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State News


Upbound on the St. Clair River, the American Spirit passes under the Blue Water Bridge between Port Huron and Sarnia, Ontario.
The new year brings a fresh venue for MFB’s Voice of Agriculture Conference, and with it a fresh new landscape of conference tours. Attendees can choose from two different excursions on Feb. 5, day one of the two-day conference hosted by the Blue Water Convention Center in Port Huron.

Lambs, Libations and Landscaping

One tour agenda includes sites in western St. Clair and northern Macomb counties, beginning with Lauwers Sheep Farm, where more than 600 ewes live indoors. Shepherd Cameron Lauwers will explain how he staggers his lambing schedule to provide a consistent supply of animals year-round.

Just down the road, attendees will “spring forward” at Theisen’s Greenhouse. This third-generation wholesale operation raises annuals, bedding plants and potted plants year-round for retailers across metro Detroit. The early-February time frame will showcase the earliest bloomers bound for spring flower sales.

This tour wraps up with a holistic look at the agritourism program at Blake’s Orchard. From school tours and family u-pick to hard cider processing and tasting, participants will hear how this farm provides non-farm families with a fun and informative experience. Following a tour of the orchard and cider brewery, dinner and cider tastings will take place in Blake’s event barn.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

One of Michigan’s biggest trading partners is right across the river: Canada. Exports to our neighboring Canucks totaled $902 million in 2018 alone, and they’re a strong import partner to boot.

This tour starts with a look at how agricultural imports from Canada are safely transported into the United States at the Port of Port Huron. U.S. Customs and Border Protection staff will explain their role ensuring biosecurity through inspections at the Blue Water Bridge and those crossing the international border by train, boat or plane.

After a short presentation, attendees will tour the inspection facilities on the Blue Water Bridge deck, then head to the USDA livestock inspection facility a short drive away.

Next participants will visit Michigan’s first lighthouse at Fort Gratiot, where Lake Huron empties into the St. Clair River. Port Huron Museum docents will lead a guided tour and share the facility’s history. Weather permitting, participants may climb the 82-foot tower.

From there this group will split in two, each half headed to separate dinner locations in opposite directions. One bus heads north to the Cadillac House, an historic inn and tavern just a block from Lake Huron in Lexington. The other bus heads south to Marine City Fish Company on the St. Clair River, specializing in locally caught fish in addition to some terrestrial options.

NOTE: Participants on this tour are subject to a background check by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in order to enter their facilities; names, addresses and birth dates (from MFB’s membership database) will be provided to the agency in advance. Registering for this tour equates to consent to the background check. No substitutions or latecomers will be allowed after the Jan. 6 cancellation deadline.

Details, details…
Both tours will depart from the Blue Water Convention Center promptly at 1 p.m.

Participants staying at the Holiday Inn Express may park their vehicles at the hotel and take MFB’s shuttle to the convention center prior to departure. Shuttles will transport participants back to the hotel following the tour or evening social at the convention center.

No children under 18 are permitted to participate in the tours and all participants must ride the buses.

The full conference agenda and tour information is available online.

Contact your county Farm Bureau to register, Dec. 9-20.

 
The Military Street bridge crosses the Black River in downtown Port Huron

A key highlight of Farm Bureau’s wintertime “meeting season,” the Voice of Agriculture Conference next February is taking shape with a fresh new lineup of tours, workshops and activities to nourish legions of farm-friendly advocates interested in preaching the gospel according to ag.

Registration for MFB’s 2020 Voice of Agriculture Conference will be open Dec. 9-20. Farm Bureau members with a passion for consumer-facing outreach are encouraged to leave Feb. 5-6 open for two days at Port Huron’s Blue Water Convention Center, in the shadow of the famous Blue Water Bridge linking Michigan with Sarnia, Ontario.

Day one will be dominated by afternoon tours of ag-related facilities in and around Port Huron and St. Clair County; look for tour details in an upcoming issue of Farm Gate.

The heavy lifting comes Thursday, Feb. 6, with breakout sessions in the morning and afternoon, punctuated by general programs during breakfast and lunch.

Attendees in three hourlong breakout sessions (two in the morning and one in the afternoon) have these workshops to choose from:

  • Building Bonds with Local Schools —An expert panel discusses how to build strong relationships with local schools through FARM Science Lab visits, Project RED, Ag in the Classroom, reading ag-accurate books to students and other outreach activities for children.
  • Agritourism: A Practical Guide — A panel of farmers who’ve added value to their business by embracing agritourism and welcoming customers onto their farm will discuss some of the challenges they faced, including local government, zoning, building codes and public safety.
  • Ag Education at County Fairs — Fairs are great venues for engaging consumers about agriculture. Learn about fair-based educational activities from across the country and activities that draw in consumers.
  • Our Changing Communications Landscape — Good communication within Farm Bureau is more important than ever, but the who’s and how’s of it have been shuffled. Catch up on recent changes and get reacquainted with your role in a grassroots communication system that relies on your involvement!
  • Farm and Food Care Ontario — With the rich soils of southern Canada right across the St. Clair River, learn more about Ontario agriculture from this coalition of ag organizations representing the province’s diverse farm sector — and how they make connections between farm and non-farm audiences. 
  • Hello, My Name Is... — Polish your public-facing persona and put your — and agriculture’s — best foot forward at your next speaking engagement, career fair booth, farm tour or worker recruitment event.
  • Playing the Game — In the up-and-down world of volunteer engagement within your county Farm Bureau, learn how to build on positive momentum and bounce back from setbacks.
  • ‘Reptile’ Litigation — Personal injury lawyers have begun attacking agriculture emotionally and psychologically. This session explores recent real-world cases bearing this out and offers guidance for countering such tactics.
  • Train the Trainer: Youth Program Leadership — This presentation will open three AgriSafe topics and provide training tools for working with youth ages 14-21. Provided materials cover zoonotic diseases; personal protective equipment recommendations; and hazard mapping.
  • Mental Health Resilience in Ag Communities — Some 60-80% of visits to primary care providers in America are related to stress. Learn to better identify stressors prevalent among agricultural producers; describe signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression; and discuss the impacts of natural disasters on rural communities.
  • The Five Magic Words — Learn how to get more mileage out of “thank you,” “please” and “no thanks.” Practical strategies in using these five simple words can help safeguard your sanity while transforming your county Farm Bureau, community and business.
  • Building Partnerships with 4-H — 4-H goes beyond the county fair, and today’s 4-H members are tomorrow’s Farm Bureau leaders. But how can you better engage with and support local and statewide 4-H activities? Learn how to improve this partnership and grow your future membership.

A pair of half-hour mini-breakouts begin the afternoon:

  • Treat of Agriculture — Look behind the curtain at Washtenaw County’s award-winning trick-or-treat-style event that engages rural and urban kids alike with fun learning about agriculture.
  • Advocacy Without Leaving the Farm — You don’t have to be an eloquent speaker or policy wonk to influence elected officials and regulatory leaders. Regardless of your personality, you can be a voice for agriculture through various media, often from the comfort of your own home.
  • Building Trust in Michigan Ag — Most consumers trust Michigan farmers, but for those who don’t, the Michigan Ag Council exists to answer consumer concerns and raise awareness of modern food production. Learn about their Michigan GROWN, Michigan GREAT campaign and building trust in Michigan agriculture.
  • P&E County Chair Update — Chairs, co-chairs and project leaders of any experience level in this session will gain updated resources, tips and tricks for leading educational outreach efforts in your communities. Share ideas with other leaders and brainstorm helpful new resources.
  • Collegiate FB Orientation  — Remember that eager anticipation from freshman-year orientation? It’s like that, only getting acquainted with Farm Bureau’s new Collegiate membership! Learn the fundamentals of Collegiate membership and what’s in it for your county Farm Bureau.

Register to attend the 2020 Voice of Agriculture Conference by contacting your county Farm Bureau office Dec. 9 through Dec. 20. For more information, visit the conference website or contact Amelia Miller at 517-679-5688.

Michigan Farm Bureau

Selected from the 90 nominations received from county Farm Bureaus across the state, 18 promising young Farm Bureau members have been selected to take part in the 2020-21 ProFILE program:

  • Kathleen Blust — Oakland County
  • Emily Boeve — Ottawa County
  • Casey Bozung — Van Buren County
  • Sara Bronkema — Ottawa County
  • Marianne Buza — Huron County
  • Jacob Carruthers — Manistee County
  • Alisha Gibson — Kalamazoo County
  • Brandon Hotchkin — Jackson County
  • Charles Loveland — Jackson County
  • Matt Marston — Livingston County
  • Michael Mathis — Oakland County
  • Nathan McGuire — Antrim County
  • Dirk Okkema — Mecosta County
  • Terry Page — Ionia County
  • Michael Sell — Wayne County
  • Brenda Sisung — Clinton County
  • Amanda Sollman — Saginaw County
  • Cody Tyrell — Huron County

ProFile’s 15-month agenda of leadership and professional development activities, including expert speakers, involvement opportunities and visits to ag-industry sites in Michigan and nearby states. It gets under way in January 2020 with orientation at the MFB home office in Lansing and a visit to Carhartt’s headquarters in Dearborn.

Meetings in February and March will include participation in MFB’s Washington Legislative Seminar. The busy summertime offers an optional picnic outing before the schedule ramps back up again in September and a flurry of activity the following winter.

In January 2021 participants will embark on a five-day multistate bus trip, then take part in MFB’s Lansing Legislative Seminar the following month before the program concludes with a graduation ceremony in March 2021.

Established in 1990, ProFILE is an intensive leadership development course for the best and brightest young Farm Bureau members ages 25-35. Prospective participants are first nominated by their county Farm Bureaus then selected by an MFB staff panel based on the strength of their applications.

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