If Jacob Faist sounded a little rushed on the phone last week, he had good reason: May’s minutes were ticking away and only half his acreage was planted.
“Some guys around here are done planting and there’s some who haven’t started yet,” he reported, sounding frazzled.
Alongside his father Andy and uncle David, Faist works about 1,500 acres in northern Jackson County, raising corn, soybeans and wheat near Pleasant Lake. Last year Jacob and his wife Loren welcomed their first child, Palmer, into the world and onto the farm. She turns one year old this month.
Half-way through his first term as Jackson County Farm Bureau’s president, Faist is enthused—cautiously—about the goals he and his board are working toward, including some challenging facets of the membership itself.
“We want to raise our members’ satisfaction—make them more enthusiastic about their membership,” he said. “We’re working on retention and recruiting more members.”
Some ambitious new Farm Bureau Insurance agents have helped with the numbers, and good leaders among his board and committees have improved the vital involvement side of the equation as well.
“We are seeing more involvement,” he said, in part because those leaders are lining up more attractive programming options for members. “On our end we’re doing more grower-focused meetings, like this summer we’re doing a sprayer clinic where members can learn about different topics and earn pesticide license credits.”
Like any other county, Jackson comes with its own unique—and not so unique—set of challenges.
“One of our biggest challenges is that we’re not overall very rural,” Faist said. “We’ve got the city of Jackson right in the middle of the county, and a lot of other residents commuting to Ann Arbor and Lansing.”
That means local-level zoning challenges and other problems relating with local governments run by majorities that don’t really get agriculture. It’s a familiar song, but to cope with it Faist does the right thing by leaning on his sharp MFB District Director, Jonesville dairy farmer Jennifer Lewis, and seasoned MFB Regional Representative, Kim Kerr.
The other ace in his hand is the women at the controls in his county office, Jackson’s County Administrative Manager, Janelle Walworth.