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Top Story

Andrew Vermeesch, Michigan Farm Bureau

Michigan Farm Bureau wants to increase the number of farmers serving in government 20% by 2022. This is part of a series of articles aimed at informing Farm Bureau members about elected and appointed positions that offer opportunities for representing agriculture in government.

Michigan agriculture relies on a strong transportation system to get products to and from market. Whether by truck, rail, plane or boat, each mode of transportation plays a part keeping Michigan farmers moving forward. But out of all the vital infrastructure agriculture needs, nothing compares to the importance of our local roads. This should come as no surprise because almost all products, whether coming or going, starts or ends on a county road leading to the farm.

Locally driven is the key principle behind managing Michigan’s local road network. Our Road Commission Act of 1909 established county-level boards empowered with local control over roads while also allowing for regional collaboration.

County road commissions are responsible for ensuring safe and efficient transportation for goods and people over local roads and bridges within their jurisdiction. They’re composed of three to five members who are either appointed by the county board of commissioners or elected by voters. Road commissioners are usually paid a per-meeting stipend and serve six-year terms, staggered so not all them are up for election or appointment at the same time.

Farmers are great candidates for road commission service because of their on-farm skills and practical experience in areas such as long-term planning and cost-effective equipment maintenance.

Ogemaw County dairy farmer Klint Marshall milks cows near Lupton and knows firsthand the importance of agriculture’s involvement, being two years into his first term on the Ogemaw Road Commission.

“Agriculture is a small part of the overall population, but in our area farming is very prevalent — primarily dairy. It’s important that the industry is part of the dialogue and that agriculture is represented,” he said. “Revenue generated by farming recirculates four to six times in the community before it leaves, whether that’s through paychecks to farm employees or for parts at the local parts store. Being on the road commission allows me to bring that knowledge to other road commissioners.”

As a dairy farmer, Marshall understands the urgency of certain projects and incorporates agriculture’s unique brand of common sense to road commission decisions.

“For example, grading a road is much like doing field work,” he said. “Just like there’s a right time to do tillage work, there’s a right time to grade a road. Too dry and the grader just creates dust; too wet and the road becomes mud. Having the right moisture in the ground, just like field work, makes a big difference.”

While managing financial operations is a foremost responsibility of road commissions, equally important is maintaining strong relationships with townships and other local communities, especially when it comes to road maintenance and improvements.

“Everything starts at the local level and it’s important to have good working relationships with townships so they can provide input and help in the decision-making process,” Marshall said. “Good relationships help alleviate issues as they come up with other farmers, whether it’s mud and debris coming off farm equipment or drainage issues from a road that impacts a farmer’s field.”

Farmers need local roads. Shouldn’t they be involved in decisions about maintaining and improving local roads and bridges? Serving on your county road commission is your opportunity to do just that.

Michigan Farm Bureau wants to increase the number of farmers serving in government 20% by 2022.

County News

Andrew Vermeesch, Michigan Farm Bureau

Michigan Farm Bureau wants to increase the number of farmers serving in government 20% by 2022. This is part of a series of articles aimed at informing Farm Bureau members about elected and appointed positions that offer opportunities for representing agriculture in government.

Michigan agriculture relies on a strong transportation system to get products to and from market. Whether by truck, rail, plane or boat, each mode of transportation plays a part keeping Michigan farmers moving forward. But out of all the vital infrastructure agriculture needs, nothing compares to the importance of our local roads. This should come as no surprise because almost all products, whether coming or going, starts or ends on a county road leading to the farm.

Locally driven is the key principle behind managing Michigan’s local road network. Our Road Commission Act of 1909 established county-level boards empowered with local control over roads while also allowing for regional collaboration.

County road commissions are responsible for ensuring safe and efficient transportation for goods and people over local roads and bridges within their jurisdiction. They’re composed of three to five members who are either appointed by the county board of commissioners or elected by voters. Road commissioners are usually paid a per-meeting stipend and serve six-year terms, staggered so not all them are up for election or appointment at the same time.

Farmers are great candidates for road commission service because of their on-farm skills and practical experience in areas such as long-term planning and cost-effective equipment maintenance.

Ogemaw County dairy farmer Klint Marshall milks cows near Lupton and knows firsthand the importance of agriculture’s involvement, being two years into his first term on the Ogemaw Road Commission.

“Agriculture is a small part of the overall population, but in our area farming is very prevalent — primarily dairy. It’s important that the industry is part of the dialogue and that agriculture is represented,” he said. “Revenue generated by farming recirculates four to six times in the community before it leaves, whether that’s through paychecks to farm employees or for parts at the local parts store. Being on the road commission allows me to bring that knowledge to other road commissioners.”

As a dairy farmer, Marshall understands the urgency of certain projects and incorporates agriculture’s unique brand of common sense to road commission decisions.

“For example, grading a road is much like doing field work,” he said. “Just like there’s a right time to do tillage work, there’s a right time to grade a road. Too dry and the grader just creates dust; too wet and the road becomes mud. Having the right moisture in the ground, just like field work, makes a big difference.”

While managing financial operations is a foremost responsibility of road commissions, equally important is maintaining strong relationships with townships and other local communities, especially when it comes to road maintenance and improvements.

“Everything starts at the local level and it’s important to have good working relationships with townships so they can provide input and help in the decision-making process,” Marshall said. “Good relationships help alleviate issues as they come up with other farmers, whether it’s mud and debris coming off farm equipment or drainage issues from a road that impacts a farmer’s field.”

Farmers need local roads. Shouldn’t they be involved in decisions about maintaining and improving local roads and bridges? Serving on your county road commission is your opportunity to do just that.

Michigan Farm Bureau wants to increase the number of farmers serving in government 20% by 2022.

Michigan Farm Bureau asks members and agricultural stakeholders to send a message to Gov. Whitmer, asking her to issue a clarification to Executive Order 2020-21, deeming the retail sale of plants as essential infrastructure. To act, simply text the phrase MIGREEN to the number 52886 or visit https://bit.ly/sayyestoplantsales.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION!

Retail garden centers and greenhouses across the state are brimming with nursery stock, flowers and vegetable plants — ready for customers to purchase for their home garden and landscaping needs.

Unfortunately, unlike much of the food and agriculture sector, retail garden centers were not deemed essential to operate under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order 2020-21.

In response to grower concern, Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) President Carl Bednarski on April 3 sent a formal request to Whitmer to “ask for a reconsideration of retail garden centers to be included as essential infrastructure workers.”

According to MFB’s horticulture specialist, Audrey Sebolt, the industry with estimated retail value of $580 to $700 million, and 9,000-plus employees, has much at stake.

“For many growers, if they’re not allowed to sell the plants already growing in greenhouses, it will mean a complete loss and an entire year without income for both the owners and their employees,” Sebolt said. “We’re hopeful Governor Whitmer will take the lead from Ohio Governor DeWine who on April 2 designated retail garden centers as essential infrastructure.”

Bednarski’s request to Whitmer also indicates the industry is “willing to comply with increased reasonable restrictions to provide for social distancing, such as curbside delivery,” so they can sell product.

Many studies have shown mental health benefits from being able to plant flowers, curate landscaping or grow vegetables.

“As Michigan residents deal with direct or indirect impacts of Coronavirus on their lives, many like to turn to gardening to cope with stress, no different than those who turn to puzzles, reading or music for similar benefits,” Sebolt added. “Because of Coronavirus, there has been a large increase in sales of vegetable plants to home owners occurring in southern states. and we’re expecting this to occur in Michigan too.

“Our growers simply would like to be able to get their product into the hands of those who need it.”

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.



Join us at this kickoff event to learn about the new Michigan Manure Hauler Certification Program!

Kickoff Event Details:

  • Free Event
  • Tuesday, March 31
  • 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • Located at AgroLiquid - 3055 M-21 St. Johns, MI 48879
  • Refreshments and lunch provided
  • In addition to information about the certification program, educational and regulatory updates will be included.
  • This event serves as an opportunity to learn about the new program. Training and certification is not completed at this event.

About the Michigan Manure Hauler Certification Program:

The Michigan Manure Hauler Certification Program is a voluntary training and certification designed for anyone who hauls and applies manure. Kickoff participants will learn about the details of the new certification program which has the following goals:

  • Prevent manure application problems.
  • Increase nutrient management plan implementation.
  • Demonstrate responsible manure application.
  • Increase the base level of manure management knowledge of all employees.


Register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/michigan-manure-hauler-certification-program-kickoff-tickets-92944638917?fbclid=IwAR09u31kYJuU6xeHJaen21juNoTXGlTAueQa1mvFIqS_fwYwIIwFNxz1qWs

Kickoff Event Contact:

Tess Van Gorder, Michigan Farm Bureau (517) 323-6711 or [email protected]


Join us at this kickoff event to learn about the new Michigan Manure Hauler Certification Program!

State News


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

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

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

District 1: Berrien

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

District 4: Barry

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

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

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

District 2: Calhoun

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~

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

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

~ ~ ~

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

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

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

~ ~ ~

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

~ ~ ~

District Meetings

District 1

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

District 2

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

District 3

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

District 4

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

District 5

District 6

District 7

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

District 8

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

District 9

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

District 10

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

District 11

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

District 12

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

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

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

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

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

District 5

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

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

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

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

District 12

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

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

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

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

District 10

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~

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

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

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