Champion of Excellence Awards recognizes county Farm Bureaus for outstanding grassroots efforts implementing member-developed policy, advocating organizational positions and promoting Michigan agriculture.
Activities are evaluated based on the innovation and effectiveness of programs executed over the preceding program year. Successful programs are then shared with other counties so great ideas can spread, enriching Farm Bureau and Michigan agriculture overall.
This is the third batch (of four) of Michigan’s 12 district-level winners; look for the final batch soon. One state-level winner will be announced at next year’s Council of Presidents Conference.
The Tuscola County Farm Bureau hosted a membership event that offered an introduction to the organization for prospective members, a fine dinner and dueling piano entertainment.
The event helped raise awareness in the community about Farm Bureau’s goals and mission, both locally and statewide. While primarily targeting existing and prospective farmer members, community members from outside agriculture were also welcomed to join so they could learn more about the organization.
The program took a broad approach, not focusing on technical industry issues but instead providing a general overview to help raise awareness of the organization. Not many outside the farming community are aware of Farm Bureau’s grassroots organization, and of those who do, few understand its purpose. Tuscola County is rich in agriculture and while many residents are appreciative and aware of the farm community’s vital role in the local economy, increased awareness is always a plus.
Proceeds were earmarked for donation to local food banks, and the timing was fortunate, as the event took place just nine days before the COVID lockdown began. That meant the $700 raised and donated to two local food banks boosted their capabilities just in the nick of time.
In the end the event also netted a couple new members and helped raise awareness of the county Farm Bureau’s role in the local community. Between the member audience and attendees from the general public, more than 120 people took part.
Members were engaged members from start to finish; their preferences even helped define the combination of timely issues and laid-back fun. They also secured the entertainment, promoted the event and helped sell tickets.
The Oceana County Farm Bureau and the Oceana Conservation District partnered to host a Farm Field Day revolving around demonstrations and presentations about programs and practices for protecting surface and groundwater, providing wildlife habitat and producing safe food.
Coordinated by the county’s Promotion & Education program, the event was inspired by members’ increasing interest in using drones to monitor diseases, insect pests and growing conditions. A guest expert in unmanned aerial systems from Northwestern Michigan College demonstrated two types of drones with agricultural applications. Rapt attendees asked questions and even tried their hand at piloting the devices.
Other speakers covered topics including cover crops, water management and conservation practices, with a focus on fuel and pesticide handling and storage. A rural rescue unit was on hand to demonstrate farm safety techniques, and the program finished with a discussion of forest management and a tour of a pollinator plantation.
In organizing the program, Oceana County Farm Bureau demonstrated its ongoing effort to keep growers updated on conservation, farm safety and the benefits of implementing new technology on the farm.
The nearly 70 attendees included 29 non-members and 39 members, 19 of which hadn’t previously taken part in a Farm Bureau activity. The roster became a starting point for reaching out to potential new members and better engaging the interests of those already on the books.
By polling prospective attendees for their topic preferences, the county Farm Bureau leadership demonstrated good communication with members, and the agenda reflected their commitment to responsible stewardship, safety and the adoption of new technology.
Mason County Farm Bureau’s Farm-to-Fork Gala aims to boost our community’s agricultural understanding through personal interaction during a fine-dining experience spotlighting locally produced delicacies. Farm Bureau members help demystify their industry in conversing with leaders from various local institutions — and help raise agriculture’s stature in a community dominated by tourism.
The event has gained traction with an inviting, inclusive atmosphere and informative interaction between local farmers and leaders from outside agriculture. It’s made possible through partnering with local educational institutions, especially high school agriscience and the community college’s culinary arts program.
Three participating members provided menu items from their own farms, helping put a face on local farmers and the products they produce. Gala guests on the receiving end — doctors, school leaders and elected officials personally invited by members — become trusted disciples who spread a farm-friendly message throughout the community: that agriculture is present, relevant, engaged and a vital component of Mason County’s prosperity.
Through the county Farm Bureau’s community connections, the Gala event helps secure donations of seasonal delicacies to a local food club, meaning hundreds of less fortunate local families enjoy a hot holiday meal otherwise beyond their means.
The gala’s ongoing success also pays off in member engagement. What began as a function of the board and their spouses has grown and spread as more involved members share in executing parsed-out responsibilities.
New members were invited specifically, and longer-term members without a history of much Farm Bureau involvement also took part. Engaging new and uninvolved members led to inviting potential future members unfamiliar with the organization and asking if they’d be interested in having their products showcased at a future gala.
Look for the final batch of Champions of Excellence district winners in the next Farm Gate, Nov. 3.