; Hillsdale College Dow Hotel and Conf. Center, 22 E. Galloway Dr, Hillsdale; dinner included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 3

  • Nov. 11 — 6 p.m.; Crystal Gardens Banquet Center, 5768 E Grand River Ave, Howell; dinner included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 4

  • Nov. 19 — 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; Railside Golf Club, 2500 76th Street SW, Byron Center; lunch included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 5

District 6

District 7

  • Nov. 11 — 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Reed City Fire Department, 523 Morse St, Reed City; dinner included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 8

  • Nov. 12 — 6 p.m.; Jeremy and Kayla Enser Farm, 8290 Kochville Rd, Saginaw; dinner included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 9

  • Nov. 11 — 6 p.m.; Evergreen Resort, 7880 Mackinaw Trail, Cadillac; dinner included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 10

  • Nov. 9 — 9:30 a.m.; Arenac Community Center, 583 E Cedar Street, Standish; refreshments will be served
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 11

  • Nov. 10 — 6:30 p.m.; Courtyard Marriott, 1866 Mkwa Place, Petoskey; dinner included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 12

  • Nov. 10 — 11 a.m. EST; Sweet Grass Convention Center, W 399 US 2 & 41, Harris; lunch included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST; same location; lunch included
The “hybrid-virtual” format of this year’s Michigan Farm Bureau Annual Meeting marks the event’s biggest makeover since it outgrew and left the Michigan State University campus in 1970. Wrinkles are still being ironed, but what’s coming slowly into f

Marge Karker

Michigan Farm Bureau’s Marge Karker Scholarship offers three $1,000 awards to students enrolled in an agricultural program at Michigan State University. Applicants must be a dependent of a Farm Bureau member or have his/her own Farm Bureau membership in good standing.

Completed applications are due Oct. 1; forms and additional details are available online.

The Marge Karker Scholarship was established in the late 1960s to honor the former coordinator of MFB’s Women's Program. For 20 years she led Farm Bureau members in activities involving citizenship, health, education, legislation, public relations, safety and community improvement projects, all laying the groundwork for today’s Promotion and Education program.

Learn more about Karker here.

MFB staff contact: Amelia Miller , 517-679-5688

Michigan Farm Bureau’s Marge Karker Scholarship offers three $1,000 awards to students enrolled in an agricultural program at Michigan State University. Applicants must be a dependent of a Farm Bureau member or have his/her own Farm Bureau membership
Michigan Farm Bureau

Just because COVID’s sidelined the FARM Science Lab this fall doesn’t mean we can’t still boost students’ agricultural literacy. Michigan Farm Bureau is retooling programming and resources so our county Farm Bureaus can still share their agricultural expertise with teachers and students.

County Promotion & Education chairs should move fast to take advantage of cost-sharing opportunities for classroom outreach this fall. The Michigan Foundation for Agriculture is underwriting two cost-sharing options for helping you connect with local teachers.

  • Teacher Appreciation Care Packages ship directly to teachers and come with ag-accurate books; teacher guides; Michigan Ag Facts placemat; a small student gift and a treat for the teacher. Order now for $20 (half their value). Order by Sept. 4 for delivery in late September. Order by Oct. 1 for delivery in mid-October.
  • Farm Crate Monthly Classroom Kits for grades K-5 each feature a different monthly commodity theme, September through December. Each includes an ag-accurate book; Agriculture in the Classroom lesson resources; hands-on lesson and support materials for grades K-2 and 3-5; online extension activity; and a content-related gift or resource for the teacher. They’re $25 each (half their value) or order the full fall subscription and get the fourth month free ($75 total). Order by Oct. 1 to have the full subscription delivered.

Work with your P&E chair and county administrative manager to order through the Michigan Ag in the Classroom store subscription tab.

For more information, contact P&E Program Specialist Amelia Miller at 517-679-5688.

County Promotion & Education chairs should move fast to take advantage of cost-sharing opportunities for classroom outreach this fall. The Michigan Foundation for Agriculture is underwriting two cost-sharing options for helping you connect with local

In arguably the biggest maneuver yet to help ensure the health and safety of its members, Michigan Farm Bureau’s 101st annual meeting will take place largely online.

In an Aug. 27 memo to leaders across the Family of Companies, MFB President Carl Bednarski announced the board of directors “has made the tough decision to hold the 2020 State Annual Meeting in a hybrid-virtual format.

“Moving the meeting from a fully in-person experience to a virtual platform was our last choice,” Bednarski added, “but it will give us some unique opportunities to both reach more members and show our abilities to adapt to the current social position.”

The focus of the meeting this year will be essential business, as defined by the organization’s by-laws, and policy development. 

The meeting will convene virtually in three segments, beginning Nov. 4, 2020 and concluding Dec. 2, following this general outline:

NOV. 4 — Virtual State Annual Kick Off, to take place entirely online, allowing all MFB members to tune in and get updates from our organization’s state leaders:

  • President’s address
  • Rules Committee report
  • Credentials Committee report
  • CEO Report
  • Approval of the 2019 Annual Meeting minutes
  • Treasurer’s report

NOV. 9-19 — District Meetings will take place virtually or in person, based on COVID phase restrictions then in place for each district:

  • District Directors nominations and elections
  • Policy review
  • Delegate voting training

DEC. 2 — Business & Policy Development, to take place in person or virtually by district and based on COVID phase restrictions. MFB leadership and the State Policy Development Committee members will be in one location for the purpose of webcasting the proceedings.

  • Nomination and election of district, Young Farmer and P&E directors
  • Election of MFB President
  • Policy resolution discussion – reaffirmation style
  • Policy resolutions

Look for more details as they develop in Farm Gate and all your usual Farm Bureau communications channels.

“We appreciate your patience, support and above all, we appreciate your dedication to the organization,” Bednarski said.

In an Aug. 27 memo to leaders across the Family of Companies, MFB President Carl Bednarski announced the board of directors “has made the tough decision to hold the 2020 State Annual Meeting in a hybrid-virtual format.

Despite all the smiling selfies on Instagram and happy family photos on Facebook, behind the scenes many of us grapple with financial, emotional, mental and physical stress. These largely unseen and untold struggles can make us feel isolated — like we’re alone trying to get through the quicksand.

But you are not alone.

Farmers After Hours is a series of real, genuine conversations about real, pressing problems for real, imperfect people. Tune in for one or all of them to connect with farmers and experts as they talk candidly about mental health and farm stress.

Participation is free and totally anonymous. Your name won’t show up on an attendee report. Your photo or video won’t show up on anyone’s screen. And your questions will be posed totally anonymously. When we say anonymous, we mean it.

Register for the panel discussion on July 22 and Sept. 2 by visiting bit.ly/mifarmstress. The other sessions will be posted at 7 p.m. to the Michigan Farm Bureau Facebook page on the corresponding dates. Recordings for the entire series will be accessible after airing on MFB’s YouTube channel.

All sessions start at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays. Here’s a glance at the whole enchilada:

  • July 22 — Stress and Mental Health Farmer Panel — Ever feel like you can’t keep your head above water? That the pressure, expectations and strain of the day-to-day are wearing you out? Worried about someone you know or care about? You’re not alone. Join us for a live farmer panel, featuring Farm Bureau members Dave MumbyAbigail O'Farrell, and Matt Schwab. There will be wine, whiskey and real talk about stress, anxiety and depression as well as resources these farmers have found helpful.
  • July 29 — Positive Self-Talk — Our parents said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” But do we apply that advice when talking to ourselves? We all have an inner “voice” coaching, encouraging and judging our actions and behaviors throughout the day. Learn practical strategies from Adrienne DeSutter for making your inner voice an inspiring coach instead of an intimidating bully.
  • Aug. 5 — Meditation and Focus — Many wise leaders and scholars have wondered why naptime is phased out after kindergarten. A national naptime seems unlikely, but what if there was a quick, easy way to refresh, rejuvenate and reorient yourself throughout the day? Hello, meditation! It’s not just a hokey, yoga fad. Learn tips to improve your focus and refresh your mind from Kylie Rymanowicz of Michigan State University Extension.
  • Aug. 12 — Control and Acceptance — Nothing’s more stressful than feeling like you’re riding shotgun, not the driver, of your own life. Especially during this season of pandemic and poor prices, life has a way of reminding us we’re not always in control. Spend some time with Barb Smith, executive director of Barb Smith Suicide Resource & Response Network, as we talk through the basics of understanding and accepting what we can and can’t control.
  • Aug. 19 — An Attitude of Gratitude — What’s the fastest way out of a funk? Intentional gratitude. More than the occasional thank-you, consistently practicing gratitude can change your whole mindset. Join Sarah Zastrow, founder of Cultivate Balance, as we talk through the healthy mindset of being thankful, the release of counting blessings and the power of saying thank you to others.
  • Aug. 26 — Farm to Fitness — We cram our days with endless tasks for the farm, our family, our friends. And what most often falls off our to-do list? Physical fitness. Listen to Sarah Zastrow of Cultivate Balance as we explore steps to grow from farm to fitness and prioritize our physical and mental health. (They’re more closely connected than you might think!)
  • Sept. 2 — Ask the Experts — Join our expert panel, featured individually over the preceding month, as they candidly discuss farm stress, coping strategies and resources. You’ll realize you’re not alone. They don’t have it all figured out, but they’re here to share their experience, answer your questions and connect us with the next steps of our mental and physical health journey.

Farmers After Hours series is a special project of the Michigan Foundation for AgricultureThe Michigan Foundation for agriculture, a 501c3 formed by Michigan Farm Bureau, has a mission of positively contributing to the future of Michigan agriculture through leadership and educational programming.

Farmers After Hours is a series of real, genuine conversations about real, pressing problems for real, imperfect people. Tune in for one or all of them to connect with farmers and experts as they talk candidly about mental health and farm stress.

County Farm Bureaus statewide are adapting their usual annual-meeting routines to meet the challenging circumstances 2020 continues to pose. Innovative approaches rooted in ensuring members’ safety from coronavirus are being weighed against each other depending on what works best for each county’s members.

Various combinations of online or mail-in voting are being fit together with meal options from food trucks to drive-though ice cream socials. Outside of state executive orders in place to safeguard the wellbeing of all Michigan residents, counties are only limited by their imaginations!

Jen Marfio juggles three counties in District 7 — Mecosta, Oceana and Osceola — all of which are doing drive-through annual meetings this year. While a radical departure from the norm, she said the concept was met with enthusiasm given members’ time constraints this time of year.

“Everyone is crazy busy either chasing irrigation or harvesting,” Marfio said. “Mecosta’s was already set up and we had an option to make it drive-through if necessary. When I went to Oceana, they were all pretty stressed about planning a big event only to have it canceled.

“I told them what Mecosta was doing and they decided a drive-through at the fairgrounds was the ticket. Add a little ice cream and there’s the annual!”

Osceola soon followed suit and all three of Marfio’s counties were on straighter paths toward tying up their annuals.

“The plan is for the member to drive up and check in,” Marfio explained. “We will hand them a packet with anything that needs to be voted on, and a ballot. Upon completing their ballot they’ll receive their meal and/or ice cream, depending on the county.”

Over in the Thumb, Sherri Gottleber CAMs for both Sanilac and St. Clair.

“Sanilac is hosting an ‘open house’ format,” she said. “Folks can arrive at the county fairgrounds anytime within a three-hour window. They’ll register from their car and get their ballot — and a ticket to one of several food trucks that will be on site.”

Members will submit their completed ballots as they leave, in exchange for a prize-drawing ticket.

To the south, where COVID numbers have been on the rise, the St. Clair County Farm Bureau board is opting for an even safer electronic vote-from-home format. Mail-in ballots will also be available for members who aren’t online.

“Very different from Sanilac, but I think St. Clair’s made the right decision” to safeguard members’ health, she said.

Janelle Walworth is administrative manager for both the Hillsdale and Jackson County Farm Bureaus down in District 2. Both are sticking with in-person meetings, but working within the parameters of the state’s executive orders.

Founded in June of 1920, Hillsdale County Farm Bureau this year celebrates its centennial, so that meeting will be more about celebrating history than conducting business.

Policy resolutions are being made available ahead of time to streamline their adoption at the meeting itself. 

  

And here’s where we stand with this year’s annual-meeting schedule — alphabetical by county Farm Bureau name, omitting meetings that’ve already happened and those with dates yet to be determined:

  • ALLEGAN — Aug. 25, 6:30 p.m. at the Trestle Stop, Hamilton
  • ANTRIM — Sept. 15, 6 p.m. at Royal Farms, Ellsworth
  • ARENAC — Sept. 15, 6:30 p.m. at Pine River Golf Course, Standish
  • BARRY — Aug. 17, 5:30 p.m. at Charlton Park, Hastings
  • BAY — Aug. 17, 6 p.m. at Auburn City Park, Auburn
  • BENZIE-MANISTEE — Sept. 20, 3 p.m.; location TBD
  • BERRIEN — date TBD; mail-in ballots
  • BRANCH — Sept. 21, 6 p.m. at Branch County Fairgrounds, Coldwater
  • CALHOUN — Sept. 15, 6 p.m. at Marshall United Methodist Church, Marshall
  • CASS — Sept. 15, 6 p.m. at Burger Farm, Niles
  • CHARLEVOIX — Sept. 19, 6 p.m. at Boyne City Administration Building, Boyne City
  • CHEBOYGAN — Sept. 10, 6 p.m. at Beaugrand Township Hall, Cheboygan
  • CHIPPEWA — Sept. 24, 7 p.m. at Tanglewood Marsh Golf Course, Sault Sainte Marie
  • CLARE — Sept. 3, 5 p.m. at Fitzpatrick Farms, Beaverton
  • CLINTON — Sept. 24, 4 p.m. at the AgroLiquid parking lot (tentative), St. Johns
  • COPPER COUNTRY — Sept. 15, 5:30 p.m. at Chassell Fire Hall, Chassell
  • EATON — Oct. 10, 4 p.m. at Kardell Hall, Eaton County Fairgrounds, Charlotte
  • EMMET — Sept. 17, 6 p.m. at LTBB Government Center, Harbor Springs
  • GENESEE — Sept. 16; location TBD
  • GRATIOT-ISABELLA-MIDLAND — Aug. 10, 5 p.m. at Eastman’s Forgotten Ciders, Wheeler
  • HIAWATHALAND — Oct. 26; location TBD
  • HILLSDALE — Aug. 29 at Hillsdale County Fairgrounds Grange Building, Hillsdale
  • HURON — Aug. 19, 5 p.m. at Huron County Fairgrounds, Bad Axe
  • HURON SHORES — Oct. 5, 6 p.m. at Ossineke Township Hall, Hubbard Lake
  • INGHAM — Sept. 9, 6:30 p.m.; mail-in ballots                                     
  • IONIA — Sept. 9, 6 p.m. at Shadow Ridge Golf Course, Ionia
  • IOSCO — Oct. 14, 6 p.m. at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Hale
  • IRON RANGE — Oct. 20, 6 p.m. at Sagola Community Building, Sagola
  • JACKSON — Sept. 19 at Thorne Farms, Hanover
  • KALAMAZOO — Aug. 20, at Prairie Baptist Church, Scotts
  • KENT — Sept. 17, 6:30 p.m. at FireRock Grill, Caledonia
  • LAPEER — Sept. 12, 5 p.m. at the Lapeer County Farm Bureau office, Lapeer
  • LENAWEE — Aug. 21, 6:30 p.m. at Carpenter Farms, Adrian
  • LIVINGSTON — Sept. 9, 6 p.m. at Fowlerville Family Fairgrounds, Fowlerville
  • MAC-LUCE-SCHOOLCRAFT — Oct. 8, 6 p.m. at Garfield Township Hall, Engadine
  • MACOMB — Sept. 15, 6 p.m. at Blake’s Orchard, Armada
  • MASON — Sept. 16, 6:30 p.m. at Farm View Resort, Free Soil
  • MECOSTA-MONTCALM — Aug. 23, 5:30 p.m. at Hearty Harvest, Remus
  • MENOMINEE — Oct. 13, 6:30 p.m. at Belgiumtown Restaurant, Stephenson
  • MISSAUKEE — Sept. 11, 5 p.m. at Missaukee Lake Park, Lake City
  • MONROE — Sept. 17, 5:30 p.m. at Old Mill Banquet Hall, Dundee
  • MUSKEGON — Aug. 11, 5:30 p.m. at Muskegon Farmer’s Market, Muskegon
  • NEWAYGO — date & location TBD
  • NORTHWEST MICH. — Sept. 18, 6 p.m.; location TBD                         
  • OAKLAND — Sept. 16, 6 p.m. at Springfield Oaks Park, Davisburg
  • OCEANA — Sept. 15, 5:30 p.m. at Oceana County Fairgrounds, Hart
  • OGEMAW — Sept. 8, 6:30 p.m. at Horton Township Hall, West Branch
  • OSCEOLA — Sept. 23, 6:30 p.m. at Osceola County 4H Fairgrounds, Evart
  • OTSEGO — Oct. 4, 2 p.m. at Livingston Township Hall, Gaylord
  • OTTAWA — Sept. 17, 5:30 p.m. at Second Church, Allendale
  • PRESQUE ISLE — Aug. 24, 6 p.m. at The Pavilion at Elowsky Mill, Posen
  • SAGINAW — Aug. 27, 7 p.m.; conference call                                     
  • SANILAC — Aug. 21, 5:30 p.m. at Sanilac County Fairgrounds, Sandusky
  • SHIAWASSEE — Sept. 15, 9 a.m.; mail-in ballots                                 
  • ST. CLAIR — date TBD; mail-in ballots                                                 
  • ST. JOSEPH — Aug. 25, 6:30 p.m.; Evergreen Ranch, Burr Oak
  • TUSCOLA — Aug. 20, 5:30 p.m.; Midway Hall at Tuscola County Fairgrounds, Caro
  • VAN BUREN — Oct. 26, 6 p.m.; location TBD                                      
  • WASHTENAW — Sept. 21, 5 p.m. at Weber’s Inn, Ann Arbor
  • WAYNE — Aug. 26, 6:30 p.m. at Wayne County Fairgrounds, Belleville
  • WEXFORD — Oct. 13, 7 p.m.; “tele-town hall”
County Farm Bureaus statewide are adapting their usual annual-meeting routines to meet the challenging circumstances 2020 continues to pose. Innovative approaches rooted in ensuring members’ safety from coronavirus are being weighed against each othe

Young Farmer Discussion Meets originally scheduled for earlier this year resume this month, with Farm Bureau members ages 18-35 engaging in civil discourse on key agricultural topics of the day.

Discussion meets are meant to simulate committee meetings, with conversation and active participation expected of all participants. The competition is evaluated on the exchange of ideas and information on a pre-determined topic. Participants build discussion skills, deepen their understanding of important ag-industry issues and explore how groups can pool their knowledge, reach consensus and solve problems.

They’re also a great way to meet other Young Farmers, and spectators are always welcome.  

Contestants must be Farm Bureau members age 18-35. Visit www.michfb.com/YFDiscussionMeet for the topics and more information. In the meantime, here’s the schedule:

  • District 1 — July 25 at Weinberg Farms in Scotts; contact Sarah Pion, 269-377-4841
  • District 2 — July 23 at River Dell Venue in Homer; contact Paul Pridgeon, 517-320-4444 
  • District 3 — July 18 at Horning Farms in Manchester; contact Hannah Meyers, 616-485-4469
  • District 4 & 7 Discussion Meet & Golf Outing — Aug. 1 at Waters Edge Golf Course in Fremont; contact Adam Dietrich, 616-889-1857
  • District 5 — late August/September, location TBD; contact Hannah Lange, 231-383-3131 
  • District 6 & 8 Discussion Meet & Golf Outing — Aug. 4 at Willow Springs Golf and Country Club in Vassar; contacts: Beth Rupprecht, 989-640-6913 (Dist. 6) or Becca Gulliver, 989-708-1082 (Dist. 8)
  • District 9 — July 18 at Harrietta United Methodist Church; contact Nicole Jennings, 810-569-9610
  • District 10 — Sept. 16, 6:30 p.m., location TBD; contact Sonya Novotny, 248-420-2340
  • District 11 — late August, location TBD; contact Cole Iaquinto, 810-422-7322
  • District 12 — Sept. 1 at Hanson Potato Farm, Cornell; contact Craig Knudson, 231-357-3864

High-school students with an affinity for agriculture can also showcase their knowledge and speaking skills in our Youth Discussion Meets, taking place this fall:

  • Nov. 19 — Vicksburg High School (FFA Region I)
  • Nov. 11 — Lenawee ISD (FFA Region II)
  • Nov. 12 — Delta College (FFA Region III)
  • Oct. 3 — Corunna High School (FFA Region IV)
  • Nov. 11 — Ravenna High School (FFA Region V)
  • Nov. 19 — Bay Arenac ISD (FFA Region VI)

For more information or to help out, contact Katie Eisenberger.

Young Farmer Discussion Meets originally scheduled for earlier this year resume this month, with Farm Bureau members ages 18-35 engaging in civil discourse on key agricultural topics of the day.

In late May, Michigan Farm Bureau, alongside a coalition of commodity organizations and more than 120 farms, took historic action to challenge the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy’s permit regulating the state’s large livestock farms by filing an administrative appeal with the Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules.

The undertaking has strong roots in your member-developed policy that – in many instances – conveys support for common sense and science-based regulation while admonishing regulations that are unfounded or overly burdensome. Your policy also carries messages that emphasize a need to balance environmental protection with economic realities. This balance is what ensures farms remain in business and that our natural resources are well cared for.

As county Farm Bureau members, you first demonstrated a grassroots response to the large livestock permit in December 2019 when the draft was published by the department. More than 800 farmers, and many commodity organizations, voiced their opposition by communicating the economic devastation the permit would have on Michigan agriculture because of its far-reaching impacts.

You responded, I believe, because you recognize that extending these regulations beyond livestock producers to the crop farmers that utilize their manure nutrients – among other ill-conceived provisions – sets a dangerous precedent for broader, future industry regulation that’s not based in science.

Michigan Farm Bureau isn’t giving up and we know you won’t either. The Michigan Milk Producers Association, Michigan Pork Producers Association, Michigan Allied Poultry Industries, Dairy Farmers of America, Select Milk Producers, Foremost Farms and more than 120 individual permit holding farmers have united in this process to challenge the provisions with the goal of striking them from the general permit.

Through Michigan Farm Bureau, the coalition hosted two media roundtables on June 3 to proactively provide an opportunity for select media to speak with issue experts, including permitted farmers, to better understand large livestock farms and the impact the permit has on the agriculture sector.

We encourage you to utilize the resources below on the issue and share them with fellow Farm Bureau members. You can also continue following Michigan Farm Bureau publications for updates, as the administrative challenge process can go on for months.

Questions related to the legal aspects of the challenge can be directed to Allison Eicher at 517-679-5315 while questions related to the technical aspects of the permit can be directed to Laura Campbell at 517-679-5332.

In late May, Michigan Farm Bureau, alongside a coalition of commodity organizations and more than 120 farms, took historic action to challenge the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy’s permit regulating the state’s large livest
Megan Sprague & Amelia Miller


Function over form: Online meetings can be clunky, but they get the job done keeping people on task and in the good company of friendly faces. 

COVID-19 brought a whole new set of frustrations to the farming community, with in-person gatherings put on hold across Michigan. Even so, Farm Bureau members have found ways to connect virtually, sharing information, conducting business and checking in on friends and neighbors.

Young Farmers at the county, district and state level have been using video conferencing tools to update each other on topical industry issues and more light-hearted topics like new animal additions and quarantine hobbies.

Bridget Moore, District 7 representative on the state Young Farmer committee, brought county chairs together virtually via Zoom.

“Normally it’s important and enjoyable to talk with fellow farmers and friends, but during COVID it’s made us realize our farming friends and Young Farmer programs have become even more important to us,” she said. “Sharing what is positive in our lives has kept us uplifted and trending toward a summer of hope.”

The state committee’s District 9 representative, Jeff Dreves, has met remotely with his county chairs as well.

“Meeting virtually and being able to actually see people’s faces is a really interesting way for us to stay connected through this,” he said. “This truly shows us how strong we are as an organization, going to any lengths to discuss hot-button issues and see how everyone is doing.”

Promotion and Education volunteers are also taking advantage of virtual meetings. Several districts have hosted chair gatherings online to commiserate in the cancelation of spring events, to brainstorm virtual engagement opportunities for connecting with students and teachers, and to support each other as spring farming rolls along.

Counties have created videos for teachers whose students were unable to attend an in-person Project RED this spring. Teachers used these videos as a part of their virtual teaching. Other counties have delivered snacks to healthcare workers or shared agricultural information on Facebook to connect with their community.

Participants on District 3’s P&E chair call agreed a virtual meeting was in some ways easier than meeting in person: nobody had to drive, it took almost exactly an hour, and the planning was minimal. In an unsettling time, even meeting online provides some normalcy and the comfort of seeing familiar faces.

If you’re interested in hosting a virtual Young Farmer or Promotion & Education meeting, reach out to your MFB Regional Manager or your district’s representative on the state Young Farmer or Promotion & Education committees.

Megan Sprague and Amelia Miller manage MFB’s Young Farmer and Promotion & Education programs, respectively.

Young Farmers at the county, district and state level have been using video conferencing tools to update each other on topical industry issues and more light-hearted topics like new animal additions and quarantine hobbies.

Submit your Farm Bureau policy idea and be entered to win a LG TONE PRO HBS-780 Wireless Stereo Headset. 

Michigan Farm Bureau’s policy development process is time-tested and successful. It thrives on consistent and quality input from county Farm Bureau members like you.

You don’t have to join a committee, attend an event or even do extensive research to offer your input. Any member can weigh in on the more than 100 policies that guide Michigan Farm Bureau’s work to represent, protect and enhance the agriculture sector.

We’re looking to capture your ideas, whether they’re based on challenges you’ve experienced locally or statewide opportunities you see for the agriculture sector.

We're rolling out some prizes too: We'll be giving away a LG TONE PRO wireless stereo headset every two weeks through the end of July. 

All you have to do is take a few minutes and share your ideas for policy development via the electronic submission option.

To help members get discussion and ideas flowing, we’ve prepared briefs on emerging issues impacting the agriculture sector. Topics include:

Looking to learn more on how to engage in policy development? Contact your county Farm Bureau.

Submit your Farm Bureau policy idea and be entered to win a LG TONE PRO HBS-780 Wireless Stereo Headset.

Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) annually honors deserving members and individuals for their contributions toward supporting the state’s agriculture industry and furthering Farm Bureau’s values and member-driven policy.

Applications and nominations for the following awards are now being accepted:

Champions of Excellence

Champions of Excellence got a face-lift this year and now features only a single application for your county’s grassroots work.

The Involvement award winner will be determined from data compiled from county dashboards on July 1. Be sure your county project involvement is entered in iMIS by then!

The new Champions of Excellence application now includes criteria from the previous Leadership Development, Advocacy and Innovation applications. Complete it carefully to receive the recognition your county Farm Bureau deserves!

Submit an application for the 2020 Champions of Excellence Award (each county can submit two different project applications).

Applications are due July 1.

One winner per district, announced Aug. 16, will receive a $350 county grant and advance to compete at the state level. Announcement of the two state winners (one each in Excellence and Involvement) will be made at the 2021 MFB President’s Capital Summit and receive a $1,000 county grant each.

Presidential Volunteer of the Year

MFB President Carl Bednarski knows the value volunteers bring to the success of the organization and invites you to nominate a member for the Presidential Volunteer of the Year Award. You are encouraged to nominate a volunteer who has exhibited a commitment to a specific program or event in their local community and are instrumental to the success of that event or program.

Nominees should be regular members who have served throughout the entire year (Aug. 1, 2019 through July 31, 2020); and lead one or more county Farm Bureau projects; and recruited others to pitch in.

Nominations are due Aug. 3 and can be made with this online form.

Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award

The Distinguished Service to Agriculture award is MFB’s highest honor. Since 1956, this award has been presented to deserving individuals who have made exceptional contributions to Michigan agriculture.

Every past recipient has provided distinguished service to the state’s food and farm sector.

Nominations can be made online and must be received by July 1.

MFB staff contact: Justin Hein , 517-679-4781

From a Muskegon County dairy farm through life’s most daunting crises, the “Popcorn Lady” of MFB’s annual meeting passes her legacy onto the next generation.

Some county fair livestock shows are transitioning to online, virtual platforms this year.


With summer slowly creeping up, Farm Bureau members are adding county fairs to the long list of things COVID-19 has impacted — or just plain wrecked. Social distancing requirements, access to volunteers and technology, and remaining fiscally solvent are all factors county fair boards are struggling with as they consider their 2020 events.

Traditionally, many county Farm Bureaus have supported these annual summertime youth events through various opportunities including trophy sponsorships, hosting educational events for the community or serving as show and auction volunteers.

To date, a handful of counties have already made the difficult decision to cancel their fair, while others continue planning as best they can — in some cases moving to a virtual show format. As your county fair boards have these discussions, consider reaching out to your fair coordinator or fair board president to ask how your county Farm Bureau might be able to help.

Some ideas:

  • Ordering and donating COVID-19 Fairground Safety Signs throughout the fairgrounds to remind fairgoers of social distancing and related health considerations.
  • Assisting as a virtual showmanship class host or volunteering with a portion of the online auction system if your internet access is reliable and fast.
  • Volunteering to serve as a judge and waiving the usual judge’s fee. Fairs may not be able to rely on their regular revenue-generating activities and/or attendance may be down altogether. Looking for ways to offset their normal costs could be a huge help.

Given that nobody’s ever conducted a fair during a global pandemic — and many have not hosted virtual events — there could be needs never before considered. An open brainstorming session may be helpful.

Working directly with your county fair board is an opportunity to strengthen your partnership and allows the county Farm Bureau to meet a very real need within your community.

If your county Farm Bureau is meeting a need at the county fair, tell us about it! Contact Katie Eisenberger, MFB high school and collegiate programs specialist.

With summer slowly creeping up, Farm Bureau members are adding county fairs to the long list of things COVID-19 has impacted — or just plain wrecked. Social distancing requirements, access to volunteers and technology, and remaining fiscally solvent
Katie Eisenberger

In the good ol’ days, after a long day’s work one would secure his or her horse to a hitching post outside a local establishment or a neighbor’s house before heading inside to catch up on the latest issues of the world.

We may have traded in our original horsepower for one with four wheels — and we can now communicate with one another without being in the same space — but one thing never goes out of style: learning something new. And we’ve got something new to share!

Over the next six months, members will have the opportunity to listen in as a group of Michigan Farm Bureau public policy specialists and industry professionals discuss critical agricultural topics through a virtual, laid-back atmosphere. They will look at current situations within the topic area, what related policy or programs MFB provides, and what next steps may look like.

Encourage someone you know to register if they’re interested in:

  • Gaining more awareness of current agriculture issues
  • Better understanding grassroots policy development
  • Getting perspective straight from the horse’s mouth!

To watch the Hitching Post, register for each monthly event separately. Attendees will have the opportunity to submit questions to the group. If you’re unable to join, but still interested in the content, all events will be recorded and posted to the MFB YouTube Channel.

Here’s the schedule of Hitching Post conversations, who’s moderating each discussion, and a link for participating:

Each videocast begins at 7 p.m. and will last 30-40 minutes, depending on conversation and questions.

I’m helping coordinate these discussions alongside my awesome coworker, Emily Reinart, the grassroots policy outreach specialist in MFB’s public policy division.

“This will be an opportunity for members to join a circle of peers for a short time commitment and invest in learning about current topics in the industry, how Michigan agriculture is impacted and how they can be involved in a solution,” Emily said.

All Hitching Post conversations will take place online via Cisco Webex, a convenient and easy-to-use online meeting platform that works on almost any desktop, laptop, tablet or smart phone with a decent internet connection. Farm Bureau members can download it by clicking here.

MFB staff contacts: Katie Eisenberger (517-679-5444) and Emily Reinhart (517-679-5337)

Over the next six months, members will have the opportunity to listen in as a group of Michigan Farm Bureau public policy specialists and industry professionals discuss critical agricultural topics through a virtual, laid-back atmosphere. They will l
Michigan Farm Bureau

Even as a global pandemic has brought much of our everyday lives to a screeching halt, we know farmers are still putting one step in front of the other (and we thank you!) As you are out and about on the farm this spring, remember your Farm Bureau organization is here for you.

Michigan Farm Bureau’s grassroots policy has guided your organization for 100 years and this year is no exception. And as in each of those 100 previous years, we need farmer members like YOU to engage in our policy development process.

Is there a policy idea you’ve thought of? Submit it here. Curious about what existing Farm Bureau policies say? Find the state and national policy books here.

And when we’re all done social distancing, look for an invitation to a local meeting with your neighbors and peers to identify which issues in your part of the state need addressing in the form of Farm Bureau policy.

To help jump start that process, check out the issue briefs on MFB’s website. We'll be adding to this page throughout the season, so make sure to check back.

Thank you for your involvement in Farm Bureau and in keeping our policy book relevant so we can continue our role as the most credible voice of Michigan agriculture. Our policy book is built by putting one foot in front of the other, and it starts with members like you taking this first step!

Even as a global pandemic has brought much of our everyday lives to a screeching halt, we know farmers are still putting one step in front of the other (and we thank you!) As you are out and about on the farm this spring, remember your Farm Bureau or
Michigan Farm Bureau

If that global pandemic has sidelined your usual ag-education efforts, here’s a healthy dose of resources for Promotion & Education volunteers itching to stay engaged in farm-friendly outreach.

With most local ag-education outreach activities curtailed until further notice, county Farm Bureau Promotion & Education leaders are encouraged to push their creative envelopes outside the box. Here are a number of practical considerations compiled by your state staff for county Farm Bureau P&E programs to consider.

Follow your school districts’ lead in maintaining your relationships and updating plans with local schools. Their priorities and schedules once classes resume may differ substantially from the norm. School staff and administrators may be slow to respond and uneasy about making plans — even for the 2020-21 school year.

Consider creative ways to engage the schools/teachers to maintain those relationships and stay on their radar when it’s time to plan future events. If you already have supplies ready for Project RED teacher bags, consider donating them once school resumes, with a save-the-date for next year’s event. Or consider handing them out during Teacher Appreciation Week, May 4-8. 

If you had plans to read a book during National Agriculture Week, consider donating the books and lesson plans to the school or public libraries.

Video ideas

Create brief videos describing specific tasks, animals, implements or projects on your farm (like this one). Share them via social media or directly with teachers for use in classrooms when school resumes. Video tips:

  • Wear your “I am agriculture” shirt or a similar alternative.
  • Your recording location should well-lit (outside), have an interesting background and be free of wind and other background noise.
  • Use simple, everyday words — no ag-industry jargon!
  • Set up your phone/camera/tablet in a landscape (horizontal) orientation, and get close enough to fill the frame with you and the other subject matter (animals, equipment) you’re discussing.

NOTE: Book-reading videos have become popular as a means of virtual learning, but posting them publicly violates copyright laws. Live reading videos (no history saved) or videos posted to private groups (like a classroom Facebook group) are sometimes allowable, but not recommended.

Resources for future activities

For more tips, information and practical resources, don’t hesitate to contact your MFB regional representative, state P&E committee members, or MFB staffers Tonia Ritter and Amelia Miller.

e-Learning with Ag in the Classroom

As teachers prepare to teach virtually over the next couple of months, MFB staff will be sharing standards-based materials to assist in this e-learning.

Follow the Michigan Agriculture in the Classroom Facebook page for up-to-date online lessons, videos and activities for students in grades K-12.

Lessons will connect agricultural concepts to plant and animal life cycles, nutrition, careers and more!

If that global pandemic has sidelined your usual ag-education efforts, here’s a healthy dose of resources for Promotion & Education volunteers itching to stay engaged in farm-friendly outreach.
Katie Eisenberger

Nine FFA chapters were honored at the Michigan FFA Convention for working ag-literacy efforts in their communities 

The Michigan Foundation for Agriculture’s #SpeakAgMichigan award honored nine FFA chapters with a total of $5,000 during the Michigan FFA Convention, March 4 at Michigan State University. Recognized chapters are working to help their community become more agriculturally literate, giving them a basic understanding of raising plants and animals for food, fuel and fiber.

Gold Chapters IthacaMontague and North Huron each received $800.

Receiving $500 as silver chapters were CaledoniaRavennaSt. Louis and Springport.

Bronze chapters receiving $300 were Breckenridge and Webberville.

Collectively, award recipients taught agriculture-based lessons to more than 6,000 students in their local school districts. These high school FFA members set goals, communicated with elementary teachers, planned and delivered grade-appropriate lessons or educational stations to show the many ways agriculture products are present in daily life. In addition, these award recipients organized agriculture and natural resources educational programming for more than 5,000 adults. Many partnered with their county Farm Bureaus to enhance programming for both organizations.

The Michigan Foundation for Agriculture’s mission is to communicate agriculture’s message to consumers and students through educational programming and to provide leadership development for agriculturalists of today and tomorrow. This award does just that. Inspired by National FFA’s similar initiative, the #SpeakAgMichigan award is more than just a social media trend, it can be a language used to close the gap between agriculture and consumers.

“The #SpeakAgMichigan Awards supports two of Michigan Farm Bureau’s top priorities: leadership development and consumer outreach. We are encouraged by, and are proud to recognize, the efforts of young agriculture leaders to bridge the communication gap between farmers and our consumers,” said Alex Schnabelrauch, director of the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture. “These FFA students are making a real difference in their schools and communities, and we look forward to connecting them with leadership and outreach opportunities long after graduation.”

Chapters receiving #SpeakAgMichigan award received a monetary contribution to further their agricultural literacy outreach efforts. Individual chapter efforts will be highlighted through out the fall of 2020 when the online application opens Sept. 1. Applications are due Dec. 1.

The Michigan Foundation for Agriculture, a 501(c)(3) governed by Michigan Farm Bureau’s Board of Directors, positively contributes to the future of Michigan agriculture through leadership and educational programming. The Michigan FFA Association is dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of young people by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.

For more information, contact MFB Education High School & Collegiate Programs Specialist Katie Eisenberger at 517-679-5444.

The Michigan Foundation for Agriculture’s #SpeakAgMichigan award honored nine FFA chapters with a total of $5,000 during the Michigan FFA Convention, March 4 at Michigan State University.
Michigan Farm Bureau
The 2020 ProFILE class

From a group of young Michigan professionals feeling the first warm rays of spring on their face after a long, cold winter, the upbeat chatter is to be expected. Ahead of them lies one mile of rolling Pennsylvania farmland, a late-afternoon walk in air that’s fresh and over ground popping with the season’s first shoots of green.

At the command of instructor Joe Mieczkowski, the march commences. It’s a walk that takes roughly 30 minutes at a leisurely pace. Mieczkowski pauses along the way:

“2,500 left at this point.”

“1,000 left.”

“500 left.”

“250 left.”

The laughter and conversation wane as the distance between the group and the stone wall is reduced. And understandably so. While this land is now covered in crops, somewhere below the surface is the blood of thousands.

This Pennsylvania field is the spot of the culminating assault known (incorrectly) as Pickett’s Charge. It is here that some 12,000 Confederate soldiers walked headlong into a hail of Union bullets, artillery fire and munitions. When the Michigan Farm Bureau ProFILE class finished its march across that revenant ground, it stood at a point where history tells us roughly just 100 of the 12,000 made it to. It was a spectacular and decisive failure, fueled in large part by a likely lapse in leadership and decision-making.

“If there is a better place to study the impact leadership can have than here on the Gettysburg battlefields, I’ve yet to see it,” said Mieczkowski. “In your careers, you will stand where Gen. Lee stood, where Pickett stood, where Longstreet stood. The question is this: How will you lead your troops?”

ProFILE is Michigan Farm Bureau’s Institute for Leadership Education, a leadership experience for MFB members ages 25-35. The 15-month intensive is designed to provide participants with opportunities and experiences to help them grow personally and professionally.

Prior to the Washington Legislative Seminar, the 2020 ProFILE class of 15 students spent two days in Gettysburg, learning about leadership styles, techniques and tactics as part of the Lincoln Leadership Institute at Gettysburg.

The full-day course included classroom instruction at the historic David Wills House, where Pres. Lincoln stayed and prepared the Gettysburg address. The classroom instruction was then put to practical, real-world use on location where critical moments of leadership and decision-making took place during the battle at Gettysburg. From Union Col. Chamberlain’s inspirational defense of the unit’s flank on Little Round Top to Gen. Robert E. Lee’s fateful decision to attack the center of the Union line at Cemetery Ridge.

“Being in Gettysburg and seeing where the battle took place, thinking about how the decisions were made really was amazing,” said Casey Bozung of Kalamazoo County. “It’s something I’ll take back to my personal and professional life and will think about how I can be a better transactional and transformational leader.”

The Lincoln Leadership Institute is nationally renowned for its curriculum and has trained leaders from some of the country’s largest companies and brands. That reputation, according to the ProFILE participants, was well-earned.

“It was really an amazing experience,” said Matt Marston of Livingston County. “The hands-on experience and seeing exactly how the decisions and actions of those leaders changed history was awesome.”

The Gettysburg visit is just one facet of the 15-month ProFILE course. The group already participated in sessions on public speaking and, in September, will convene in St. Johns for media training.

“Our goal is to challenge the participants. We see this as an opportunity for their organization, Michigan Farm Bureau, to invest in them as a leader,” said Emily Reinart, Grassroots Policy

From a group of young Michigan professionals feeling the first warm rays of spring on their face after a long, cold winter, the upbeat chatter is to be expected.
Becca Gulliver

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine / You make me happy, when skies are grey / You’ll never know dear, how much I love you / Please don’t take my sunshine away…”

Growing up, that was one of my favorite songs to hear my mom sing to me and my siblings. Now I enjoy hearing her sing it to my nieces and nephew, but thanks to coronavirus I haven’t been able to experience it lately. More isolated now than ever before, how do we find that sunshine — that light at the end of this tunnel?

Enduring 2019 was hard enough; now the unanswered questions 2020 is asking only increases our stress. From market access and depressed prices to just making everyday ends meet, we are facing unprecedented new challenges.

So: We. Are. STRESSED!

Some stress is normal even in everyday situations; what makes the difference is how you handle that stress. During the first “Feed Your Soul” retreat for women in agriculture, Cultivate Balance founder Sarah Zastrow (a Midland County Farm Bureau member) talks about the responsibility ‘pie’ and how, with all the stress and pressure we face, we must first identify that small piece of the pie we can control: OURSELVES.

We control how we react, respond and engage. Once we’ve identified our slice of the responsibility pie, we can learn to give ourselves some grace and finding the good — all vital to developing a healthy mindset.

Three tactics MSU Extension recommends for developing a healthy mindset are: positive self-talkdeep breathing or meditation, and practicing acceptance of what we can control.

Also consider integrating a gratitude practice into your daily routine. Keep a notepad next to your coffee pot to write down three good things from the previous day like Sarah does. Saginaw County member Amanda Sollman jots hers down in her planner throughout the day.

Find a way to bring your entire family into the practice by sharing around the table at dinner. Share what you are #quarantinegrateful for on social media, like Ogemaw County member Elaine Palm.

If you were at the 2020 Young Farmer Leaders Conference, you heard speaker Paul Long encourage us to ingrain healthy mindset practices by greeting others with “What’s good?” — challenging them to respond in the positive. MFB’s State Young Farmer Committee took that advice to heart; their weekly confabs are now “What’s Good Wednesdays.”

Deep breathing or meditation can look different for everyone. If technology is your thing, there are breathing apps for your smartphone. A trick I picked up from a friend for when I’m so stressed I can’t focus — “brain fog” —is to look in a mirror and envision myself blowing that fog out of my head with each breath.

Farmers we are constantly on the go, so how do you work such practices into your day? Find what works best for you.

Another effective stress-management tool is physical exercise, which most farming already has plenty of. If you can’t work in a short walk, just take a moment after stacking hay bales. If you’re walking fields scouting for pests, take some time for your brain chemistry to do its job reducing stress before moving right onto the next task.

More than anything, understand that you — that we — are not alone in this, and that it’s okay to reach out for help and just to talk with someone. Don’t hesitate to seek out a counselor or therapist when needed.

A good starting point is MSU Extension’s Farm Stress Program, now equipped to connect farmers with online counseling resources. In many conversations with Barb Smith, director of the Barb Smith Suicide Resource and Response Network, she’s said how farmers sometimes care for their tractors better than they care for themselves. Don’t forget and don’t neglect you — the only piece of the pie you can control!

As challenges come at us from every angle, and it gets harder to see light at the end of the tunnel, don’t forget that song my mom and so many others taught us:

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine… Please don’t take my sunshine away!”

Becca Gulliver is MFB’s Regional Manager in the Saginaw Valley, serving Farm Bureau members in Bay, Gratiot, Isabella, Midland and Saginaw counties.

Farm stress resources

 

The Agent Charitable Fund and Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan will donate $50,000 during the Million Meal Challenge and will match up to $50,000 in additional donations from members, clients and supporters.
Michigan Farm Bureau

Farm Bureau Insurance Managing Partner and Agent Charitable Fund Committee Member Nick Hurst sorting fresh fruit at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan in Flint 2019

LANSING – To help Michigan consumers bridge the food gap during the state’s ongoing COVID challenge, the Michigan Farm Bureau Family of Companies — Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan, Michigan Farm Bureau and the Agent Charitable Fund — have announced the launch of a statewide fundraiser, the “Million Meal Challenge.”

The Agent Charitable Fund and Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan will donate $50,000 during the Million Meal Challenge and will match up to $50,000 in additional donations from members, clients and supporters.

With every dollar raised equating to six meals, the goal is to collectively donate a million meals to the seven regional food banks in Michigan, benefitting all 83 counties. 

In announcing the Million Meal Challenge, Don Simon, CEO, Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan, said efforts to minimize exposure of COVID-19 through Michigan’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order (EO 2020-21) closing schools, restaurants and other establishments deemed non-essential, has left many families struggling to make ends meet. 

“Right now, it is more important than ever for our state to come together,” Simon said. “As we all face this pandemic, helping to provide Michigan children and families with healthy meals during this trying time is a great way for us to do just that. The entire Farm Bureau family is proud to sponsor this challenge so that together, with our partners and community members, we can provide one million meals.”

The fundraiser will engage every person who is part of the Michigan Farm Bureau family – agents, members, staff and insureds – to come together and support each other through uncertain times, according to Merrick Maris, Farm Bureau Insurance agent and Agent Charitable Fund Committee chair. 

“The Agent Charitable Fund was created to help people in need,” Maris said. “Our agents came together and created this fund in 2018 because we wanted to support the greater Michigan community, specifically children. This challenge allows us to ensure our kids and families who are in need are provided for during this time of crisis.” 

The Agent Charitable Fund, whose mission is to end hunger in Michigan, is a donor-designated fund administered through the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture. The Michigan Foundation for Agriculture, a 501(c)(3) governed by Michigan Farm Bureaus board of directors, positively contributes to the future of Michigan agriculture through leadership and educational programming.

Through grant programs and donations, Farm Bureau agents, clients and partners provide food and educational programs to Michigan residents struggling with hunger and aid the more than 3,000 hunger-relief agencies throughout the state. To donate toward the Million Meal Challenge, visit https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/millionmeals.

Michigan Farm Bureau and Michigan Farm News are committed to providing its members and readers with the latest news and information on the COVID-19 pandemic. For news, updates and resources, visit https://www.michfb.com/MI/Coronavirus/. The page will be updated daily as more information becomes available.

The Agent Charitable Fund and Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan will donate $50,000 during the Million Meal Challenge and will match up to $50,000 in additional donations from members, clients and supporters.
Megan Sprague

Tyler and Hannah Shepherd

Bombarded daily with poor crop forecasts and bankruptcy reports, it’s easy to worry the future of agriculture might be bleak, but that future looked bright — blinding, even — at this year’s Young Farmer Leaders Conference.  

About 350 young farmers took over the Grand Traverse Resort Feb. 21-23 to learn more about how they could grow as both businesspeople and community members. As the new Young Farmer program specialist, it was inspiring to see so many eager faces taking time out of busy schedules to bring back information to their counties and farms.

Members went on local tours; networked during “larger than life” board games and cornhole; and attended a full day of sessions ranging from financial management to the importance of incorporating stress-relieving activities to their daily routine. 

As a new MFB staffer, the most rewarding part was hearing about our members’ experiences firsthand. They were both encouraged and excited, making me geeked for a whole year of programing with this amazing group, and looking forward to next year’s Growing Together Conference, Feb. 19-21, 2021 in Grand Rapids.  

One member told me the session titled “Building Stronger Relationships in Farm Families,” presented by Ron Hanson from the University of Nebraska, validated their thoughts on the tough discussion about succession planning they would have when they returned home.

After our keynote, Paul Long, challenged us to ask questions in ways that cause people to smile, I had attendees asking me what the best part of my morning was. Other attendees told me they intended on doing stretches taught in Sarah Zastrow’s session on mental health and self-care.

The information and practices these young farmers gained from attending YFLC were not just exciting in the moment but made a strong impact on our members. If you don’t believe me, here are some thoughts they shared on social media:

  • “This weekend I traveled north for #yflc2020 up near Traverse City. As always it was a great Young Farmer conference. Got to see and network with friends and other familiar faces this weekend along with learning a lot. But in the last picture, these ladies I have never seen or met before until this weekend. As I was sitting and having a drink with a few friends these two came up to me and said ‘I couldn’t help but over hear that you guys are farmers.’ At that moment for the location we were at I thought for sure I was going to have to defend our occupation, but by my surprise they wanted to thank us and say how much they appreciate farmers. They were surprised by my response when I said thank you and I went on to explain that we don’t hear that too often and I really appreciated their support.” Cody Ferry, Genesee County 
  • “Mike and I spent the weekend networking, learning and relaxing with other Young Farmers at #YFLC2020. First, I never thought I’d learn social media strategies from an agronomist. And second, this weekend has made me so proud to be a part of the farming community. I don’t think the general population realizes how relevant farming is in our daily lives. And that it’s so much more than planting and harvesting. I’m looking forward to our 2020 season and being more involved, aware and hopefully beneficial to Schwab Farms! Thanks for the adventurous weekend, MFB Young Farmer Program!” —Lauren Schwab, Bay County

  • “Tyler and I had an awesome opportunity this weekend to attend the Young Farmer Leadership Conference! We are so thankful to Farm Bureau for hosting this event and providing us this experience! We hope to bring many ideas, techniques, and managing skills learned this weekend into our farm.” —Hannah Shepherd, Saginaw County  

If you come across a young farmer in the upcoming months, make sure to ask them if they attended and if so, what they loved the most. I’m confident it will make you smile knowing the future is promising for agriculture.

Megan Sprague is MFB’s new Young Farmer program specialist.

Bombarded daily with poor crop forecasts and bankruptcy reports, it’s easy to worry the future of agriculture might be bleak, but that future looked bright — blinding, even — at this year’s Young Farmer Leaders Conference.

Chelsea Luedtke speaks during a district discussion meet in Antrim County

District-level discussion meets ramp up this spring and early summer, with the popular events engaging Young Farmers (ages 18-35) statewide in conversation about today’s most important agricultural topics.

Discussion meets are a fun competition meant to simulate committee-meeting conversations in which active participation is expected from everyone around the table. The contests are evaluated on an exchange of ideas and information on a pre-determined topic.

Participants build vital discussion skills, develop a keen understanding of real-world issues affecting the industry and explore how groups can reach consensus toward solving problems. They’re also a great way to meet other Young Farmers — and spectators are always welcome!

Find your district’s discussion meet below and make plans to attend!

  • District 1 — March 14 at Griner Farms in Jones; contact Sarah Pion, 269-377-4841
  • District 2 — March 19 at Ironbark Brewing Company and Grand River Brewery, Jackson; contact Paul Pridgeon, 517-320-4444
  • District 3 — March 28 at Planters Paradise & Floral Gardens, Macomb; contact Hannah Meyers, 616-485-4469
  • District 4 — March 31 at Thornapple Point, Grand Rapids; contact Adam Dietrich, 616-889-1857
  • District 5 — April 18 at Demmer Center, Lansing; contact Hannah Lange, 231-383-3131
  • District 6 — July 9; location TBD; contact Beth Rupprecht, 989-640-6913
  • District 7 — March 26 at Regional Center for Agriscience & Career Advancement, Fremont; contact Bridget Moore, 989-640-6973
  • District 8 — March 21 at Merrell Farms, Freeland; contact Becca Gulliver, 989-708-1082
  • District 9 — June; location TBD; contact Nicole Jennings, 810-569-9610
  • District 10 — June 24 at The Highway Brewing Company, West Branch; contact Sonya Novotny, 248-420-2340
  • District 11 — March 26 at The Thirsty Sturgeon Bar & Grille, Wolverine; contact Cole Iaquinto, 810-422-7322
  • District 12 — March 16 at Bay College, Escanaba; contact Craig Knudson, 231-357-3864

Discussion meets are open to Farm Bureau members ages 18-35. Visit www.michfb.com/YFDiscussionMeetfor the topics and more information.

District-level discussion meets ramp up this spring and early summer, with the popular events engaging Young Farmers (ages 18-35) statewide in conversation about today’s most important agricultural topics.

Joe Theisen explained how to raise tens of thousands of annuals for wholesaling across metro Detroit. 

Beside some of the fastest moving water in the world, Farm Bureau members who attended the 2020 Voice of Agriculture Conference were flooded with new ideas and resources to boost their outreach efforts back home. Overlooking the churning St. Clair River, this year’s event brought more than 280 attendees to the Blue Water Convention Center in Port Huron Feb. 5-6.

Tours 

Tours explored unchartered Farm Bureau conference territory in St. Clair and Sanilac counties.

One route tasted spring inside Theisen’s Greenhouse, learning how the family farm raises annuals for wholesale to metro Detroit area retailers.

That group continued to Lauwer’s Sheep Farm to see newborn lambs and learn how the cultural landscape of southeast Michigan spurred the modern shepherds’ choice to breed and raise lamb year-round.

The tour finished at Blake’s Orchard, an agritourism powerhouse centered around family-friendly experiences and a booming hard cider empire.

The second tour route visited the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Port of Port Huron agricultural inspection facility.

Participants saw first-hand the need for action on Farm Bureau’s policy supporting increased staffing of inspection facilities nationwide. They met with inspection staff to explore how the unit ensures biosecurity through thorough inspection of agricultural products entering the U.S. from Canada and beyond.

The group also visited the USDA’s Veterinary Inspection station to see livestock import protocols in action.

The last stop was at Michigan’s oldest lighthouse, Fort Gratiot, where some participants met the challenge of climbing clear to the top of the light tower.

Sessions 

Day two started with keynote speaker and social media guru Michelle ”Farm Babe” Miller, who shared her online savvy and techniques for sharing personal farm stories on the web. (See related article here.)

From communications to mental health and agritourism, breakout sessions throughout the day provided participants with tools for improving their farm businesses or county Farm Bureau volunteer efforts.

Partnering organizations contributing to the diversity of agenda topics included MSU Extension 4-H, Michigan Sugar Company, Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee, Michigan Pork Producers Association and the Michigan Ag Council.

Visiting from across the river, Farm and Food Care Ontario, an agriculture promotional non-profit, shared examples of outreach activities engaging farmers in Canada’s most populous province.

Charlotte Halverson of the Agri-Safe Network provided a train-the-trainer session equipping participants with three youth-in-agriculture safety modules which these participants could now conduct in their own counties. Charlotte also lead a second session focused on mental health care resources in rural communities.

Volunteers from Washtenaw County showcased their award-winning “Treat of Agriculture” program in a session, encouraging other counties to try similar activities back home. Their indoor, trick-or-treat-style event provides a safe, climate-controlled environment all while educating young participants about Michigan-raised agriculture products.

District meetings rounded out attendees’ networking opportunities. Members gathered to share ideas, discuss common ground and plan events within their own regions.

Next year will see the return of MFB’s Growing Together Conference, combining Voice of Agriculture and Young Farmer Leaders conferences, Feb. 19-21, 2021 at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids.

    
Beside some of the fastest moving water in the world, Farm Bureau members who attended the 2020 Voice of Agriculture Conference were flooded with new ideas and resources to boost their outreach efforts back home. Overlooking the churning St. Clair Ri
Michigan Farm Bureau
Jeremy Winsor was MFB's 2019 Educator of the Year.

Nominations for MFB’s 2020 Educator of the Year Award are due no later than Feb. 15.

Suitable nominees include any educator in your county who does an outstanding job incorporating agriculture into their curriculum and strengthening relationships between educators and your county Farm Bureau.

Both agriscience and/or K-12 educators are eligible. Qualified nominees should use innovative teaching techniques to increase their students’ understanding of agriculture.

The winner will be honored at MFB’s 2020 Annual Meeting and will receive a grant for classroom supplies and a scholarship to attend the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference, June 24-26 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Nominations must be completed online by Feb. 15.

For more information, contact Amelia Miller, 517-679-5688.

Nominations for MFB’s 2020 Educator of the Year Award are due no later than Feb. 15.
Jeremy C. Nagel



Top photo: Kathleen Slater-Hirsch at MFB's 2018 Annual Meeting
Middle photo: Her family's name was part of the Holton Township landscape long before Kathy Slater grew up there, the eldest of five daughters on her parent's Muskegon County dairy farm.
Bottom photo: Kathleen Slater-Hirsch and her son Bill flanked by Lisa Fedewa and Tom Nugent representing the MFB Family of Companies 

Even the most senior Farm Bureau veterans don’t likely remember a time when the state annual meeting didn’t smell like a movie theatre lobby from start to finish. That’s because Kent County Farm Bureau member Kathy Slater-Hirsch has been popping corn at the event for the past four decades.

How she got to become a fixture at the largest annual gathering of Michigan farmers is a story any of those farmers will appreciate, as it embodies the same kind of grit and determination characteristic of those who make their living from the land.

Kathy Slater grew up the eldest of five daughters on a dairy farm in northeastern Muskegon County, near Holton.

“My dad was a lifetime Farm Bureau member — he loved it — his brothers did, too. A lot of them were farmers,” Kathy said between popcorn rushes at MFB’s 2018 Annual Meeting. “He was quite the inventor and did a lot of things first in Michigan. He was the first to have a pipeline milker, bulk tank… He had all sorts of equipment to help him work because he only had girls — no boys!”

Both her parents in those early years embodied the kind of social hospitality Kathy would, later in life, bring full-circle back to the greater Farm Bureau family.

“I remember when they were first married, my mom would have a luncheon in the house and the members would come from all around,” she remembers, describing the rituals that endure to this day among Farm Bureau Community Groups.

“Dad would get everything all spiffy in the barn for the neighbors,” she said. “It was a social event — a good, social gathering of the neighborhood.”

Kathy would eventually leave the farm, graduate from accounting school, and move to Kansas City where she worked for Gulf Oil through the 1970s. She and her husband eventually returned to Michigan to start their family in Grand Rapids.

In more ways than one, their son Bill Hirsch would go on to complete the story.

By the mid-1980s, the same high interest rates and inflation that was putting so many farms into bankruptcy had the Hirsch family in a similar bind.

“And my father just walked away,” Bill remembers. “He left my mom and us — a 13-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old son — under a mountain of debt.”

There were multiple mortgages, massive credit card debt and leins on auto loans. But even under those most dire of circumstances, the dairyman’s daughter from Holton rolled up her sleeves and got to work.

Besides the family and financial disaster her husband left behind, he also walked away from the popcorn wagon they’d bought from a relative a decade earlier — a 1926 Cretors originally designed to be drawn by horses. The antique went straight into storage as a sacred family heirloom, but in the economy of the mid-‘80s, it was forced back into service.

“It needed to help pay for itself,” Bill remembers.

Its first outing was at an antique market in Allegan, a few years before Kathy took on the annual Farm Bureau gig. In addition to popcorning full-tilt at events across multiple states, she had also begun a jewelry business, a carpet-cleaning business and was managing rental units across Grand Rapids.

“My mom can be very, um, strong-willed,” Bill said. “For the war she fought on her own and got through, I love her dearly and I’m just amazed at what she’s accomplished and achieved in her life.

“She never filed for bankruptcy. She never lost the house.

“In my eyes she’s always been very successful, and she did not want to quit or retire ever. She’s said to me countless times, ‘Retiring’s not in my vocabulary.’ She didn’t want to give up.”

But Parkinson’s Disease is also strong-willed, eroding the links between brain and body until Kathy was forced at last onto the sidelines.

MFB’s 2019 Annual Meeting was her last.

In another full-circle twist, Bill is downsizing his own dairy operation to make room for the popcorn wagon that’s been part of his family’s identity since the ‘70s.

“Now I feel like this is a family legacy and it needs to continue. People love it.”

The Allegan antique market is still on the agenda, as is the Farm Bureau annual meeting, but this year it’ll be Bill filling the bags in his mother’s place.

For 40 years of making Michigan Farm Bureau’s annual meeting crunchier, saltier and more buttery than it otherwise would be, Kathy Slater-Hirsch was recently honored with a token of the organization’s appreciation. Earlier this month MFB Human Resources Director Tom Nugent and Lisa Fedewa, Engagement Specialist for Farm Bureau Insurance, delivered flowers, a plaque and other tokens of appreciation to the beloved “Popcorn Lady.”

“She loved the recognition,” Bill said. “She’s an outstanding lady.

“She took care of me now it’s my turn to take care of her.”

From a Muskegon County dairy farm through life’s most daunting crises, the “Popcorn Lady” of MFB’s annual meeting passes her legacy onto the next generation.
Michigan Farm Bureau
Kalamazoo County FB members enjoy a good rapport with U.S. Dist. 5 Congressman Fred Upton, who regularly attends Farm Bureau gatherings to exchange information on ag-related issues.

Close and regular contact with regulators and elected officials is the not-so-secret approach the Kalamazoo County Farm Bureau uses to maintain its high profile among decision-makers. Whether it’s a state agriculture commissioner or a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, no public official is beyond approaching from engaged Kalamazoo members advocating on behalf of their neighbors and farmers statewide.

For its full-court press approach to addressing issues and keeping officials aware of Farm Bureau’s stances on them, the Kalamazoo County Farm Bureau has earned MFB’s 2020 Excellence in Grassroots Lobbying Award.

One longstanding issue that really got Kalamazoo members motivated to take action was the matter of removing zoning conformance from the site-selection GAAMPs (generally accepted agricultural management practices.)

“This idea began here nearly five years ago, when a local township changed its zoning and made agriculture practically illegal — all to stop livestock facilities from being built within a prime farming area,” recalls Kelly Leach, president of the Kalamazoo County Farm Bureau.

Ever since, Kalamazoo members have worked relentlessly to be a continual presence at township board and planning commission meetings, fine-tuning policy addressing the issue and lobbying officials to protect agriculture.

“Through this issue we were even able to engage several un-involved members and spark their interest in strengthening the grassroots power of our organization,” Leach said. “This is a perfect example of the importance and effectiveness of strong grassroots lobbying to solve a problem detrimental to our industry.”

Kalamazoo’s regular schedule is a study in public affairs engagement. Upwards of a dozen elected officials or staffers attend the county’s annual policy development meeting, where they get a front-row seat on local issues affecting local farmers.

That theme continues at the county annual, regularly attended by U.S. Dist. 6 Representative Fred Upton and the region’s state reps and senators.

“We host these events each year to engage and involve our local, state and national officials and allow them to interact with our members,” Leach said.

Congressman Upton himself was the focus of a special roundtable last summer regarding the effects of adverse weather on the region’s farms.

“After touring several fields, Congressman Upton spoke with several farmer members from around the county to discuss policy issues impacting them,” Leach said. “Almost a dozen of our members met with him, his staff and several members of the media.”

Kalamazoo last year also co-hosted a farm tour for elected officials, working with the local Conservation District. Stops included a commercial greenhouse, a fruit and vegetable agritourism operation, a large commercial grain operation and a dairy farm.

“We filled a commercial-size bus with 12 elected officials, 15 of our farmer members and 10 staffers who either rode the bus or attended one of the tour stops,” Leach said.

Officials know they’re welcome at Kalamazoo’s monthly board meetings to hear about issues, share how they'll address them and forge stronger bonds with local farmers.

Kalamazoo members take full advantage of resources for maintaining open lines of communication with the officials who represent them in government and the regulatory staff whose decisions affect farmers’ livelihoods.

For urgent issues, every Farm Bureau member knows there’s no substitute for personal, face-to-face interaction. That’s how Kalamazoo members faced last summer’s challenges to the site-selection GAAMPs.

“Several of our members lobbied specific ag commissioners on the need to remove zoning conformance from the site-selection GAAMPs,” Leach said. “There was also a group of our members who traveled to personally attend and testify on this issue at several ag commission meetings over the past few years.”

Kalamazoo members with particularly close relations to officials are comfortable calling them directly on the phone. Others have made full use of MFB’s new ‘Farm Feed’ texting service to make their voices heard on issues including the Clean Water Rule, USDA emergency provisions, low-interest loans and glyphosate regulation.

The award will be presented at the annual Lansing Legislative Seminar, Feb. 25 at the Lansing Center. For its efforts Kalamazoo County Farm Bureau receives a $500 grant for use toward future grassroots lobbying activities.

 

For its full-court press approach to addressing issues and keeping officials aware of Farm Bureau’s stances on them, the Kalamazoo County Farm Bureau has earned MFB’s 2020 Excellence in Grassroots Lobbying Award.
Byline Here

Join us for the 4th Annual Southwest Michigan Farm Bureau Chili Cook-Off!!
Come and cheer on your favorite Young Farmer as they participate in the 2020 District Young Farmer Discussion Meet.
$10/person will be charged at the door - ages 10/under are free
(all proceeds will be donated to the Michigan Foundatoin for Agriculture)
Individual Chili Cookoff Entry Fee:
$10/entry (please provide a minimum of 5-6 quarts)
RSVP to attend and/or enter the cook-off or corn hold tournament by March 6
Contact Cass County Farm Bureau to RSVP or with any questions at 269-445-3849

Chili Cook-Off & Corn Hole Tournament
Michigan Farm Bureau

    • Lansing Legislative Seminar
      • Lansing-Legislative_2019

        February 25, 2020 | Lansing Center, Lansing  

        Michigan Farm Bureau’s Lansing Legislative Seminar provides an opportunity for members passionate about Farm Bureau policy and issues affecting agriculture to:

        • Meet members with shared interests, concerns and goals;
        • Help demonstrate to legislative and regulatory leaders the significance of our member-developed policy and strength of our county Farm Bureaus;
        • Learn from expert speakers about proposals being considered in Lansing that would impact Michigan farmers and the food and agriculture economy.

        The event also features:

        • Presentation of the Excellence in Grass-roots Lobbying Award to a county Farm Bureau for outstanding local advocacy efforts.
        • Presentation of the Silver Plow Award, recognizing a legislator’s work in support of Farm Bureau policy. 

        Registration: January 24 - February 7, 2020  

        Contact your county Farm Bureau and tell them you're interested in attending Lansing Legislative Seminar.

        For detailed information about the 2020 Lansing Legislative Seminar click the "More Info" button below!  


      Lansing Legislative Seminar February 25th
      Michigan Farm Bureau

      Do you know where the latest version of your membership card is?

      Most of our members say they don’t carry the card or have an expired one in their wallet. As you can imagine, the membership packet and ID card are expensive items to produce. Each year, Michigan Farm Bureau mails more than 200,000 packets to members when they join or renew their membership.

      In an effort to minimize some of those costs and provide timely member information, Michigan Farm Bureau will begin emailing the membership ID card to members with valid email addresses in 2020. The email will contain the same information and resources that are sent in the mailed packets but can be more easily accessed just by pulling up the email.

      The email campaign will officially launch in early 2020.

      So, next time you renew your membership, be sure to look to your email inbox. Your membership card will be right there waiting for you!

      For more information, email our membership services department or call 517-323-6552.


       
      Michigan Farm Bureau

      The Michigan Farm Bureau Family of Companies is partnering with Talons Out Honor Flight to give Farm Bureau members who are veterans of World War II or the Korean War an opportunity to visit their respective war memorial in Washington D.C. and return to a welcome-home celebration May 9, 2020.  

      The Family of Companies’ $25,000 pledge will allow for 24 veterans and 24 guardians to attend — two veteran-guardian pairs per district.

      “This truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our members who’ve served their country overseas in some of the most horrible conflicts of the 20th century,” said MFB President Carl Bednarski. “The Honor Flight is about commemorating them and their service, and our priority is on honoring the most senior of our member-veterans.

      “As younger men and women, they were fortunate to survive wars halfway across the globe — then returned home to work the land and help build the greatest agricultural industry the world has ever known.”

      All participating veterans must be accompanied by an able-bodied guardian, responsible for physically assisting veterans prior to and during the flights to and from D.C., and during visits to memorials and Arlington National Cemetery — an active, 18-hour day. (See preliminary agenda here.)

      Guardians may not be spouses or significant others and must be between 18 to 70 years of age. To make the most of this rare opportunity, county Farm Bureaus are encouraged to find guardians who are also veterans themselves.

      If a district has more than two nominees, they will be selected based on the order applications were received. County Farm Bureaus can sponsor additional veterans and guardians at a cost of $500 per person (totaling $1,000 per vet-guardian pair).

      Separate application forms for veterans and guardians are under development and will soon be made available to county Farm Bureau offices.

      Farm Bureau members who served in WWII or Korea are encouraged to apply directly to their county Farm Bureau. The county Farm Bureau must submit completed applications to [email protected] by 4:30 p.m. Jan. 31.

      For more information, contact Nicole Guilford (517-679-5665) or Jeremy C. Nagel (517-323-6585).

      The Michigan Farm Bureau Family of Companies is partnering with Talons Out Honor Flight to give Farm Bureau members who are veterans of World War II or the Korean War an opportunity to visit their respective war memorial in Washington D.C. and return
      Michigan Farm Bureau

      Michigan Farm Bureau’s marquee grassroots lobbying event, Lansing Legislative Seminar, is slated for Feb. 25, 2020 and promises an exciting day for members passionate about advocating for agriculture and Farm Bureau policy and learning about state legislative and regulatory issues.

      Members interested in participating are encouraged to contact their county Farm Bureau before the Feb. 7 registration deadline.

      While the main program begins at 11:30 a.m. at the Lansing Center, members looking to arrive early to the capital city have options for starting their day.

      State Capitol Building Tours 

      If you’ve never been inside Michigan’s historic capitol building — or it’s just been a while — a visit won’t disappoint! Lansing Legislative Seminar attendees can take a free guided tour of the landmark.

      Tours depart the Lansing Center at 8:45 a.m. and 9:45 a.m.; pre-registration is not required. It’s a quarter-mile walk to the capitol, so dress for the weather.

      AgriPac Fundraiser 

      MFB’s political action committee, AgriPac, welcomes members to show their support for the organization’s efforts to elect farm-friendly candidates by attending a fundraiser at 10:15 a.m. Special guest and political speaker Patrick Haggerty promises to entertain attendees while imparting his insight into the 2020 election and his expertise on grassroots advocacy. A $50 minimum contribution is required; personal checks should be made payable to AgriPac and business checks should be made payable to FarmPac. Credit card payments will be accepted on-site. Pre-registration is encouraged and available here. 

      Luncheon Program 

      Lansing Legislative’s hallmark lunch program will begin promptly at 11:30 a.m. in the Lansing Center ballrooms, starting with opening remarks from MFB President Carl Bednarski.

      The organization has invited the state’s four most influential legislative leaders for a panel discussion: House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering), Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), House Minority Leader Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills) and Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint).

      One ambitious county Farm Bureau will also be recognized with MFB’s annual Excellence in Grassroots Lobbying Award. The recipient will receive a $500 grant and recognition plaque for outstanding efforts to inform and influence elected officials.

      Issue Sessions and Networking Break 

      That afternoon, members will choose breakout sessions to attend before and after a networking break (featuring MSU Dairy Store ice cream!)

      Topics will include legislative or regulatory issues impacting farms and agribusinesses, including environmental policy and water use, state budget items pertinent to the farm sector, a 2020 election preview, grassroots advocacy and more.

      Legislative Reception 

      Starting around 4:30 p.m. state representatives, senators and dozens of other government and regulatory leaders will begin arriving for the legislative reception, where members will visit with elected officials and discuss current agricultural issues and Farm Bureau policy priorities.

      Michigan Farm Bureau’s marquee grassroots lobbying event, Lansing Legislative Seminar, is slated for Feb. 25, 2020 and promises an exciting day for members passionate about advocating for agriculture and Farm Bureau policy and learning about state le