Wayne County Farm Bureau invested time and resources this week into helping two of its mostly urban-focused state legislators gain firsthand agriculture experience and knowledge by visiting three area farms.
State House Agriculture Committee members Reps. Alex Garza (D-Taylor) and Kevin Coleman (D-Westland) took part in the county Farm Bureau’s tour July 30, featuring several stops within earshot of Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Also participating were Congressional staffers Amanda York from Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s office and Eli Isaguirre from Rep. Haley Steven’s office.
Wayne County Farm Bureau Vice President Carl Graham coordinated stops at Block’s Stand and Greenhouse, New Lawn Sod Farm, DeBuck’s Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch, and county board member Paul Robakiewicz’s crop farm.
“We’re trying to introduce our legislators here in Wayne County—who don’t see a lot of the countryside—that there is farming in the greater Detroit area,” Graham said. “We’ve got about 30 elected officials in our area between state reps, state senators and federal legislators.
“While we talk to them a little bit along the way, there’s not a lot of interaction, so we’re trying to build a stronger rapport with them.”
Legislators heard about a variety of current topics including agricultural employment challenges (seasonal and full-time), irrigation, pollination, the benefits of filter strips and other conservation methods, agritourism and farm diversification, sod production, and weather conditions related to this year’s corn, soybean and hay crops.
When the tour concluded, Reps. Garza and Coleman shared their impressions.
“It really gave us an on-the-ground look at what our farmers and those in agriculture go through and what they actually do,” Garza said. “We go to the grocery store and we get what we need, but we don’t think about what goes behind all of that to get it into consumers’ hands.”
He also mentioned his service on the House Agriculture Committee.
“I didn’t expect to be on the ag committee when I came in the house, but I was excited,” Garza said. “Out of the three committees I serve on, I’ve learned the most being on the agriculture committee … and after today I’m just so excited to learn more and do better for agriculture in Michigan.”
Rep. Coleman walked away with an appreciation for the role agriculture serves as a major economic driver and contributor in the state.
“There’s a lot of folks in Wayne County who don’t realize how much farming we have close to home—we’re right off of 275 and 94 and there (are) all kinds of farms out here,” Coleman said. “It’s impressive to see how big of a piece of our economy the agriculture industry is, and when future situations arise where farmers need our help, I’ll definitely keep that in mind.”
Also helping host the event were Wayne County Farm Bureau President Mike Sell and board members Frank Rochowiak, Colette McClinton, Paul Robakiewicz and Phil Selter.