By Jeremy Christian Nagel
GENEVA TOWNSHIP, MIDLAND COUNTY — As the incoming chair of the state-level Young Farmer committee, Nate Clarke is still breaking in his seat on the MFB Board of Directors, but his quick ascension suggests it won’t take him long to adjust. His path to leadership has been short and direct, and if it hasn’t been typical, that just goes to show there’s more than one route from standing on the sidelines to involvement at the highest level.
Mid-December, late in the day, and inside a wide-net, 30-minute conversation, Nate praised the value of his Farm Bureau involvement four or five times—and with no prompting from his visitor. He didn’t utter the exact words “you get out what you put in,” but that familiar phrase pretty well summarizes his mindset.
And mind you that comes from a guy—a busy young farmer who’s at least as busy as every other busy young farmer—who admits he was somewhat pressured into the membership itself after being, um, “encouraged” (also not his word) by a neighbor to fill a vacancy on the Midland County Farm Bureau board of directors.
“Thirteen years later, here I am,” Clarke said.
Dig deeper and he comes clean about a family legacy of Farm Bureau involvement.
“My grandpa Don was a Farm Bureau member forever, and my great-grandpa Arthur was active in a community group way back when.
“Dad was active in Young Farmers when he was my age; he always had fun and said I would too. I remember him talking about district displays at the Saginaw Mall, and flipping pancakes at the rural-urban dinner.”
The value of the organization’s social-networking undercurrent, Clarke said, is an often-overlooked perk of Farm Bureau membership.
“The networking is huge. Our farm still has business connections rooted in the relationships dad forged during his Young Farmer years.
“I don’t know how you put a value on that kind of thing—it can’t be quantified, but it’s so valuable.”
In 2016-17 he took part in and graduated from ProFILE, MFB’s advanced leadership academy.
“ProFile really works. It’s just a really well-rounded program, and I’m glad I did it,” he said. “Farm Bureau does a very good job of making leaders, and it works very well—the system works.
“Probably the biggest thing I got out of it was learning how to work with other people’s personalities. Especially with my somewhat dominant personality, I learned how to recognize why other people see things differently than how I do.”
He served on Midland’s board for seven years—four as president—and represented the county as a state-annual delegate each of those years. During that time, he fell hardest for the policy-development process.
“What I like about it so much is that if one person has a problem, we can take real action toward resolving it,” he said, citing an instance when a nearby beekeeper took issue with the DNR releasing relocated bears near his hives, with predictable results. The resulting local-level policy recommendation charged through the PD process and is now enshrined in MFB’s state-level policy book.
“You don’t have to show up at too many meetings to get your money’s worth,” Clarke said about the organization’s meager membership dues. “It just doesn’t take long to get that value back.
“There are people around the state I’ve gotten to know well, being active and involved, and I find it extremely valuable. It’d be hard to overstate all the experience I’ve gained—or what I wouldn’t have gained—if I’d just stayed here and kept my head down and drove tractor.”