Farm Bureau News

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.

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

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.
Monroe County Farm Bureau

Monroe County Farm Bureau has awarded three $750 scholarships to local students aspiring to careers in agriculture.  The Selection Committee met on May 29 to determine this year’s winners.  Recipients of the awards can use the funds to attend college, trade school, or apprenticeship programs that support the agricultural industry.

“These students are the future of the agriculture industry of Monroe County, and we consider these scholarships to be an investment in the future of our community,” said Mark Mathe, President of the Monroe County Farm Bureau.  “Their achievements will impact the future success of farms and agri-businesses in our area.”

The 2020 winner of the Betty Bliss Scholarship is Colten Aikens of Monroe.  It is named for long-time County Office Administrator Betty Bliss, and has been presented annually since 1988.  Colten is attending Michigan State University studying Agribusiness Management and Crop and Soil Sciences.  The son of Mike and Rachel Jaworski, he is a Dundee High School graduate and was active in 4-H and FFA.  At MSU, he serves as chairman of the AGR Beef Preview Show and works with Alpha Gamma Rho charitable philanthropies.  He is currently in an internship with the Public Policy Division of Michigan Farm Bureau, where he aspires to work upon graduation.  He also plans to return home and continue to work the family farm.

The Dale Lynn Mason Scholarship, which honors long-time secretary Dale Lynn Mason who served the bureau for over 28 years, was awarded to Grace Herkimer of Monroe.  Grace is a student in the MSU Agricultural Operations program, housed on the campus of Monroe County Community College.  She also plans to transfer to MSU after earning her Associate’s Degree.  A graduate of Ida High School, Grace is the daughter of Jerry and Carol Herkimer and plans to remain in the agricultural industry after graduation, possibly in animal research, production, or nutrition.  In high school, she was an active member of the Ida Trap Team, 4-H Dog Program, and Junior Livestock Association, and volunteers her time with Ida United Methodist Church.

Finally, the third scholarship awarded this year is the Young Farmer Memorial Scholarship.  The oldest scholarship awarded by the bureau, it was renamed six years ago as a tribute to the Young Farmers of our group whose lives were cut short before reaching their full potential.  The scholarship was presented this year to Bethoney DeSilvis of Carleton.  She is a graduate of Jefferson High School and is also a student in the MSU ag program at Monroe County Community College.  Bethoney is studying Agricultural Technology, and plans to transfer to Michigan State University for Environmental Engineering.  The daughter of John and Deborah Gross, she was involved in the Key Club and Pom & Dance Team at Jefferson, and is now active in Collegiate Farm Bureau at MCCC.  Bethoney was one of the Collegiate Discussion Meet participants from MCCC at the Michigan Farm Bureau Annual Meeting last December.

Winners are eligible to compete in all years of school against new applicants, provided they continue their studies in an agriculture-related field.  Since 1988, Monroe County Farm Bureau has invested over $40,000 in the future agricultural leaders of our community!  Other candidates vying for scholarships this year were Katlyn Taylor of Ottawa Lake, Mariah Gullette of Erie, and Madison Bank of Carleton.  We wish everyone who competed for these awards the best of luck as they continue their studies.  They are truly the future of agriculture in Monroe County!
 
Monroe County Farm Bureau has awarded three $750 scholarships to local students aspiring to careers in agriculture.

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

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

Champions of Excellence

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

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

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

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

Applications are due July 1.

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

Presidential Volunteer of the Year

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

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

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

Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Some ideas:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video ideas

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

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

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

Resources for future activities

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

e-Learning with Ag in the Classroom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gold Chapters IthacaMontague and North Huron each received $800.

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

Bronze chapters receiving $300 were Breckenridge and Webberville.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“2,500 left at this point.”

“1,000 left.”

“500 left.”

“250 left.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So: We. Are. STRESSED!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Farm stress resources

 

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

 


Monroe County Farm Bureau has again committed to providing three $750 scholarships to students from our community studying agriculture.  The Betty Bliss Scholarship, Dale Lynn Mason Scholarship, and Young Farmer Memorial Scholarship will be awarded this May and local students are encouraged to apply.

To qualify for these scholarships, students must be enrolled in post-secondary education pursuing a career related to agriculture.  This includes four-year universities, trade schools, community colleges, and vocational training which supports the agricultural industry, and current students in these programs are also eligible.  Farm Bureau membership is not a requirement for selection, but we always encourage membership in the Young Farmer Committee.  We hope that our scholarship winners will return to their community after completion of their education.

Application forms may be downloaded HERE .  Completed applications including a one-page essay on the topic, “Which two major issues will define the agricultural industry over the next five years, and how can farmers positively promote the industry as a response to those issues?” along with two letters of recommendation are due back to the County Farm Bureau office in Ida by the end of the day on May 4th.  The Young Farmer Committee will then meet to select the winners at a special meeting on May 9th.  In-person interviews will not be required this year, but the Committee may reach out to finalists by phone for clarifications on their essay and application responses.

Winners of the scholarships will receive a check made payable to them and the school they are attending once their first semester’s transcripts are submitted which demonstrate proof of enrollment and grades.  Winners of a scholarship from previous years are also welcome to reapply, as long as their course of study remains connected to the field of agriculture.

Please contact the Monroe County Farm Bureau office at 734-269-3275 or [email protected] for more information.

Monroe County Farm Bureau has again committed to providing three $750 scholarships to students from our community studying agriculture. We're offering the Betty Bliss Scholarship, Dale Lynn Mason Scholarship, and Young Farmer Memorial Scholarship.
Megan Sprague

Tyler and Hannah Shepherd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chelsea Luedtke speaks during a district discussion meet in Antrim County

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tours 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sessions 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    
Beside some of the fastest moving water in the world, Farm Bureau members who attended the 2020 Voice of Agriculture Conference were flooded with new ideas and resources to boost their outreach efforts back home. Overlooking the churning St. Clair Ri