Farm Bureau News

Creative membership events like Berrien County’s belt sander races helped county Farm Bureaus statewide achieve a second straight year of overall regular membership growth.

Another successful membership year is in the books, and it shines with all the hard work, diligence and dedication of our most driven Farm Bureau volunteers! For the second year in a row, we achieved statewide Target — growth in our regular memberships. That’s a major achievement regardless of the circumstances, but in a year when associate membership slipped, it’s a significant milestone and testament to the hard work happening in our 65 county Farm Bureaus.

Some of the exciting things from the 2020/2021 membership year:

  • 39 county Farm Bureaus reached Target
  • Statewide regular membership increased by 78 members
  • 144 agents and volunteers qualified for Key Club, and 34 volunteers qualified for Carhartt Club
  • The statewide regular member retention rate was 94.95%
  • Statewide inactive regular members (2,208) decreased by 228 from last year — 1,285 less than three years ago!
  • 2,105 total new regular members, 376 of them being new regular members written by 170 volunteers
  • 348 new members written the previous year jumped in and got involved in Farm Bureau events and programs

We also saw a tie for our Top Writer Award: Lenawee County Farm Bureau President Thomas VanWagner (Dist. 2) and Missaukee County Force of Nature Ellen Vanderwal (Dist. 9) each signed up 10 new regular members!

Here are the remaining top writers, per district:

  • Dist. 1 — Tod Kubiszak, Van Buren: 7 new regular members
  • Dist. 3 — Lisa Kelley, Wayne: 7
  • Dist. 4 — Scott Phelps, Allegan: 5
  • Dist. 5 — Devin Richards, Shiawassee: 8
  • Dist. 6 — Ben Zaleski, Huron: 8
  • Dist. 7 — Breann Bonga, Montcalm: 6
  • Dist. 8 — Jeffrey Fulton, Saginaw: 8
  • Dist. 10 — Amanda Rodabaugh, Gladwin: 6
  • Dist. 11 — Ben Blaho, Emmet: 9
  • Dist. 12 — Dean Shepeck,Menominee: 6

Farm Bureau Insurance Agent Jason Scramlin wrote 48 new regular members this last year, followed closely by Agent Mark Hop with 45. Statewide, 144 agents and volunteers qualified for Key Club, writing at least five new regular members each.

This year we also saw an increase in Carhartt Club qualifiers, with 34 volunteers writing five or more new regular members, five they wrote last year renewing this year, or a combination of the two totaling five.

On the vital retention front, Northwest Michigan Farm Bureau in Dist. 9 earned Super Defender honors with an amazing 97.64% regular member retention! Top Defender winners by district are as follows:

  • Dist. 1 — Cass: 96.05% regular member retention
  • Dist. 2 — Lenawee: 94.95%
  • Dist. 3 — Washtenaw: 95.56%
  • Dist. 4 — Ionia: 95.74%
  • Dist. 5 — Clinton: 95.27%
  • Dist. 6 — Lapeer: 96.30%
  • Dist. 7 — Osceola: 96.71%
  • Dist. 8 — Bay: 95.54%
  • Dist. 10 — Arenac: 96.59%
  • Dist. 11 — Presque Isle: 96.09%
  • Dist. 12 — Hiawathaland: 94.88%

Congratulations to all of our award winners, hard-working membership volunteers and resilient county Farm Bureaus. We look forward to recognizing them all over the coming months with prizes and recognition. The hard work and dedication happening statewide is evident in the success of this year’s membership campaign.

Take a moment to stop, breathe and celebrate your success, big or small — you’ve earned it! Then stay tuned for some exciting announcements coming soon about next year’s campaign, which we’re already a few weeks into!

Laura Lunceford manages MFB’s Membership Development department.

Another successful membership year is in the books, and it shines with all the hard work, diligence and dedication of our most driven Farm Bureau volunteers!

Members looking to join the state board of directors are asked to express their candidacy in writing — email works — to MFB Secretary Andy Kok on or before the Annual Meeting Kickoff Nov. 3.

Ambitious Farm Bureau members looking to take their involvement game to the next level may consider contending for a seat on the MFB Board of Directors. This year’s state board election will decide who represents Farm Bureau members in Michigan’s odd-numbered districts, currently occupied by the following:

  • Dist. 1 — Brigettte Leach (Kalamazoo)
  • Dist. 3 — Mike Fusilier (Washtenaw)
  • Dist. 5 — Stephanie Schafer (Clinton)
  • Dist. 7 — Mike DeRuiter (Oceana)
  • Dist. 9 — Ben LaCross (Northwest Michigan)
  • Dist. 11 — Pat McGuire (Antrim)

Two at-large positions are also up for reelection:

  • At-Large — Andy Hagenow (Kent)
  • At-Large — Doug Darling (Monroe)

The third at-large position is occupied by President Carl Bednarski (Tuscola), who will be up for re-election next year.

Members looking to join the state board of directors are asked to express their candidacy in writing — email works — to MFB Secretary Andy Kok on or before the Annual Meeting Kickoff Nov. 3.

MFB’s State Annual Meeting Rules Committee instituted a new rule last year asking candidates for MFB director positions to provide a written statement describing how they meet the bylaw qualifications for directors, attesting that they are “directly and actively engaged in farming as owners and/or operators of farms whose primary interest is in farming” — and that they are not employed full-time in an occupation other than farming, nor serving in a county, state or national elective office.

“This move was recommended by a statewide committee several years ago,” Kok said, “to help the delegates understand how each candidate meets the ‘full-time farmer’ eligibility requirement for service on the board of directors.”

Statements will be shared with delegates prior to elections taking place.

Prospective candidates should contact Kok directly for the necessary form or more information.

Not up for reelection this year are those directors representing even-numbered districts:

  • Dist. 2 — Jennifer Lewis (Hillsdale)
  • Dist. 4 — Jeff Sandborn (Ionia)
  • Dist. 6 — Travis Fahley (St. Clair)
  • Dist. 8 — Michael Mulders (Bay)
  • Dist. 10 — Leona Daniels (Arenac)
  • Dist. 12 — David Bahrman (Hiawathaland)

Every year half of the MFB Board of Directors are up for election or re-election: even-numbered districts in even numbered years, odd-numbered districts in odd years. Two/Three at-large directors (from anywhere in the state) are also up for reelectio
The Great Mississippi Tea Company is out to prove high-quality tea can be produced in America. ProFILE participants toured the operation and learned about the specialized harvesting equipment the company uses to pluck the topmost leaves from established tea plants.

The 2020-21 ProFILE class found better luck with its capstone trip than its kickoff junket in March of last year, which wrapped right as the world slipped headlong into a global pandemic. As the latest cohort of MFB’s elite leadership program wraps up on schedule after its 15-month agenda, COVID is still with us but it didn’t dampen the experience for Michigan’s best and brightest young farmers.

In a decidedly unfamiliar corner of the Deep South bearing little in common with Michigan’s commodity lineup, our ProFILErs did what they always do: dial in on the common denominators that tie all farm sectors together — and do it so seamlessly you’d scarcely notice where the northerners end and their southern kin begin.

ProFILE coordinator Alex Schnabelrauch, director of MFB’s Center of Education and Leadership Development, said the logistical and environmental challenges this trip posed may’ve made its payoff all the sweeter for those taking part.

“Michigan’s county Farm Bureaus — and the industry as a whole — have some truly exceptional young leaders and we’re excited to see how they use what they’ve gained to improve their farms and communities.”

This year’s class includes Emily Boeve (Ottawa County), Casey Bozung (Van Buren), Sara Bronkema (Ottawa), Alisha Gibson (Kalamazoo), Brandon Hotchkin (Jackson), Charles Loveland (Jackson), Matt Marston (Livingston), Mike Mathis (Oakland), MaryAnne Murawski (Huron), Dirk Okkema (Mecosta), Terry Page (Ionia), Mike Sell (Wayne), Brenda Sisung (Clinton), Amanda Sollman (Saginaw) and Cody Tyrrell (Huron).

Altogether the group made nearly a dozen stops around the Mississippi Delta region, seeing firsthand the production of such key regional commodities as rice, cotton, tea and catfish. More familiar than the commodities were the challenges their producers face: labor, processing, logistics, water management and at least one wildlife pest —bears! — nobody saw coming.

“Our Michigan members put all their skills and knowledge to use, serving as tour-stop emcees, engaged learners and savvy reporters providing coverage along the way,” Schnabelrauch said. “Our hosts in Mississippi and Louisiana remarked how impressed they were with the depth and breadth of our group’s questions.”

MFB Digital Editor Tony Hansen was along for the ride and filed his coverage straight from the sweltering south; follow these links to read his detailed accounts: Day 1Day 2Day 3 and Day 4.

More than 70 young farmers have been nominated by their county Farm Bureaus to be part of the 2022-23 ProFILE class.

The 2020-21 ProFILE class found better luck with its capstone trip than its kickoff junket in March of last year, which wrapped right as the world slipped headlong into a global pandemic.

Rebecca Gulliver has been the Saginaw Valley Regional Manager for the past four and a half years. She has just recently transitioned into her new position based at the home office: Member Engagement and Field Training Specialist, which includes the Community Action Group program.


Twenty-one steps are taken before turning sharply with the click of the heel to face east for 21 seconds exactly, then turning to face north for 21 seconds, followed by 21 steps down a black mat before repeating the process for an hour until a uniformed relief commander appears to announce the ceremonial changing of the guard. For 24 hours a day, soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment stand watch over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Looking back to my first trip to Washington, D.C., between my junior and senior years of high school, I remember the impact watching that ceremony had on me. The entire D.C. experience humbled me, helped me appreciate the opportunities I enjoy, and quite honestly fired me up, thinking of how entitled our society has become in the midst of so much selflessness showcased through the time-honored memorials in D.C.

If you are not familiar, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a white marble monument overlooking the nation’s capital from Arlington National Cemetery. Since 1921, it has been the final resting place for our nation’s unidentified servicemen and women — a place of mourning and reflection on the meaning and the cost of military service. Depending on the time of the year, the changing of the guard happens either every hour or every half hour, but it all comes down to tradition and paying respect to those who served our country.

Community Action Groups are a special tradition within our Farm Bureau Family. Personally, after I came on staff almost five years ago, attending my first CAG meeting was when it all came together — I felt like I finally understood what Farm Bureau was all about. I cherish that memory and look forward to being able to work in this capacity and with our organization’s time-honored tradition.

For those of you I haven’t yet had the honor of meeting, I am Rebecca Gulliver. For the past four and a half years I’ve been the Saginaw Valley Regional Manager, and just recently transitioned into my new position based at the home office: Member Engagement and Field Training Specialist, which includes this program.

Before Farm Bureau, I worked as the agriscience academic assistant at North Huron Schools, helping high school, junior high and elementary agriscience students with FFA. I graduated from Michigan State University in 2015 with a degree in agriscience, food and natural resources education and recently graduated from Northwood University with a master’s in organizational leadership. In my free time, I enjoy painting, crocheting, being the best aunt I can be to four nieces and a nephew, and playing with my dogs Harper and Hudson.

I look forward to getting to know each of your groups, and using the lessons I have learned through my experiences to give selflessly and serve our Community Action Groups to the best of my ability.

Community Action Groups are a special tradition within our Farm Bureau Family.

Attendees to MFB’s 2021 Annual Meeting can expect a smaller sea of delegates, as many are expected to take advantage of options to participate virtually — one of the silver linings of the pandemic-forced learning curve we’ve all been navigating since March of last year.

Michigan Farm Bureau’s 2021 Annual Meeting is taking shape as a hybrid affair, incorporating several familiar in-person activities and elements of last year’s virtual proceedings.

Pandemic precautions in 2020 made it necessary for an almost entirely virtual annual meeting, and feedback from members who took part was mixed. Most missed the camaraderie and efficiency of in-person interaction, but that sentiment was tempered by the undeniable convenience “phoning it in” meant for those living and farming long distances from Grand Rapids.

Barring the unforeseen, this year’s format will borrow from 2020 an early virtual kickoff event in early November for dispensing with reports and other formalities, followed by in-person district meetings the following week.

Those district meetings will allow delegates to nominate and elect their district director (odd-numbered districts only this year) and review the policy agenda prior to the full delegate body convening three weeks later.

The final component will largely resemble our familiar, in-person annuals, but in a condensed, two-day format that will incorporate means for delegates to join the proceedings without coming to Grand Rapids. Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 will be packed with Young Farmer discussion meets, the Ag Art Gallery, Promotion & Education content and more.

The agenda below isn’t final but is close enough to offer a good idea of what this year’s MFB Annual Meeting will look like. And it is not too early for interested members to let their county Farm Bureau leaders know they want to take part!


Wednesday, Nov. 3

Virtual Kickoff: 7-8 p.m.

  • Welcome 
  • Business session call to order 
  • Approval of 2020 annual meeting minutes 
  • Officer reports 
  • Rules Committee report 
  • Credentials Committee report 

Tuesday, Nov. 9 & Wednesday, Nov. 10 

District Meetings: in person within the district; times TBD

  • Nominations & elections of district director (odd districts only) 
  • At-large director candidates to join virtually for introductions and Q&A 
  • Policy review

Tuesday, Nov.30

State Annual Meeting Day 1: in-person at Amway/DeVos, Grand Rapids

  • 9 – 11 a.m. • Young Farmer Discussion Meet registration, contestant & judges briefing 
  • 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. • Young Farmer Discussion Meet Sweet 16 – Round 1 
  • 12 – 1:30 p.m. • Discussion meet participant lunch 
  • 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. • Young Farmer Discussion Meet Sweet 16 – Round 2 
  • 2 – 9:30 p.m. • MFA Ag Art Gallery showcase & voting 
  • 2:30 – 5:30 p.m. • Opening delegate session (Hybrid delegation) 
    • Welcome 
    • Scheduled polices 
    • Young Farmer Discussion Meet Final Four announcement 
  • 5 – 5:30 p.m. • P&E Showcase sneak peak (for non-delegates) 
  • 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. • Reception 
    • P&E Showcase of County Activities of Excellence & 2-3 stations from state P&E committee 
    • Young Farmer Excellence Award presentation 
    • Sponsor exhibit space 
  • 6:30 – 9 p.m. • Leadership Banquet 
    • State Young Farmer committee Introductions 
    • Young Farmer Discussion Meet finals 
    • State P&E committee introductions 
    • Foundation introduction & kick-off for Art Gallery 
    • Recognition of county P&E activities and announcement for Ag Week 2022 
    • YF Awards – winners and finalist recognition 
    • Ag in the Classroom (Farm Science Lab & FARM Crates) and Educator of the Year 
    • Young Farmer Discussion Meet winner announcement 
    • Distribute P&E t-shirts

Wednesday, December 1 

State Annual Meeting Day 2: in-person at Amway/DeVos, Grand Rapids

  • 7:15 – 8:45 a.m. • Breakfast 
    • State AgriPac committee recognition 
    • AgriPac keynote speaker 
  • 8:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. • MFA Ag Art Gallery showcase & voting 
  • 8 – 8:30 a.m. • High School & Collegiate Discussion Meet registration & briefing
  • 8:30 – 9:30 a.m. • High School & Collegiate Discussion Meet round 1 
  • 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. • Delegate session (hybrid delegation) 
    • Nomination and elections of district, YF, P&E and at-large directors 
    • Scheduled polices 
    • Block voting 
  • 9:30 – 10:30 a.m. • High School & Collegiate Discussion Meet round 2 
  • 10:45 – 11 a.m. • High School & Collegiate Discussion Meet final six announcement 
  • 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. • High School & Collegiate Discussion Meet final six round 
  • 12:45 – 2:30 p.m. • Lunch 
    • Key Club recognition 
    • Agent Charitable Fund recognition 
    • High School & Collegiate Discussion Meet winners announced 
    • Presidential Volunteer of the Year 
  • 2:30 – 5:30 p.m. • Closing Delegate Session (hybrid delegation) 
    • Block voting 
    • High School & Collegiate Discussion Meet contestants observe 
  • 4 – 7 p.m. • Ag Art Gallery Silent Auction 
  • 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. • Friends of Agriculture Reception 
    • Incorporate elected Friends of Agriculture as a showcase event 
    • AgriPac pin sales 
  • Sponsor exhibit space 
  • 6:30 – 9 p.m. • Annual Banquet 
    • Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award 
    • President’s Address 
    • MFA Ag Art Gallery live auction (popular vote winners & best in show) 
Michigan Farm Bureau’s 2021 Annual Meeting is taking shape as a hybrid affair, incorporating several familiar in-person activities and elements of last year’s virtual proceedings.

One of two FARM Crate options for September brings Michigan’s prosperous apple industry into the classrooms of your choice.

Summer fun might be in full swing but back-to-school season is just around the corner, and here are some reasons to gift FARM Crates to teachers in your community:

  • Help them incorporate agriculture into their lessons
  • Supplement your county Farm Bureau’s Agriculture in the Classroom efforts
  • Reach grade levels your county’s P&E activities don’t normally reach
  • Enrich Project RED learning by providing a crate at another time of year
  • Connect with a new school you haven’t yet worked with

FARM Crates are again available in K-2 or 3-5 grade options. Each includes a food or agriculture book, a hands-on, printed lesson plan and support materials, an online extension activity and a teacher gift. The content is based in grade-appropriate educational standards and helps connect required content to agricultural concepts.

Crate subscriptions will include four fall themed crates: Apples, Pumpkins, Turkeys, and Christmas Trees. Subscribe and save with a discounted rate of $25 per crate. One brand new crate with an Insect theme is available for individual purchase.

New this year is a Refresh Pack for encouraging the reuse of crates received last year. Refresh Packs include consumable materials and renewed access to digital resources for just $15 each.

All fall crates for the fall months must be ordered by Aug. 23. Crates will be shipped at the end of the preceding month; October crates will ship in late September, and so on. Because Aug. 23 is so close to the end of county Farm Bureaus’ fiscal year, counties will receive a discount code for use in delayed billing to pay for their order in the 2021-22 fiscal year. (Note this option is only available to county Farm Bureaus.)

Here’s more detailed information about each of our fall 2021 FARM Crates:

September: Math, Easy as Pie

Students will learn about the parts of an apple, where they grow and meet a Michigan apple farmer. Teachers and students will use pie pieces for a variety of math concepts from patterning; identifying greater than, less than or equal to; or solving word-problems while learning about the different varieties of apples grown in Michigan.

September: Creepy Crawly Critters

Up for an adventure? Get up and get out! Take your students on a walk to explore the environment and insects found in your community. In this lesson, students will explore insects through three types of resources, they will hear from a local Michigan farmer about how insects are beneficial and how they treat for pests and conclude by completing various complementing worksheets.

October: Pumpkin Spice & Everything Science

Explore the life of a pumpkin! Students will review what a plant needs to grow before diving into a fresh pumpkin to identify and learn about the internal and external parts of a pumpkin and what role they play in its healthy development. Students will learn about the parts of a pumpkin, where and how they grow and meet a Michigan pumpkin farmer. Teachers and students will use a pumpkin to identify the parts of the pumpkin and how they support its healthy growth. Students will build a pumpkin life cycle using pictures to identify the process, from seed to decomposition.

November: Talkin’ Turkeys

Kindergarten through second-grade students will be introduced to non-fiction text and learn about the parts of a book. They will learn about turkeys and use what they learned from the book by applying it to activities in this lesson. Activities include creating a turkey puppet and completing a flap book highlighting the turkey facts they have learned. Third- through fifth-grade students will reach a fiction chapter book and answer comprehension questions for each chapter. Students will recall actions from the book to outline the plot, conflict and feelings of the characters. All students will meet a Michigan turkey farmer!

December: Trees, Traditions & Trade

Sit down next to the crackling fire as students learn about Michigan Christmas trees through the eyes of a young child and the stories her grandfather shared when she was growing up in Northern Michigan. Hear first-hand from a Michigan tree farmer and see what it takes to care for and grow the best trees for the holiday season. Finally, students will learn about goods and services in their community and needs versus wants through interactive activities.

Have your Promotion & Education volunteers work with your county administrative manager to order through the Michigan Agriculture in the Classroom online store. Click here to download a promotional flyer. 

MFB staff contact: Amelia Miller, 517-679-5688

Summer fun might be in full swing but back-to-school season is just around the corner, and here are some reasons to gift FARM Crates to teachers in your community:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This year sees some exciting changes to the contest.

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

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

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

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

For more information on the contest and resources visit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, including videos on the parts of a discussion meet, visit

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

Abby Vittore (here with husband Ben) is outspoken on the value of Young Farmer discussion meets.

With this year’s district-level Young Farmer discussion meets quickly approaching, Michigan Farm Bureau knows that for some, getting the courage to participate can be hard but it is never impossible. Lenawee County’s Abby Vittore was once in your shoes and is here to share her experience along with advice and information that can be beneficial to this year’s participants.

Abby’s agricultural background began at her family’s fifth-generation farm near Adrian, where they grow row crops, provide agritourism and operate a spring retail greenhouse. Abby is still active on her farm as the majority owner of the greenhouse business, in addition to being a crop insurance agent for River Farms Crop Insurance Agency, Inc.

While attending Michigan State University, Abby joined Collegiate Farm Bureau, which helped prepare her for her current roles as vice president on her county Farm Bureau board and as a representative of District 2 on MFB’s state-level Young Farmer committee.

When her high-school FFA advisor pushed her to compete she was up-front about her nervousness, but jumped into competition anyway and has been hooked ever since. Her continued involvement over the years has seen her meeting members from all over the state.

“I have walked away from every discussion meet having learned something new,” she said, whether at the local, state or national level. “My favorite opportunity was competing at the national-level Collegiate Discussion Meet. I got to travel to Phoenix, Arizona to attend the Young Farmers Leader Conference, which was a great opportunity to meet Young Farmers from across the U.S. who all had such differing backgrounds to learn about.”

Discussion meets can be a powerful asset to help strengthen many different areas in your skill set. For Abby, taking part in these competitions has helped improve her readiness to speak up in conversations where her view may — or may not — agree with others. She’s also become more comfortable sharing her opinion in day-to-day conversations thanks to the environment discussion meets create.

“Everyone has to start from somewhere,” she said. “It’s easy to be intimidated by the people who you think are more experienced or more knowledgeable than you, but at some point they were also in your shoes. Taking the time to listen and learn will help you reach their level of knowledge and experience too.

“The only way to gain more knowledge — to get more experience, to be more confident — is to get involved and take the opportunity to better yourself,” she continued, going on to share some guidance to those who might feel some of her old reluctance to jump in.

“My advice would be to gain as much knowledge as possible on the topics given. Take the chance to prepare by talking to others in the industry or to reach out to local farmers or agribusiness people to get their thoughts on the topic at hand. This isn’t only a great opportunity to brush up on your leadership skills, but also a chance to learn something new about a topic and network with others in the industry.”

Michigan Farm Bureau would love to see and hear what you have to say at this year’s discussion meets. There’s plenty more information online, including the Young Farmer Discussion Meet Guidebook; this year’s topics; a scorecard rubric and rules; district contest information; and instructional videos.

Alyssa Bednarski is interning with Michigan Farm Bureau’s Center for Education and Leadership Development.

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

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

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

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

Please consider these general tips:

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

Activity ideas:

Questions? Contact Amelia Miller or Katie Eisenberger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's an Attitude

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

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

Her timely example:

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

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

Back to the FARM Crates:

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

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

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

Yeah I'll Help

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can't be Afraid to Ask

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

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

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

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

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

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

Food for Thought

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

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


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

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