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Ernie’s Journey: Sometimes you just need to ask

Just call him Cupid… As an ambitious young field rep in the west region, Ernie Birchmeier played a role in retired MFB Vice President Andy Hagenow meeting Charlene, the love of his life.
Date Posted: February 28, 2024

Members and membership are Farm Bureau’s lifeblood, and there’s no better way to sell the organization than through a good old-fashioned membership drive. 

As a field rep in our northeast and west regions, I spent countless hours working with current members to root out new ones. We’d team up and travel farm to farm seeking out the coveted new regular member. 

People like the Kartes family in Ogemaw County, the Jakubiks and Bellevilles in Iosco, Bud Wegmeyer in Alpena County… We knocked on a lot of doors and wrote a lot of new members — maybe even shaming a few of them into joining. 

But no one was better at writing new members than Lester Langeland in Ottawa County. Lester was a master. I was only in the west region briefly but I met a lot of people because Lester was a true Farm Bureau disciple, never missing an opportunity to add to the roster.

Also in the west was that one day I set out on a mission to find young farmers in Kent County for a new committee. I remembered a friend from college — guy named Andy Hagenow — grabbed my plat book and map and headed up toward Rockford. 

I was greeted with a hearty handshake, a warm smile and a stiff arm:

“Ernie, I already know why you are here,” he said. “I don’t have time, but — since you came to the farm and asked — yes, I will be involved.”

Little did I know that farm visit would lead to Andy climbing the ladder, from county Young Farmer chair to the state Young Farmer committee, state YF chair, MFB board member and eventually that body’s vice presidency.

Coincidentally, the very next day I was doing the same kind of farm visits in Montcalm County, where I met a young lady named Charlene. Andy and Charlene went to the Young Farmer Leaders Conference that year and (long story short) they soon became Mr. and Mrs. Hagenow!

Similar stories can be shared for people like Fred Walcott, Jeff and Lynda Horning, Chris and Dusti Donbrock, and many, many more. 

It’s amazing what can happen when you ask people face to face, respect their commitment, care about them and their families, and support their livelihood — but it all starts with that first ask.

MFB’s longtime livestock & dairy specialist, Ernie Birchmeier retires later this year after 35 years of service to Michigan farmers.

Ernie Birchmeier headshot

Ernie Birchmeier

Senior Industry Relations Specialist
517-679-5335 [email protected]

Ernie’s Journey: A long farewell begins

Shiawassee Swineherd Ernie Birchmeier retires this summer after 35 years serving Farm Bureau members statewide. His farewell begins in 5…4…3…2…1…