The Anderson family farm is at a key intersection along what my dad called “the back way” to Manistee from Ludington. As such it’s been a mental landmark since my own childhood, long before that family’s roster added a Jacob in the late 1980s.
Jake Anderson is the fourth generation raising corn, soybeans and wheat there near the center of Victory Township. He and his bride live in a house built by the first generation, Jake’s great-grandparents. His parents and grandparents all still occupy the same corner, plus an aunt, uncle, a cousin…
Having crossed Jake’s path a few times in recent years, my comfort level allowed me to launch bluntly into asking him about his new role as president of the Mason County Farm Bureau.
“Well Jake, you ready?” I started.
“Not ready, but definitely capable,” he responded, grinning with an eager confidence you can color in for yourself.
His ascension up the ranks has been steady and quick, diving into the Young Farmer program just a few short years ago. Before the ink was dry on his membership application he was at the 2019 Growing Together Conference, starting to soak in the diversity of Farm Bureau programming waiting for him.
Since then he’s hit all the Meeting Season high points without losing focus on his priorities close to home, starting with tapping a successor to lead Mason County’s Young Farmer program.
“We’ve got Sam Schade there and she’s already making exciting progress,” he said, including stepping up quickly onto the state-level Young Farmer committee, where she now represents all of District 9 (Mason, Benzie-Manistee, Northwest Michigan, Missaukee and Wexford County Farm Bureaus.)
Indeed, Mason County Farm Bureau is one of several statewide that seem to’ve discovered and put to good use a local fountain of youth. Recent years have seen young members step confidently into positions of leadership as an older guard gradually hands them the keys.
With that transition comes updated priorities based in part on how this next generation does business, in its dynamic, often tech-based means of earning a living from the land.
“We want to be more involved in social media for sure,” Anderson said, especially for connecting with younger members. “We should look at other districts and see how they use social media for member recruitment and boosting attendance at local events.”
Speaking of, Mason County’s marquee membership event is right around the corner: an annual late-winter fish fry scheduled for March 18 — the event’s sixth iteration. (The 2020 fry got fried in the early days of COVID and the following year’s outdoor variation suffered low attendance because, well, it was outside in March in Michigan.)
The fish fry is a key event on Mason County’s calendar, offering a laid-back fellowship vibe before planting season zaps everyone’s availability. Over the years it’s also proven an effective venue for welcoming newcomers; almost 10 new members were signed at last year’s event.
Anderson’s also looking to see more Mason County members at state-level core programs and local Promotion & Education events. Last year the county’s P&E team shifted its classroom focus from the already ag-savvy Mason County Central district, centered on Scottville, to Ludington’s newly consolidated elementary building in town.
Anderson said the county Farm Bureau got its ‘in’ at Ludington thanks to a farm-friendly ally in the form of teacher Scott Andersen*, whose STEAM room — science, technology, engineering, arts, math — is one of the few through which all students circulate over the course of a day. From the Farm Bureau perspective, that’s a lot of contact with townie kids whose overall exposure to agriculture is meager.
*No relation. It’s Ludington so you gotta watch the vowels: Best not to confuse your Andersons with Andersens, Petersons with Petersens, Larsons with Larsens…