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Michigan Farm Bureau Family of Companies

Mail-in turnout puts wind in Huron Shores’ sails

Dave Tolan, Ossineke dairyman and Huron Shores Farm Bureau president.
Date Posted: January 28, 2021

The pandemic’s silver linings are few and far between, but doing things remotely has sometimes paid off in some unexpected ways. Not one county Farm Bureau last fall was eager to completely reconfigure their annual meeting, but those that tried drive-through formats and mail-in ballots found they could at least get the job done on some level.

In the sparsely populated Huron Shores Farm Bureau, where just 278 regular members are scattered across Alpena and Alcona counties, mail-in ballots netted a nearly 30% response rate — almost four times better than their baseline involvement in a “normal” year.

“It was way better turnout than we thought we’d have,” said Dave Tolan, president of the Huron Shores Farm Bureau and milker of cows just outside Ossineke. “People weren’t sure they wanted to do mail-in. We’ve had some issues with the mail up here, but once all the ballots came in, we were quite pleased.

“I think we’ll do it again this year as well,” Tolan said.

The unexpected turnout via post conveniently provided Huron Shores’ board of directors with a tasty new prospect list for involving lurkers, leading to a question familiar among county Farm Bureau leaders: How do you turn a one-time involvement spike into a rising tide of member engagement?

“As soon as we can get doing anything in person again, we’re going reach out to the members we hadn’t heard from before and make sure they’re aware of what else we’ve got going on,” Tolan said.

“Our Young Farmers have quite a few members. They want to do some activities this year and invite those new county annual respondents. We’re not going to limit who can participate just because of their age.”

Tolan added that from his perspective, the shot in the arm was echoed in renewed enthusiasm among his board of directors in a recent goal-setting session.

“It’s definitely put some wind in our sails, for sure.”

P.S.: Kitty-corner from Huron Shores to the southwest, the Ogemaw County Farm Bureau also tried mail-in balloting last fall and carded almost twice their normal participation. Beyond more policy engagement, Ogemaw saw a major uptick in traffic to its website and a slew of write-in nominations for board positions and Young Farmer chair.