The new face representing Promotion & Education on the MFB Board of Directors is that of St. Joseph County’s Julie Stephenson, who lives and farms near Three Rivers alongside her husband Eric.
Originally from Lapeer County, Stephenson studied biology at Hillsdale College and, while learning about crop hybridization, was unexpectedly bit by the agriculture bug. That interest and education took her to the southwestern Lower Peninsula — seed corn country — where she began her career with one of the major players in the corn hybrid business.
That’s where she met Eric, and where they put down roots, joining his family’s cash crop and seed corn farm, where Eric is the fifth generation.
New additions to the operation are their two children, Josie and Sawyer, and a roadside farm market Stephenson launched several years ago, selling pumpkins, squash and other consumer-friendly edibles.
An active member of the St. Joseph County Farm Bureau for almost 20 years, Julie’s involvement includes extensive work in community outreach activities rooted in Promotion & Education.
“There are so many amazing opportunities that come from our program,” she said. “It’s been my passion, involvement in P&E. It’s a great honor to represent the voice of P&E on the board of directors.”
MFB’s recent redistricting means change is coming to the makeup of that state-level P&E committee. Stephenson’s convinced these will be changes for the better, including new opportunities for rank-and-file members to experience the rewards of agricultural outreach and preaching the gospel according to Farm.
“Our upcoming structure changes will allow our district chairs to really grow as leaders and get to better know their districts,” she said, which in turn she expects will boost P&E activity at the local level.
Among those activities is support for the two mobile science classrooms now crisscrossing both peninsulas, visiting schools non-stop throughout the academic year.
“The FARM Science Lab is an incredible opportunity and really rewarding,” Stephenson said. “Now to add a second lab and see the need for even more outreach? That’s a tremendous opportunity for our members to be touched by what it has to offer.”
Stephenson takes pride — and rightfully so — in being a first-generation farmer, and appreciates how Farm Bureau has welcomed her into the agricultural community.
“As someone who hadn’t been part of the farm community growing up, Farm Bureau has definitely bridged some gaps in my understanding,” she said, crediting the organization for also helping her grow as a leader. “I appreciate the opportunity for leadership development and personal interest people in the organization have taken in me and my family.
“The opportunities I’ve had paved the way — opportunities not everybody’s had, like attending the National Ag in the Classroom Conference.”
And it’s clear in Stephenson that even a first-generation farmer knows to make good.
“All the investments this organization has made in me, I’m now returning.”