Delegate action at Michigan Farm Bureau’s 102nd Annual Meeting brought some changes to the leadership lineup atop the state’s largest agricultural organization. The meeting’s second day began with the organization’s 380-member delegate body electing some trusted names to the MFB Board of Directors.
Two at-large positions were filled with incumbent Doug Darling, a cash-grain farmer from Monroe County, and newcomer Paul Pridgeon, succeeding longtime board member Andy Hagenow. A Kent County cattleman and recovering dairy farmer, Hagenow chose not to seek reelection after 21 years on the state board.
Doug Darling raises corn, soybeans and wheat on a 1,300-acre sesquicentennial farm near Maybee in Monroe County, and has served in an at-large position on the MFB Board of Directors since 2006.
His leadership resume is extensive, including service as a township supervisor, vocational ag instructor and involvement with Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer, Policy Development and AgriPac committees and ad hoc bodies focused on farmland preservation, natural resources and environmental issues.
Darling and his wife Helen have three sons.
Seventh-generation Branch County farmer Paul Pridgeon moves into the at-large position fresh off his yearlong term representing MFB’s Young Farmer program on the board. He and his family raise hogs and 4,500 acres of corn, soybean and wheat.
In addition to the Young Farmer program, Pridgeon has been active in Branch County’s membership campaigns and in 2015 graduated from ProFile, MFB’s elite leadership development program.
Pridgeon and his wife Nikki have three daughters, ages 6, 4 and 2.
The third at-large position is occupied by President Carl Bednarski (Tuscola), who will be up for re-election next year.
Also new to the board are Mitch Kline and Nancy Thelen, elected to represent MFB’s Young Farmer and Promotion and Education Committees, respectively.
Kline and his wife Brandie farm near Scotts in Kalamazoo County near Scotts, raising corn, wheat, soybeans and hay. He succeeds Branch County hog farmer Paul Pridgeon.
Thelen and her husband Steve live on their farm near Saline in Washtenaw County. A member of the state P&E committee since 2016, she brings three decades of active involvement to the table, including cofounding Project RED in the early 1990s. Thelen succeeds St. Joseph County farmer Julie Stephenson on the board.
Every year half of the MFB Board of Directors are up for election or re-election: even-numbered districts in even numbered years, odd-numbered districts in odd years. Incumbent directors reelected to the board were:
- Brigette Leach — District 1 (Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, Van Buren)
- Mike Fusilier — District 3 (Livingston, Monroe, Oakland, Washtenaw, Wayne)
- Stephanie Schafer — District 5 (Clinton, Eaton, Genesee, Ingham, Shiawassee)
- Michael DeRuiter — District 7 (Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Osceola)
- Ben LaCross — District 9 (Benzie, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Manistee, Missaukee, Wexford)
- Patrick McGuire — District 11 (Alcona, Alpena, Antrim, Charlevoix, Crawford, Emmet, Iosco, Kalkaska, Montmorency, Ogemaw, Oscoda, Otsego, Presque Isle and Roscommon)
Not up for reelection this year are those directors representing even-numbered districts:
- Jennifer Lewis — District 2 (Branch, Calhoun, Hillsdale, Jackson, Lenawee)
- Jeff Sandborn — District 4 (Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kent, Ottawa)
- Travis Fahley — District 6 (Huron, Lapeer, Sanilac, St. Clair, Tuscola)
- Michael Mulders — District 8 (Bay, Gratiot, Isabella, Midland, Saginaw)
- Leona Daniels — District 10 (Arenac, Clare, Gladwin, Huron Shores, Iosco, Ogemaw)
- David Bahrman — District 12 (the entire Upper Peninsula)
Eligible candidates for MFB director positions must be “directly and actively engaged in farming as owners and/or operators of farms whose primary interest is in farming,” and may not be employed full-time in an occupation other than farming, nor serving in a county, state or national elective office.
Michigan Farm Bureau is the state’s largest farm organization, representing the interests of more than 40,000 farmer members.