Farm Bureau News



County Farm Bureau policy development teams are well into their yearly process of crafting resolutions that ultimately become the policy guiding Michigan Farm Bureau’s legislative and regulatory work year-round. Numerous electronic resources are available to help members engage in a variety of ways.

Probable Issue Briefs: To help members get discussion and ideas flowing, Farm Bureau staff prepare briefs on emerging issues and hot topics impacting the agriculture sector. Briefs this year include:

Current Policy: The 2021 MFB and AFBF policy books are available to search and download if members are considering amendments to existing language.

Submit your ideas: Use this form to submit ideas or amendments throughout the year.

Policy Development Process: Once compiled, hundreds of resolutions from Michigan’s 65 county Farm Bureaus will be considered by a 21-member state-level policy development committee. The final slate of policies is then considered by voting delegates at MFB’s annual meeting in Grand Rapids.

State Policy Development Committee: The committee consists of 20 members: one from each of the 11 districts; three at-large; three representing the State Young Farmer Committee; and three representing the MFB Board of Directors.

Looking to learn more about policy development? Contact your county Farm Bureau.

County Farm Bureau policy development teams are well into their yearly process of crafting resolutions that ultimately become the policy guiding Michigan Farm Bureau’s legislative and regulatory work year-round. Numerous electronic resources are avai

If you have never had the chance to attend a district-level Young Farmer Discussion Meet, what you’ll find is: ambitious Young Farmers to network with; great conversation around important agricultural topics; and a chance to build your leadership resume with Michigan Farm Bureau.

Discussion meets date back to the 1940s and are designed to replicate a committee meeting in which Farm Bureau members, ages 18-35, explore an agricultural topic and discuss how to address it. The conversations not only help participants improve their speaking skills, but also generate exciting new ideas on key industry issues.

This year’s district-level topics focus on mental health and farm safety:

  1. Studies show more farmers and farm families are experiencing stress and mental health issues. What can farmers, ranchers and Farm Bureau do to proactively promote good mental health in both themselves and their communities?
  2. Agriculture is one of the most hazardous industries. What can we, as young farmers and ranchers, do to create a more preventative, rather than reactive, approach to farm safety in our communities?

Don’t miss this opportunity to have some fun and connect with Young Farmers in your area:

  • District 1 — Aug. 14 with trap shoot & cornhole tournament; St. Joseph County Conservation and Sportsman Club, Sturgis; contact Sarah Pion, 269-377-4841
  • District 2 — Aug. 5 with trap shoot; Big 9 Sportsmen’s Club, Concord; contact Kim Kerr, 269-967-3759
  • District 3 — Aug. 14; Planters Paradise & Floral Gardens, Macomb; contact Hannah Meyers, 616-485-4469
  • District 4 — Aug. 6; Zoom Farm Equipment, 7980 Pratt Lake Ave. SE, Alto; contact Lori Schrauben, 517-230-3462
  • District 5 — Aug. 21; Potter Park Zoo, Lansing; contact Clinton County Farm Bureau (989-224-9536), Eaton County Farm Bureau (517- 410-2438), Ingham County Farm Bureau (517-676-5578), Genesee County Farm Bureau (810-350-9513), Shiawassee County Farm Bureau (989-725-5174)
  • District 6 — Aug. 5 with golf outing; Grand Banquet & Conf. Center, Essexville; contact Beth Rupprecht, 989-640-6913
  • District 7 — Aug. 21 with golf outing; Waters Edge Golf Course, Fremont; contact Bridget Moore, 989-640-6973
  • District 8 — Aug. 14; Dow Diamond, Midland; contact Becca Gulliver, 989-708-1082
  • District 9 — Aug. 27; Iron Fish Distillery, Thompsonville; contact Nicole Jennings, 810-569-9610
  • District 10 — Sept. 18; Ogemaw County Fairgrounds, West Branch; contact Sonya Novotny, 248-420-2340
  • District 11 — Aug. 21; 3:30 p.m. sporting clays tournament, 5:30 p.m. dinner, 6 p.m. discussion meet; Charlevoix Rod & Gun Club, 11330 US-31, Charlevoix; contact Cole Iaquinto, 810-422-7322
  • District 12 — Aug. 31; Island Resort & Casino, Harris; contact Craig Knudson, 231-357-3864

District-level finalists will move on to participate in two rounds of virtual discussion Nov. 12. Those advancing to the Sweet Sixteen will participate in two in-person rounds at this year’s MFB State Annual Meeting, scheduled for Nov. 30 in Grand Rapids.

For more information, including videos on the parts of a discussion meet, visit www.michfb.com/YFDiscussionMeet.

 
If you have never had the chance to attend a district-level Young Farmer Discussion Meet, what you’ll find is: ambitious Young Farmers to network with; great conversation around important agricultural topics; and a chance to build your leadership res

Have you recently contributed to fight hunger in Michigan as a member of Michigan Farm Bureau? If so, you can be a part of this year’s Harvest for All campaign.

Created by the American Farm Bureau Federation, Harvest for All is a yearlong campaign encouraging Farm Bureau members across the country to work together to help fight hunger.

To inspire their fellow members to donate their time, produce and dollars, every year the state Young Farmer committee hosts Harvest for All, which distributes $1,000 back into local hunger-relief organizations.

This year sees some exciting changes to the contest.

The 2021 Harvest for All Contest will be tallied at the district, not county, level. The district with the highest total will win $1,000 dollars to donate to a food bank of their choice.

All 2021 calendar year donations of volunteer time, commodities, food and dollars given by members on behalf of Farm Bureau are reportable. (Activities that took place in November and December of 2020 are also accepted.)

The winning district will be recognized at the 2022 Growing Together Conference.

Contact your county Farm Bureau office by Dec. 31 to report donations and activity. The deadline for this year’s contest is December 31, however contributions should be reported to county Farm Bureau’s by December 1 to assist in timely reporting.

For more information on the contest and resources visit www.michfb.com/HarvestforAll.

Created by the American Farm Bureau Federation, Harvest for All is a yearlong campaign encouraging Farm Bureau members across the country to work together to help fight hunger.

Ag Students Receive Farm Bureau Scholarships

Monroe County Farm Bureau has awarded three $750 scholarships to local students aspiring to careers in agriculture.  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 2021 winner of the Betty Bliss Scholarship is Madison Bank of Carleton.  It is named for long-time County Office Administrator Betty Bliss, and has been presented annually since 1988.  Madison is attending Michigan State University studying Crop and Soil Sciences with a minor in Environmental Studies and Sustainability.  The daughter of William and Heather Bank, she graduated from Airport High School and was a member of the Swan Creek 4-H Club for ten years.  Upon graduation from MSU, she plans to become a crop consultant to help serve the farmers of Michigan.

The Dale Lynn Mason Scholarship, which honors long-time secretary Dale Lynn Mason who served the bureau for over 28 years, was awarded to Katlyn Taylor of Ottawa Lake.  Katlyn is attending Michigan State University studying Agribusiness Management.  She is on track to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in the Winter of 2022 with aspirations to then earn a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Economics and Environmental Policy.  Katlyn is the daughter of Tim and Heidi Taylor, and is a Whiteford High School graduate.  She was an FFA Officer the last 3 years of high school, a member of the National Honor Society, and served as Secretary of the Student Council and Vice President of her senior class.

Finally, the third scholarship awarded this year is the Young Farmer Memorial Scholarship.  The oldest scholarship awarded by the bureau, it was renamed seven 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 Grace Herkimer of Monroe.  Grace earned her Associate’s Degree from the MSU Agricultural Operations program, housed on the campus of Monroe County Community College.  She will be transferring to MSU this fall to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science.  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.

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 $45,000 in the future agricultural leaders of our community!  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. Recipients of the awards can use the funds to attend college, trade school, or apprenticeship programs that support the agricultural

By Ned Birkey, MSU Extension Educator Emeritus

A Twilight Field Crop Field Day will be held on Wednesday, June 23, 2021 at the Monroe County Community College (MCCC) Student Ag Farm.  MCCC is located at 1555 South Raisinville Road, Monroe, MI 48161.  The Student Ag Farm is just north of campus and persons should take the gravel driveway to the parking lot and the tent.  There will be signage at the site directing traffic.

This event will begin with a porkburger supper, “with all the trimmings” at 6:00pm to be followed by a walking tour and presentations of three MSU corn and soybean projects, ending at 8:30pm.  The event will be held rain or shine with a tent, tables and chairs and porta john and handwashing station on site.

This event is free of charge to all area farmers and others interested in agriculture and sponsored by the Agriculture Advisory Council, the Monroe County Farm Bureau, the Michigan Soybean Committee, the Monroe Conservation District and MCCC.  Reservations are requested for a meal count and can be made to the Monroe Conservation District by phone at 734-241-8540, Ext. 5.  The deadline for reservations is Monday, June 21, 2021.

Projects toured include an early planting versus late planting soybean project by Dr. Manni Singh, a cover crop and soybean nematode suppression project by Dr. George Bird and corn, soybean and cover crop nematode projects by Drs. Marisol Quintanilla and Sita Thapa.

Other projects at the Student Ag Farm in 2021 include; a TePee malting barley project by Independent Barley and Malts of Litchfield, Michigan, a Golden Harvest corn variety demonstration plot, and sunflower, ornamental corn and Mum fund raiser project by the Collegiate Farm Bureau FFA Student Ag Club.  Additionally, numerous fruit and vegetables planted will be donated to MCOP and the new Monroe Market operated by the Oaks of Righteousness Church.

Two pesticide re-certification credits, CCA credits and MAEAP Phase I credit will be requested.  As of June 3, all updated MCCC Covid safety protocols will be followed, which means that fully vaccinated persons no longer need to wear a mask and distancing is not required.  For more information, contact Ned Birkey at: [email protected] or 734-260-3442.



A Twilight Field Crop Field Day will be held on Wednesday, June 23, 2021 at the Monroe County Community College (MCCC) Student Ag Farm.

Even with COVID restrictions lifting, a better-safe-than-sorry approach to children’s activities at the fair still makes good sense this year.

A: Each equate to approximately six feet of distance. While you might not be planning to line up livestock to remind fairgoers of appropriate distancing; restrictions and guidelines are everchanging.

Making small adjustments to children’s county fair activities should set up your county Farm Bureau Promotion & Education activities for success no matter the restrictions at the time of your events.

Please consider these general tips:

  • Plan for volunteers to individually hand out materials as opposed to help-yourself distribution of flyers, handouts, trinkets or craft supplies, etc.
  • Limit activities or displays where objects are handled by numerous individuals throughout the day to avoid cumbersome cleaning responsibilities.
  • Prepackage craft supplies or trinkets for children so one child or one family gets a bag of items.
  • Seek donations of small packages of crayons (MI Soybean Promotion Committee) to hand out with a coloring page instead of a bin of crayons to be shared by children at the fair.
  • Consider using painter’s tape or similar to mark off stations or work spaces for children at activity tables or picnic tables.
  • Avoid activities such as sawdust penny hunts, corn boxes, play areas with shared toys, craft supplies, etc.
  • Host individual make-and-take craft projects instead of games or activities that involve groups of children using shared materials. (See below.)
  • Avoid make-and-take activities involving food such as making butter or ice cream in a bag. Instead consider individually packaged food giveaways such as cheese sticks, small milk cartons or fruit.
  • Provide volunteers with cleaning wipes and hand sanitizer so all children sanitize hands before participation and all tables and materials are cleaned following activity.
  • Order safety posters from the MFB print shop to remind visitors of proper health and safety protocols.

Activity ideas:

Questions? Contact Amelia Miller or Katie Eisenberger

Making small adjustments to children’s county fair activities should set up your county Farm Bureau Promotion & Education activities for success no matter the restrictions at the time of your events.

The third class of Michigan Farm Bureau’s Academy for Political Leadership convenes for the first time later this month, beginning a pandemic-adjusted schedule that will continue through September.

COVID-19 restrictions led the group to put off meeting meet in person until a time when they can, hopefully, convene in person.

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

Nadene Berthiaume grew up on a small farm in Genesee County, earned her education credentials at Michigan State and worked as an ag teacher and FFA advisor. She’s now district administrator of the Saginaw Conservation District, following several years as an ag-tech instructor and program director at Baker College of Owosso.

While raising her family Berthiaume is building two small businesses: a farm accounting service and a small horse farm. Her lifelong passion for agriculture informs her efforts as an advocate for agriculture, outdoor recreation and natural resource conservation.

Maria Carlin farms with her husband in Shiawassee County, raising cash crops near Owosso and running a pair of related ventures: d’Vine Wines and Maria’s Garden. She’s a graduate of MSU’s vet-tech program with degrees in microbiology and business administration; he’s a fifth-generation cash crop farmer and environmental engineer. Both entertain political aspirations.

Currently a member of the Shiawassee County Farm Bureau board of directors, Carlin represents District 5 on MFB’s state-level policy development committees and has take part in both MFB’s Lansing and Washington Legislative Seminars.


Logan Crumbaugh grew up on his family’s farm in Gratiot County, growing corn, soybeans, wheat and sugar beets. He earned his agribusiness management degree from Michigan State and through Farm Bureau events has developed a passion for political involvement, including an itch to someday seek an elected office.

Off the farm he enjoys homebrewing, riding ATVs and snowmobiles, and exploring Michigan with his wife Morgan.


Byron Fogarasi is the fourth-generation owner of his family's centennial farm in Arenac County near Sterling, raising cash crops, hay and beef cattle with his wife Robyn and their children, Ryder and Rose. Combining childhood lessons learned from his grandparents with formal education in mechanical engineering and business administration, Fogarasi is deeply committed to ensuring future generations can embrace the farming heritage his forbears made possible for him.

A member of Arenac County Farm Bureau’s executive committee, Fogarasi is already politically active as a township supervisor, taking an active role in policymaking to maintain his community’s agricultural legacy.


Loren King comes from St. Joseph County, where he serves on the count Farm Bureau board of directors and helps his family raise corn and soybeans. Off the farm he works with digital media for an agricultural startup serving farmers with digital media technology including photography, videography and drones. 

His Farm Bureau involvement has him hooked on developing solid policy and advocating for farm-friendly legislation. In 4-H and FFA, and as an MFB policy intern, King has developed and fed his passion agricultural policymaking, and personally lobbied lawmakers in advocating for measures that benefit American farmers.


Brad Lubbers farms near Hamilton in Allegan County with his parents, wife Konni and their children Thomas and Noelle. Together they raise hogs on a 200-sow farrow-to-finish farm, in addition to 900 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat.

An active member of the Allegan County Farm Bureau, Lubbers has a deep resume of involvement in every corner of the organization, from candidate evaluation and policy development to the Young Farmer program and serving on the county board of directors, including as county president.

Allan Robinette is a fifth-generation fruit grower near Grand Rapids, and a member of the Kent County Farm Bureau. His family operates a popular agritourism destination where Allan works behind the scenes, growing apples, sweet cherries and peaches.

Robeinette’s Apple Haus includes operate a year-round farm market, cider mill, bakery and winery.

Ed Scheffler comes from a third-generation farm in northeastern Lenawee County he shares with his wife Wendy and their children Faith and Austin. A member of the Lenawee County Farm Bureau board of directors, he farms alongside his father, raising about 150 acres soybeans, 100 acres of hay and 80 acres each of wheat and oats.

By day Scheffler is Lenawee County’s deputy drain commissioner, a position that informs his volunteer work with the River Raisin Watershed Council’s farmer group promoting water-quality practices and public outreach.

At their June kickoff meeting all new Academy participants will spend time getting acquainted with each other and the program itself.

MFB President Carl Bednarski will speak to the need for farmers to be active politically.

Participants will take part in training mass-media interviewing skills, social media strategy and campaign material design.

Dist. 88 State Representative Luke Meerman, a dairy farmer from Coopersville and active Farm Bureau member, will share what he’s learned from campaigning and serving constituents.

MFB Legal Counsel Andy Kok will speak to the role of the judiciary and State Legislative Counsel Rob Anderson staff will walk participants through the process of how legislation really becomes the law of the land.

The program continues with subsequent sessions in late June and mid-August, and concludes with a mid-September session in Washington, D.C. (tentative, depending on the status of pandemic precautions there.)

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

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

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


The third class of Michigan Farm Bureau’s Academy for Political Leadership convenes for the first time later this month, beginning a pandemic-adjusted schedule that will continue through September.


Need extra hands at your district-level events this summer? Reach out to your future members: high school and college students.

Two sweet wins right off the bat: Your county Farm Bureau grows its volunteer pool (surely on your long to-do list) AND the students you involve experience our grassroots process firsthand.

For ways to utilize high school and collegiate members, check out this huge infographic below (click here to see and download a full-size version).

For help connecting with these groups, contact Katie Eisenberger, MFB’s High School & Collegiate Programs Specialist.

Need extra hands at your district-level events this summer? Reach out to your future members: high school and college students.
Inside MFB’s Farm Science Lab next school year won’t look the same with new safety protocols in place, but duty calls and the mobile classroom is eager to get its STEM game back on the road.

Don’t look now but chances are good Michigan Farm Bureau’s Farm Science Lab may very well be back on the road this fall, bringing ag-informed STEM lessons to elementary schools across the state! Sidelined like everything else by the COVID pandemic, MFB’s twin mobile classrooms are getting masked up and vaccinated with new safety protocols in preparation for the 2021-22 school year.

“Our goal is to have one lab on the road this fall, then both reactivated in the spring of 2022,” said Michelle Blodgett, who manages the labs as a function of MFB’s greater Ag in the Classroom efforts. “Right now our phone lines are open and we’re booking reservations for the fall.”

New safety measures start with slashing the lab’s normal 30-student capacity, possibly to as few as 10 kiddos per session. All students will have to sanitize upon entering and exiting the trailers, which will be thoroughly wiped down and sanitized between sessions.

The overall frequency of lab visits is also expected to decrease well below its customary pace of five to eight schools per month.

The Farm Science Labs each represent the culmination of a tremendous grassroots efforts to develop the programming and fund the construction of the mobile classrooms that’ve been a jewel in MFB’s crown since the first lab hit the road four years ago.

Praise from teachers has complimented every aspect of the Farm Science Lab experience; their comments speak for themselves:

  • What an awesome program. We need more of this available to our students.
  • My students really enjoyed the lesson and really liked the small farm they got to take home with them.
  • The educator was very professional and having a background in teaching was definitely a plus in managing our class.
  • Great presentation. Impressive lab! Students were happy and proud to take home a plant. THANK YOU!
  • It was a really neat and innovative way to bring a field trip to our school for less cost!
  • My class really enjoyed this. They came back to the classroom talking about all of the parts and how they were important. They were excited to share what they learned with each other. My group was thirsty for more. Overall it was a great experience!
  • Very well organized and I appreciated the video to show first. The teacher very effective in getting across concepts — very cheerful, very patient…
  • Our students absolutely loved the true lab experience! They were engaged and talked about it for several days. The instructor was fun and energetic! Thank you for the wonderful lessons!
  • Thank you so much for making this such a meaningful and fantastic opportunity for the students and teachers!
  • I was really impressed with the knowledge and patience that the teacher had.
  • Our instructor was super with my students! She kept their attention and had management skills to keep them on her. My students loved it!

Click here to learn more about the Farm Science Lab. School administrators can reserve the lab here.

Don’t look now but chances are good Michigan Farm Bureau’s Farm Science Lab may very well be back on the road this fall, bringing ag-informed STEM lessons to elementary schools across the state!
By Jeremy C. Nagel





2019 Volunteer of the Year Amanda Kutchey
2020 Volunteer of the Year Diane Hanson 
2015 Volunteer of the Year Kristin Kubiszak 



As an adjective used to describe Farm Bureau, grassroots is one word: your grassroots organization. As a noun synonymous with our membership itself, it’s two words: Farm Bureau’s strength comes from its grass roots.

I write it both ways all the time and it’s still confusing. I look it up a lot. But until there comes a word/term better suited for both labeling and describing Farm Bureau members, we will continue to wear…it...out.

This is National Volunteer Appreciation Week and its Farm Bureau half-sibling, County Leader Week — as good a time as any to give credit where it’s due, express gratitude and ponder how to improve. To that end Farm Gate phoned some experts: recent state-level Volunteers of the Year.

It’s a busy time of year so we didn’t get through to everyone, but those who could chat shared some very ponder-worthy thoughts on the role and value of Farm Bureau volunteers, including how to ensure their efforts are properly recognized after the fact.

It's an Attitude

Wise beyond her years, 2015 Volunteer of the Year Kristin Kubiszak (blueberries, Van Buren County) knows all outstanding volunteers share a kind of aw-shucks-it’s-nothin’ nonchalance about what they do.

“It’s an attitude,” Kubiszak said. “It’s a mindset that applies to much more than volunteering. My grandpa always told me: ‘There’s doers in this world and there’s people who don’t do, so you might as well be a doer.’”

Her timely example:

“We ordered FARM Crates and had all these deliveries to make and called around to find people to help,” Kubiszak said, but ended up leaning on board members. “We have a really good board.”

Another common quality is that great volunteers rarely expect — and often shun — recognition for their effort. Their real reward is in the work itself.

Back to the FARM Crates:

“So I delivered all these boxes to all these schools and by the end of the day it was just so fun and exciting, talking with all the school secretaries and they were all excited to take them to the classrooms,” she said. “You just felt so nice that you were going out and making a difference, reaching out to all these kids.”

When it comes to thank-yous, she said even first-timers appreciate something tangible over a paper certificate at the county annual, months after the fact.

“We started giving people food vouchers — $10 to eat at fair — and they love it,” she said. “Also we gave people t-shirts and it was like this big deal, they loved it!”

Yeah I'll Help

With first-hand insights as a grassroots member, county staffer and now a county Farm Bureau president, Amanda Kutchey (vegetables, Macomb) has stared down the volunteer experience from every angle. Even so, the 2019 Volunteer of the Year doesn’t have a magic wand and wrestles with all the same challenges as her peers across the state.

“When I was a CAM they had me calling people directly to round them up for activities,” but remembers it being like holding water in her hands. “Even for my county now, as a volunteer and county president, that’s something we can do better at.”

One effective tactic she’s found starts with being realistic about the effort involved in specific tasks, then divvying them up accordingly.

“If you leave the heavy lifting to the board and the county office — so your volunteers just get the fun stuff, so it’s not like a job per se — then it’s easier for people to volunteer.

“It does help get people more responsive to say, “Yeah I’ll help with that.”

When it comes to tangible-token recognition, Kutchey hasn’t found a $10 gift certificate any more or less effective than “the hitch pin or the gloves — although some people do love those things…

“I think truly when you get people who are passionate about the industry, they’re going to do it whether there’s recognition or not: They’re rewarded by the outcome.”

Can't be Afraid to Ask

Yoopers take pride in doing things their own way, but Diane Hanson’s recruiting approach may still surprise you. Last year’s Volunteer of the Year has found success staffing events by looking outside the box.

“Look outside your own Farm Bureau membership,” said the former Hiawathaland president. “I’ve found that for the Miracle of Life exhibit I don’t just get Farm Bureau members, I get people who’re interested in just doing that exhibit.

“They don’t have any ag background, but they’re retired” and enjoy the social component: mingling with the thousands of fair-goers who every year visit Michigan’s premier live-birthing exhibit.

But her wider-net approach isn’t limited just to the biggest event on the calendar.

“When we did the district discussion meet, the people I had helping weren’t Farm Bureau members. One was an MSU Extension person who comes to a lot of Farm Bureau things. Then I asked my neighbor from down the road and they took on the food.

“You can’t be afraid to ask somebody to help.”

Food for Thought

You can’t help but notice some themes here; each is worth a good hard think:

  1. Each has found success trying things that deviate from what we’d consider Farm Bureau convention or norms. We all love our comfortable ruts, but sometimes leaving them pays off.
  2. By a landslide, they’re mostly women. The last male Volunteer of the Year was Dave VanDyke in 2012 (dairy, Ottawa), a soft-spoken giant who avoids notice better than a shy owl.
  3. …because: Not one Farm Bureau rock star is in it for the recognition. Their reward is in the work itself, only it’s not work to them. Appreciation after the fact is important but not motivational; and practical/edible tokens win out here over ceremonial ones.

~

NOTE: Members’ names above are linked to their original Volunteer of the Year article. Each contains more Yoda-level wisdom illuminating the mysteries of volunteerism. Here are some more:

  • 2013 Volunteer of the Year Mandy Teachworth’s nominator tellingly remarked, “She doesn’t think she’s done anything special.”
  • 2014: Kathy Walicki launched Oceana County’s industry-spanning Ag Banquet and Taste of Oceana events.
  • 2016: Daniela Dryer “jumped in and kept going… I grew up with farming, it’s my life and I want to share it.”
  • 2017: Katelyn Packard said: “That’s really what drives me: I really enjoy teaching people about what I do every day.”
  • 2018: Stacey Lauwers was vital in developing MFB’s FARM Science Lab mobile classrooms.
As an adjective used to describe Farm Bureau, grassroots is one word: your grassroots organization. As a noun synonymous with our membership itself, it’s two words: Farm Bureau’s strength comes from its grass roots.
By Katie Eisenberger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also feel free to contact me with any questions!

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planting seeds. That is how we grow.

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

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

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

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

MFB staff contact: Kate Thiel517-679-5741


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

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 by clicking 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 7th.  Applicant interviews will not be required this year.  The Young Farmer Committee will select the winners at a special meeting on May 8th.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Nicole Jennings



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FFA Chapters

Collegiate Farm Bureaus

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

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

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

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

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