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.