Farm Bureau News


Despite all the smiling selfies on Instagram and happy family photos on Facebook, behind the scenes many of us grapple with financial, emotional, mental and physical stress. These largely unseen and untold struggles can make us feel isolated — like we’re alone trying to get through the quicksand.

But you are not alone.

Farmers After Hours is a series of real, genuine conversations about real, pressing problems for real, imperfect people. Tune in for one or all of them to connect with farmers and experts as they talk candidly about mental health and farm stress.

Participation is free and totally anonymous. Your name won’t show up on an attendee report. Your photo or video won’t show up on anyone’s screen. And your questions will be posed totally anonymously. When we say anonymous, we mean it.

Register for the panel discussion on July 22 and Sept. 2 by visiting bit.ly/mifarmstress. The other sessions will be posted at 7 p.m. to the Michigan Farm Bureau Facebook page on the corresponding dates. Recordings for the entire series will be accessible after airing on MFB’s YouTube channel.

All sessions start at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays. Here’s a glance at the whole enchilada:

  • July 22 — Stress and Mental Health Farmer Panel — Ever feel like you can’t keep your head above water? That the pressure, expectations and strain of the day-to-day are wearing you out? Worried about someone you know or care about? You’re not alone. Join us for a live farmer panel, featuring Farm Bureau members Dave MumbyAbigail O'Farrell, and Matt Schwab. There will be wine, whiskey and real talk about stress, anxiety and depression as well as resources these farmers have found helpful.
  • July 29 — Positive Self-Talk — Our parents said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” But do we apply that advice when talking to ourselves? We all have an inner “voice” coaching, encouraging and judging our actions and behaviors throughout the day. Learn practical strategies from Adrienne DeSutter for making your inner voice an inspiring coach instead of an intimidating bully.
  • Aug. 5 — Meditation and Focus — Many wise leaders and scholars have wondered why naptime is phased out after kindergarten. A national naptime seems unlikely, but what if there was a quick, easy way to refresh, rejuvenate and reorient yourself throughout the day? Hello, meditation! It’s not just a hokey, yoga fad. Learn tips to improve your focus and refresh your mind from Kylie Rymanowicz of Michigan State University Extension.
  • Aug. 12 — Control and Acceptance — Nothing’s more stressful than feeling like you’re riding shotgun, not the driver, of your own life. Especially during this season of pandemic and poor prices, life has a way of reminding us we’re not always in control. Spend some time with Barb Smith, executive director of Barb Smith Suicide Resource & Response Network, as we talk through the basics of understanding and accepting what we can and can’t control.
  • Aug. 19 — An Attitude of Gratitude — What’s the fastest way out of a funk? Intentional gratitude. More than the occasional thank-you, consistently practicing gratitude can change your whole mindset. Join Sarah Zastrow, founder of Cultivate Balance, as we talk through the healthy mindset of being thankful, the release of counting blessings and the power of saying thank you to others.
  • Aug. 26 — Farm to Fitness — We cram our days with endless tasks for the farm, our family, our friends. And what most often falls off our to-do list? Physical fitness. Listen to Sarah Zastrow of Cultivate Balance as we explore steps to grow from farm to fitness and prioritize our physical and mental health. (They’re more closely connected than you might think!)
  • Sept. 2 — Ask the Experts — Join our expert panel, featured individually over the preceding month, as they candidly discuss farm stress, coping strategies and resources. You’ll realize you’re not alone. They don’t have it all figured out, but they’re here to share their experience, answer your questions and connect us with the next steps of our mental and physical health journey.

Farmers After Hours series is a special project of the Michigan Foundation for AgricultureThe Michigan Foundation for agriculture, a 501c3 formed by Michigan Farm Bureau, has a mission of positively contributing to the future of Michigan agriculture through leadership and educational programming.

Farmers After Hours is a series of real, genuine conversations about real, pressing problems for real, imperfect people. Tune in for one or all of them to connect with farmers and experts as they talk candidly about mental health and farm stress.

County Farm Bureaus statewide are adapting their usual annual-meeting routines to meet the challenging circumstances 2020 continues to pose. Innovative approaches rooted in ensuring members’ safety from coronavirus are being weighed against each other depending on what works best for each county’s members.

Various combinations of online or mail-in voting are being fit together with meal options from food trucks to drive-though ice cream socials. Outside of state executive orders in place to safeguard the wellbeing of all Michigan residents, counties are only limited by their imaginations!

Jen Marfio juggles three counties in District 7 — Mecosta, Oceana and Osceola — all of which are doing drive-through annual meetings this year. While a radical departure from the norm, she said the concept was met with enthusiasm given members’ time constraints this time of year.

“Everyone is crazy busy either chasing irrigation or harvesting,” Marfio said. “Mecosta’s was already set up and we had an option to make it drive-through if necessary. When I went to Oceana, they were all pretty stressed about planning a big event only to have it canceled.

“I told them what Mecosta was doing and they decided a drive-through at the fairgrounds was the ticket. Add a little ice cream and there’s the annual!”

Osceola soon followed suit and all three of Marfio’s counties were on straighter paths toward tying up their annuals.

“The plan is for the member to drive up and check in,” Marfio explained. “We will hand them a packet with anything that needs to be voted on, and a ballot. Upon completing their ballot they’ll receive their meal and/or ice cream, depending on the county.”

Over in the Thumb, Sherri Gottleber CAMs for both Sanilac and St. Clair.

“Sanilac is hosting an ‘open house’ format,” she said. “Folks can arrive at the county fairgrounds anytime within a three-hour window. They’ll register from their car and get their ballot — and a ticket to one of several food trucks that will be on site.”

Members will submit their completed ballots as they leave, in exchange for a prize-drawing ticket.

To the south, where COVID numbers have been on the rise, the St. Clair County Farm Bureau board is opting for an even safer electronic vote-from-home format. Mail-in ballots will also be available for members who aren’t online.

“Very different from Sanilac, but I think St. Clair’s made the right decision” to safeguard members’ health, she said.

Janelle Walworth is administrative manager for both the Hillsdale and Jackson County Farm Bureaus down in District 2. Both are sticking with in-person meetings, but working within the parameters of the state’s executive orders.

Founded in June of 1920, Hillsdale County Farm Bureau this year celebrates its centennial, so that meeting will be more about celebrating history than conducting business.

Policy resolutions are being made available ahead of time to streamline their adoption at the meeting itself. 

  

And here’s where we stand with this year’s annual-meeting schedule — alphabetical by county Farm Bureau name, omitting meetings that’ve already happened and those with dates yet to be determined:

  • ALLEGAN — Aug. 25, 6:30 p.m. at the Trestle Stop, Hamilton
  • ANTRIM — Sept. 15, 6 p.m. at Royal Farms, Ellsworth
  • ARENAC — Sept. 15, 6:30 p.m. at Pine River Golf Course, Standish
  • BARRY — Aug. 17, 5:30 p.m. at Charlton Park, Hastings
  • BAY — Aug. 17, 6 p.m. at Auburn City Park, Auburn
  • BENZIE-MANISTEE — Sept. 20, 3 p.m.; location TBD
  • BERRIEN — date TBD; mail-in ballots
  • BRANCH — Sept. 21, 6 p.m. at Branch County Fairgrounds, Coldwater
  • CALHOUN — Sept. 15, 6 p.m. at Marshall United Methodist Church, Marshall
  • CASS — Sept. 15, 6 p.m. at Burger Farm, Niles
  • CHARLEVOIX — Sept. 19, 6 p.m. at Boyne City Administration Building, Boyne City
  • CHEBOYGAN — Sept. 10, 6 p.m. at Beaugrand Township Hall, Cheboygan
  • CHIPPEWA — Sept. 24, 7 p.m. at Tanglewood Marsh Golf Course, Sault Sainte Marie
  • CLARE — Sept. 3, 5 p.m. at Fitzpatrick Farms, Beaverton
  • CLINTON — Sept. 24, 4 p.m. at the AgroLiquid parking lot (tentative), St. Johns
  • COPPER COUNTRY — Sept. 15, 5:30 p.m. at Chassell Fire Hall, Chassell
  • EATON — Oct. 10, 4 p.m. at Kardell Hall, Eaton County Fairgrounds, Charlotte
  • EMMET — Sept. 17, 6 p.m. at LTBB Government Center, Harbor Springs
  • GENESEE — Sept. 16; location TBD
  • GRATIOT-ISABELLA-MIDLAND — Aug. 10, 5 p.m. at Eastman’s Forgotten Ciders, Wheeler
  • HIAWATHALAND — Oct. 26; location TBD
  • HILLSDALE — Aug. 29 at Hillsdale County Fairgrounds Grange Building, Hillsdale
  • HURON — Aug. 19, 5 p.m. at Huron County Fairgrounds, Bad Axe
  • HURON SHORES — Oct. 5, 6 p.m. at Ossineke Township Hall, Hubbard Lake
  • INGHAM — Sept. 9, 6:30 p.m.; mail-in ballots                                     
  • IONIA — Sept. 9, 6 p.m. at Shadow Ridge Golf Course, Ionia
  • IOSCO — Oct. 14, 6 p.m. at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Hale
  • IRON RANGE — Oct. 20, 6 p.m. at Sagola Community Building, Sagola
  • JACKSON — Sept. 19 at Thorne Farms, Hanover
  • KALAMAZOO — Aug. 20, at Prairie Baptist Church, Scotts
  • KENT — Sept. 17, 6:30 p.m. at FireRock Grill, Caledonia
  • LAPEER — Sept. 12, 5 p.m. at the Lapeer County Farm Bureau office, Lapeer
  • LENAWEE — Aug. 21, 6:30 p.m. at Carpenter Farms, Adrian
  • LIVINGSTON — Sept. 9, 6 p.m. at Fowlerville Family Fairgrounds, Fowlerville
  • MAC-LUCE-SCHOOLCRAFT — Oct. 8, 6 p.m. at Garfield Township Hall, Engadine
  • MACOMB — Sept. 15, 6 p.m. at Blake’s Orchard, Armada
  • MASON — Sept. 16, 6:30 p.m. at Farm View Resort, Free Soil
  • MECOSTA-MONTCALM — Aug. 23, 5:30 p.m. at Hearty Harvest, Remus
  • MENOMINEE — Oct. 13, 6:30 p.m. at Belgiumtown Restaurant, Stephenson
  • MISSAUKEE — Sept. 11, 5 p.m. at Missaukee Lake Park, Lake City
  • MONROE — Sept. 17, 5:30 p.m. at Old Mill Banquet Hall, Dundee
  • MUSKEGON — Aug. 11, 5:30 p.m. at Muskegon Farmer’s Market, Muskegon
  • NEWAYGO — date & location TBD
  • NORTHWEST MICH. — Sept. 18, 6 p.m.; location TBD                         
  • OAKLAND — Sept. 16, 6 p.m. at Springfield Oaks Park, Davisburg
  • OCEANA — Sept. 15, 5:30 p.m. at Oceana County Fairgrounds, Hart
  • OGEMAW — Sept. 8, 6:30 p.m. at Horton Township Hall, West Branch
  • OSCEOLA — Sept. 23, 6:30 p.m. at Osceola County 4H Fairgrounds, Evart
  • OTSEGO — Oct. 4, 2 p.m. at Livingston Township Hall, Gaylord
  • OTTAWA — Sept. 17, 5:30 p.m. at Second Church, Allendale
  • PRESQUE ISLE — Aug. 24, 6 p.m. at The Pavilion at Elowsky Mill, Posen
  • SAGINAW — Aug. 27, 7 p.m.; conference call                                     
  • SANILAC — Aug. 21, 5:30 p.m. at Sanilac County Fairgrounds, Sandusky
  • SHIAWASSEE — Sept. 15, 9 a.m.; mail-in ballots                                 
  • ST. CLAIR — date TBD; mail-in ballots                                                 
  • ST. JOSEPH — Aug. 25, 6:30 p.m.; Evergreen Ranch, Burr Oak
  • TUSCOLA — Aug. 20, 5:30 p.m.; Midway Hall at Tuscola County Fairgrounds, Caro
  • VAN BUREN — Oct. 26, 6 p.m.; location TBD                                      
  • WASHTENAW — Sept. 21, 5 p.m. at Weber’s Inn, Ann Arbor
  • WAYNE — Aug. 26, 6:30 p.m. at Wayne County Fairgrounds, Belleville
  • WEXFORD — Oct. 13, 7 p.m.; “tele-town hall”
County Farm Bureaus statewide are adapting their usual annual-meeting routines to meet the challenging circumstances 2020 continues to pose. Innovative approaches rooted in ensuring members’ safety from coronavirus are being weighed against each othe

Young Farmer Discussion Meets originally scheduled for earlier this year resume this month, with Farm Bureau members ages 18-35 engaging in civil discourse on key agricultural topics of the day.

Discussion meets are meant to simulate committee meetings, with conversation and active participation expected of all participants. The competition is evaluated on the exchange of ideas and information on a pre-determined topic. Participants build discussion skills, deepen their understanding of important ag-industry issues and explore how groups can pool their knowledge, reach consensus and solve problems.

They’re also a great way to meet other Young Farmers, and spectators are always welcome.  

Contestants must be Farm Bureau members age 18-35. Visit www.michfb.com/YFDiscussionMeet for the topics and more information. In the meantime, here’s the schedule:

  • District 1 — July 25 at Weinberg Farms in Scotts; contact Sarah Pion, 269-377-4841
  • District 2 — July 23 at River Dell Venue in Homer; contact Paul Pridgeon, 517-320-4444 
  • District 3 — July 18 at Horning Farms in Manchester; contact Hannah Meyers, 616-485-4469
  • District 4 & 7 Discussion Meet & Golf Outing — Aug. 1 at Waters Edge Golf Course in Fremont; contact Adam Dietrich, 616-889-1857
  • District 5 — late August/September, location TBD; contact Hannah Lange, 231-383-3131 
  • District 6 & 8 Discussion Meet & Golf Outing — Aug. 4 at Willow Springs Golf and Country Club in Vassar; contacts: Beth Rupprecht, 989-640-6913 (Dist. 6) or Becca Gulliver, 989-708-1082 (Dist. 8)
  • District 9 — July 18 at Harrietta United Methodist Church; contact Nicole Jennings, 810-569-9610
  • District 10 — Sept. 16, 6:30 p.m., location TBD; contact Sonya Novotny, 248-420-2340
  • District 11 — late August, location TBD; contact Cole Iaquinto, 810-422-7322
  • District 12 — Sept. 1 at Hanson Potato Farm, Cornell; contact Craig Knudson, 231-357-3864

High-school students with an affinity for agriculture can also showcase their knowledge and speaking skills in our Youth Discussion Meets, taking place this fall:

  • Nov. 19 — Vicksburg High School (FFA Region I)
  • Nov. 11 — Lenawee ISD (FFA Region II)
  • Nov. 12 — Delta College (FFA Region III)
  • Oct. 3 — Corunna High School (FFA Region IV)
  • Nov. 11 — Ravenna High School (FFA Region V)
  • Nov. 19 — Bay Arenac ISD (FFA Region VI)

For more information or to help out, contact Katie Eisenberger.

Young Farmer Discussion Meets originally scheduled for earlier this year resume this month, with Farm Bureau members ages 18-35 engaging in civil discourse on key agricultural topics of the day.

In late May, Michigan Farm Bureau, alongside a coalition of commodity organizations and more than 120 farms, took historic action to challenge the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy’s permit regulating the state’s large livestock farms by filing an administrative appeal with the Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules.

The undertaking has strong roots in your member-developed policy that – in many instances – conveys support for common sense and science-based regulation while admonishing regulations that are unfounded or overly burdensome. Your policy also carries messages that emphasize a need to balance environmental protection with economic realities. This balance is what ensures farms remain in business and that our natural resources are well cared for.

As county Farm Bureau members, you first demonstrated a grassroots response to the large livestock permit in December 2019 when the draft was published by the department. More than 800 farmers, and many commodity organizations, voiced their opposition by communicating the economic devastation the permit would have on Michigan agriculture because of its far-reaching impacts.

You responded, I believe, because you recognize that extending these regulations beyond livestock producers to the crop farmers that utilize their manure nutrients – among other ill-conceived provisions – sets a dangerous precedent for broader, future industry regulation that’s not based in science.

Michigan Farm Bureau isn’t giving up and we know you won’t either. The Michigan Milk Producers Association, Michigan Pork Producers Association, Michigan Allied Poultry Industries, Dairy Farmers of America, Select Milk Producers, Foremost Farms and more than 120 individual permit holding farmers have united in this process to challenge the provisions with the goal of striking them from the general permit.

Through Michigan Farm Bureau, the coalition hosted two media roundtables on June 3 to proactively provide an opportunity for select media to speak with issue experts, including permitted farmers, to better understand large livestock farms and the impact the permit has on the agriculture sector.

We encourage you to utilize the resources below on the issue and share them with fellow Farm Bureau members. You can also continue following Michigan Farm Bureau publications for updates, as the administrative challenge process can go on for months.

Questions related to the legal aspects of the challenge can be directed to Allison Eicher at 517-679-5315 while questions related to the technical aspects of the permit can be directed to Laura Campbell at 517-679-5332.

In late May, Michigan Farm Bureau, alongside a coalition of commodity organizations and more than 120 farms, took historic action to challenge the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy’s permit regulating the state’s large livest

Submit your Farm Bureau policy idea and be entered to win a LG TONE PRO HBS-780 Wireless Stereo Headset. 

Michigan Farm Bureau’s policy development process is time-tested and successful. It thrives on consistent and quality input from county Farm Bureau members like you.

You don’t have to join a committee, attend an event or even do extensive research to offer your input. Any member can weigh in on the more than 100 policies that guide Michigan Farm Bureau’s work to represent, protect and enhance the agriculture sector.

We’re looking to capture your ideas, whether they’re based on challenges you’ve experienced locally or statewide opportunities you see for the agriculture sector.

We're rolling out some prizes too: We'll be giving away a LG TONE PRO wireless stereo headset every two weeks through the end of July. 

All you have to do is take a few minutes and share your ideas for policy development via the electronic submission option.

To help members get discussion and ideas flowing, we’ve prepared briefs on emerging issues impacting the agriculture sector. Topics include:

Looking to learn more on how to engage in policy development? Contact your county Farm Bureau.

Submit your Farm Bureau policy idea and be entered to win a LG TONE PRO HBS-780 Wireless Stereo Headset.
Megan Sprague & Amelia Miller


Function over form: Online meetings can be clunky, but they get the job done keeping people on task and in the good company of friendly faces. 

COVID-19 brought a whole new set of frustrations to the farming community, with in-person gatherings put on hold across Michigan. Even so, Farm Bureau members have found ways to connect virtually, sharing information, conducting business and checking in on friends and neighbors.

Young Farmers at the county, district and state level have been using video conferencing tools to update each other on topical industry issues and more light-hearted topics like new animal additions and quarantine hobbies.

Bridget Moore, District 7 representative on the state Young Farmer committee, brought county chairs together virtually via Zoom.

“Normally it’s important and enjoyable to talk with fellow farmers and friends, but during COVID it’s made us realize our farming friends and Young Farmer programs have become even more important to us,” she said. “Sharing what is positive in our lives has kept us uplifted and trending toward a summer of hope.”

The state committee’s District 9 representative, Jeff Dreves, has met remotely with his county chairs as well.

“Meeting virtually and being able to actually see people’s faces is a really interesting way for us to stay connected through this,” he said. “This truly shows us how strong we are as an organization, going to any lengths to discuss hot-button issues and see how everyone is doing.”

Promotion and Education volunteers are also taking advantage of virtual meetings. Several districts have hosted chair gatherings online to commiserate in the cancelation of spring events, to brainstorm virtual engagement opportunities for connecting with students and teachers, and to support each other as spring farming rolls along.

Counties have created videos for teachers whose students were unable to attend an in-person Project RED this spring. Teachers used these videos as a part of their virtual teaching. Other counties have delivered snacks to healthcare workers or shared agricultural information on Facebook to connect with their community.

Participants on District 3’s P&E chair call agreed a virtual meeting was in some ways easier than meeting in person: nobody had to drive, it took almost exactly an hour, and the planning was minimal. In an unsettling time, even meeting online provides some normalcy and the comfort of seeing familiar faces.

If you’re interested in hosting a virtual Young Farmer or Promotion & Education meeting, reach out to your MFB Regional Manager or your district’s representative on the state Young Farmer or Promotion & Education committees.

Megan Sprague and Amelia Miller manage MFB’s Young Farmer and Promotion & Education programs, respectively.

Young Farmers at the county, district and state level have been using video conferencing tools to update each other on topical industry issues and more light-hearted topics like new animal additions and quarantine hobbies.

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

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

Champions of Excellence

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

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

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

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

Applications are due July 1.

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

Presidential Volunteer of the Year

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

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

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

Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Some ideas:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medicare made easy

You’re turning 65 in a few months. Your mailbox starts filling up with advertisements about Medicare supplements, Medicare drug coverage, and Medicare Advantage plans. Your phone is suddenly ringing off the hook with solicitors who want to sell you new health insurance products. You haven’t entered the Twilight Zone … you’re just becoming eligible for Medicare.

But what is Medicare, you may ask. How do I get it? What does it cover? And do I need additional coverage to go with it? All valid questions.

What is Medicare?
Medicare is a federal health insurance program primarily for people age 65 and older, but it also covers people under the age of 65 with certain medical disabilities or diseases.

You’re automatically eligible for Medicare at age 65 if:
You are a U.S. citizen or a permanent legal resident who has lived in the United States for at least five years; and
        You or your spouse has worked long enough to be eligible for Social Security benefits – usually having earned 40 credits from about 10 years of work – even if you are not yet receiving these benefits.

How do I enroll in Medicare?
If you’re already drawing your Social Security benefits, you’ll automatically get Medicare Part A and Part B starting the first day of the month you turn 65. (If your birthday is on the first day of the month, Part A and Part B will start the first day of the prior month.) Medicare Part A is hospital insurance (facility charges) and Part B is medical insurance (covers the people who provide your care).

You’ll receive your Medicare ID card in the mail three months prior to your 65th birthday. If you do nothing, you’ll keep Part B and will have to pay Part B premiums. You can choose not to keep Part B, but if you decide you want Part B later, you may have to wait to enroll and pay a penalty for as long as you have Part B.

If you aren’t getting benefits from Social Security at least four months before you turn 65, it’s your responsibility to sign up for Medicare Part A and/or B by contacting Social Security. You have seven months to enroll in Medicare, starting 3 months prior to your 65th birthday month and ending 3 months after your birthday month. But it’s best to sign up well before your birthday month to avoid delays in coverage.

To enroll in Medicare:
        Apply online at https://SSA.gov/benefits/medicare
        Visit your local Social Security office, or
        Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.

Should I get Part B?
If you or your spouse is still working and you have health coverage through that employer or union, contact your employer or union benefits administrator to find out how your coverage works with Medicare. As a general rule of thumb, if the employer group health plan covers 20 or more employees, you may be able to delay taking Part B – with no penalty – until the employee retires. The employer group health plan will remain your primary insurance and Medicare Part A will be your secondary insurance. If the employer group health plan covers less than 20 employees, you’ll probably need to take Part B when you’re first eligible for it to avoid lapses in coverage and late enrollment penalties. In this case, Medicare will be your primary insurance, and the employer group health plan will be your secondary insurance.

What does Medicare cover?
Medicare Part A
Medicare Part A is hospital insurance that helps covers the facility charges when you are in a hospital or skilled nursing facility, as well as covers most of the cost for hospice care and home health care. As long as you or your spouse has worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 40 quarters, you won’t pay a premium for Part A.

If you’re admitted to a hospital or skilled nursing facility, you’ll be responsible for paying a deductible of $1,408 for each hospital benefit period in 2020. Generally, a hospital benefit period starts the day you are admitted to the hospital and ends after you’ve been out of the hospital for 60 continuous days. Once you’ve paid your Part A deductible, you pay $0 for days 1-60 of a hospital benefit period. However, if you’re in the hospital for an extended period of time, you would pay $352 per day for days 61-90. For days 91 and beyond, you would pay $704 per each “lifetime reserve day” you use to extend a hospital benefit period. You are allotted 60 lifetime reserve days over your lifetime. After your lifetime reserve days are used up, you would pay all costs for days 91 and beyond of an extended hospital stay.

Please note: These deductible and copay amounts may be adjusted each year.

Medicare Part B
Medicare Part B is medical insurance that helps pay for the people (doctors and nurses) who provide your care, diagnostic tests, ambulance, outpatient services, preventive services, and more. The standard Part B premium amount is $144.60 per month (or higher, depending on your income).

You’ll pay an annual Part B deductible of $198 in 2020. After your deductible is met, you typically pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for most doctor services (including most doctor services while you’re a hospital inpatient), outpatient therapy, and durable medical equipment.

Do I need additional coverage to go with Medicare?
Medicare doesn’t cover everything. For example, Medicare Parts A and B don’t cover most prescription drugs, dental care, routine vision care and eyeglasses, hearing aids, or long-term care in a nursing home. And Medicare’s deductibles and copays can add up rather quickly if you need surgery or have a medical emergency. So most people choose to add other coverage to their Medicare Part A and Part B benefits.

You have two paths to choose from when adding onto your Medicare benefits. You choose to add Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage and a Medicare Supplemental insurance policy, or you can choose a Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) plan.

Medicare Part D
Medicare Part D is prescription drug coverage that you can purchase from a private insurance company that contracts with Medicare. You can buy Part D as a stand-alone prescription drug plan or as part of a Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) health plan. Part D monthly premiums vary by plan.

        If your income is above a certain limit, you’ll pay an income-related monthly adjustment amount in addition to your plan premium.
        If your income is below a certain amount, you may qualify for the Extra Help program that helps pay your Part D premiums and lowers your drug copays.

If you don’t enroll in Medicare Part D when you are first eligible, and you don’t have other prescription drug coverage, you may pay a late enrollment penalty when you do enroll in Part D.

You get an initial enrollment period to join a Medicare Part D plan that is seven months long and begins three months prior to your 65th birthday month. You also get an Annual Enrollment Period from October 15 – December 7 each year when you can switch plans for the upcoming calendar year.

Medicare Supplemental Insurance (Medigap)
Medicare Supplemental insurance, also known as Medigap, can be purchased from private insurance companies to help fill the “gaps” in Medicare. There are 10 standard Medigap plans. Medigap plans named with the same letter have identical benefits regardless which company offers it. Medigap plans help pay some or all of Medicare’s deductibles and copays for you, as well as extending your hospital coverage by an additional 365 days.

You get one Medigap Open Enrollment Period in your lifetime. This enrollment period starts on the first day of the month in which you are both age 65 or older and enrolled in Medicare Part B and lasts for 6 months. During your Medigap Open Enrollment Period, you can join any Medigap plan available in your area with no health questions asked. After your Medigap Open Enrollment Period expires, you can still apply for a Medigap plan at any time, but the insurance company is not obligated to accept you, and if they do, they can charge you a higher premium based on your health status.

Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage plans)
A Medicare Advantage plan (like an HMO or PPO) is another way to get your Medicare coverage. Medicare Advantage plans, sometimes called Part C, are offered by Medicare-approved private companies that must follow rules set by Medicare. If you join a Medicare Advantage plan, you’ll still have Medicare, but you’ll get your Medicare Part A and Part B coverage from the Medicare Advantage plan, not Original Medicare. In most cases, you’ll need to use health care providers who participate in the plan’s network.

In addition to covering your Medicare Part A and Part B benefits, most Medicare Advantage plans also provide your Part D prescription drug coverage. And they may include extra benefits as well, such as dental, vision, hearing aids, and free gym memberships.

You get an initial enrollment period to join a Medicare Advantage plan that is seven months long and begins three months prior to your 65th birthday month. You also get an Annual Enrollment Period from October 15 – December 7 each year when you can switch plans for the upcoming calendar year. If you join a Medicare Advantage plan, you don’t need a Medigap plan.

Need help making a decision? Give me a call at 989-684-2772. My office hours are 9am-5pm, Monday – Friday.
Medicare Made Easy If you are turning 65 and have questions about your Medicare options...
Michigan Farm Bureau

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

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

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

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

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

Video ideas

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

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

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

Resources for future activities

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

e-Learning with Ag in the Classroom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gold Chapters IthacaMontague and North Huron each received $800.

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

Bronze chapters receiving $300 were Breckenridge and Webberville.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“2,500 left at this point.”

“1,000 left.”

“500 left.”

“250 left.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So: We. Are. STRESSED!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Farm stress resources

 

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

Chelsea Luedtke speaks during a district discussion meet in Antrim County

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tours 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sessions 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tyler and Hannah Shepherd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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