This winter Farm Gate introduces you to the new members of the state Young Farmer and Promotion & Education committees — in their own words.
By Jason Smith
When asked about my interest in Promotion & Education, I naturally jumped at the chance to be involved with so many amazing and creative individuals from across the region. I am looking forward to this new opportunity representing District 3 on Michigan Farm Bureau’s state P&E committee — an opportunity to share the story of agriculture and help educate others about how agriculture impacts their lives every day.
I grew up on a small hobby farm in Macomb County where we raised beef and dairy cattle, and worked summers for a local hay producer. I attended Michigan State University where I earned my bachelor’s degree in animal science. My wife Krystal (also a State grad) and I reside in northern Macomb County near Romeo, with our two dogs, Charlie and Wyatt, and our cat Gus.
After graduating from MSU I had to opportunity to join the parks and recreation field as a teamster at the Kensington Metropark Farm Center, where I had my first experience with agricultural education. We gave farm tours and put on public programming for thousands of people each year. My passion for educating people about agriculture grew from there. Through my 14 years with the parks I’ve also worked in natural resource management and grounds maintenance before finally realizing my dream to return to the farm in 2018.
Currently I’m the supervising interpreter at the Wolcott Mill Metropark Farm and Historic Center, located near Ray. Our 250-acre farm education center is part of the larger 2,800-acre Wolcott Mill Metropark, one of the Huron-Clinton Metroparks.
We showcase dairy and crop farming to thousands of people each year. Although our specialty is dairy, we also have a variety of other farm animals used for teaching guests about the benefits of agriculture in their everyday lives. From sheep and goats to chickens and draft horses, thousands of people get to experience real agriculture up close when they visit our facilities.
I also manage an historic grist mill once owned by Fred Wolcott. Built in 1847, the mill is where we showcase early agriculture ingenuity and production. Many people in southeastern Michigan have no idea where their food comes from, or how important this region of the state is to agriculture, so we focus our educational programming on agriculture’s impact on the families and communities in our area.
I feel my work experience planning and implementing agricultural education events, as well as my background in farming, maintenance and management, make me a unique fit for the Promotion & Education program. My goal is to help design, implement and execute fun and exciting agricultural programming to help engage the community. Although I don’t have as much presentation experience as many others on the committee, I feel that I can have a positive impact by helping with coordination, outreach, networking and offering hands-on assistance to help promote agriculture in southeastern Michigan and across the state. I look forward to the opportunity to work with so many awesome individuals and to help out in any way possible.
I have been involved with Michigan Farm Bureau for over 10 years, first as a member of the Young Farmer program, and recently as a member of the Macomb County Farm Bureau Board of Directors. In that time, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with legislators in Lansing and Washington, D.C. as part of Legislative seminars, and with farmers and ranchers from across the country at American Farm Bureau Federation National Conferences in Nashville and Austin.
I was also fortunate to be selected to the ProFILE class of 2019, where I was able to hone my leadership skills surrounded by some of the brightest and best Farm Bureau leaders from across the state. After aging out of the Young Farmer program, I took an interest in policy development and have worked with our local policy development committee to construct policies that were adopted at the state annual meeting.
I would like to see MFB and the Promotion & Education committee work to increase our reach by focusing on underserved communities. By working to increase programs and opportunities for seniors and inner-city children and families, while still connecting with rural and suburban communities, P&E has an opportunity to bridge the gap between urban and rural, young and old, to help continue to educate and entertain Michigan residents.
I’m excited to continue my journey with this organization and I look forward to new adventures ahead.