By Jeremy C. Nagel
ESCANABA — We don’t know exactly how long ago Joanne Stefl told Dianne Hanson that Farm Bureau’s presence at the U.P. State Fair needed “sprucing up,” but that’s what she said and that’s what stuck in Dianne’s head.
As the 90th Upper Peninsula State Fair braced itself for the opening deluge of visitors Monday evening (that’s “preview night” so entry is discounted), Dianne was already on autopilot, working through the motions of escorting a typical fairgoer through the generous inventory of stations that every year comprise the collective efforts of all six U.P. county Farm Bureaus.
All six of the local organizations—Chippewa, Copper Country, Hiawathaland, Iron Range, Mac-Luce-Schoolcraft and Menominee—take turns staffing the exhibit, and every year the value of that kind of coordinated teamwork increases, because every year the exhibit itself expands.
Ten years ago, you were only talking about a couple dozen photos and newspaper clippings neatly pinned onto two or three large cork boards. That might as well be the Dark Ages.
And here’s the blunt heads-up to all downstate, Lower Peninsula Farm Bureaus: THIS is how you do a fair exhibit!
Every major (and several minor) commodity sectors are represented with colorful photos of actual, local, U.P. farmers, captured in the act of producing what they grow or raise. No stock photos here, and nothing copped from the Web. Each panel also bears easily digestible, bite-sized bullet points and brief articles explaining the basics of each commodity and how and why it’s become part of the impressive diverse palette of Upper Peninsula agriculture.
Beyond the commodities themselves, exhibit panels spotlight other interesting facets of Upper Michigan agriculture worth spotlighting: Young Farmers, centennial farms, environmental stewardship, farm markets and this summer’s breakfast-on-the-farm event.
There’s a panel dedicated to sharing positive coverage in the pages of local media outlets, and even a group of photos showing off Yooper farmers’ favorite toys: their real-world tractors, combines and other big-boy implements in action.
From the bounty of information available, the U.P. county Farm Bureaus compiled almost a dozen mini quizzes fairgoers can complete to earn coupons for free cones from U.P.-based dairies operating ice cream vending stands right on the fair grounds.
Other embellishments include giveaways donated by major commodity organizations representing corn, dairy, pork and potato producers.
It didn’t happen overnight; the overall exhibit grows a little every year.
Compliment her on the achievement and Dianne is quick—very quick—to point out that she doesn’t act or work alone. There are dozens of other member-volunteers helping and contributing to what is now an enviable showcase spotlighting the impressive diversity of U.P. agriculture—and a means of connecting fair-goers with the local producers of the food they eat.