MECOSTA — More than a dozen Young Farmers came together July 26-28 at one of the program’s marquee summer events, a weekend campout on School Section Lake near Mecosta. As weather and field conditions permitted, Young Farmers from across western Michigan—many with little ones in tow—pitched camp and took a break from what for most has already been an stressful year.
“Some were able to put up hay during the day and come to hang out in the evenings,” said Bridget Moore of the Osceola County Farm Bureau, who helped coordinate the event alongside Mecosta County’s Natalie Pennington. “Members enjoyed the flexibility of spending time with family, farming, as well as relaxing by the fire.”
Following the event, Pennington took away some clear impressions about the topics weighing heavy on the minds of her peers across western Michigan.
“It was clear to see what was on our Young Farmers’ minds,” she said, listing several 21st-century farm stressors, including finding good farm labor and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Informed no doubt by the obstacles Mother Nature has imposed so far this year, the topic of shifting commodity profiles got a lot of talk time around the campfire.
“Many dairy farms are converting into hay operations, discussing pricing, machinery and how to market their new commodity,” Pennington said. “Some were talking about converting milk tanks into sap tanks. It made us all wonder how other farmers are transitioning their farms and making it all work and keep farming.”
Others took a different angle, focusing on diversification—adding new commodities to help their overall operation better withstand high and low market fluctuations.
“Apparently most people think that means adding sheep,” Pennington said, “until the sheep farmers arrived and laughed at that!”
There were even some personal and frank conversations about the challenges today’s Young Farmers face in finding lifetime partners who share their passion for faith, family and farm.
“Where do you find that pool of people who have the same values and drive that it takes for farm life?” Pennington posed, summarizing the monumental question several of her fellow campers were chewing on. “How do you weed out those who aren’t in it for the long haul?”
If not all of modern farm life’s challenges got solved over the weekend, the event was at least a reminder that peers putting their heads together and hashing things out brings them closer together, contributing to a unity that helps cement Michigan’s farming community.
“If you can make it to the next Young Farmer event, definitely try to find the time,” Moore said. “You won’t regret getting to know the hard-working peers near you!”
The final multi-district Young Farmer event of the summer is the second annual Float for Water Rights, Aug. 24 from the U-Rent-Em Canoe Livery, 805 W Apple St. in Hastings.
In addition to the obvious fun component of paddling down the Thornapple River in late summer, participants will get caught up on the latest developments in the realm of water regulations and pertinent legislative efforts as they inevitably impact agriculture. The event starts with breakfast and includes lunch; participants are encouraged to supply their own beverages.
These events are supported in part by the MFB State Young Farmer program. Be sure to check out other county, district or regional Young Farmer events in your area.