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Top Story

Sparks Cedarlee Farm to host free ice cream social, farm tour

By Angie Marciniak
 

CASSOPOLIS — The sweet sound of children laughing, playing and enjoying ice cream cones will soon drown out the usual mooing that can be heard coming from the 1,600-acre dairy farm.

 

Once a year, the farmers at Sparks Cedarlee Farm, 59085 Gards Prairie Road, Cassopolis, opens the proverbial gates and let the community in to see what life is like on an active dairy farm. To sweeten the deal, they give away free ice cream and organic milk samples from Horizon Organic to anyone who attends.

The ice cream social and farm tour, now in its fifth year, will be hosted from 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 25. Funded through the Cass County Farm Bureau and the United Dairy Industry of Michigan, the event offers a variety of activities for families. Folks who attend the event will park about a quarter-mile away from the barns, and will be treated to a horse-drawn wagon ride to and from the action. While there, participants can tour the farm, observe cows being milked in the milking parlor, get their face painted or play in the one-of-a-kind “sandbox.”

“One thing that’s always a big hit is a corn sandbox — kind of like a sandbox but made with corn. The kids can spend the whole day in there,” said Ken Sparks, co-owner of the farm.

Along with all of the family-friendly activities, attendees will get a free family photo taken that day that they will mail to their address after the event.

Perhaps the most-anticipated feature is the ice cream. According to Sparks, it comes directly from Plainwell Ice Cream company, served in a cake or waffle cone, and is available in eight flavors.

“We go all out to be sure everyone has the experience of eating ice cream on a real dairy farm,” Sparks said.

In past years, Sparks said they have gotten between 700 and 800 people attending the event.

“We just really enjoy being able to do this for the community. We love to open up our farm and support dairy in our community,” he said.

Among the 1,600 acres of certified organic farmland, there are 500 cows producing 3,000 gallons of milk a day, four chicken barns full of hens that lay 30,000 eggs each day and fields of corn they raise themselves to feed their animals.

To continue reading, follow this link.

County News

Sparks Cedarlee Farm to host free ice cream social, farm tour

By Angie Marciniak
 

CASSOPOLIS — The sweet sound of children laughing, playing and enjoying ice cream cones will soon drown out the usual mooing that can be heard coming from the 1,600-acre dairy farm.

 

Once a year, the farmers at Sparks Cedarlee Farm, 59085 Gards Prairie Road, Cassopolis, opens the proverbial gates and let the community in to see what life is like on an active dairy farm. To sweeten the deal, they give away free ice cream and organic milk samples from Horizon Organic to anyone who attends.

The ice cream social and farm tour, now in its fifth year, will be hosted from 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 25. Funded through the Cass County Farm Bureau and the United Dairy Industry of Michigan, the event offers a variety of activities for families. Folks who attend the event will park about a quarter-mile away from the barns, and will be treated to a horse-drawn wagon ride to and from the action. While there, participants can tour the farm, observe cows being milked in the milking parlor, get their face painted or play in the one-of-a-kind “sandbox.”

“One thing that’s always a big hit is a corn sandbox — kind of like a sandbox but made with corn. The kids can spend the whole day in there,” said Ken Sparks, co-owner of the farm.

Along with all of the family-friendly activities, attendees will get a free family photo taken that day that they will mail to their address after the event.

Perhaps the most-anticipated feature is the ice cream. According to Sparks, it comes directly from Plainwell Ice Cream company, served in a cake or waffle cone, and is available in eight flavors.

“We go all out to be sure everyone has the experience of eating ice cream on a real dairy farm,” Sparks said.

In past years, Sparks said they have gotten between 700 and 800 people attending the event.

“We just really enjoy being able to do this for the community. We love to open up our farm and support dairy in our community,” he said.

Among the 1,600 acres of certified organic farmland, there are 500 cows producing 3,000 gallons of milk a day, four chicken barns full of hens that lay 30,000 eggs each day and fields of corn they raise themselves to feed their animals.

To continue reading, follow this link.

2018 State Annual Meeting



MFB’s 2018 State Annual Meeting marks the kickoff of our yearlong centennial celebration, commemorating the first 100 years    of your state Farm Bureau. This year’s annual meeting will focus on celebrating the growth, accomplishments and challenges of our first century. At the 2019 annual, we’ll recap what we’ve learned and uncovered, then set our sights on Michigan Farm Bureau’s second century!

Nearly 1,000 farmers, family members and special guests from across the state will gather in Grand Rapids for Michigan Farm Bureau's (MFB) 99th Annual Meeting.

       

Core activities include: 

  • Policy adoption
  • Award ceremonies & Young Farmer contests
  • MFB president's annual address
  • Guest speakers & special activities
  • MFB board of directors elections

For more information, including the agenda, click here
MFB's 2018 State Annual Meeting marks the kickoff of our yearlong centennial celebration, commemoration the first 100 years of your state Farm Bureau.

2018 AgriPac Endorsements


Following are the candidates designated as “Friends of Agriculture” by the Michigan Farm Bureau AgriPac Committee.  The designation constitutes an election endorsement for the November 6, 2018 General Election. 

Michigan Governor / Lt. Governor 

Bill Schuette (R) / Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R)

Attorney General

Tom Leonard (R)

Secretary of State

Mary Treder Lang (R)

Supreme Court

Kurtis T. Wilder; Incumbent
Beth Clement; Incumbent

MSU Board of Trustees

Dave Dutch (R)

U.S. Senate

Debbie Stabenow (D)

U.S. House of Representatives

District
1 Jack Bergman (R)
2 Bill Huizenga (R)
3 Justin Amash (R)
4 John Moolenaar (R)
6 Fred Upton (R)
7 Tim Walberg (R)
8 Mike Bishop (R)
9 Candius Stearns (R)
10 Paul Mitchell (R)
11 Lena Epstein (R)
12 Jeff Jones (R)

Michigan State Senate

District
7 Laura Cox (R)
8 Peter Lucido (R)
10 Michael MacDonald (R)
12 Michael McCready (R)
13 Marty Knollenberg (R)
14 Ruth Johnson (R)
15 Jim Runestad (R)
16 Mike Shirkey (R)
17 Dale Zorn (R)
19 John Bizon (R)
20 Margaret O’Brien (R)
21 Kim LaSata (R)
22 Lana Theis (R)
23 Curtis Hertel Jr. (D)
24 Tom Barrett (R)
25 Dan Lauwers (R)
26 Aric Nesbitt (R)
27 Jim Ananich (D)
28 PeterMacGregor (R)
29 Chris Afendoulis (R)
30 Roger Victory (R)
31 Kevin Daley (R)
32 Ken Horn (R)
33 Rick Outman (R)
34 Jon Bumstead (R)
35 Curt VanderWall (R)
36 Jim Stamas (R)
37 Wayne Schmidt (R)
38 Ed McBroom (R)

Michigan House of Representatives

District
2 Joe Tate (D)
3 Wendell Byrd (D)
14 Cara Clemente (D)
16 Kevin Coleman (D)
17 Joe Bellino Jr. (R)
20 Jeff Noble (R)
24 Steve Marino (R)
26 Jim Ellison (D)
30 Diana Farrington (R)
32 Pamela Hornberger (R)
33 Jeff Yaroch (R)
34 Sheldon Neeley (D)
37 Christine Greig (D)
38 Kathy Crawford (R)
42 Ann Bollin (R)
45 Michael Webber (R)
46 John Reilly (R)
47 Hank Vaupel (R)
48 Sheryl Kennedy (D)
49 John Cherry (D)
50 Tim Sneller (D)
51 Mike Mueller (R)
52 Donna Lasinski (D)
56 Jason Sheppard (R)
57 Bronna Kahle (R)
58 Eric Leutheuser (R)
59 Aaron Miller (R)
61 Brandt Iden (R)
62 Dave Morgan (R)
63 Matt Hall (R)
64 Julie Alexander (R)
65 Sarah Lightner (R)
66 Beth Griffin (R)
67 Leon Clark (R)
69 Julie Brixie (D)
70 James Lower (R)
72 Steven Johnson (R)
73 Lynn Afendoulis (R)
74 Mark Huizenga (R)
77 Tommy Brann (R)
78 Brad Paquette (R)
79 Pauline Wendzel (R)
80 Mary Whiteford (R)
82 Gary Howell (R)
83 Shane Hernandez (R)
84 Phil Green (R)
85 Ben Frederick (R)
86 Thomas Albert (R)
87 Julie Calley (R)
88 Luke Meerman (R)
89 Jim Lilly (R)
90 Bradley Slagh (R)
91 Greg VanWoerkom (R)
92 Terry Sabo (D)
93 Graham Filler (R)
95 Vanessa Guerra (D)
96 Brian Elder (D)
97 Jason Wentworth (R)
98 Sarah Schulz (D)
99 Roger Hauck (R)
100 Scott VanSingel (R)
101 Jack O’Malley (R)
102 Michele Hoitenga (R)
103 Daire Rendon (R)
104 Larry Inman (R)
105 Triston Cole (R)
106 Sue Allor (R)
107 Lee Chatfield (R)
108 Beau LaFave (R)
109 Sara Cambensy (D)
110 Gregory Markkanen (R)

Statewide Ballot Proposals

Proposal 1 - NO
Proposal 2 - NO
Proposal 3 - NO


Following are the candidates designated as "Friends of Agriculture" by the Michigan Farm Bureau AgriPac Committee.

State News

Michigan Farm Bureau


Involvement opportunities abound within the comfy confines of your own county Farm Bureau, and this is a good time of year to weigh your options among the organization’s traditional program areas. Counties are encouraged to have their standard committee appointments for 2020 finalized by late January in these program areas:

  • County Nominating
  • Candidate Evaluation
  • Membership Committee
  • Policy Development
  • Promotion & Education
  • Policy Implementation Team
  • Young Farmer Committee

With 2020 being an election year (have you heard?), it’s particularly important that county Farm Bureaus appoint strong candidate evaluation committees for vetting local office-seekers and better informing MFB’s AgriPac Committee for state- and national-level endorsements.

In Barry County, Rick Lawrence has been involved in candidate evaluation for 15 years. 

“I get a more personal connection with candidates, and a better idea as to what their level of involvement with agriculture is,” Lawrence said. “That connection with a winning candidate benefits all of agriculture by being able to better communicate at their level.”

Leroy Schafer has been a candidate evaluation fixture in Clinton County for the past four election cycles. He sees the program as “a great opportunity to get to know them better and have a say in who Farm Bureau endorses to help elect pro-ag candidates.

“It gives me inside information I can use to help inform others about candidates and their positions. Also it’s just a great opportunity to meet them on a personal level,” Schafer said. “When the candidates know you personally, you become the one they call when they seek knowledge on how to vote on agricultural issues.”

Savvy leaders will note Local History Teams are missing from the program menu, as their centennial-year mandate and supporting grant program have come to a close with the end of 2019. Even so, county Farm Bureaus interested in maintaining their Local History Teams are welcome to do so; history happens every day and many county Farm Bureaus are planning their own individual centennial celebrations in the years to come.

County Farm Bureaus are strongly encouraged to welcome newcomers onto standing committees. New perspectives, directions and opinions will only strengthen your local organization — benefits that seep up through the grassroots to the regional, state and national levels. Aiming to turn over at least a quarter of committee members annually, and carefully surveying your membership roster — especially new members — is a smart approach for finding prospective new volunteers.

Via Farm Gate and direct communications, members and county Farm Bureau leaders will receive more notices and reminders over the coming weeks. Contact your county Farm Bureau office or MFB regional representative for more information about involvement opportunities.

With committee appointment season upon us, it’s a great time to look for new avenues of involvement in your county Farm Bureau!

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.

Coming Events

DateEvents
February2020
Tuesday
25
2020 Lansing Legislative Seminar
333 E. Michigan Ave.
Lansing, MI
Lansing Legislative Seminar provides an opportunity to learn from expert speakers on policy issues impacting agriculture, help legislative and regulatory leaders understand Farm Bureau policy, and share ideas and talk about local issues with fellow members.