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Michigan Farm Bureau Family of Companies

Wayne County visits highlight FB membership, policy points

Wayne County Farm Bureau member Clarence Price is the heart and soul of Pingree Farms, an organ of Milton Manufacturing.
Date Posted: May 14, 2024

Farm Gate looks at Farm Bureau through a lens of member involvement. In that spirit, and since policy-development season is upon us, let’s look at my recent Wayne County visits through your policy book.

Southeast Regional Manager Hannah Meyers and I had three conversations with three members, and all got me wondering the same existential questions: What’s Farm Bureau good for? What are they getting for their $50 dues? Where is that membership falling short and how else could the/our/their/your organization help?

As our PD machine lurches into motion for 2024, it all warrants a good think, because if there are policy gaps to fill, it’s on you and now’s the time... 


Our tour of Pingree Farms in north-central Detroit started with manager Clarence Price showing off its parent company, Milton Manufacturing. We wound through almost half a mile of gritty fabrication — stampers, stitchers, presses pressing, welders welding — before jumping across a parking lot to an open building full of livestock.

The goats, sheep and other 4-H-ready species await new accommodations across the street, where Milton owners Jim and Shelly Green started buying up blighted residential parcels in 2010. One burnt-out house after another, the lots and blocks east of Milton are transforming into acres of open ground ready for tilling.

Clarence manages Pingree’s educational component, coordinating student visits with schools and 4-H clubs. That’s the fulfilling, soul-warming part of his position — the part that comes naturally. But as Pingree-the-nonprofit anticipates the inevitable split from its for-profit parent and works to make its own way, it’ll need a grant-writer to secure funding and labor to keep the farm working between groups of schoolkids.

(Farms need workers? Come on…)

Pingree’s wish list also includes common-sense and consistently enforced guidance from the city. Detroit’s urban-ag scene is breaking new ground in every sense and from every angle, but from a regulatory standpoint, the city’s struggling to keep pace with ordinances that balance the interests of two distinct groups: (a) community-building entrepreneurs pushing the envelope of urban America’s most exciting new industry, and (b) neighbors with concerns and mixed feelings about crops and livestock moving into their neighborhood. 

MFB policy #37 codifies organizational support for urban farming, but at four paragraphs and a mere 146 words, it’s an incomplete skeleton at best. Only members like Clarence — actively engaged in urban agriculture — can flesh it out into a really useful, practical, working policy.


I usually reserve “It’s a hike” for distant destinations in the U.P., but from Pingree it felt like one getting out to Keion Jackson’s place in Sumpter Township, way out in Wayne County’s southwest corner. 

His pre-visit guidance to wear high boots and long sleeves was on target, but I was also glad I’d brought a raincoat and my imagination, because it was raining by then and Keion’s farm isn’t a farm yet. 

Maybe so, but it’s crystal clear to him and he sketched it out for us; Keion’s vision is as contagious as it is convincing. 

Pending inspections and determinations from NRCS and U.S. Fish & Wildlife, he’ll soon bring order to his deep strip of wooded land south of Belleville, clearing underbrush, erecting fencing and raising hoop houses.

Keion plays the long game by necessity. He’s got a lot of irons in the fire between chairing Wayne County’s Young Farmer program, navigating MFB’s 15-month ProFILE curriculum and regularly delivering his herd of goats to brush-control clients across metro Detroit.

Did I say hoop houses? Yes: His plan includes diversifying into fresh-vegetable production to feed undersupplied farmers’ markets in orbit around Belleville.

Keion’s situation intersects with Farm Bureau policy throughout the book: land use (#81), wetland regulation (#91), private property rights (#86), drainage (#72), direct marketing (#15) and how about a beginning-farmer tax credit (#94)?

He’s also in need of a mulcher for hire.


Our last stop was Mike and Cheryl Lance’s farm in Romulus, just outside the DTW flight path. Mike’s a retired metalworker very much at home on Cheryl’s family’s pristine centennial farm. 

If ‘pristine’ seems too strong a word, ‘immaculate’ works just as well. Many of the mixed farm’s original outbuildings still surround the original home and look solid enough to resume their intended purpose at a moment’s notice.

Mike and Cheryl’s pride is evident — and warranted — as they escorted us around their de facto museum of early 20th-century agriculture. The acreage still yields bountiful corn and soybeans, but sweet corn’s the more neighborly commodity here in the most densely populated corner of the state. 

Speaking of density, what does a winding-down farmer on the fun side of his vocation need from Farm Bureau? How about some more bodies — with political savvy — to lend a hand on Wayne’s candidate-evaluation committee?

Check out this map and behold all 40+ of Wayne County’s state and federal legislative districts. Every election year candidate-evaluation activity puts a special kind of hurt on the county Farm Bureau as its leaders struggle to connect with and weigh the merits of far more candidates than your county ever sees. (Unless you’re Oakland, which has it almost as bad.)

Unmoved? Add 15 seats on the county commission, another nine on Detroit’s city council; both have a hand in regulating urban agriculture. Wayne County members engaged in candidate evaluation (policy #104, by the way) are a breed apart.


None of this is to paint Wayne County Farm Bureau as some kind of special-needs case, although its uniqueness goes without saying. In the name of policy-development season, the point is to take a hard look at how — and how well — this book serves you. 

Changing it — keeping it current and relevant — hinges on your involvement.

Get involved in policy development by contacting any of your county Farm Bureau leaders or MFB Regional Manager. 

Portrait of MFB Member Communications Specialist Jeremy Nagel.

Jeremy Nagel

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

Save the date for district policy development meetings

Several district policy development meetings are scheduled for this spring and summer.