Our last two new county Farm Bureau presidents for 2021 include a pair of recovering dairy farmers — one a seasoned veteran in the palm of the mitten, the other a relative newcomer in the U.P.’s “Banana Belt.”
Isabella’s new president is anything but new to Farm Bureau. Cathy McCune helps work a centennial farm east of Shepherd, begun in 1880 as a dairy any only recently transitioning into a nursery operation for a larger dairy outfit nearby.
“It was a really good transition for us,” said McCune, who farms alongside her husband Chuck and their son Chase. “Now we’re kind of a nursery. We just get to babysit and love on cows.”
Her Farm Bureau involvement dates back to one fateful day when a pair of state staffers recruited her to take on the Isabella County Farm Bureau newsletter.
“After that I served on board, then as Promotion & Education chair,” she recalls. “I took advantage of every workshop MFB did and learned a lot about the organization and what it stood for.”
That led to the state P&E committee, then chairing it, earning McCune a seat on MFB’s board of directors, where her organizational education continued, including eye-opening exposure to working with the state staff: “an amazing group of people who really have a passion for agriculture and serving members.”
Back home in the middle of the Lower Peninsula and unable to shake her passion for involvement, McCune now finds herself leading her own home county’s Farm Bureau after a decade on its board.
“We do have an amazing board in Isabella County,” she said. “Our plan is just to keep our message out there. Just because it’s COVID you can’t stop telling your story. We haven’t met face-to-face since October but have developed more of presence on social media.”
McCune’s goals for the year include weaving elements of the grassroots policy development process throughout the county’s other activities.
“We looked at PD and felt it’s an important part of Farm Bureau overall, not something we should wait until the last minute to talk about. It should be made part of everything.”
With P&E still near and dear to her heart, she’s also eager to try more outreach aimed at the community’s influential adult audience.
“Our county’s planned an adult Project RED to bring key people in our community out to the farm. We started with a list of Chamber of Commerce people, local government leaders and school superintendents.”
Other priorities include membership recruitment and engagement, as well as encouraging a more proactive approach to leadership succession: “As soon as you get on the board you should start looking for your replacement.”
Young Farmer Jakob Marciniak is new atop the Menominee County Farm Bureau, succeeding longtime president Pete Kleiman. While a relative newcomer to Farm Bureau, Marciniak’s roots in Menominee County agriculture are deep: seven generations deep.
“Our family started farming here in 1876 — longest in the county,” Marciniak said. “We dropped out of dairy in 2009 and transitioned to cash crops and hay. We’ve also been housing cattle for local dairies for the past 11 or 12 years.
“I work with my grandpa, Monty Tuinstra. I’m his right-hand man, take care of barn cleanings, field work, you name it.”
Off the family farm Jakob does hay work for nearby dairies, picks up landscaping and construction work when it’s available and plows snow in the winter.
“Between all of them I don’t have worry about getting in trouble too often,” he said. “Being young and willing to work is kind of a rare commodity these days.”
While grandpa Monty gets credit for teaching him everything he knows, Marciniak padded that grassroots education at Michigan State University, where he took advantage of the opportunity to connect with farming peers his age across the state — a network he still makes use of.
Jakob joined Farm Bureau in 2016 after “a couple friends and our CAM talked me into getting involved.
“At the time our Young Farmer rep hosted some events I really loved so I offered to help out. Gradually I took over and progressed things. Now I’m pretty involved and I care a lot about the future of ag in our county.”
And that’s exactly the kind of attitude that wins you a county president gavel. Marciniak was voted in unanimously by Menominee’s board of directors last fall, leading to the question of what to do with the authority that gavel represents.
“Past couple years I’ve been kind of a broken record,” he said. “Farm Bureau is good about working behind the curtain on policy, but what brought me in is the community and the events.”
Downstate he sees his college peers using their leadership roles and finding success trying new events, and it’s got Marciniak eager to try some new things in Menominee as well.
“Instead of behind-the-scenes, I want to turn our county events into more of a fireworks show!”
Congratulations to all new county Farm Bureau presidents at the wheel in 2021. Regardless of your previous experience, it’s your ambition and leadership that will see you successful this year. Good luck!