This winter Farm Gate introduces you to the new members of the state Young Farmer and Promotion & Education committees — in their own words.
By Joe Ankley
We constantly hear how the global COVID-19 pandemic has affected much of the population negatively. However, I welcomed the pause — the opportunity to stop and reflect on how well I was meeting the goals I set for myself, specifically those regarding our family farm and my professional development.
As for one of those goals: I’ve always seen myself involved on our family’s farm in the future. The farm was started in 1902 by my great, great grandpa and has been in the family ever since. It’s changed a lot over the last century: We farm more acreage, raise more cattle and have diversified our production. The importance of environmental sustainability, community camaraderie and family traditions really haven’t changed over that time, though, and that’s what draws me back to the farm where I grew up.
I kind of lost sight of that goal in college but wouldn’t trade for anything the immense opportunities I found during my time as a Spartan. When it was all said and done at Michigan State, I took a job as an agriscience teacher and FFA advisor at North Huron School in Kinde.
I’m in my ninth year of teaching and have loved the opportunity to work with some amazing students, a supportive administration and a caring community. Our students have accomplished amazing things and I’ve been fortunate to help build a strong program our community can be proud of. I don’t anticipate this becoming a 30-year career, but I continue to enjoy the opportunity to be a teacher.
I had the opportunity to refocus on my short- and long-term goals as a part of Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer and Rancher Excellence in Agriculture award program. After I was named the state winner and started to prepare for the national contest, I had to focus on and be honest with myself, my family and school community about my goals.
One of those goals was to return to the farm within five years. That happened in late 2019 and the National Excellence in Agriculture Award contest happened in January 2020. Little did anyone know what would unfold a couple months later.
The start of COVID quarantine brought a lot of uncertainty, but one sure thing was the knowledge I wouldn’t be teaching in person anytime soon. That allowed me extra time on the farm in the spring, a position I hadn’t seen since I started teaching.
We launched our farm stand, built a greenhouse, planted seedings and grew a couple acres of sunflowers, vegetables, pumpkins and cut flowers. I worked closely with my parents, two brothers and a sister to get everything up and running and stay on top of picking and selling. It was an amazing experience and we are excited to continue to grow the farm stand in the future.
Despite all the uncertainty, I felt fortunate to have that time and take action on my goal to work on our centennial farm and create an agritourism experience for consumers across the southern Thumb.
Now I’m excited to act on another goal: becoming more involved in Farm Bureau. As the high school and collegiate representative on the state Young Farmer committee, I’m looking forward to helping evaluate programs offered to high school and college students as well as promoting the Young Farmer program. I’m a huge advocate for the programs already offered and have enjoyed competing in the discussion meet and, most recently, the Young Farmer award program.
This year has been crazy — no doubt about it — but I’m ready to tackle what the future may hold with a new focus on achieving the goals I’ve set. I’d encourage young Farm Bureau members to evaluate their goals and consider the opportunities Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer program offers.