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Michigan Farm Bureau Family of Companies

Just your average membership ride-along

Farm Bureau member-volunteers wrestle with a staggering array of challenges at every turn, from juggling a heavy load of adulting to sneaking agriculture back into a wayward county fair.
Date Posted: April 28, 2023

Acronym Alert!

You didn’t ask for another acronym, but here it is anyway: The all-caps part of HOME Team stands for Home Office Member Engagement. 

HOME Teams are small handfuls of home office staff tasked with helping county Farm Bureaus in your district with membership work: events, recruitment, retention, prospect lists, etc.

I’ve enjoyed being part of these since they started because nothing beats meeting with Farm Bureau family members on their own turf. It’s the most essential, most fun and most rewarding part of working for you.

Recently I enjoyed a day of HOME Team work, riding shotgun with a Regional Manager to visit half a dozen involved members. Most visits were typical: pleasantries, token of appreciation, Farm Bureau this, Farm Bureau that, keep up the good work, gotta run. But a couple warrant more detail — and sharing — because they deviated from those norms.

Life Happens

One visit started out challenging but blossomed into a positive ‘win.’ 

The role of membership captain makes unique demands on a volunteer, and just by itself can be a lot to take on. So if your “real” life outside Farm Bureau is also packed, something’s gotta give.

Just as difficult is knowing when you’ve maybe taken on too much, and that it’s time to trim your to-do list. But that’s exactly what one of our visitees (that’s a word now; you know what I mean!) had to do, and she did it with class and everything’s gonna be a-okay. (“The sun’ll still rise in the east,” my mom would say.) 

Knowing she wasn’t able right now to give membership work the energy and attention it requires, she reluctantly stepped aside and opened the door for her county Farm Bureau to continue moving forward with another person in that role.

Life happens, we all get overwhelmed, and stepping aside is waaaaaaaaaaaay smarter than burning out. 

Burnout is real! I’ve seen it firsthand and it ain’t pretty — not healthy for the burned-out individual, and very detrimental to the county Farm Bureau whose sole pedestal cracked under the weight it was bearing. 

My other takeaway was some bigtime validation for the power of personal contact. It is vitally important to get real and talk with people.

It would’ve been easy to pass on this visit entirely, but sidestepping it would’ve left the county FB standing still, membership-wise. Empathy, understanding and compassion aren’t just warm and fuzzy; they can move you forward.

Time & Place

Some of my most rewarding Farm Bureau moments have been seeing the lights go on in the eyes, mind and heart of an engaged member. The organization’s overall success over the past 100+ years suggests this happens regularly, but actually being there when a glowing ember erupts into living flame is special. It’s a right-place-at-the-right-time kinda thing.

The present example happened while talking with a young leader over lunch. It began with a specific discouragement many counties can relate to: a summertime fair that’s more about the midway and concessions than the show ring and still exhibits. 

Many fairs have lost or forsaken their agricultural roots, leaving plenty of county Farm Bureaus in this same pickle: How to squeeze back into a county fair that left them by the side of the road holding a show stick and an empty halter.

Robbed of this annual opportunity to reach a huge audience of locals, what’s a jilted farm sector to do? 

In this case, it was remembering an underutilized fairgrounds building that got this particular county Farm Bureau leader’s mind racing. Something clicked in his head and instead of a sad reminder of better days back yesteryear, he saw in this empty building an opportunity — an opening through which his local farm community could re-enter the event itself — a venue, a launch pad, a home base, a foothold… 

Much like the right paper can pull words from a writer, sometimes the right building/venue can spark ideas about what to fill it with, and that’s where this clever member lit up: his eyes widened and his speech sped up as mere words struggled to keep pace with the ideas churning in his brain. 

I pointed a wobbly index finger toward his flashing eyes and said, “I can see your gears turning!” Letting go of the imaginary steering wheel I added, “I can tell you’re gonna make this work.”

Timing is Everything

The postscript is a sour note turned on its head. Time was running short and our final visit was a hike back close to where we started. (Good plan: big loop.) 

At our final appointment I went inside to visit while my guide stayed in the car, tied to a virtual meeting on her phone and watching as one of four PSI numbers on her dashboard plummeted before her eyes. We’d picked up some road metal at some point and by the time I was done chit-chatting the right-rear radial was rapidly deflating — hissing like a cranky barn cat.

“I’m his favorite,” my coworker said. “Go back in and tell him we need a hand.”

And just like that… In the rain…

“Just back it up on the cement,” he directed.

And in less time than it took me to dig the spare out from underneath all the junk in the wayback, our one-man pit crew had the Chevy up, the flat off, the spare on and the Chevy back down again.

You thought Gary’s Discount Tires was the best place to catch a flat? Maybe so, but a real close second is Any Farmer’s Driveway.

Portrait of MFB Member Communications Specialist Jeremy Nagel.

Jeremy Nagel

Member Communications Specialist
517-323-6885 [email protected]