Jackson County’s Chris Sanford has deep roots and family ties in agriculture and Farm Bureau. Born into a dairy, he earned a degree in agricultural business and now raises beef cattle with his wife Jackie and their boys. The farm goes back through seven generations of his family and now includes a farm store where they sell beef cuts directly to consumers.
Sanford got involved in Farm Bureau after college, picking up a family tradition going back at least two generations. His mother was the first woman to chair the state Young Farmer committee, so for Chris it was a no-brainer to take on Jackson County’s current Young Farmer program.
“If you want to make an impact and be an influence, you have to be involved,” he said. “If you want a seat at the table you’ve got to be at the table. It was important for me to continue being that representation for Jackson County and Michigan agriculture.”
After spending time on the county Farm Bureau board and executive committee, Sanford felt it was time to step up and grow Jackson’s Young Farmer program, hoping to foster a sense of community and spur involvement. He values how the program provides opportunity to recognize members’ talents and achievements while bringing together those of different backgrounds and experiences.
“That’s been a big piece for me, and that’s really my approach to Farm Bureau as a whole,” Sanford said about young-farmer diversity. “To get more involved, I think we have to be able to showcase all aspects of agriculture.”
His leadership is getting results, with the program pushing and initiative to boost local meat processing. Several area facilities cut meat but only one — 40 years old with an owner itching to retire — can actually harvest animals.
Sanford feels this issue, which his program took from the grass roots to Lansing, is an important one for Young Farmers specifically, because encouraging them to take on the challenge of a harvest facility is vital to maintaining a healthy local livestock sector.
Looking forward, Sanford hopes his Young Farmer program will offer valuable events, grow participation and member involvement at every level — so members can see that involvement making an impact, both locally and statewide.
This article is part of an ongoing series looking at the accomplishments of county Young Farmer chairs; look for more in upcoming issues of Farm Gate.