Farm Bureau News

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 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 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.

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.

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.

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.
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

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
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.
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

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 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.
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.
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.

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 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.


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

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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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

      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
      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
      More than 400 delegates concluded deliberations Dec. 5 at Michigan Farm Bureau’s 100th annual meeting, establishing policy direction for priority state and national issues.

      MFB District 7 Director Michael DeRuiter, an Oceana County fruit grower and member to the state policy development committee, said the delegate sessions were textbook examples of the organization’s grassroots policy development process.

      "Policy development is the center point of this organization, so setting policy is vitally important — it’s the lifeblood of our organization," DeRuiter said. “This is where the delegates get to say their piece and set the course for Michigan Farm Bureau."

      Debate on bovine tuberculosis (TB) and wildlife management both saw robust debate.

      "The resolution proposed by the state PD committee took a pretty aggressive approach to enforce the baiting and feeding ban,” DeRuiter said. “After considerable discussion, delegates decided to add language that supports baiting to encourage reducing the deer population, while retaining support for the feeding ban."

      Delegates also approved policy asking the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to consider a new memorandum of understanding with USDA on the issue in the TB Zone that allows for baiting, which encourages aggressive deer herd reduction.

      Additional language requiring the eradication of white-tailed deer in any 10-mile radius, high-risk zone established after TB-positive deer or cattle are found, along with strengthening fines and penalties for illegal wildlife feeding, similar to those for poaching, was also approved.

      Delegates approved international trade policy affecting Michigan specialty crop growers, calling for changes to the process of seeking relief in cases anti-dumping and countervailing duties challenges, while also calling for additional border and custom inspectors.

      National policy recommendations will be forwarded for consideration at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting in January. 

      “We’re going to advocate for Michigan specialty crops and try to include that language, which will make it easier for specialty crops that were adversely affected by trade to get quicker relief,” DeRuiter said.

      Industrial hemp, authorized under the 2018 Farm Bill, also saw considerable discussion.

      “Growers are in the learning curve with this commodity, and we're all trying to figure out how to make sure growers can be profitable growing industrial hemp while complying with the regulatory aspects,” DeRuiter said.

      Delegates approved state policy supporting an adjustment to the existing 0.3% THC threshold to 1.0%, to provide more harvesting flexibility. The policy now also supports alternative uses and/or disposal methods for the destruction of an industrial hemp crop that exceeds regulatory THC levels.

      Delegates also approved a national recommendation calling for USDA to develop a crop insurance policy specifically for industrial hemp production.

      According to DeRuiter, while there was a healthy debate on many issues, with differing views, the end result is policy that best meets the needs of production agriculture.

      “It's very encouraging when you can have tough conversations with each other, but there's always a mutual respect,” DeRuiter said. “At the end of the day, our members iron out their differences so that we can move forward as one to advocate on behalf of Michigan Farm Bureau members to get the best ultimate outcomes found for all these issues.”

      More than 400 delegates concluded deliberations Dec. 5 at Michigan Farm Bureau’s 100th annual meeting, establishing policy direction for priority state and national issues.
      Michigan Farm Bureau

      Involvement opportunities abound within the comfy confines of your own county Farm Bureau, and this is a good time of year to weigh your options among the organization’s traditional program areas. Counties are encouraged to have their standard committee appointments for 2020 finalized by late January in these program areas:

      • County Nominating
      • Candidate Evaluation
      • Membership Committee
      • Policy Development
      • Promotion & Education
      • Policy Implementation Team
      • Young Farmer Committee

      With 2020 being an election year (have you heard?), it’s particularly important that county Farm Bureaus appoint strong candidate evaluation committees for vetting local office-seekers and better informing MFB’s AgriPac Committee for state- and national-level endorsements.

      In Barry County, Rick Lawrence has been involved in candidate evaluation for 15 years. 

      “I get a more personal connection with candidates, and a better idea as to what their level of involvement with agriculture is,” Lawrence said. “That connection with a winning candidate benefits all of agriculture by being able to better communicate at their level.”

      Leroy Schafer has been a candidate evaluation fixture in Clinton County for the past four election cycles. He sees the program as “a great opportunity to get to know them better and have a say in who Farm Bureau endorses to help elect pro-ag candidates.

      “It gives me inside information I can use to help inform others about candidates and their positions. Also it’s just a great opportunity to meet them on a personal level,” Schafer said. “When the candidates know you personally, you become the one they call when they seek knowledge on how to vote on agricultural issues.”

      Savvy leaders will note Local History Teams are missing from the program menu, as their centennial-year mandate and supporting grant program have come to a close with the end of 2019. Even so, county Farm Bureaus interested in maintaining their Local History Teams are welcome to do so; history happens every day and many county Farm Bureaus are planning their own individual centennial celebrations in the years to come.

      County Farm Bureaus are strongly encouraged to welcome newcomers onto standing committees. New perspectives, directions and opinions will only strengthen your local organization — benefits that seep up through the grassroots to the regional, state and national levels. Aiming to turn over at least a quarter of committee members annually, and carefully surveying your membership roster — especially new members — is a smart approach for finding prospective new volunteers.

      Via Farm Gate and direct communications, members and county Farm Bureau leaders will receive more notices and reminders over the coming weeks. Contact your county Farm Bureau office or MFB regional representative for more information about involvement opportunities.

      With committee appointment season upon us, it’s a great time to look for new avenues of involvement in your county Farm Bureau!


      As the dividing line between the organization’s first and second centuries, Michigan Farm Bureau’s 100th annual meeting, Dec. 3-5 in Grand Rapids, offers attendees a unique opportunity to take part in an historic event.

      Some routine features of the three-day conference will uphold and reinforce the comfort of routine — the annual changing of Farm Bureau’s seasons, out with the previous year and in with the new.

      Other components will encourage members to take stock of what their now century-old organization has accomplished, just as it challenges them to meet the lofty expectations of a new age.

      For the 14th consecutive year the event will take place at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and DeVos Place Convention Center in downtown Grand Rapids.

      All attendees should start at the beginning; registration will be open daily in the DeVos Secchia Lobby:

      • 9 a.m.–7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3
      • 7 a.m.–7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4
      • 9 a.m.–noon Thursday, Dec. 5

      Delegate Session

      The heartbeat of annual meeting is delegate session, taking place each day in DeVos Ballroom A:

      • 1:30 p.m.–5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3
      • 9:15 a.m.–11:45 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4
      • 1:45 p.m.–3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4
      • 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5

      District Functions

      This year’s annual offers two opportunities for attendees to meet with their districts, some of which are new starting at this very event; MFB’s new redistricting plan means many members’ districts have changed.

      District kickoff meetings (10–11 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3) are the first official function of the annual meeting. District breakfasts begin the meeting’s final day (7:30–8:45 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 5).

      Both sets of district meetings take place in various rooms in the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel; attendees should see their weeklong schedule booklet for details and maps.

      Attendees should review the new arrangement and note whether their district as of Dec. 3 is different than they’re accustomed to. Redistricting will also affect several elections taking place during the meeting.

      Meals & Receptions

      All meal functions take place in DeVos ballrooms B-C-D; receptions are in the Grand Gallery pre-function area.

      • President’s Luncheon — 11:30 a.m.–1 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3
      • Reception — 5:30–6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3
      • Awards Banquet — 6:30–8:45 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3
      • Promotion & Education Breakfast — 7:30–9 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4
      • Centennial Lunch — noon–1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4
      • Reception — 5:15–6:15 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4
      • Centennial Gala — 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4

      Discussion Meets

      Tuesday is the day for Youth and Collegiate Discussion Meets, with preliminary rounds (9:15–11:15 a.m.) and the finals (1:45–2:30 p.m.) taking place in the DeVos Grand Gallery rooms. Winners will be announced at that evening’s awards banquet.

      The same rooms on Wednesday will host the preliminary and semifinal rounds of the Young FarmerDiscussion Meet:

      • 8:30–9:30 a.m. — registration
      • 10–11:45 a.m. — rounds 1 & 2
      • 1:30–2:15 p.m. — semifinal round
      • 3:30–4:15 p.m. — final round (delegate stage, DeVos A)

      The “sweet 16” semifinalists will be announced during the Centennial Luncheon (noon–1:30 p.m.); the finalists will be announced at 2:45 p.m. The winner will be announced during the pre-gala reception, approximately 5:30 p.m.

      Ag Art Gallery

      Members bringing their entries into the inaugural Agricultural Art Gallery should drop off their items at registration in the DeVos Secchia Lobby 9 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, Dec. 3. The live auction of the Art Gallery’s biggest vote-getters will take place during the Centennial Gala, starting at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday evening.

      Awards & Recognition

      MFB’s 2019 Presidential Volunteer of the Year will be announced during the President’s Luncheon, Tuesday, Dec. 3.

      At Tuesday evening’s Awards Banquet, special guest AFBF President Zippy Duvall will help Michigan recognize its winners of Key Club honors, Young Farmer Leadership Awards and county Harvest for All.

      MFB’s 2019 Educator of the Year will be recognized during the Promotion & Education Breakfast, Wednesday morning.

      Other Fun Stuff

      MFB’s 2019 Young Farmer Excellence winner, Lapeer County’s Joe Ankley, will preview his presentation for interested attendees 5:30–6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3 in the DeVos Grand Gallery D. Ankley will represent Michigan on the national stage at AFBF’s 2020 Annual Meeting and Convention, Jan. 17-22 in Austin, Texas.

      After the Awards Banquet Tuesday night, fans of Spartan hoops can enjoy each other’s company at a basketball game watch party in the Ambassador Ballroom (Amway Grand Plaza Hotel). Izzo’s ballers will take on the Duke Blue Devils starting at 9:30 p.m.

      Delegates bringing their youngsters should know there will be a field trip to the Grand Rapids’ Children’s Museum 9–11:45 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4. The excursion will gather and depart from the DeVos Grand Gallery pre-function area.

      The Military Street bridge crosses the Black River in downtown Port Huron

      A key highlight of Farm Bureau’s wintertime “meeting season,” the Voice of Agriculture Conference next February is taking shape with a fresh new lineup of tours, workshops and activities to nourish legions of farm-friendly advocates interested in preaching the gospel according to ag.

      Registration for MFB’s 2020 Voice of Agriculture Conference will be open Dec. 9-20. Farm Bureau members with a passion for consumer-facing outreach are encouraged to leave Feb. 5-6 open for two days at Port Huron’s Blue Water Convention Center, in the shadow of the famous Blue Water Bridge linking Michigan with Sarnia, Ontario.

      Day one will be dominated by afternoon tours of ag-related facilities in and around Port Huron and St. Clair County; look for tour details in an upcoming issue of Farm Gate.

      The heavy lifting comes Thursday, Feb. 6, with breakout sessions in the morning and afternoon, punctuated by general programs during breakfast and lunch.

      Attendees in three hourlong breakout sessions (two in the morning and one in the afternoon) have these workshops to choose from:

      • Building Bonds with Local Schools —An expert panel discusses how to build strong relationships with local schools through FARM Science Lab visits, Project RED, Ag in the Classroom, reading ag-accurate books to students and other outreach activities for children.
      • Agritourism: A Practical Guide — A panel of farmers who’ve added value to their business by embracing agritourism and welcoming customers onto their farm will discuss some of the challenges they faced, including local government, zoning, building codes and public safety.
      • Ag Education at County Fairs — Fairs are great venues for engaging consumers about agriculture. Learn about fair-based educational activities from across the country and activities that draw in consumers.
      • Our Changing Communications Landscape — Good communication within Farm Bureau is more important than ever, but the who’s and how’s of it have been shuffled. Catch up on recent changes and get reacquainted with your role in a grassroots communication system that relies on your involvement!
      • Farm and Food Care Ontario — With the rich soils of southern Canada right across the St. Clair River, learn more about Ontario agriculture from this coalition of ag organizations representing the province’s diverse farm sector — and how they make connections between farm and non-farm audiences. 
      • Hello, My Name Is... — Polish your public-facing persona and put your — and agriculture’s — best foot forward at your next speaking engagement, career fair booth, farm tour or worker recruitment event.
      • Playing the Game — In the up-and-down world of volunteer engagement within your county Farm Bureau, learn how to build on positive momentum and bounce back from setbacks.
      • ‘Reptile’ Litigation — Personal injury lawyers have begun attacking agriculture emotionally and psychologically. This session explores recent real-world cases bearing this out and offers guidance for countering such tactics.
      • Train the Trainer: Youth Program Leadership — This presentation will open three AgriSafe topics and provide training tools for working with youth ages 14-21. Provided materials cover zoonotic diseases; personal protective equipment recommendations; and hazard mapping.
      • Mental Health Resilience in Ag Communities — Some 60-80% of visits to primary care providers in America are related to stress. Learn to better identify stressors prevalent among agricultural producers; describe signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression; and discuss the impacts of natural disasters on rural communities.
      • The Five Magic Words — Learn how to get more mileage out of “thank you,” “please” and “no thanks.” Practical strategies in using these five simple words can help safeguard your sanity while transforming your county Farm Bureau, community and business.
      • Building Partnerships with 4-H — 4-H goes beyond the county fair, and today’s 4-H members are tomorrow’s Farm Bureau leaders. But how can you better engage with and support local and statewide 4-H activities? Learn how to improve this partnership and grow your future membership.

      A pair of half-hour mini-breakouts begin the afternoon:

      • Treat of Agriculture — Look behind the curtain at Washtenaw County’s award-winning trick-or-treat-style event that engages rural and urban kids alike with fun learning about agriculture.
      • Advocacy Without Leaving the Farm — You don’t have to be an eloquent speaker or policy wonk to influence elected officials and regulatory leaders. Regardless of your personality, you can be a voice for agriculture through various media, often from the comfort of your own home.
      • Building Trust in Michigan Ag — Most consumers trust Michigan farmers, but for those who don’t, the Michigan Ag Council exists to answer consumer concerns and raise awareness of modern food production. Learn about their Michigan GROWN, Michigan GREAT campaign and building trust in Michigan agriculture.
      • P&E County Chair Update — Chairs, co-chairs and project leaders of any experience level in this session will gain updated resources, tips and tricks for leading educational outreach efforts in your communities. Share ideas with other leaders and brainstorm helpful new resources.
      • Collegiate FB Orientation  — Remember that eager anticipation from freshman-year orientation? It’s like that, only getting acquainted with Farm Bureau’s new Collegiate membership! Learn the fundamentals of Collegiate membership and what’s in it for your county Farm Bureau.

      Register to attend the 2020 Voice of Agriculture Conference by contacting your county Farm Bureau office Dec. 9 through Dec. 20. For more information, visit the conference website or contact Amelia Miller at 517-679-5688.

      Upbound on the St. Clair River, the American Spirit passes under the Blue Water Bridge between Port Huron and Sarnia, Ontario.
      The new year brings a fresh venue for MFB’s Voice of Agriculture Conference, and with it a fresh new landscape of conference tours. Attendees can choose from two different excursions on Feb. 5, day one of the two-day conference hosted by the Blue Water Convention Center in Port Huron.

      Lambs, Libations and Landscaping

      One tour agenda includes sites in western St. Clair and northern Macomb counties, beginning with Lauwers Sheep Farm, where more than 600 ewes live indoors. Shepherd Cameron Lauwers will explain how he staggers his lambing schedule to provide a consistent supply of animals year-round.

      Just down the road, attendees will “spring forward” at Theisen’s Greenhouse. This third-generation wholesale operation raises annuals, bedding plants and potted plants year-round for retailers across metro Detroit. The early-February time frame will showcase the earliest bloomers bound for spring flower sales.

      This tour wraps up with a holistic look at the agritourism program at Blake’s Orchard. From school tours and family u-pick to hard cider processing and tasting, participants will hear how this farm provides non-farm families with a fun and informative experience. Following a tour of the orchard and cider brewery, dinner and cider tastings will take place in Blake’s event barn.

      Planes, Trains and Automobiles

      One of Michigan’s biggest trading partners is right across the river: Canada. Exports to our neighboring Canucks totaled $902 million in 2018 alone, and they’re a strong import partner to boot.

      This tour starts with a look at how agricultural imports from Canada are safely transported into the United States at the Port of Port Huron. U.S. Customs and Border Protection staff will explain their role ensuring biosecurity through inspections at the Blue Water Bridge and those crossing the international border by train, boat or plane.

      After a short presentation, attendees will tour the inspection facilities on the Blue Water Bridge deck, then head to the USDA livestock inspection facility a short drive away.

      Next participants will visit Michigan’s first lighthouse at Fort Gratiot, where Lake Huron empties into the St. Clair River. Port Huron Museum docents will lead a guided tour and share the facility’s history. Weather permitting, participants may climb the 82-foot tower.

      From there this group will split in two, each half headed to separate dinner locations in opposite directions. One bus heads north to the Cadillac House, an historic inn and tavern just a block from Lake Huron in Lexington. The other bus heads south to Marine City Fish Company on the St. Clair River, specializing in locally caught fish in addition to some terrestrial options.

      NOTE: Participants on this tour are subject to a background check by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in order to enter their facilities; names, addresses and birth dates (from MFB’s membership database) will be provided to the agency in advance. Registering for this tour equates to consent to the background check. No substitutions or latecomers will be allowed after the Jan. 6 cancellation deadline.

      Details, details…
      Both tours will depart from the Blue Water Convention Center promptly at 1 p.m.

      Participants staying at the Holiday Inn Express may park their vehicles at the hotel and take MFB’s shuttle to the convention center prior to departure. Shuttles will transport participants back to the hotel following the tour or evening social at the convention center.

      No children under 18 are permitted to participate in the tours and all participants must ride the buses.

      The full conference agenda and tour information is available online.

      Contact your county Farm Bureau to register, Dec. 9-20.

      Michigan Farm Bureau

      Selected from the 90 nominations received from county Farm Bureaus across the state, 18 promising young Farm Bureau members have been selected to take part in the 2020-21 ProFILE program:

      • Kathleen Blust — Oakland County
      • Emily Boeve — Ottawa County
      • Casey Bozung — Van Buren County
      • Sara Bronkema — Ottawa County
      • Marianne Buza — Huron County
      • Jacob Carruthers — Manistee County
      • Alisha Gibson — Kalamazoo County
      • Brandon Hotchkin — Jackson County
      • Charles Loveland — Jackson County
      • Matt Marston — Livingston County
      • Michael Mathis — Oakland County
      • Nathan McGuire — Antrim County
      • Dirk Okkema — Mecosta County
      • Terry Page — Ionia County
      • Michael Sell — Wayne County
      • Brenda Sisung — Clinton County
      • Amanda Sollman — Saginaw County
      • Cody Tyrell — Huron County

      ProFile’s 15-month agenda of leadership and professional development activities, including expert speakers, involvement opportunities and visits to ag-industry sites in Michigan and nearby states. It gets under way in January 2020 with orientation at the MFB home office in Lansing and a visit to Carhartt’s headquarters in Dearborn.

      Meetings in February and March will include participation in MFB’s Washington Legislative Seminar. The busy summertime offers an optional picnic outing before the schedule ramps back up again in September and a flurry of activity the following winter.

      In January 2021 participants will embark on a five-day multistate bus trip, then take part in MFB’s Lansing Legislative Seminar the following month before the program concludes with a graduation ceremony in March 2021.

      Established in 1990, ProFILE is an intensive leadership development course for the best and brightest young Farm Bureau members ages 25-35. Prospective participants are first nominated by their county Farm Bureaus then selected by an MFB staff panel based on the strength of their applications.

      Entries are ramping up for the inaugural Agricultural Art Gallery, a new fundraising effort of the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture debuting at MFB’s 100th Annual Meeting, Dec. 3-5 in Grand Rapids. The first-of-its-kind competition is looking to spotlight the creative talents of Farm Bureau members statewide, with showcasing their work on a big stage and auctioning off the best of them to help fund the Foundation.

      Among the entrants is Sanilac County farmer and agronomist Darcy Lipskey, who will be sharing one of her trademark ceramic creations and is excited to showcase her work on a bigger stage than she’s accustomed to.

      “For me the Ag Art Gallery is kind of a unique opportunity to engage — instead of just attend — the annual meeting,” said Lipskey, whose family raises row crops and beef cattle near Minden City. “I love that it’s a different kind of chance to contribute my voice and be part of something larger than myself. State annual is always fun, but this adds to the experience. I get to feel even more part of the event and the organization itself.”

      Even as a young 4-H participant, Lipskey has made time to foster her creative side.

      “It’s actually a great stress reliever,” she said, alluding to some of the everyday tensions familiar to anyone with a foot in the farm sector.

      Christmas is an ongoing theme of her work, rooted in a ceramic holiday tree she remembers from childhood.

      “It's a tradition now and, completing the circle, it’s a pleasure to make them now myself as gifts, adding special little details to each one — no two of them are the same.”

      Lipskey’s ceramics fall into the 3-D arts category alongside other forms of sculpture. Other categories include photography; fabric and fiber art; drawing and painting; metal art; and woodworking.

      “We came up with the Ag Art Gallery concept not just to raise funds, but also to spotlight the creative sides of many of our members,” said Kate Thiel, who took over managing the Foundation last year. “We know our members’ creativity isn’t limited to designing and fabricating custom harvesters. It’s a side of them we don’t always see, so we thought this would be a great opportunity to encourage and recognize these facets that don’t always get the attention they deserve.”

      All entries are considered donations to the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture and will be displayed in the DeVos Place’s Grand Gallery on Tuesday and Wednesday of the annual meeting (Dec. 3-4). There attendees will vote on their favorite items, with the most popular entry from each category — plus an overall, best-of-show winner — being auctioned off during the Centennial Gala Wednesday evening, Dec. 4.

      The voting window begins with the President’s Luncheon on Tuesday and concludes with the Centennial Luncheon on Wednesday. Those pieces to be auctioned off will be announced Wednesday afternoon. The remaining entries will be available for purchase at their estimated value following the auction.

      The deadline to enter your creation is Oct. 31, although the finished product needn’t materialize until its exhibition Dec. 3.

      A 501c3 organization formed by Michigan Farm Bureau, the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture strives to positively contribute to the future of Michigan agriculture through leadership and educational programming.

      For more information, contact Kate Thiel, 517-679-5741

      Entries are ramping up for the inaugural Agricultural Art Gallery, a new fundraising effort of the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture debuting at MFB’s 100th Annual Meeting, Dec. 3-5 in Grand Rapids. The first-of-its-kind competition is looking to s

      A redistricting of Michigan Farm Bureau districts will mean some real-world changes for members across the northern Lower Peninsula. Proposed by MFB’s recent state study committee and approved by delegates at the 2018 annual meeting, the redistricting plan creates a new, 12th district and with it a designated representative on the state board of directors.

      Why It’s Changing

      MFB’s 11 districts have remained mostly static since they were first defined in 1944. The only change happened in 1967, when Macomb County moved from District 3 to District 6.

      County Farm Bureau consolidation and the dissolution of two (Montmorency and Kalkaska) resulted in the state’s previous 11 districts each being comprised of four to nine county Farm Bureaus. To equalize the responsibility of district directors and improve county Farm Bureau representation on the state board, the study committee recommended creating a 12th district and eliminating an at-large director from the state board to avoid increasing the size of the body.

      Adding the 12th district aligns those districts with the organization’s 12 re­gions, each serviced by a roaming staffer, the vital and familiar “regional rep.” Redistricting will finally see those staffers sync up with a designated district director, the area’s representative on the MFB Board of Directors, elected by members from that district.

      This promises to alleviate the confusion of the previous 11-district, 12-region scheme, which had four district directors working with multiple regional representatives.

      To maintain the size of the MFB Board of Directors, one of the three at-large positions will be replaced by a district-specific position.

      How It’s Changing

      The new plan rearranges the districts as follows (see map):

      • Districts 1, 2, 4 and 5 remain unchanged.
      • Macomb County returns to District 3 from District 6, reversing its 1967 move.
      • Mason County moves from District 7 to District 9.
      • The former District 10 splits, becoming a new District 10 and 11:
      • Arenac, Clare and Gladwin counties move from District 8 into the new District 10, along with Huron Shores, Iosco and Ogemaw.
      • The new District 11 consists of Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Emmet, Otsego and Presque Isle.
      • District 11 (the entire Upper Peninsula) is renamed District 12.

      The redistricting takes effect Dec. 3, at the beginning of MFB’s 2019 Annual Meeting, where the organization will function as 12 districts. Stay tuned for the implications redistricting will have on this year’s board of directors’ election.


      A redistricting of Michigan Farm Bureau districts will mean some real-world changes for members across the northern Lower Peninsula.

      By Jeremy C. Nagel

      Newcomers to Michigan Farm Bureau’s state-level policy development committee came together for the first time Sept. 24 for a packed day of orientation and crash course on the issues they’re charged with sifting and sorting next month.

      MFB Vice President Andy Hagenow welcomed these new members to the body he chairs:

      • Cliff Lipscomb — Kalamazoo County (Dist. 1)
      • Steve Williams — Livingston County (Dist. 3)
      • Jeanne Igl — Ingham County (Dist. 5)
      • Johanna Hopkins — Mecosta County (Dist. 7)
      • Jill Benson — Wexford County (Dist. 9)
      • Dean Shepeck — Menominee County (Dist. 11)
      • Nathan Clark — Midland County (Young Farmer)
      • David Dreves — Northwest Michigan (Young Farmer)
      • Michael DeRuiter — Oceana County (MFB Board of Directors)

      “It’s a good idea to ask questions and speak up if you don’t understand something,” Hagenow advised those new to the group that ultimately will choose what recommendations are considered by delegates at this year’s state annual meeting. “You are not alone or on an island; you’ll always have backup from other committee members.”

      The bulk of the committee’s work will take place at its next meeting, Oct. 8-9. That’s when they’ll sift through hundreds of policy recommendations sourced from the organization’s grassroots and sent up the chain of command from all 65 county Farm Bureaus.

      By way of introduction, Hagenow encouraged the new committee members to share why they agreed to serve in their new capacity. The ensuing comments were picture postcards of high-level member involvement:

      “I’m here to echo the concerns of other farmers and improve the bottom line of the dairy industry,” Shepeck contributed, alluding to the dominant commodity sector back home in Menominee County.

      “I’ve been a Farm Bureau member for 40 years and just felt it was my turn to give back to the organization,” Hopkins said.

      “I’ve served in a lot of capacities throughout the organization, but this is one place I haven’t been,” Clarke said. “This is the foundation of a great organization and I’m glad to be part of that.”

      “I feel Farm Bureau’s voice this is the best voice farmers have,” Lipscomb said, speaking to the importance of “getting policy to the government so they know how we’re thinking.”

      Rounding out MFB’s 2019 PD committee are:

      • Ned Bever, Hillsdale County (Dist. 2)
      • Renee McCauley, Kent County (Dist. 4)
      • Rob Haag, Huron County (Dist. 6)
      • Mark Daniels, Gratiot County (Dist. 8)
      • Greg Whittaker, Cheboygan County (Dist. 10)
      • John Bowsky, Sanilac County (Young Farmer)
      • Kellie Fox, Oceana County (Promotion & Education)
      • Craig Denny, Ionia County (At Large)
      • Tim Hood, Van Buren County (At Large)
      • Jeff Sandborn, Ionia County (MFB Board of Directors)
      Newcomers to Michigan Farm Bureau’s state-level policy development committee came together for the first time Sept. 24 for a packed day of orientation and crash course on the issues they’re charged with sifting and sorting next month.

      Michigan Farm Bureau’s pending redistricting plan means change is coming to the organization’s board of directors. The new 12-district arrangement takes effect at the beginning of 2019 Annual Meeting, Dec. 3-5 in Grand Rapids.

      Directors in odd-numbered districts are up for re-election this year, and there will be no change to the election proce

      ss in districts 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9, where these leaders are up for reelection:

      • Brigette Leach, Dist. 1
      • Mike Fusilier, Dist. 3
      • Stephanie Schaefer, Dist. 5
      • Mike DeRuiter, Dist. 7
      • Ben LaCross, Dist. 9

      Up North, however, it gets more complicated:

      • A new director will be elected to represent the new District 10 (see map) for an initial 1-year term.
      • Current District 10 Director Pat McGuire will no longer be in District 10, but will be eligible to be reelected to the board in the new District 11.
      • The director for the new District 11 (see map) will be elected to a two-year term.
      • Current District 11 Director Dave Bahrman’s term is complete, but he will be eligible to be reelected to the board in the new Upper Peninsula District 12. That election will appoint a director there to a 1-year term.

      The terms of all three at-large directors expire this year: Andy HagenowDoug Darling and Larry Walton. With the addition of a 12th district-specific director, only two at-large positions will be open for election (both to two-year terms).

      The organization will function as 12 districts throughout the entire annual meeting, beginning with district kickoff meetings Tuesday morning.

      • For the new District 10, the county president caucus chair will run the district kickoff and breakfast meetings since there is no incumbent director in that district.
      • In the new District 11, Director McGuire and/or the county president caucus chair will run the meetings.
      • In the new District 12, Director Bahrman and/or the county president caucus chair will run the meetings.

      County Farm Bureau presidents’ caucuses are strongly encouraged to convene and nominate prospective directors at the annual meeting.

      Individuals included on the slate of candidates must meet the Michigan Farm Bureau qualifications for district director and should be willing to serve if nominated. MFB regional representatives are responsible for planning the district meetings or a conference call in their respective regions.

      Michigan Farm Bureau’s pending redistricting plan means change is coming to the organization’s board of directors. The new 12-district arrangement takes effect at the beginning of 2019 Annual Meeting, Dec. 3-5 in Grand Rapids.

      Kalamazoo County Farm Bureau to Host Free Educational Event "Medicare Made Easy"

      The public is invited to a free, on-hour educational seminar, "Medicare Made Easy" on Friday, October 4th at Kalamazoo County Farm Bureau, 5950 Portage Rd., Suite A, Portage, Michigan at 1pm.

      The Seminar will cover what kind of insurance coverage people need as they age, how to avoid paying for coverage that isn't needed, Medigap, Medicare Advantage, enrollment periods, pre-existing conditions, Part D drug plans, and what questions to ask before signing up for an insurance plan. The seminar is presented by Lisa Robb, Medicare Plan Specialist with Michigan Farm Bureau. The seminar will include time for questions and answers. No products will be sold here; it's strictly educational. Seating is limited so please RSVP by calling (269) 342-0212 to reserve your spot.

      The public is invited to a free, on-hour educatoinl seminar, "Medicare Made Easy" on Friday, October 4th at Kalamazoo County Farm Bureau, 5950 Portage Rd., Suite A, Portage, Michigan at 1pm

      The Michigan FFA Alumni & Friends welcomes registrations for their National FFA Convention Experience Trip  during the 92nd National FFA Convention & Expo, Oct. 30-31 in Indianapolis. 

      County board members, committee chairs and members are encouraged to consider either attending the event or sponsoring a local administrator. Participants will experience the largest event the National FFA Organization has to offer, while learning more about how FFA can impact the lives of students.

      The schedule includes exploring the National FFA Career Show & Shopping Mall, having dinner with the Michigan FFA State Officer team and staff, attending the opening session of the convention, enjoying time with their local FFA chapter during breakfast or lunch, and watching the second general convention session. Full convention information can be found here.

      Registrations must be submitted to Amanda Sollman by Sept. 15. For those seeking additional information, feel free to reach out to Katie Eisenberger, MFB’s high school & collegiate programs specialist.

      The Michigan FFA Alumni & Friends welcomes registrations for their National FFA Convention Experience Trip during the 92nd National FFA Convention & Expo, Oct. 30-31 in Indianapolis.

      Karker Scholarships – Oct. 1

      Michigan Farm Bureau’s Marge Karker Scholarship offers three $1,000 scholarships 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.

      The deadline to apply is Oct. 1; the application form and additional details are available online.

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

      White-Reinhardt Grants – Oct. 15

      Oct. 15 is the next application deadline for White-Reinhardt Mini-Grants, available to help support county Farm Bureaus’ Promotion & Education projects.

      Awards of up to $1,000 are available for new or existing classroom education programs in grades K-12. The fall application cycle is for programs planned to take place February through July 2020.

      Click here to apply.  

      White-Reinhardt Scholarships – Oct. 15

      American Farm Bureau’s Foundation for Agriculture offers National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference scholarships for current, full-time educators or active volunteers who have demonstrated involvement in agricultural literacy programming.

      The 2020 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference takes place June 23-26 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

      The application deadline is Oct. 15; apply here.

      Michigan Farm Bureau’s Marge Karker Scholarship offers three $1,000 scholarships to students enrolled in an agricultural program at Michigan State University.

      To celebrate 100 years of Michigan Farm Bureau and highlight our members’ many creative talents, the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture will host an Agricultural Art Gallery event at MFB’s 2019 Annual Meeting, Dec. 3-5 in Grand Rapids.

      Members from across the state will have the opportunity to share their work in the areas of woodworking, metal work, photography, drawing and painting, fabric and fiber arts, ceramics, pottery and sculpture. Participants may enter one work per category.

      All entries will be considered donations to the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture. The top item in each category will be auctioned off during a live auction event during the annual meeting. Those items not selected will be available for sale at their estimated value.

      Winning entries in each category will be selected by popular vote. Entries incorporating a centennial theme will earn their makers a commemorative ribbon!

      The entry deadline is Oct. 31; submit yours online at

      For more information, contact Kate Thiel, 517-679-5741.

      LANSING, MI – The FARM Science Lab (Food, Agriculture, & Resources in Motion) II was open for visitors today as the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture celebrated its debut during the Michigan Farm Bureau’s Centennial Celebration.

      The FARM Science Labs are 40-foot mobile classrooms, equipped with the latest teaching technologies and tooled with STEM-based lessons that meet Next Generation Science Standards and National Agricultural Literacy Outcomes to increase agricultural awareness. The Labs were developed by Michigan Agriculture in the Classroom.

      Staffed with regional educators, the FARM Science Labs helps reinforce grade-level standards with hands-on science experiments while increasing students’ knowledge of how agriculture impacts their daily lives.

      The FARM Science Lab offers schools the convenience of bringing a field trip-style experience to their front door. Students receive an out-of-classroom, hands-on experience without the hassle of transportation arrangements or field-trip permission slips.

      “The FARM Science Labs are fully funded by generous donors giving to the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture, something not everyone knows” said Kate Thiel, development manager for the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture.

      “Our first mobile FARM Science Lab has been on the road for two school years. During its tenure it’s seen 31,157 students and 1,212 educators,” Michelle Blodgett, Ag in the Classroom and FARM Science Lab manager said. “We’re excited to have two labs on the road for the coming school year. To date the labs are over 80% booked too. Imagine how the impact will grow with a second lab,” she added.

      “We’re incredibly fortunate to have so many people supporting our initiatives. Many sponsors of the FARM Science Lab program were able to join us Friday, we’re appreciative of their time and support. And we’re so happy with the impact we’re all able to make with the FARM Science Lab,” Thiel said.

      To find out how to donate to the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture, visit:

      To find out more about the FARM Science Labs, visit:


      County Farm Bureaus are encouraged to nominate members for appointment to MFB Advisory Committees by Aug. 16; current members’ terms of service expire at the end of the year. The appointment window was moved to earlier in the year so as to avoid conflicts with county annual meeting planning.

      Advisory committees are a critical part Farm Bureau’s infrastructure, representing specific commodity and marketing interests as well as issue-specific concerns like labor, direct marketing and natural resource issues. They provide vital input to the MFB Board of Directors and policy development process.

      The Rules of Organization and Operation of MFB Advisory Committees explain the purpose, makeup and membership of the 13 committees. Counties receive an automatic appointment to any committee in which they lead production, as noted below:

      • AQUACULTURE & COMMERCIAL FISHING — 8 members; all counties eligible; no automatic counties designated; contact Ernie Birchmeier, 517-679-5335
      • DAIRY — 16 members; automatic appointments: Huron, Clinton, Sanilac, Allegan, Ionia, Missaukee, Gratiot, Barry; contact Ernie Birchmeier, 517-679-5335 
      • DIRECT MARKETING — 12 members; automatic appointments: Berrien, Lapeer, Macomb, Ottawa, Kent, Van Buren, Allegan; contact Audrey Sebolt, 517-391-5055
      • DRY BEAN & SUGAR BEET — 12 members; automatic appointments: Huron, Sanilac, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Gratiot; contact Theresa Sisung, 517-323-6729
      • ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT — 16 members; all members at-large; contact Ernie Birchmeier, 517-679-5335
      • EQUINE — 12 members; automatic appointments: Washtenaw, Allegan, Oakland, Livingston, Jackson, St. Joseph; contact Ernie Birchmeier, 517-679-5335
      • FEED GRAINS, OILSEEDS & WHEAT — 16 members; automatic appointments: Sanilac, Lenawee, Saginaw, Huron, Tuscola, Gratiot, Hillsdale, St. Joseph; contact Theresa Sisung, 517-323-6729
      • FORESTRY — 10 members; automatic appointments: Copper Country, Mac-Luce-Schoolcraft, Hiawathaland, Iron Range, Chippewa; contact Craig Knudson, 231-357-3864
      • FRUIT & VEGETABLE —14 members; automatic appointments: Van Buren, Ottawa, Berrien, Montcalm, Kent, Monroe, St. Joseph; contact Audrey Sebolt, 517-391-5055
      • LABOR — 8-12 members; all members at-large; contact John Kran, 517-679-5336
      • LIVESTOCK & POULTRY — 16 members; automatic appointments: Allegan, Ottawa, Huron, Ionia, Cass, Gratiot, Branch, Mecosta; contact Ernie Birchmeier, 517-679-5335
      • NATURAL & ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES — 13 members; one member from each MFB district and two at-large; contact Laura Campbell, 517-679-5332
      • NURSERY & GREENHOUSE — 12 members; automatic appointments: Ottawa, Kalamazoo, Kent, Allegan, Monroe, Wayne; contact Audrey Sebolt, 517-391-5055

      Counties receiving automatic appointments must submit two nominations for each committee. Other counties may submit up to two nominations for each committee.

      All nominees must be regular Farm Bureau members, commercial producers of the commodity, representative of the industry and willing to serve by attending the meetings.

      Committees meet once or twice annually. Those who have served on past advisory committees are eligible for reappointment. Appointments are for a two-year period, 2020-21, beginning January 1, 2020.

      Click here for the nomination form to be completed and returned to MFB by Aug. 16.

      Mail nominations to the MFB Center for Commodity, Farm & Industry Relations, P.O. Box 30960, Lansing, MI 48909; or email to Andrena Reid or fax to 517-323-0230. To submit nominations online, work with your County Administrative Manager to complete the application here.

      For more information, contact your MFB Regional Representative or staffer listed for each committee.


      It's calendar time again...

      Each year, Michigan Farm Bureau holds an annual calendar contest and we are currently looking for 2020 submissions. This year’s theme: Farm Friends.

      We’re looking for photos of your 4-legged farm friends. Winning submissions will be featured in our 2020 calendar and will include your name and photo credit.

      Photo entries should be emailed to [email protected] or mailed to:

      Michigan Farm Bureau

      Attn: Member Communications and Relations

      7373 W. Saginaw Hwy, Lansing, MI 48911

      Photos should be horizontal and we need a minimum resolution of 300 DPI for printing. 

      The deadline to submit entries is June 21. Send us your Farm Friends photos today!


      Nominations are now being accepted for Michigan Farm Bureau’s elite Institute for Leadership Education, ProFILE. The program is an in-depth leadership experience for agriculture’s most promising current and future leaders. We need your help finding progressive young farmers to participate in next year’s program!

      ProFILE’s 15-month agenda enhances leadership and interpersonal skills as well as Farm Bureau organizational knowledge for a select group of members ages 25-35.

      If that sounds like a good opportunity for someone you know, nominate them for consideration through your county Farm Bureau office. County nominations are due to Michigan Farm Bureau by June 28, 2019. Once nominated, potential ProFILE participants must then submit an application directly to MFB.

      The next ProFILE program gets underway in January 2020.

      Participants pay $100 per year for the program ($200 total), which is refunded back to the participant upon successful completion of the program in March 2021.

      For more information, contact Emily Reinart, 517-679-5337.

      A group of 18 Michigan farmers made a 12-hour flight to Argentina March 8 to 14 as part of the Michigan Farm Bureau’s Agricultural Leadership Exchange. There, the group took in the South American country’s culture, food, landscape and production agriculture.

      Co-sponsored by the Michigan Corn Growers Association, the trip started off in a meeting with MAIZAR, the Argentinian Corn Growers Association. Their president, Marcello Morelli, said Argentina’s corn harvest has increased 62 percent in the past five years, with the total corn value chain now representing 3.3 percent of the country’s total GDP.

      The Michigan delegation traveled to the very fertile Pampas Region to visit El Desafio Farm owned by the Alejandro Calderon family. This 3,000-acre farm includes soybeans, corn, wheat, oats, and green peas.

      The diversified farm operation also raises Aberdeen Angus, providing bulls to cattle ranches all over the region. El Desafio Farm also custom plans, sprays, harvests, conditions and transports for other farmers using their own equipment, sending most of their grain to the many grain terminals located about 75 miles away on the Parana River.

      Calderon provided a tour of his operation, discussing growing techniques, technology, fertilizer, pests and diseases and yields. His no-till corn production averages 200 bushels per acre without irrigation or subsurface drainage.

      The group continued northwest into the Pampas region and entered the Province of Santa Fe to tour a Syngenta corn and sunflower seed plant, which is considered the largest seed production facility in Argentina. It is near Venado Tuerto. At this location, the group learned more about the differences in seed production, storage and distribution compared to Michigan’s large seed corn industry.

      The next stop of the trip — the diversified crop and sheep farm of La Constancia, known for their ability to breed National Champion Hampshire Down sheep. While native to England, the operation has had tremendous success breeding multiple national champions of the Hampshire Down breed.

      And, as might be expected, no trip to Argentina would be complete without taking a look at the country’s grain export infrastructure. The group traveled to Rosario, the third-largest, fastest-growing city in Argentina, located on the Parana River. Exporting more than 825 million bushels on an annual basis, it’s become known as the grain hub of Argentina, accounting for more than 50 percent of the country’s grain exports.

      Considered to be the largest concentration of soybean crushing and export facilities in the world, the Rosario area is home to 29 separate soybean crushing and grain facilities, helping to make Argentina the world’s largest exporter of soybean meal and the third-largest exporter of corn and soybeans.

      The group toured the grain terminal of ACA (Asociacion de Cooperativas Agrarias) in San Lorenzo, north of Rosario, which accounts for 18 percent of all grain exports in the area. In addition to soybeans, the facility exported 118 million bushels of corn in 2018.

      Taking in 600 semi loads per day, it’s not uncommon for contract truckers and their drivers to wait two or three days to unload during peak harvest season(s).

      Michigan’s delegation also paid a visit to the Rosario Board of Trade, the most important grain exchange in Argentina in terms of its volume of operations and its ability to provide reference prices for the national and international markets.

      The Rosario Board of Trade also has the distinction of being the one remaining exchange in the world where grain deals are still done face-to-face and with a handshake. The Board of Trade also operates a complex of laboratories which analyze and provide quality certifications for samples of agricultural commodities, soil and water.

      The last day of the trip was spent visiting ExpoAgro, the largest farm show and equipment exhibition in Argentina. There, the attendees spoke with vendors, where they compared technology, equipment and rubbed elbows with Argentine farmers in attendance.

      With more than 150,000 visitors from Argentina and the world participating in the annual mega farm-show, it spans nearly 50 acres. In addition to displays of the latest technologies in seeds, livestock and equipment, the show also has a livestock auction that sells more than 45,000 head of cattle.

      Upset with your township supervisor and want to lead a change? Do you have opinions about your community’s planning and zoning? Are you tired of ruining your farm equipment on county roads?

      If you answered YES to any of those, you should consider serving on your township board, planning commission or road commission.

      With farmers comprising less than 2% of the population, agriculture is increasingly likely to get run over and left out if farmers don’t become more active in government. That’s why Michigan Farm Bureau has a goal of increasing the number of farmers who serve in government by 20% by 2022.

      To equip farmers with the right tools they need to get more active in government, MFB created the Academy for Political Leadership.

      We have a lot of leadership development programs, but what makes this academy unique is that it’s the only one devoted exclusively to political and government education. Topics include: how bills become law, the budget process, policymaking, planning and zoning, campaign management, polling, fundraising and plenty more.

      Participants in the 2019 academy included Matt Nilson, a member of the Van Buren County Farm Bureau.

      “Increasingly, government officials, legislators and the general public don’t understand the importance of agriculture in today’s society,” Nilson said. “The Academy of Political Leadership allows those of us who grow food to learn about the political process, gain access to decision makers and influencers, and share the challenges farmers experience.

      “I’m confident it’ll help get more farmers elected—people who understand the political, economic and regulatory barriers in producing healthy affordable food for all. Farmers need to be represented at every level of government to ensure that ag’s voice is heard.”

      Want to learn more about the program? Ask one of our new graduates:

      • Chris Machiela — Allegan County
      • Erin Humm — Gratiot County
      • Emily Calderonem — Ingham County
      • Anders Swenson — Kalamazoo County
      • Larry Walton — St. Joseph County
      • Todd Stubbs — Oakland County
      • Robert Carlin — Shiawassee County
      • Matt Nilson — Van Buren County

      MFB’s Academy for Political Leadership occurs biannually, with the next session occurring in 2021.


      MFB Government Relations Specialist Matt Kapp grew up on a dairy farm in Washtenaw County.

      By Theresa Sisung

      Last month farmers interested in growing industrial hemp this year received the news they had been waiting for when the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) announced the launch of the state’s Industrial Hemp Ag Pilot Program. The program will allow for the growth, cultivation and marketing of Michigan-grown industrial hemp in 2019.

      Before we get too far into the weeds, let’s clarify that industrial hemp and marijuana are NOT the same thing. They’re both members of the cannabis family, but industrial hemp contains less than 0.3% THC—tetrahydrocannabinol— the psychoactive compound that produces a ‘high’ only at much higher concentrations, such as are found in marijuana.

      Industrial hemp is grown for fiber, seed and oil which can then be turned into many other products. In particular, there is a lot of interest in growing hemp for cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound currently being marketed as a supplement for humans and animals.

      The 2018 Farm Bill authorized the commercial production and processing of industrial hemp, but each state must have an approved plan in place before commercial production is allowed. USDA is in the process of implementing a national program scheduled for a fall release, after which Michigan can submit its state plan for approval.

      Until USDA’s program is in place, Michigan is using authority in the 2014 Farm Bill for an Industrial Hemp Ag Pilot Program, which permits an institute of higher learning or MDARD to grow industrial hemp for research purposes as part of an agricultural pilot program.

      Really what all this means is that if you want to grow hemp in 2019 you must work in partnership with MDARD on a research program, but in 2020 full-scale commercial production should be an option.

      To grow hemp, you must submit to MDARD an application and a $100 registration fee. If you wish to process, handle, broker, or market industrial hemp in Michigan you must submit an application and a $1,350 application fee.

      Prior to harvest, growers must submit a sample of the crop to a testing facility to measure the THC concentration. If it’s above 0.3% the crop cannot be harvested and must be destroyed.


      1. What sort of resources or information should Farm Bureau provide to help better inform our members about industrial hemp?
      2. What potential roadblocks do you see as the industrial hemp industry expands from a research program to full-scale commercial production?
      3. Do you know farmers in your area who are planning to grow and/or process industrial hemp under the research pilot or once commercial production becomes legal?

      Theresa Sisung grew up on her family’s cash crop and livestock farm in Clinton County, and earned a degree in ag communications from Michigan State University. At MFB she serves as the associate field crops and advisory team specialist and the resident “expert” on industrial hemp. She focuses on developing relationships with the corn, soybean, wheat, sugar beet and dry bean industries.