This year’s Council of Presidents Conference kicked off with a prime example of the event’s role as forum for idea-sharing between county Farm Bureaus. A panel of three county presidents shared a heaping plateful of clever ideas that’ve paid big dividends for their local organizations.
Lapeer County Farm Bureau has been rolling in recent years and president Tiffany Howell opened with the big guns: the cereal drive that ended with the donation of 1,500 boxes of breakfast cereal through a wildly successful collaboration with the North Branch Schools PTA and local food banks.
“We teamed up with the PTA and found they were looking for new projects — and they came with volunteers!” Howell enthused recalling the “seed-to-spoon” drive.
Not to be outdone by themselves, Lapeer followed up the cereal drive with, appropriately, a milk-drive effort to ensure local schools are supplied with adequate stocks of fresh dairy.
Other recent Lapeer wins include an ag-tire recycling campaign and partnering with a local charitable group to help equip needy families with locally grown food, basic cooking tools and hands-on guidance in fundamental cooking techniques.
Most of Lapeer’s greatest successes, Howell said, “have all been about partnering with other organizations.”
Next up was Lenawee County’s Tom VanWagner, who set the stage by explaining the pervasive challenges his members face every day just working land in the western Lake Erie basin. (In a nutshell: All roads lead to a conversation about water-quality stewardship.)
To that he cited the interest his members had expressed for closer contact with the organization itself.
To date Lenawee’s members have welcomed Safety Services Specialist Craig Anderson and Conservation & Regulatory Specialist Laura Campbell to speak to a number of safety and conservation issues, including MAEAP, the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program.
“We’re really getting quite a following,” VanWagner said. “I’m appalled how many farmers are not Farm Bureau members, so we said, ‘We’ve got to do something to create more value for members.’”
Macomb County President Amanda Kutchey wrapped up the session describing her county’s popular Ag Education trailer. Members are free to use the small mobile classroom as a pulpit for spreading ag’s good word at local schools, fairs and community events — wherever there’s an audience hungry for nutritious knowledge about where food comes from.