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State News

By Katie Eisenberger

Teenagers!?! Am I right??? We want to connect with them, but sometimes figuring that out isn’t as straightforward as reaching elementary students.

Our kindergarteners enjoy meeting a farmer and reading an ag-accurate book while sitting on their classroom rug. Third-graders look forward to the FARM Science Lab arriving for a day of hands-on learning. Fifth-graders engage with the FARM Crate or a county Project RED (Rural Education Day) event.

Then we have our middle schoolers, who turn into high schoolers, who then graduate to attend a trade school, college or head into the workforce. To help county Farm Bureaus develop stronger engagement points for grades 6-12 and beyond, the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture has set up the 2021 MFA High School and Collegiate Pail Program. (Play your cards right and it might also strengthen your membership pipeline at the same time.) 

County Farm Bureaus can recognize, connect and strengthen relationships with high school students and Collegiate Farm Bureau members with MFB feed buckets pails filled with resources that can spark conversations and connect the county with these future members. Four add-on packages can boost your county’s giveaway game at career fairs, honor state FFA degree recipients or graduating students, and boost brand awareness at county fairs and farm visits.

Each basic pail ($9) includes Collegiate Farm Bureau and Young Farmer program promotional material; an “Engage at Any Age” postcard (customizable for your county); networking and engagement tips; a panel of county-specific information (customizable); and suggestions for other county Farm Bureau touch points, like scholarship information, Young Farmer contests, social media and website links.

Four add-on packages are available for an additional $3 per pail:

  • Be Agriculture is for use at career fairs or college nights. Present one to FFA chapter officers or 4-H county representatives during National FFA/National 4H Week, or as giveaways or participation prizes during farm or industry tour. Contents include a career-themed Ag Mag, ‘Be Agriculture’ sticker and a Be Agriculture student handout.
  • On the Farm packs are great for giving to youth participating in youth safety events, livestock shows or county fairs. Connect with FFA Greenhands (first-year members) during your local FFA chapter’s Greenhand Ceremony, or give them away at farm visits to help promote Farm Bureau events. Contents include an MFB-branded first aid or sewing kit, a copy of Michigan Farm News and an MFB-branded emergency phone number magnet.
  • Recognition add-ons are good for presenting to county FFA and 4-H members earning state awards in Proficiency, Academic Excellence or State Degrees during their chapter/club annual banquet. Use them to award top showman in each livestock specie/age division at the county fair or local livestock show; to honor graduating FFA, 4-H or Collegiate members, or your county scholarship recipients. Contents include a customizable congratulations certificate and an MFB vinyl file folder with Collegiate membership and Young Farmer program information.
  • Be Mindful packages are aimed at encouraging students to practice good wellness and mindfulness practices. They’re good gifts for 4-H or FFA seniors as they move into their next phase of life, whether in post-secondary education or the workforce. Contents include a farm-stress post card, MFB stress ball or fidget spinner, and a Farm Bureau-themed journal/coloring booklet.

Through cost-share support from the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture, county Farm Bureaus will get half off their first $600 of pail purchases made by April 30 through the Michigan Agriculture in the Classroom store. Orders must be made by the county administrative manager from March 1 through April 30; click here.

Direct your questions and orders through your county administrative manager. Like I do with my 13-year-old, set some phone reminders and post a checklist on the bathroom mirror so you don’t miss the April 30 deadline. Your county won’t want to miss a chance to recognize, connect and strength relationships with your future members!

Also feel free to contact me with any questions!

Last year was tough and we’re all eager for 2021. Even if the New Year isn’t magical it still gives us a sense of light at the end of the tunnel and a new beginning. With that new beginning, one thing remains the same: We’re still all in this togethe

Tricia McDonald joined Gratiot County Farm Bureau in 2017, first getting involved simply because she had friends to go to events with. Fast forward three short years and Tricia notched an outstanding achievement as the top membership writer statewide. In the 2019-20 membership year, she signed up 15 new regular members.

As Gratiot’s then-new Young Farmer chair, McDonald originally set out simply to share some of the value she’d found in the organization, starting with some friends who weren’t yet members. But she quickly encountered an obstacle that dogs membership writers everywhere: Many of her prospects had been members previously but lost sight of that membership’s value.

The question is legendary and worth a good think: What does Farm Bureau membership offer that’s valuable enough to attract prospective members?

Tricia started with her own Young Farmer group’s current events and how they might be enhanced to provide more value.

“That really lit a fire and led to our Young Farmer group committing to hosting events and facilitating programs that met members’ needs and showcased the value of membership,” McDonald said. “We did a Young Farmer barbecue, which was later paired with a membership ice cream social.

“It also led to us developing our Feed-a-Farmer program.”

Feed-a-Farmer was the brainchild of a previous Young Farmer chair who ran out of time to execute it. When COVID restrictions made traditional events difficult — or impossible — McDonald thought it warranted revisiting as a way to demonstrate membership value even within healthy safeguards.

The way Gratiot’s Young Farmers drew it up, Feed-a-Farmer eligibility only required the recipient farm’s primary contact to be a member — but the whole crew got fed a solid meal livened up with a generous sprinkle of Farm Bureau seasoning…

Back at the clubhouse, McDonald turned her attention to striking a better balance between new-member recruitment and existing-member retention.

She encouraged her Young Farmer peers to bring a non-member friend to the group’s annual chili cookoff and cornhole tournament — a fun networking opportunity already on the calendar. Each cornhole team was to have at least one current Farm Bureau member onboard to help ensure good interaction between existing and prospective members…

Next thing you know? Tricia’s the state’s top volunteer writer of new regular members.

“Farm Bureau impacts every individual in the ag industry in a different way, but it’s valuable to everyone in some way,” McDonald said. “Find someone in agriculture, whether a farmer or industry professional, and really listen to them.

“Learn what’s important to them, and it’ll help you find the value they’re looking for. Once you know their interests, talk about how the organization could benefit them through its various programs, discounts, or just the ability to network and meet others in the area and industry.

“Most importantly, remember it doesn’t hurt to just ask. Now might not be a good time for them to join, but at least you’ve planted a seed for the future.”

Planting seeds. That is how we grow.

Tricia McDonald joined Gratiot County Farm Bureau in 2017, first getting involved simply because she had friends to go to events with. Fast forward three short years and Tricia notched an outstanding achievement as the top membership writer statewide

Continuing our series of real talk with real experts about the real issues facing Michigan farmers, Farmers After Hours: Rural Access, Wellness and You will explore the struggles and resources available for rural healthcare, wellness and support. By breaking down the building blocks of overall health — medical healthcare, rural health trends and mental health — this series will help viewers build awareness of their current health habits and connect with resources to improve their overall well-being.

  • March 17: Live Farmer Panel
  • March 24: Rural Access: The Struggle is Real; healthcare & broadband; Eric Frederick, Connect Michigan
  • March 31: Creating Connectivity: Resources for Rural Areas; healthcare & broadband; The Rural Broadband Association and Rural Health Association
  • April 7: Rural Health Trends; mental health, suicide and cancer; Drs. Elena Stoffel and Joe Himle, University of Michigan
  • April 14: Rural Trends: Diffusion and Meaningful Solutions; mental health, suicide and cancer; Kim Vapor and Dr. Joe Himle, University of Michigan
  • April 21: Farm Stress: The Physical and Mental Toll; real-life stressors, tolls and stigma reduction; Charlotte Halverson, AgriSafe
  • April 28: Combating Stress: Tactics, Resources and Networks; Eric Karbowski, MSU Extension
  • May 5: Live Ask-the-Expert Panel

Register for the new Farmers After Hours series here. Catch up on previous series here on YouTube.

MFB staff contact: Kate Thiel517-679-5741

Continuing our series of real talk with real experts about the real issues facing Michigan farmers, Farmers After Hours: Rural Access, Wellness and You will explore the struggles and resources available for rural healthcare, wellness and support.

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