Michigan Farm Bureau’s transition from 11 to 12 numbered districts
took effect just last week, at the organization’s 100th annual meeting. Most of
the changes are Up North, where the unwieldly old District 10 — basically everything
northeast of a line from Traverse City to Tawas — was split in two.
The new District 11 (Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Emmet, Otsego
and Presque Isle) retained its familiar leader, Antrim County fruit grower Pat
McGuire. Choosing a leader to represent the new District 10 on the board of directors
was the first order of business for delegates representing Arenac, Clare, Gladwin,
Huron Shores and Ogemaw.
And in true Farm Bureau style, one of their own was ready for
Following the redistricting plan long before it took effect, a partially retired dairy farmer from near Sterling in Arenac County started ruminating on ways to prevent leisure from flooding her schedule.
Leona Daniels and her husband Ken milked cows together for 45 years before selling the herd several years ago, downsizing to a small cow-calf operation, raising steers, corn, soybeans and hay. They got strong-armed into Farm Bureau soon as they were married.
“I don’t know if we’d been back from our honeymoon for a week when a local neighbor, Bob Baker, came over and said ‘You need to do this,’" Leona recalls. “So we signed up as members,” beginning a long history of involvement in outreach activities, including the transition from Farm Bureau’s Women’s Program to Promotion & Education in the mid-1980s.
“I did dairy promotions over 40 years when we were milking,” including roles with MMPA, UDIM and of course Farm Bureau. “P&E was a lure when I really got involved in our local Farm Bureau. We have a wonderful story to tell and nobody tells it better than farmers.”
Her role in the original evolution of Michigan’s groundbreaking Promotion & Education program was a turning point.
“Those were exciting times,” she said. “At AFBF one year I was in an elevator with the chair of the Texas Women’s Committee. We’re all talking and she glanced at my name badge — saw where I was from and that I was with P&E.
“The entire elevator went silent. It was a cold shoulder, and it just amazed me that it was being perceived that we were trying to take something away from someone versus offer more opportunities for people to be involved.”
As MFB’s redistricting plan started to gel, Daniels began building her constituency by visiting county Farm Bureau leaders throughout the region.
“I went to Ogemaw County and Chad Beck said, ‘Why do you want to do this?’ I said, ‘Because I’m excited about what we can accomplish, and I really hope we can pull together and pool our resources.
“It’s an exciting opportunity that’ll give us more of a voice. It’s going to be a much better fit; we’re a lot more cohesive and have more in common than the way things were split up previously.”
Daniels is confident the region can find unity and cohesion with more personal interaction.
“I’ve served on the board before, as chair of the state Promotion & Education committee, but that’s been a few years ago, and things have changed a lot. I’ve got a lot to learn about Alpena and Alcona counties and some of the issues they’re facing, but that’s what I’m here for — to be an ear and a voice for the things we would like to accomplish.”
Read more about the district in New 10: Two Issues.