From the bumper crop of sour citrus 2020’s serving up, Lapeer County’s just opened itself a little lemonade stand. A local voucher program its leaders have dreamt up is poised to chalk up wins as the dark curtains of quarantine and shutdown gradually part.
Tiffany Howell’s in her third year running the Lapeer County Farm Bureau from her hay and beef operation outside North Branch. Her membership’s eager participation in MFB’s recent action request urging Governor Whitmer to reopen the greenhouse sector helped spur her board into action of its own.
“Out of the 56,000 texts generated from that action request, a big number were from Lapeer County,” Howell said. “We were sharing it like crazy on Facebook. We had so many other people sharing it, we knew it wasn’t just our members, but their customers as well.
“Then the board came up with this out of the blue.”
The plan starts with a pair of brief email surveys: Regular members get a request for updated contact and commodity information; associate members are asked what they’d like to learn more about local farming.
All respondents are entered into a drawing for a $20 gift voucher — 50 of them! — redeemable at local greenhouses and nurseries.
The list of wins here is considerable:
“Just using our database to contact all our member greenhouses, we found a lot of information that just isn’t very accurate anymore,” Howell said.
The conversations that took place in soliciting participation were beneficial.
“It was a great way to build relations with our member greenhouses,” Howell said, and it came at a crucial time. “Lapeer County was hit pretty hard with greenhouse closures — there was a lot of concern.”
The social media component that started the ball rolling also runs throughout the whole project.
“The associate member survey is geared toward finding out what they’d like to know more about in agriculture,” Howell said. Answering those questions will happen prominently on the county Farm Bureau’s popular Facebook page.
“People have until the 20th to return the survey, then we’ll do the drawing on Facebook Live to pick our 50 winners.”
With more than 4,300 Michigan lives lost to COVID-19 to date, it’s hard to think about silver linings. But between the shuttering of greenhouses — and now a slowdown in meat processing that’s contributing to scarcity and driving up prices — everyday consumers are seeing that agriculture has a fragile side.
And when those soft spots get poked, everyday life gets disrupted.
“The public wasn’t understanding that even though it wasn’t warm enough to plant plants, the greenhouses were still looking at a disaster,” Howell said.
“I do think this whole situation will for sure be educational for consumers — I surely hope so. On our own farm, we’re taking calls non-stop for freezer beef, and you see more and more people putting in gardens.”