By Carla Wardin
NEWBERG TWP., CASS COUNTY — Griner Farms in Cass County hosted District 1’s second annual Chili Cookoff and Cornhole Tournament March 10, combining it this year with the district’s Young Farmer Discussion Meet. By the end of the day participants had raised more than $3,200 for the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture, with donations coming from 15 business sponsors, door entry and live-auction proceeds. Along the way attendees sampled a baker’s dozen different chili recipes, enjoyed some live music and caught up with each others’ operations.
“This is the second year we’ve held this event,” said Brigette Leach, who represents District 1 (Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties) on the Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) Board of Directors. “We had more people and made twice as much money for the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture than we did last year. When we all come together, our counties can have even more of an impact.”
Attendees agreed raising money for young farmer leadership and youth education is a goal worthy of their time and efforts.
“People understand about ag education and the mission of the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture,” said St. Joseph County cattleman Monte Bordner. “We’ve had the FARM Science Lab here in our county, so people understand what the money is going toward.”
Aside from raising money for agricultural education, Bordner also sees the value of helping young farmers gain leadership skills.
“We have great young farmers around here—they’re leaders and they work hard,” he said. “The discussion meet was stellar because the participants were knowledgeable, respectful and passionate about their ideas. We love being able to support them in all the young farmer leadership opportunities through Farm Bureau.”
The social aspect of the event also allowed members to network.
“You just looked around—there was music, smoking good chili, young people talking to their government representatives—good things happened here that night,” Bordner said.
“We appreciate the work and support of the incredible members in District 1,” said Deb Schmucker, director of the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture. “They have an obvious excitement and enthusiasm for our shared mission.”
District 1’s discussion meet contestants include Tera Baker (Berrien County), Scott Hartsell (Cass), Mitch Kline (Kalamazoo), Brandie Kline (Kalamazoo), Loren King (St. Joseph), Mark Trowbridge (St. Joseph), Riley Brazo (St. Joseph), Drew Bordner (St. Joseph), Loren King (St. Joseph) and Andy Heinitz (Van Buren). Baker, Kline, King and Trowbridge were the finalists; alternates were Hartsell and Brazo.
Monte Bordner won the chili cookoff’s individual category. Sara Trattles (St. Joseph) won in the sponsorship category, representing GreenStone Farm Credit Services. The county Farm Bureau category went to the Van Buren County board of directors; they also took home the people’s choice award.
Dist. 59 State Representative Aaron Miller and Mark Trowbridge of the St. Joseph County Farm Bureau came out on top in the cornhole tournament.
Sponsors of the event included Farm Bureau Insurance – West Region; Greenstone Farm Credit Services; Aric and Trisha Nesbitt; Bronsink and Bos Equipment; Gala-T-Inn; Sinsational Cookie; 2 Paws Nursery; Dist. 26 State Senator Tonya Schuitmaker; Community Mills; The Shampoo Hut; MACMA; Harris Auction Service; Dist. 66 State Representative Beth Griffin, Dist. 20 State Senator Margaret O'Brien; and Entergy-Palisades Power Plant.
The Michigan Foundation for agriculture, a 501c3 formed by Michigan Farm Bureau, has a mission of positively contributing to the future of Michigan agriculture through leadership and educational programming. Click here to donate or contact Deb Schmucker.