Building the next 100 years | Michigan Farm News

Building the next 100 years

Category: People

by Nicole Sevrey

Connect for the Future Forum Illustration
A visual storyteller documented the process, discussions and outcomes at the Connect for the Future Forum so attendees could share their experiences with other Farm Bureau members.

After nearly 100 years of striving to be sure farmers thrive, Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) members have set their sights on the next 100 years.

In 2019, MFB's 46,000 members will celebrate the organization's centennial anniversary. Visit 100 years in service to the farmer (videos in link).

Through economic upswings and downturns, social progression and innumerable changes to farming and business practices, Farm Bureau and its members continue to evolve (much like their farms) in order to retain relevance.

As a reflection of that forward-thinking approach, more than 120 Farm Bureau members from across the state recently spent a weekend away from home to learn and collaborate at the Connect for the Future Forum. Their goal was to develop and polish leadership skills and create tools and resources to ensure that all its members thrive during the next 100 years and beyond.

Ambitious? Sure.

Achievable? Absolutely.

Contagious? We hope so.

Grassroots = relationships

The Michigan Farm Bureau mission is to, "represent, protect, and enhance the business, economic, social and educational interests of our members."

But there are two important, unspoken words in that mission, according to MFB President Carl Bednarski: grass-roots leadership.

"We pride ourselves in being member-driven," he said. "Underneath it all, it's the relationships you have with one another that make it work. Whether it's advocating for Farm Bureau policy, educating children and consumers about food production, or helping one another be more successful you're doing it together."

Bednarski opened the forward-focused conference by looking back briefly.

"We have outlasted other organizations because of our grassroots," he said, and then challenged the group: "Help us continue to build a strong organization that allows us to continue to do what we do best—feed a growing world," he said.

Leading together

Leadership strategist Cynthia D'Amour first showed conference participants how to find fellow members' so-called hot buttons.

"People want to be involved in something that is exciting, where they actually do stuff, and that is bigger than themselves," said D'Amour.

She targeted three hot-button issues about why someone engages in an organization like Farm Bureau:

  • They want to learn something (personal or professional development)
  • They want to help somehow (making a difference, educating or mentoring)
  • They want to meet people (similar or different than themselves)

Applying that knowledge, participants spent the afternoon having conversations to learn each other's hot buttons.

Building on that knowledge, D'Amour helped participants discover how to weave those concepts into planning what she calls "irresistible events." To practice, the group used five familiar topics to brainstorm ideas to be potentially implemented by county Farm Bureaus.

Topics included:

  • General public awareness
  • Animal welfare
  • Technology
  • Succession planning
  • Restrictive regulations

See detailed topic notes in the illustration

Another broad topic of conversation included bridging generations among Farm Bureau members.

"It's not always easy to understand—let alone embrace—a different generation's values or interests," said Deb Schmucker, MFB's Center for Education, Leadership and Development director. "But it's essential so we can communicate with one another, and develop future leaders in the organization."

Spreading the word

"Farm Bureau members were the genesis for the Connect for the Future Conference," said Kelly Turner, MFB's membership manager and the event's coordinator. "Our leaders asked for this type of information because they want to see the organization grow and be inclusive of new and different members. It's an exciting time."

Look for the illustration above at county Farm Bureau offices and statewide events, or maybe even print a copy for yourself to consider how you will be a part of Farm Bureau's next 100 years.

If you're interested in learning more, contact Kelly Turner at (517) 679-5442.