LANSING — This time next year the starting gun will fire on Michigan Farm Bureau’s (MFB) centennial celebration—a yearlong schedule of events and activities to commemorate the first 100 years of the state’s largest and most enduring agricultural organization. Leading up to that, though, members and staff will be readying for what promises to be the largest member-engagement opportunity in the organization’s history.
Those attending the 2017 annual meeting in Grand Rapids will get an early glimpse of some facets of the celebration to come.
A small group of early-arriving delegates will convene Tuesday morning for a concise roundtable discussion of the centennial celebration plans to date, courtesy of some individuals who have been working on the project for more than two years already.
“Our member and staff committees have had their noses on this grindstone for two years already, and we’ve got a sound plan in place,” said Jeremy C. Nagel, coordinator of MFB’s centennial project. “I’m looking forward to this roundtable Tuesday morning to bounce that plan off a fresh group of members who haven’t been in this loop—a litmus test—see how the spaghetti sticks.”
More than 100 vintage photographs culled from the MFB archives will be on display in an exhibit titled “MFB 100: Images From our First 100 Years.” Those archives have grown significantly over the past two years as the centennial project has strived to pool together and organize a century’s worth of documents, publications, photographs, artifacts and other ephemera.
“Beyond the simple pleasure of looking at old pictures, this is really a practical exercise in photo identification,” Nagel explained. “We’re looking for members’ feedback—download their memory banks to help identify the people, places, events and eras captured in this sample of images from our first 100 years.”
That same exhibit will serve to debut MFB100.com, a new website to showcase that massive image archive, 100 years in the making.
“Again, as enjoyable as it may be to just idly flip through thousands of old photos —yes, thousands—this isn’t just about sharing pictures,” Nagel said. “MFB100.com is an interactive site where, again, we’re looking for members to share their knowledge, memories and insights about what they see.
Beyond the easily recognizable faces of Clark Brody and Elton R. Smith, there is an ocean of members, staff and other noteworthy individuals who deserve recognition.
“It’s not just people, either,” Nagel said. “It’s events. It’s places.
“Somewhere out there in our current membership there are people who will recognize that this or that photo was taken at a Washington Legislative Seminar breakfast event in 1960-something. And they’ll recognize that this particular co-op elevator was in Unionville, and that Farm Bureau Services store was in Sturgis or Stanton or Standish.”
MFB’s 2017 Annual Meeting will also see the state organization encouraging county Farm Bureaus to appoint Local History Teams—a new committee-like structure to guide counties’ efforts to celebrate their own unique history in MFB’s centennial year.
“This is the ball we’re handing off the county Farm Bureaus, hoping they’ll run with it,” Nagel said. “These Local History Teams will be charged with collecting and organizing historical material specific to their counties, then share it with their members at a local celebration in 2019.