Attendees to Michigan Farm Bureau’s (MFB) recent annual meeting in Grand Rapids got a preview of the organization’s nascent centennial project. An exhibit titled “MFB100: Images From Our First Century” sought members’ insights in helping identify some of the names and places captured in more than 100 vintage photos culled from a much larger archive.
The exhibit was the first large-scale promotion of the centennial project as a whole, components of which are being rolled toward county Farm Bureaus in the early weeks of the new year.
“We were all pretty happy with the response and the enthusiasm we saw from members last month,” said Jeremy C. Nagel, MFB’s member communication specialist and the organization’s centennial project coordinator. “As a kind of first public outing for the project—putting historical material in front of a large number of members—it’s going in the ‘win’ column.”
The ‘we’ Nagel refers to is the collective committee of members and staff who devised the exhibit in recent months—an initial tangible step toward a yearlong centennial celebration now less than a year away.
That celebration is underpinned by a member-engagement mandate and a high priority on county Farm Bureau involvement. Getting that ball rolling starts in early 2018, when the components of county involvement will be distributed across the countryside.
Local History Teams
County Farm Bureaus are encouraged to assemble a new, fixed-term Local History Team, charged with leading counties’ localized history celebrations in 2019.
“This is an exciting opportunity for counties to reach beyond their core group of already-involved members,” Nagel said. “The diversity of Michigan agriculture means the farming legacy of even neighboring counties is often dramatically different. Every county has its own story to tell—compelling stories worth sharing with their members.”
Local History Teams will be charged with helping tell those stories by gathering, organizing and prioritizing historical materials, and sharing them with their members at an event in 2019.
County Tool Kit
A package of ideas, resources and guidelines is under development to help Local History Teams manage their work over the next two years.
In addition to a thorough run-down of the teams’ makeup and duties, the tool kit will include suggestions for where to begin—and continue—the search for historical materials unique to each county.
“The obvious place to start is in basement, attic and filing cabinets of your county Farm Bureau office,” Nagel said, “but there are a lot of other stones to overturn, like the homes and outbuildings of longtime members.
“Not all farmers are pack rats, but enough of them are that I think we’re going to find a lot of impressive material stowed away in dark corners of farm shops, equipment sheds and barn lofts.”
Beyond the collection stage, the tool kit will include guidelines for how to organize and preserve collected materials—and, most importantly, how to share all that material.
“Every county has a unique agricultural legacy worth celebrating,” Nagel said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing what they come up with and how they choose to share what they’ve gathered and learned with their county Farm Bureau membership.”
Debuted alongside the photo exhibit at state annual was its digital, online sibling: MFB100.com, a new website devoted exclusively to MFB’s centennial celebration. Originally conceived as a means of tapping members’ memory banks about the content of vintage Farm Bureau photos, the site’s role has already expanded beyond that.
MFB100.com will become a clearinghouse for all centennial matters, including a place for county Farm Bureaus to share what they’ve discovered, and a common collection point for supplements to the Centennial Tool Kit.
“We know the minute that tool kit gets in people’s hands, they’re going to come up with great new ideas we never thought of,” Nagel said. “I’m confident they’ll will want to share those ideas with their friends and peers in counties across the state.”