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Michigan Farm Bureau Family of Companies

Farm Bureau, partners bringing fresh food to Northeast Michigan

Dave Tolan, county president of Huron Shores Farm Bureau, and Robert Barrigar, Farm Bureau Insurance Agent Charitable Fund president stand next to the refrigerated tractor trailer that Omega Electric and Sign Co. recently wrapped with their message of ending hunger in Michigan. The truck will be loaded with fresh produce to be distributed soon to those who need it most, thanks to a partnership between Farm Bureau and the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. Image credit: The Alpena News
Date Posted: April 2, 2024

ALPENA — A tractor trailer full of fresh Michigan apples will soon be distributed to those who need free fresh food in eastern Michigan, thanks to a collaboration of Farm Bureau agencies, and the generosity of businesses in our community.

Dave Tolan is county president of Huron Shores County Farm Bureau, which covers Alpena, Alcona, Presque Isle and Montmorency counties. He is also a dairy farmer in Ossineke. 

Robert Barrigar, Farm Bureau Insurance Agent Charitable Fund president, owns Robert Barrigar Agency in Alpena.

There are two parts of Farm Bureau, Barrigar explained, representing the Farm Bureau family of companies.

“There’s Farm Bureau of Michigan, so that’s what Dave is a member of and president of our local chapter,” Barrigar noted. “When people buy their memberships, they’re part of an organization, a lobbyist group, as well, that advocates for anything agriculture, farmers in the state of Michigan. It pushes through policies and deals with our local politicians to try to keep agriculture strong.”

“With me being on the ag side of it and Bobby being on the insurance side of it, it’s a family of companies that work together, every single day, all day long,” Tolan said. “We both are on the same page so we can get more accomplished with better results than being two separate entities, altogether.”

“His group is, basically, the voice of Northeast Michigan, these counties, of what farmers need,” Barrigar said of Huron Shores County Farm Bureau.

“They send us to D.C., periodically, if they see something that they need more of an ag presence in D.C.,” Tolan said. “Last week, we were in D.C.”

“Michigan Farm Bureau was formed first,” Barrigar said. “It was back in the early 1900s. Basically, a group of farmers got together and said, ‘We need to work together to lobby Congress and help with what we need help with.'”

Then, he said, to better provide for those farmers’ insurance needs, Farm Bureau Insurance was formed.

“Farm Bureau Insurance was born from Michigan Farm Bureau,” Barrigar said.

He talked about the Farm Bureau Insurance side, and its role in helping to end hunger in Michigan.

“Farm Bureau Insurance, which I represent, is the Agent Charitable Fund, which is a fund that was created by insurance agents, just across the state of Michigan, to make an impact in the state,” Barrigar said.

Barrigar explained the purpose of the Agent Charitable Fund.

“It’s a group of agents from around the state of Michigan that donate their own personal money to contribute to this fund … united behind the cause of ending hunger in Michigan,” Barrigar said.

He talked about obtaining the refrigerated trailer, and all the people who are helping make this initiative successful.

“When we purchased this trailer, Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan said ‘We really want to help with this,’ so we had a collaboration between the two of purchasing the trailer and getting the trailer filled,” Barrigar said. “We bought the trailer at All Star Equipment in Byron City. Omega Electric has wrapped all four trailers that we’ve donated, so far.”

The agency has committed to purchasing and donating five tractor trailers to the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan.

“These trailers are, specifically, to help them have the ability to transport more fresh fruits and vegetables,” Barrigar said. “That’s the importance of this refrigerated trailer. They’re extremely hard to find right now, they’re extremely expensive right now, so it’s a difficult thing … This is going to get fresh fruits and vegetables to kids and families that need it, to give them more healthy options … in our rural areas.”

He said while this is the fourth trailer Farm Bureau has donated with funding from the Agent Charitable Fund, this is the first one that will remain at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, which services almost 600 hunger relief partnerships throughout 22 counties in eastern Michigan, including Alpena County. The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan is headquartered in Flint. It also covers the counties of Alcona, Presque Isle, Montmorency, Iosco, Oscoda, Cheboygan, Otsego, Crawford, Roscommon, Ogemaw, and more.

According to the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan’s website,, more than 211,000 people in eastern Michigan are struggling with hunger. In 2023, the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan distributed over 30 million pounds of food, and more than half of that was fresh. Here’s a breakdown of the 2023 distributions: 13 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables, including Michigan produce from more than a dozen farms; 3.3 million pounds of dairy products, and 4.6 million pounds of meat and other proteins.

Now that the refrigerated trailer has been acquired and will be in use in April, more people in Northeast Michigan will have access to fresh produce, dairy products, and proteins that need refrigeration during transport.

“Riveridge is partnering with us to donate the apples,” Tolan said of the orchards and apple packing facility in Sparta. “They are going to work with us, for when the Food Bank is ready to pick up the apples, and then send them to the Food Bank in Flint.”

“This trailer will be full of those apples when it gets donated,” Barrigar said. “We’re filling the trailer.”

Michigan Farm Bureau has played a vital part in making sure these trailers get locally grown, fresh food to those who need it in eastern Michigan.

“Every trailer that we’ve donated, Michigan Farm Burea really works out the logistics of getting it filled,” Barrigar said. “We’ve worked with the pork producers of Michigan, and one was filled with pork, we’ve worked with the milk distributers, and we filled one trailer fully up with milk. We did a fundraiser campaign and raised almost $20,000 … and we bought food with that, and filled the trailer.”

This time, it’s all about the apples.

“Thy worked with one of their apple orchards, and worked out a deal to get our trailer filled,” Barrigar said. “Riveridge is donating half, Michigan Farm Bureau is purchasing the other half, to fill the whole trailer.”

“Big shout out to our local businesses — Omega Electric and Male’s Construction,” Barrigar said. “Tom Male, his construction company, they drove down, picked up the trailer for us, brought it back. He donated his warehouse space, because … the Eastern Food Bank of Michigan really needed the trailer to hit the road, immediately.”

He said being able to use Male’s warehouse allowed Omega to be able to wrap the trailer with the logos in a climate-controlled environment.

“When you’re wrapping a trailer like that, you really need the temperature to be cooperative,” Barrigar said. “It needs to be, at least, in the 50s. He donated one of his warehouses and actually heated the whole thing, and let us pull the trailer in there so Omega could send a crew out and wrap it for us. And then, he’s delivering it back, downstate.”

Barrigar added that Ryan Fairchild of Omega has given them great deals on wrapping each trailer.

“He’s been involved with the Agent Charitable Fund since the very beginning,” Barrigar said of Fairchild. “So, his logo’s on the back of every single one of them.”

“We’ve had help, between Male’s Construction and Sumerix Farms, a bunch of different local people that have stepped in and said, ‘I love what you guys are doing. Let me know how I can help.'”