Lapeer County Farm Bureau News

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

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.

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