By Jeremy C. Nagel
Michigan Farm Bureau’s 2020 Presidential Volunteer of the Year is Hiawathaland Farm Bureau leader Diane Hanson.
The annual Volunteer of the Year recognition honors members who exhibit a commitment to agriculture in their community and who are instrumental to the success of their county Farm Bureau. A committed Farm Bureau member and fierce advocate for Upper Peninsula agriculture, Hanson is a passionate motivator and articulate spokesperson for Michigan farm families and the Farm Bureau organization.
In a recent announcement to the MFB Family of Companies, President Carl Bednarski praised Hanson’s commitment to the organization in no uncertain terms.
“Diane has been an active Farm Bureau member for years. She finds time to volunteer and make a difference every day,” Bednarski said. “Always leading by example, she is successful in assembling volunteer teams, recognizing each one’s talents, expertise and perspective, to achieve positive and successful results in all the projects in which she is involved.”
Hanson and her husband Dennis raise seed potatoes near Cornell in Delta County, about half an hour outside Escanaba. Their sons Scott and Ted are continuing the tradition that goes back several generations, and now more than a dozen grandkids in their teens and 20s are taking on increasingly active roles in the family potato business.
Past president and current vice president of the Hiawathaland Farm Bureau, Diane’s extensive organizational resume stretches back two decades.
“We didn’t get involved in Farm Bureau until our two youngest were through high school,” she recalls — but once the grassroots bug bit, it bit hard.
Hanson is a fixture at MFB’s Annual Meeting where she represents Hiawathaland as a voting delegate. She frequently takes part in both the Lansing and Washington Legislative Seminars, and is currently active in candidate evaluation, membership, Promotion & Education, and policy development and implementation programs.
Previously she served as Hiawathaland’s Young People’s Citizenship Seminar coordinator and had a hand in its issue action and Local History teams; the communications and local affairs committees; and Farmers CARE Action Team.
Over the years she’s taken home two of MFB’s Volunteer of the Month awards and has been nominated four times for state-level Promoter of the Year honors.
Hanson’s also neck deep in the U.P. State Fair, where for years she’s coordinated the Miracle of Life live-birthing exhibit and an ever-growing display showcasing the history and diversity of Upper Peninsula agriculture.
“I couldn’t do it without all the other volunteers who come help from all six of the U.P. Farm Bureaus,” Hanson said.
Outside Farm Bureau she serves on an advisory group steering the MSU Institute for Ag Tech at Bay College in Escanaba, and previously served with the U.S. Potato Board, U.P. Potato Growers and USDA Farm Service Agency. For several years she also helped steer the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development as an involved ag commissioner.
Asked about the value realized in 20 years of constant grassroots involvement, Hanson confirms that it’s practically instinctive.
“I guess I look at it as setting an example: You don’t think about it, you just do things,” she said. “More than anything, though, is that I can’t do it by myself. Everybody is doing their own little part and I get help from a lot of different people.
“That’s what Farm Bureau is — we have to have everybody helping.”