FFN Study Session – Michigan Farm Bureau – Leelanau Hort Station October 15, 2014

Network Council Study Session Notes

October 15, 2014   10:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Leelanau County Horticultural Research Station

Farm Bureau Informational Session

  1. Introductions
  • Bill Palladino – MLUI/TLD
  • Sarah Eichberger – MSU
  • Rod Robinson – Eaton B Goode
  • Ann Robinson – Eaton B Goode
  • Kris Thomas – Benzie Rotary
  • Tom Emling – MSU
  • Jim Dixon – Saskatoon Institute
  • Helen Leithauser – NCMC
  • Wendy Wieland – MSUe
  • Jessica Rasch – GTCD
  • Laura Spencer – GTCD


  • Mark Coe – Goodwill Farm to Freezer
  • Scott Smith – Local Food Alliance
  • Brian Matchett MSU/NMC
  • Levi Muellenberg – Farmer
  • Paul Wagner – Farm Bureau Grawn  Wagner Farms (beef cash row crops)
  • Diane Conners – MLUI
  • Zane Schwaiger – Leelanau Conservancy
  • Brian Bourdages – GTRLC
  • Heather Ratliff – Cherry Capital Foods
  • Nicco Pandolfi – Cherry Capital Foods


  1. NW MI Farm Bureau conversation led by Paul Wagner and Mark Coe
    1. Paul is 5th Generation Farmer, corn, soy, cattle. Direct to consumer.
    2. Farm bureau is a general farm org. Grass root org. Not limited to commodity crops.
    3. Begins at county level. Policy development committee takes info from members and moves conversation upward toward state level through democratic voting process.
    4. Statewide there are several hundred members.
    5. Meet with election candidates and represent farmers
    6. Large and small growers, Organic and conventional growers, new young farmers coming on board.
    7. Waters of the US, water supply systems are being regulated by EPA. The farm bureau is working on this, because the farmers have expressed concern.
    8. Local office on Garfield and 8th
    9. Mark Coe: County annual meetings present policies that have been discussed throughout the year. The policies are voted on, then brought to the statewide annual meeting. These policies are adjusted during the meeting and voted upon. The policies are printed in the annual publication. The policy book goes to the legislature to influence how federal policy is made.
    10. 640 members in the Grand Traverse County region.
    11. Open positions at Benzie/Manistee County. Education and Promotion work needs support for programs like Beef Princess, Communication with School Teachers, “Who Cooked My Soup” publication follow up, etc.
  1. Questions/Comments
    1. What percentage of farm bureau time and resources are spent on policy? Development Committee meets 2-3 times per year. Policy is brought up at the monthly meetings, as well as at the annual meetings
    2. Note that a large staff in Lansing are working on policy year round, lobbying etc.
    3. While the local county volunteers are only working on that as a part of the work there is a staff in Lansing and Statewide working on:
      1. Regional Representative, each county has a staff liaison between the county volunteers and the statewide home office in Lansing. This is a field position living in the region and helping the county volunteers work on their programs.
    4. Wendy worked on the young farmer development program several years ago
    5. Ben LaCross is our district director in Leelanau and we are fortunate to have him
    6. Where are the statewide meetings? Grand Rapids, Detroit, and Grand Traverse Resort
    7. The annual state meetings are really wonderfully democratic processes
    8. TCAPS was targeted at the annual meeting one year, helping provide education on a single day that hundreds of volunteers went out on a single day to present science based education
    9. What happens with “Who Grows my Soup”? – Education is an area that everyone needs more help in. There is literature available to be sent to the schools, but distribution needs to be pushed a bit harder
    10. Is this tied to curriculum requirements? – Yes – This could be utilized by farm to school educators, and would be quite helpful to educators. These practices are brought into the classrooms attached to curriculum beyond agriculture practices. MLUI is currently working on creating sustainable curriculum that could be integrated into the classroom without a volunteer base making those projects happen. There is an opportunity for a very powerful alliance with the Farm Bureaus and the ISD to help make systematic change.
    11. Policies being worked on include:
      1. Transportation: ie. Rail service update encouragement
      2. Natural Resources: ie. Wetland Protection
  • Safety and Compliance: Craig Anderson speaks locally often
  1. Law
  2. Insurance
  3. Energy and Technology
  • Urban Farming
  • Education: everything from high school ag programs to farmer etiquette
  1. Under each topic there are numerous projects and policies being developed
  1. NOTE: “Not just a place to buy insurance” !!!
  2. Question about Young Farmers Program
    1. Tough to get people involved in young farmers engaged.
    2. There was a discussion about raising the age of “young” that was not passed
  • See Leadership Conference in materials presented at meeting for more info
  1. Trends in Farming Interest
    1. There is more niche market farming (grass raised dairies, cheese makers, agritourism, etc.)
    2. There is more diversity because there is more opportunity
  2. Have policies started to evolve to represent more niche market farmers? – Urban Farming is a great example of that. It wouldn’t have existed 10 years ago
  3. A lot of the policies that farm bureau’s focus on don’t represent a specific type of farmer, land acquisition covers farms of all sizes
  4. To what extent are the farm bureaus focused on local consumption? – 100%, we are farmers looking to sell products.
  5. Farm consolidation has decreased the size (and historic charming friendly party environment) of the farm bureaus. Since the land that used to be farmed by 12-15 farmers is now managed by 2-3, there are less people involved, and the bureau meeting have transition to largely business meetings.
  6. Synergy between the good food charter priorities, and the farm bureau policies? – Benzie/Manistee are beginning those conversations because Mark Coe has presented it to them. The conversations are beginning, on a local level but they have not historically be involved in those conversations. Statewide there is likely a connection, though to what extent we’re unsure. There is a great opportunity for the Center for Regional Food Systems, and the young inspired farmers to get connected with their local farm bureaus.
  7. High School Ag Program have had a great connection with the farm bureau’s producing school gardens, farmer classroom visits, etc.
  8. Farm Bureau (Marc) is working on getting ag and home economics in the Northern MI school system again.
  9. Funding structure? – Insurance Sales/ Associate Membership. Membership based funding. $50/year. Training Fees.
  10. Do you have to be a farmer to be a member? – You can be an associate member, and the board can promote you to a regular member if you are a professional in the ag industry.
  11. Another powerful tool of Farm Bureau is their magazine. This a great place for outreach to generate interest of farmers in new programs/ network programs.
  12. What is the metric for the candidate endorsement? – This begins at the county level and works up to state level. They are bi-partisan. Agri Pac is the federal endorsement from the Farm Bureau. Candidates must apply to the board to present to the group. The website can present the decision making process for endorsement.
  13. Challenges for the future? – Time and active engagement is an issue being addressed because there is a community spokesperson who connects the task groups to the board members.
  14. Immigration Policy is a long conversation for another day.
  15. If you haven’t yet, check out the National Geographic Article focused on young farmers in Northern Michigan.
  1. Engagement Opportunities for Food and Farming Networks. (Connections from this meeting.)
    1. At a minimum it would be great to connect with our local county area, inform the local counties of what we’re working on, etc.
    2. Farm Bureaus are huge supporters of MEAP. They are very helpful in promotions and include GTCD on the board meeting agendas regularly.
    3. These opportunities exist.
    4. The Local Food Alliance in Little Traverse Bay has had great success forming a relationship with the Emmet and Charlevoix County Farm Bureaus.
    5. We would love to present the projects of the Farm Bureau at events. These materials provide great opportunities. Farmers don’t necessarily “toot their own horn” we should exploit the good work they’re doing.
    6. New generation of farmers are looking at local markets and new farming techniques and practices. There are great opportunities to connect young farmers
    7. Are there commodity specific goals? It might be useful to focus on specific crops as we refine our local metrics and see gaps. See also the ??? Farm Council ???
    8. Connection with Farm to Sr. programs is an exciting opportunity.
  1. Thanks to everyone. This was a great learning experience!


  1. Quick Relevant Updates:
    1. Local Food Alliance
      1. Local Food and Farm Celebration is happening now with all sorts of wonderful events going on! Farm Bureau is hosting a training on Fire Safety.
      2. Around the Table: Growing Together. Conference on Nov. 12th.
  • One of the winery growers in Emmet County has just been published.
  1. MSU Product Center
    1. Making it in Michigan. Nov 12. – Educational Event for food entrepreneurs
  2. Ag Show – Nov 9, 10, 11. Meet the buyers, etc.
  3. Farm to Freezer
    1. Local Food Promotion Grant Award 100K. Bigger Freezers, delivery truck, etc!!!
  4. Goodwill
    1. Purchased a new warehouse. Looking share space with several new food entities. Classroom area for hospitality training. If you’re looking for space contact Mark Coe.
  5. Food Farms and Health
    1. 130 People from throughout NW MI including hospitals, employee wellness coordinators, nurses, etc. came to the table.
    2. Pre-cursor to a national conference held locally in 2013
  6. MDARD Value added TC industries in animal production and specifically aquaponics – Panel recruitment. Any ideas, contact Jessica Rauch
  7. Welcome friends from the region, beyond Traverse City Region. Thanks for making the time to come out!
  8. Food Day – Apple Crunch! – Oct. 24.
  9. Small Farm Conference – January 24th.
    1. Friday events! Intensive educational events workshops on:
      1. Soil Fertility
      2. Agriforestry – Permanent Perennial Forestry including fruit, mushrooms, etc.
      3. Kickoff Keynote Speaker: Wynona LaDuke
    2. Soliciting Sponsors
  • Ad Space Deadline is 10/28
  1. Annual Summit
    1. Date Changed back to March
  2. MLUI – LFPP USDA Grant
    1. Award for TLD!!! 75K
    2. A part of this is specifically allocated for Food and Farming Network to fund a Vista Americorps coming on board to work specifically on measurement.
  3. Good Food Festival on Oct 27 & 28th.
  4. Cherry Capital Foods is partnering with the Wallace Center to work on Group GAP certification processes, as an extension to the UP Food Exchange Pilot Project. Details are a work in progress. This benefits all farmers, not exclusively CCF present or future vendors. Information Session will be held sometime in Jan, Feb. Date and Time TBD.

Next Meeting: Nov. 19th – Location TBD, stay tuned

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