After two years as Michigan Farm Bureau’s state-level Promotion & Education (P&E) chair, St. Joseph County farmer Julie Stephenson is taking her talents to the national stage. She led Michigan’s P&E program through the thick of the Covid pandemic – 2020-21 – a challenging term that saw the innovation of FARM Crates and other creative approaches to remote outreach.
Stephenson will serve on the American Farm Bureau Federation’s P&E Committee starting this year, stepping into the shoes of another Michigan P&E standout, St. Clair County’s Stacey Lauwers.
Ten individuals representing qualifying Farm Bureau P&E states make up the national-level committee. Its mission is to develop and centralize resources that inspire and equip Farm Bureau to convey the significance of agriculture.
“It felt like a natural progression for me to look for new challenges and find new ways to promote agriculture,” Stephenson said. “I was able to lead and be part of the committee in a really challenging time, and I think we collectively learned a lot and executed our mission really well together.”
Among Michigan P&E’s accomplishments under Stephenson’s leadership was a major redistricting project in 2019, which required working together with other state-level committees.
“I think the collaboration piece is something that I'm most proud of – being able to work with the Young Farmer program and continue to strengthen the importance of policy in Promotion & Education,” Stephenson said.
That collaborative spirit will serve Stephenson well as she works with leaders from other states. Building on her extensive experience with the FARM Science Lab, she sees an opportunity to reach new audiences moving forward.
“We do a really good job of promoting in the classroom, but I feel like there's a lot of opportunity to work together and find new ways to engage with the general consumer and an adult population,” Stephenson noted.
With more than 20 years of Farm Bureau experience and involvement in Michigan, Stephenson encourages others to get involved with the organization in any way that works for them.
“If there’s ever any inkling of interest, just take the step,” she advised. “I've always told folks just to keep challenging yourself and let yourself grow. And if it feels a little bit uncomfortable, that's probably a good thing!”