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

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

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

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

District 5

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

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

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

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

District 12

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

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

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

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

District 10

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

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

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

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

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