82nd Annual Michigan Farmers’ Union Convention & Member Meeting

The Michigan Farmers Union is a grassroots organization dedicated to protecting the social and economic well-being of Michigan family farmers. Each year, they host an annual meeting to discuss policy issues at hand, before pushing them forward to the national level. This year at the 82nd Annual Michigan Farmers’ Union Convention and Member Meeting in St. Johns, state affiliates had the opportunity to hear from a variety of key players in Michigan’s food system. Plus, the MFU served a 41% Michigan-sourced Certified Local Food Event lunch from Zaytoon’s, with vegetables harvested from Guiding Light Garlic Farm.

Here’s a recap:

• Speaking on the power of building food system connectivity, Cary Junior, Founder and General Manager of the Southeast Michigan Producer Association (SEMPA), spoke on the ways his organization is dedicated to helping underserved communities gain access to fresh produce. They primarily serve urban farmers in the Detroit area, but the association has made in-roads across the region.

• Eric Karbowski, an MSU Extension Educator, spoke on farm stress management and the challenges of farming during trade wars, climate change, and generational shifts. Since suicide rates among farmers and producers continue to rise and create a massive health burden for farming families, this issue has become a major policy concern of the National Farmers Union. 

• Remi Huver, Treasurer of the Caledonia Future Farmers of America Chapter, had an opportunity to attend this year’s National Farmer Union Fly-In in Washington, D.C. She and dozens of other FFA members joined the NFU in meeting with the USDA and lobbying Congress at this year’s Fly-In. Remi proudly represented not only Caledonia, but all of Michigan agriculture there, and presented on these experiences at the MFU Convention and Member Meeting to resounding applause and support. 

Additionally, attendees listened to the Union’s annual update from NFU Vice President Patty Edelberg. Several topics were addressed, such as the dire state of dairy farms, the monopolization of food & farming companies, and the negative impact of export tariffs and climate change on family farmers across the nation. This framed the state members’ policy discussion with a focus on sustainable vs. regenerative practices, no-till farming, and carbon sequestration at the top of the debate.

The National Farmers Union represents family farmers, fishers, and ranchers across the country, with divisions in 33 states. NFU believes “the key to the success and credibility of the organization has been Farmers Union’s grassroots structure in which policy positions are initiated locally. The policy process includes the presentation of resolutions by individuals, followed by possible adoption of the resolutions at the local, state and national levels. Members and staff of the Farmers Union advocate these policy positions nationwide.” It was an honor to see this protocol in process, have my voice heard, and I look forward to attending future annual meetings as a member of this organization. 

The NFU holds their national convention this year from March 1st – 3rd, in Savannah, GA. You can learn more about it here

Molly Stepanski is the NE Michigan Local Food Coordinator and the statewide Sales Supervisor. She enjoys reading with her son, planting and hiking in the dirt, cooking up her own recipes, drinking farmhouse cider, and eating lots of fresh, seasonal produce (and anything deep-fried, in accordance with her southern heritage). She owns and operates Presque Isle Farm with her family and is a founding member and V.P. of the NE Michigan Food & Farming Network. Contact her at [email protected]