Eleven county Farm Bureaus start the New Year with new leadership in place, and it’s Farm Gate’s pleasure to introduce them in small batches. This time let’s meet the new presidents in Hillsdale and Antrim counties.
Kayla Lewis succeeds Stuart Welden as president of the Hillsdale County Farm Bureau. She works at Pleasant View farm, the dairy and beef operation outside Jonesville operated by her husband’s family.
“Once in a while I help out with the calves when I’m needed,” but for the most part she’s content to be part of Pleasant View’s payroll team alongside her mother-in-law, MFB Dist. 2 Director Jennifer Lewis.
Originally from Ionia County, Kayla grew up on a beef and crop farm outside Lyons, showing cattle in 4-H and FFA. While attending Michigan State University she worked on dairy farms and vet clinics. It’s also when she met Adam; they married in 2012 and have two little ones, Jace & Aubree.
“I’ve kinda always been part of Farm Bureau, but not always to this extent,” Kayla said. “Adam and I went to a member involvement event the county hosted and signed up then.”
She was active in Hillsdale County’s communications program (county newsletter) before being asked to serve on the board of directors.
“That’s when I really started to get involved with Young Farmer events, then vice president and now president. I’ve also been our county annual chair for the past two or three years.
“I really do enjoy it. We’ve got a great board of directors who are very helpful.”
As hard as it’s been for county Farm Bureau leaders to plan events through the pandemic, Lewis said Hillsdale has had good luck with continued member involvement in spite of safety precautions.
“It’s been tough to figure out a way around COVID and still be active,” she said, adding that her Promotion & Education team is working on creating and distributing video versions of their Ag in the Classroom lessons that teachers can slot into their curriculum when it’s convenient.
This summer she’s also hoping for the flexibility to hold a family-friendly member picnic, if only to celebrate the ability to do so.
“We’d love to just get people together to chit-chat — no business — just get people together and socialized.”
Nathan McGuire steps up to lead the Antrim County Farm Bureau, taking over from dairyman Jarris Rubingh. McGuire raises fruit and grains with his uncle, MFB Dist. 11 Director Pat McGuire. Royal Farms comprises some 900 acres of apples, cherries, apricots and grain production west of Ellsworth. The operation also includes a busy roadside market with a wine and cider tasting room managed by Nate’s wife Chelsea.
After being persuaded into taking part in his district discussion meet — which he ended up winning — McGuire competed at the state level in 2014. His Farm Bureau involvement ramped up during his years at Michigan State University. By his senior year he was president of MSU’s then-new Collegiate Farm Bureau chapter and had represented Michigan at the national-level Collegiate Discussion Meet at AFBF in Nashville.
Back home after graduation, county Farm Bureau leader Greg Shooks encouraged him to join Antrim’s board and its Young Farmer group. After chairing Antrim’s Young Farmers more than five years, he was ready for his new challenge.
“I had some pretty strong opinions on some changes we could make,” McGuire said, starting with bridging a gap he saw materializing between Antrim’s leadership and members. “My number-one goal is revamping the board. We’ve had people on board who’ve been there a long time and were ready to step away. I’ve gotten three new people on the board at this point and we’re starting to learn how to work together. The biggest thing right now is better understanding how each other works.”
Next on Nate’s agenda is reconnecting with more members in Antrim County’s southern townships, where member involvement has flagged after years of north-county dominance.
Tune in again March 16 to meet another batch of aspirational new county Farm Bureau leaders.