GRAND RAPIDS, MI - Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 - County Farm Bureau volunteers are recognized as Key Club recipients when they sign-up five or more Farm Bureau regular members in a membership year. A regular member is defined as someone involved in production agriculture, and in 2018, eight volunteers received the Key Club award.
Farm Bureau volunteers put their reputation on the line when they ask co-workers, ag business associates and family members to join Farm Bureau. Lester Langeland’s reputation in Ottawa County is one well-respected among those in the agricultural community. As a farmer and member of the Ottawa County Farm Bureau, he has met or exceeded the mark of signing five or more regular members for the past 30 years – the first volunteer in the 99-year history of the Farm Bureau to reach that auspicious level.
“I think you have to be convinced you can agree with the organization you’re representing,” said Lester Langeland. “When I joined Farm Bureau I didn’t have to compromise my religious or political convictions. Here’s an organization with an ear for the small people, and with an arm to carry the load to the higher ups. And I’m convinced that every farmer ought to be a member.”
Today, Lester continues to actively share his passion for bringing new members into the organization by working with a new county membership committee on a membership program he is determined to see thrive.
“We’re here, involved as farmers, so we can have influence in state law, because we’re only two or three percent of the population,” said Langeland. “A few years back the road commission in Ottawa County would not give variance in weight restrictions. Farm Bureau organized a meeting, we had about 75 farmers show up, and the road commission okayed it. Things like that, on a local level in that instance, is why it’s important to be a regular farmer member.”
“Lester has the wisdom from what I call the 30-foot level,” said State Representative Roger Victory, a farmer and regular member from Hudsonville. “Sometimes issues can be very emotional, but what I learned from Lester is take the passion out and go to that upper level, see it from there, and you can get better policy.”
Lester is working hard to teach the secret of writing new memberships to the Young Farmers of Ottawa County, for he understands the growth of the next generation of farmers is key to both the organization’s success and existence.
“As county president, I’ve seen Lester’s commitment to new membership, which is the lifeblood of Farm Bureau,” said Luke DeHaan, a Young Farmer, and president of the Ottawa County Farm Bureau. “That’s where it all starts, with the grassroots efforts of someone like Lester. What I’m fond of is the time commitment Lester gives. If you think about it, for 30 years, to spend that much time trying to find members is why he’s been successful.”