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County News


Got-Tires_2020
Pictured is Joanmarie Weiss, a Saginaw County Farm Bureau member and project chair of a recent farm tire recycling drive.

AUSTIN, Texas – A tire here, a tire there.

Joanmarie Weiss, a Saginaw County Farm Bureau member and project chair of a recent farm tire recycling drive, identified a need in her community, one that involved collecting and disposing of 100-pound tires while mitigating the spread of mosquitos and rats living there.

Over two days in March 2019, Saginaw County and Genesee County Farm Bureaus collected more than 860 tires. In doing this, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) presented the Farm Bureaus with County Activities of Excellence Awards, which honor the top county Farm Bureau activities in the nation.

“Farmers have leftover tires they'd like to get rid of, so we started working on finding a place that would accept them,” Weiss told Michigan Farm News in Austin, Texas, during AFBF’s Annual Convention and Trade Show, Jan. 17-22. The Farm Bureaus selected Linwood Tire Recycling of Detroit.

“We were very concerned about being able to control mosquitoes, rats on farms, weed infestations and just in general … that the farm looks better.”

According to Weiss, the Farm Bureaus received about $8,000 through various grants and four trailers to haul the tires. Initially, Linwood Tire suggested farmers could probably only collect 100 tires in each of the 53-foot trailers.

But then about 55 to 56 farms contributed to the donation.

“We managed to get about 250 tires into each of the trailers,” Weiss said. “We say we had about 100 volunteers because each and every time that a farm brought their tires they were told to … be a volunteer for 15 minutes. They had to help us unload their tires and put them in the box.”

It’s efforts from communities like Saginaw and Genesee that show Farm Bureau members’ passion for recycling tires and plastics, said Tess Van Gorder, associate policy and regulatory specialist for Michigan Farm Bureau.

“We’ve seen that opportunities for recycling across the state are inconsistent,” Van Gorder said. “This leads to innovative thinking and program creation by members to help serve the needs of their communities.”

Even though Michigan suspended tire grant funding for 2020, Weiss said she’d like to do the drive again in 2020.

“We'll have to think of ways to get the grant money or how much can we charge a farmer to get rid of them,” she said. “Another response we got when people brought their tires: ‘You need to be looking for a way for me to get rid of my pesticides that I can't use on my farms.’ So, that's a new need that we've identified.

“Both of these needs are member-service driven, and … a big part of Farm Bureau is what can we do for our members.”

To learn more about the drive or to become a sponsor, contact Weiss at [email protected] or the Saginaw County Farm Bureau. Look for the video interview with Weiss in the coming days.

Joanmarie Weiss, a Saginaw County Farm Bureau member and project chair of a recent farm tire recycling drive.

Michigan Farm Bureau is bringing a bit of D.C. to Lansing for members attending the organization’s Feb. 25 Lansing Legislative Seminar. Attendees will have a rare opportunity to hear from a special guest within the Trump administration. Members interested in participating should contact their county Farm Bureau as soon as possible, before the fast-approaching Feb. 7 registration deadline.

The grassroots lobbying event promises an exciting day for members passionate about advocating for agriculture and Farm Bureau policy and learning about state legislative and regulatory issues.

Registration will be open throughout the morning with the main program beginning promptly at 11:30 a.m. at the Lansing Center. All attendees should plan to arrive by 11 a.m. Members looking to arrive even earlier to the capital city have options for starting their day.

State Capitol Building Tours 

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

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

AgriPac Fundraiser 

MFB’s political action committee, AgriPac, will host a fundraiser starting at 10:15 a.m. Feb. 25.

“This is a good opportunity for members to impact the 2020 election,” said Matt Kapp, MFB’s government relations specialist. “Donating to AgriPac helps MFB get the right ag voice to represent Michigan commodities.”

A minimum $50 donation is required to attend the talk by political speaker and journalist Patrick Haggerty, who will share his insight into the 2020 election. A 30-year veteran of political journalism, Haggerty will detail his analysis of the election process, assess political candidates and tout the impact of grassroots advocacy.

Voters will face a full ballot in November, including the presidency, a U.S. Senate seat, all of Michigan’s 14 U.S. House districts, all 110 state house districts, and county and township offices.

Informed by MFB’s grassroots candidate evaluation committees, AgriPac’s Friend of Agriculture endorsements represent Michigan farmers’ collective will in the political arena.

Fundraiser attendees can make a $50 donation via check or credit card; cash contributions will not be accepted. Register here. Personal checks should be made out to AgriPac; business checks to FarmPac.

Luncheon Program 

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

The organization will host the state’s four most influential legislative leaders for a panel discussion: House Speaker Lee Chatfield (confirmed), Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (confirmed), House Minority Leader Christine Greig (invited) and Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (confirmed).

Following the panel, the special guest from the Trump administration will take the stage to address the group.

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

Issue Sessions & Networking Break 

That afternoon, members will choose breakout sessions to attend before and after a networking break, featuring everyone’s favorite snack, ice cream from the MSU Dairy Store!

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

Legislative Reception 

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

Michigan Farm Bureau is bringing a bit of D.C. to Lansing for members attending the organization’s Feb. 25 Lansing Legislative Seminar. Attendees will have a rare opportunity to hear from a special guest within the Trump administration.
By Megan Sprague

No farmer wants to ring in a New Year still worried about last year’s crop. Unfavorable weather and trade disruptions made 2019 a challenging year for farmers across Michigan, most of whom are hoping for a smoother 2020 after the ball drops in Times Square.

A member of the St. Joseph County Farm Bureau, Rich Baker raises seed corn, soybeans and swine near Sturgis. He said 2019 was his most challenging year to date.

“We fought mud all spring, drought mid-summer and mud all fall,” he said. “Everything took twice as long to do the same task.”

Ashley Messing Kennedy’s troubling year began at the end of 2018. The Huron County dairy farmer started 2019 battling her own postpartum depression and anxiety while grieving over a close friend and farm employee who died of suicide.

At first Kennedy coped by staying busy, fixing farm problems on her own and rarely asking for help. But six months later, she knew something wasn’t right.

“I realized I wasn’t okay,” Kennedy said. “I was sick to my stomach and not wanting to eat. I didn’t feel like being social, preferring to stay home and avoid people.

“For me — an extrovert — that was a big warning sign. I’ve always loved being around others.”

She arrived at that conclusion on her own, even though family members, especially her husband, had gently mentioned that she wasn’t seeming like herself.

“Even if you don’t say the perfect thing, it’s important that you still try to reach out when you see someone struggling.”

According to Michigan State University Extension, signs of stress differ, but some things to look for include:

  • Emotional changes — showing little enthusiasm or energy, anxiety, loss of spirit, depression or loss of humor
  • Changes in attitudes — becoming more critical or agitated over small things, lacking concentration, or having trouble making decisions
  • Behavioral changes — quieter than usual, trouble sleeping, missing social events or important meetings
  • Changes on the farm — increased accidents or declining care given to livestock, machinery, fields or even peers

It’s one thing for farmers to identify stress in themselves and others, but once recognized, action is then vital for managing stress before it’s beyond control.

Find Your Community

Baker manages his on-farm stress through a small community of peers he knows he can call on, even if he just needs to vent.

Some in his network have just been through more seasons than he’s seen, and help by sharing how they’ve weathered similar storms in the past. They offer support and help him identify stress in other farmers, getting his group together to take them out to lunch and work through whatever issues are keeping them up at night.

For Kennedy, having a community that understands you is huge. Just knowing you aren’t in it alone relieves a good deal of stress.

Find Your Joy

“One strategy for anyone struggling with stress is to find something that brings you joy — outside the farm,” Kennedy said.

For her, that’s her Saturday morning running group.

“Running’s been a game-changer for me. It’s so important to interact with people, face-to-face, that you don’t normally engage with. Whatever that is for you, do it — take time to get off the farm and walk away for a while. It will be there tomorrow.”

Let Pros be Pros

Baker’s stress-management tactic of choice is talking with others.

“You can’t just bottle things up,” he said. “If you don’t have a built-in network of farmers, go talk to a professional. In some cases that may be even more beneficial because their opinions may be more impartial.”

For Kennedy, seeing her doctor was crucial to moving forward.

“Even though I’ve always been a huge proponent of mental health, it’s easy to give advice and not take it,” she said. “Talking to my doctor about what was going on was tough — one of the hardest things I’ve ever done — but also one of the best.”

Kennedy said one of the important benefits of working with a professional is they listen and offer strategies without judgement.

“Talking to someone you don’t know well may seem overwhelming, but we often forget professionals have the training to give you the next step,” she said. “Giving them a chance to do their job is really valuable and, while it may not be comfortable, it’s worth it.”

Seek Resources

Providing Young Farmers with stress-management resources was a priority for members of MFB’s State Young Farmer Committee in planning the upcoming 2020 Young Farmers Leaders Conference, Feb. 21-23 near Traverse City.

On site all day Saturday at the event will be Barb Smith — a resource for anyone who wants to talk. Executive director of the Barb Smith Suicide Resource & Response Network, she will also present a breakout session about recognizing the potential warning signs of suicide. (More information about the workshop is available online. Register with your county Farm Bureau before Jan. 17 to attend.)

Kennedy recommends farmers seek out local resources as well.

“Even if you don’t use them yourself, you can share them with someone who might need them,” she said.

“As we move into the New Year, it’s important to resolve to prioritize your health, and direct other farmers who are struggling to people who can help them and recognize this is something everyone will face,” Kennedy said.

“That’s the thing about mental health: so often we just act like everything’s okay, but for most people, it’s not, and we need to embrace that it’s okay to get help.”

More resources are available through MSU Extension’s Managing Farm Stress program.

Megan Sprague is Michigan Farm Bureau’s new Young Farmer Programs Specialist.

No farmer wants to ring in a New Year still worried about last year’s crop. Unfavorable weather and trade disruptions made 2019 a challenging year for farmers across Michigan, most of whom are hoping for a smoother 2020 after the ball drops in Times

State News


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

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

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

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

District 5

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

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

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

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

District 12

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

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

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

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

District 10

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~

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

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

~ ~ ~

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

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

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

~ ~ ~

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

~ ~ ~

District Meetings

District 1

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

District 2

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

District 3

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

District 4

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

District 5

District 6

District 7

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

District 8

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

District 9

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

District 10

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

District 11

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

District 12

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

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

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

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

District 1: Berrien

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

District 4: Barry

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

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

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

District 2: Calhoun

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~

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

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

Coming Events

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