Michigan Farm Bureau’s most prestigious award, the Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award, recognizes individuals that have made a significant lifetime commitment and contribution to agriculture. Grand Traverse County farmer, Josh Wunsch, was posthumously added to the distinguished list of names. His wife Barb, son Isaiah, daughter Adele and Raul Gomez received the award in his honor. He passed away suddenly earlier this year.
A third-generation cherry and apple farmer, Josh Wunsch had a clear and ambitious vision for his personal operation, and the greater tree fruit industry. He was a master of both the science and art of farming, but his sincere desire to support others was his greatest gift. The results of his passion for learning and experimenting were apparent in the thriving orchards that populated his Old Mission farm. He prioritized building a strong team, sharing his wisdom and solving any and every challenge in front of him. He will be remembered for his dry sense of humor, storytelling craft and a healthy dose of skepticism.
“Whenever I talked with him or he was giving me advice, he’d throw something in just to keep me off-balance with his dry humor,” said MFB board member Ben LaCross, who was mentored in the fruit industry and MFB by Wunsch. “Then that sly smile would come out. His smile was his trademark, and you’d know he was just trying to see if you were paying attention.”
He was an instrumental leader in the agriculture industry, his local community and an advocate of natural resource and farmland conservation. While his craft trade was growing trees, his passion was growing people. Throughout the many positions held, he was committed to serving the next generation and building a sustainable future.
He would encourage those around him to “be useful,” and to direct their time, talents and energy to the improvement of their communities and world. And his passion for fruit was evident in his role on the Michigan Agricultural Commodities Marketing Association (MACMA).
“Josh always understood the critical importance of collective bargaining and was eager to identify, encourage and mentor new leaders within the industry,” said Dawn Drake, general manager of MACMA. “Josh was an active and enthusiastic participant in board discussions. When he’d rock back in his board chair, clasp his hands and look up at the ceiling, everyone knew to take a deep breath, because we were going to be there a while longer.”
Wunsch was first elected to the MACMA board in 1988, and became Vice President in April 1999, and serving served until November of 2011. Although he had transitioned to a higher percentage of fresh fruit on the farm, he always understood the critical importance of collective bargaining and was eager to identify, encourage and mentor new industry leaders within the industry.
Well-known in Congressional offices and respected for his knowledge and expertise during his time on both MFB and MACMA boards, he was always willing to help advocate on behalf of agriculture.
He was passionate about fruit and all other areas of Michigan agriculture, and he always did his homework before he formed forming an opinion. We knew that when he took a stand, it was the result of research and his own aptly-applied experience.
On the MFB board, he served as District 9 Director from 1988-2011. He served as MFB Vice President from 2006-2009 and served on its the Executive Committee and as Vice President from 1999 to 2011.
“Farm Bureau was blessed to have Josh active in our organization for many years, on the county level, state level and during his term on the MFB board,” said MFB President Carl Bednarski. “His wisdom, analytical mind and ability to counsel not only those he served with, but the future leaders of our industry, will certainly be missed.”
He received the MACMA Apple Division Distinguished Service to Agriculture award in 2012, was on the MFB Group Purchasing Board from 1988-1997, and was currently recently serving on the MFB State Study Committee
In addition, he also served as board member of Shoreline Fruit Inc., Sleeping Bear Co-op, Traverse City Cherry, and Cherrco Inc., a tart cherry cooperative.