The 2023 Michigan State Annual Meeting is now completed. Hundreds of Farm Bureau delegates from all over Michigan met to discuss and vote on the policies that MFB will promote to legislators in the coming year. The theme of the meeting was Growing today for a better tomorrow. That growth and that better tomorrow were clearly on display at the discussion meets.
Every year, there are discussion meets for three levels: high school, collegiate, and young farmer. While a discussion meet is a competition, it is not adversarial. The purpose is for the participants to discuss issues of concern in agriculture with an attitude of collaboration, building on each other’s ideas rather than tearing them down.
Kent County is proud of all its discussion meet finalists: Piper Koebel at the high school level, Victoria Caine at the collegiate level, and Zoey Zupin and Haleigh Austin at the young farmer level. Koebel, Caine, and Zupin competed at the State Annual, and Zupin and Austin were Kent County delegates. Zupin and Austin were energized by their time (6+ hours) on the delegate floor this week, eager for more opportunities to be involved.
I was able to attend both rounds that Zupin participated in, and appreciated her insights on the diversity not just of commodities in Michigan, but of the kinds of farms in Kent County. She said,
“I’m a proud West Michigander and proud to see the diversity in our area. I’ve seen urban, organic, CSA, and conventional farming and I think it’s important to include all of them in Farm Bureau…. Farm Bureau has a collective mission, which is a great way to recruit members in areas we don’t have a lot of now. We’re in Grand Rapids, just 15 from my home, and I’ve seen urban farming go through cycles—a farm goes up, generates excitement, farmers cannot secure funding, and it fails. We should be going to these urban and organic farmer conferences to talk about Farm Bureau and the benefits of membership, especially our ability to connect farmers of all kinds to resources to help them be successful.”
The young farmers were excited to lead Farm Bureau into greater connection between farmers. They want young farmers to be able to more easily find experienced farmers in their area to learn from. They would like to see Farm Bureau partner with other organizations to offer trainings on farming methods, funding sources (both grants and loans), and advocating for their rights.
Their knowledge of and passion for agriculture in Michigan was inspiring. As they grow in leadership and skill, we are definitely in for a better tomorrow.