County Farm Bureaus statewide are adapting their usual annual-meeting routines to meet the challenging circumstances 2020 continues to pose. Innovative approaches rooted in ensuring members’ safety from coronavirus are being weighed against each other depending on what works best for each county’s members.
Various combinations of online or mail-in voting are being fit together with meal options from food trucks to drive-though ice cream socials. Outside of state executive orders in place to safeguard the wellbeing of all Michigan residents, counties are only limited by their imaginations!
Jen Marfio juggles three counties in District 7 — Mecosta, Oceana and Osceola — all of which are doing drive-through annual meetings this year. While a radical departure from the norm, she said the concept was met with enthusiasm given members’ time constraints this time of year.
“Everyone is crazy busy either chasing irrigation or harvesting,” Marfio said. “Mecosta’s was already set up and we had an option to make it drive-through if necessary. When I went to Oceana, they were all pretty stressed about planning a big event only to have it canceled.
“I told them what Mecosta was doing and they decided a drive-through at the fairgrounds was the ticket. Add a little ice cream and there’s the annual!”
Osceola soon followed suit and all three of Marfio’s counties were on straighter paths toward tying up their annuals.
“The plan is for the member to drive up and check in,” Marfio explained. “We will hand them a packet with anything that needs to be voted on, and a ballot. Upon completing their ballot they’ll receive their meal and/or ice cream, depending on the county.”
Over in the Thumb, Sherri Gottleber CAMs for both Sanilac and St. Clair.
“Sanilac is hosting an ‘open house’ format,” she said. “Folks can arrive at the county fairgrounds anytime within a three-hour window. They’ll register from their car and get their ballot — and a ticket to one of several food trucks that will be on site.”
Members will submit their completed ballots as they leave, in exchange for a prize-drawing ticket.
To the south, where COVID numbers have been on the rise, the St. Clair County Farm Bureau board is opting for an even safer electronic vote-from-home format. Mail-in ballots will also be available for members who aren’t online.
“Very different from Sanilac, but I think St. Clair’s made the right decision” to safeguard members’ health, she said.
Janelle Walworth is administrative manager for both the Hillsdale and Jackson County Farm Bureaus down in District 2. Both are sticking with in-person meetings, but working within the parameters of the state’s executive orders.
Founded in June of 1920, Hillsdale County Farm Bureau this year celebrates its centennial, so that meeting will be more about celebrating history than conducting business.
Policy resolutions are being made available ahead of time to streamline their adoption at the meeting itself.
And here’s where we stand with this year’s annual-meeting schedule — alphabetical by county Farm Bureau name, omitting meetings that’ve already happened and those with dates yet to be determined: