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Michigan Farm Bureau Family of Companies

CAGs sound off on bridging the rural-urban divide

Image credit: Ingham County Farm Bureau
Date Posted: July 29, 2021

Judging from the few responses we saw to the June discussion topic, it seems formalized rural-urban outreach wasn’t as commonplace as I’d supposed. Pitching in to help preserve Saginaw’s famous bean bunny sign struck me as an opportunity for agriculture to make a token gesture of goodwill toward a community long down on its luck. Alas, sometimes opportunities are only in the eye of the beholder, and good intentions stretched too thin may become unrecognizable as such.

Even if the perceived opportunity itself didn’t click in hearts and minds, it bears remembering that even kooky ideas are at least worth putting on the table for consideration.

MFB staff at the home office facilitate a familiar calendar of state-level functions: Young Farmer, P&E and presidents’ conferences; Lansing and Washington Legislative Seminars; state annual meeting, etc. From one year to the next that might seem predictable, but the truth is that lineup evolves over time. Sometimes familiar fixtures run their course and are retired as new ones are devised and take their place.

Both CAGs we heard from mention Project RED, which has become a staple of county Farm Bureaus but which started with one county getting creative about exposing various facets of farm life to a young audience. Random sparks of inspiration out of left field may seem far-fetched at first, but we’ll never know their full potential if caution isn’t thrown to the wind and whacks are taken.

There are more straightforward ways of bridging the rural-urban divide than rallying around a cause whose connection to today’s ag community may seem like a stretch. Genesee and Wayne County Farm Bureaus have connected with urban neighbors in Flint and Detroit who’ve demonstrated an interest in scaling up their community gardens into more productive, sometimes commercial operations. These are great examples of the farm community sharing its expertise with an audience as hungry for self-sufficiency as they are for fresh, flavorful tomatoes.

They’re also hungry for the kind of independence, freedom and pride that runs so deep in every member of our Farm Bureau family. These are riches of universal, incalculable value that we have in abundance. It’s our county Farm Bureaus and their individual members who come up with the most creative ways of sharing that treasure, and I look forward to many more years of seeing your out-there ideas accurately reflect the goodwill in your hearts.


Question #1: Discuss any rural-urban events your county Farm Bureau has been part of, now or in the past. How well did they accomplish their goal of improving relations between town and country?

Rural-urban events that the Livingston County Farm Bureau is involved with include Project RED (Ag Awareness Day), as both the children and the parents on the field trip are educated. We have a large presence at the Fowlerville Family Fair. Country singer Luke Bryan will be singing at Kubiak Family farms Sept. 18. We don’t think Farm Bureau will have a presence there, but it’s something to check into. (Kirk’s Farm Bureau CAG; Livingston County)

We feel that while it is important to promote rural-urban relations, something will change. In our area we do well with Project RED for students, the Truck Show and our Ag Venture Day held in Harbor Beach to help educate our urban neighbors. We feel it is important that farmers can tell our story so all can understand how things are done. (Golden Fawn CAG; Huron County)

Question #2: Why is it important for our predominantly rural industry to invest in improving or maintaining good relations with our town and city neighbors? What’s in it for Farm Bureau and/or agriculture in general?

It is important for rural industry to maintain a good relationship with town and city neighbors to prevent misunderstandings and help people realize that food doesn’t just appear at the grocery store. (Kirk’s Farm Bureau CAG; Livingston County)

Question #3: How do the challenges and opportunities of rural-urban relations differ with the size of those urban centers?

The closest someone in a large urban area can get to agriculture is an urban garden or farmers market. Also, persons in an urban area have many other worries: crime, rent money, etc. Concern about making a rural connection would be far down on their list of priorities. We do think having a Metropark in Detroit is a great idea. It could have a miniature farm and crop exhibit similar to Kensington Metropark. Moving the state fairgrounds was a loss of the urban-rural connection. (Kirk’s Farm Bureau CAG; Livingston County)

Question #4: What towns and cities in your region have the most impact on your rural areas, and which would you prioritize for improving relations with?

Livingston has many metro areas nearby: Detroit, Lansing, Ann Arbor... More locally we have Brighton and Howell. We should prioritize Brighton and Howell as they are in our county. (Kirk’s Farm Bureau CAG; Livingston County)

Question #5: What issues in your area would top your list for discussion during a rural-urban event in your area?

An issue to discuss at a rural-urban event is the release of racoons and woodchucks into the country after live-trapping critters. Also traffic safety with farm vehicles on roads, and vandalism of farm fields by persons riding off-road vehicles. (Kirk’s Farm Bureau CAG; Livingston County)

Genesee and Wayne County Farm Bureaus have connected with urban neighbors in Flint and Detroit who’ve demonstrated an interest in scaling up their community gardens into more productive, sometimes commercial operations