The third class of Michigan Farm Bureau’s Academy for Political Leadership convenes for the first time later this month, beginning a pandemic-adjusted schedule that will continue through September.

COVID-19 restrictions led the group to put off meeting meet in person until a time when they can, hopefully, convene in person.

Eight participants are scheduled to meet in June, July, August and September:

Nadene Berthiaume grew up on a small farm in Genesee County, earned her education credentials at Michigan State and worked as an ag teacher and FFA advisor. She’s now district administrator of the Saginaw Conservation District, following several years as an ag-tech instructor and program director at Baker College of Owosso.

While raising her family Berthiaume is building two small businesses: a farm accounting service and a small horse farm. Her lifelong passion for agriculture informs her efforts as an advocate for agriculture, outdoor recreation and natural resource conservation.

Maria Carlin farms with her husband in Shiawassee County, raising cash crops near Owosso and running a pair of related ventures: d’Vine Wines and Maria’s Garden. She’s a graduate of MSU’s vet-tech program with degrees in microbiology and business administration; he’s a fifth-generation cash crop farmer and environmental engineer. Both entertain political aspirations.

Currently a member of the Shiawassee County Farm Bureau board of directors, Carlin represents District 5 on MFB’s state-level policy development committees and has take part in both MFB’s Lansing and Washington Legislative Seminars.

Logan Crumbaugh grew up on his family’s farm in Gratiot County, growing corn, soybeans, wheat and sugar beets. He earned his agribusiness management degree from Michigan State and through Farm Bureau events has developed a passion for political involvement, including an itch to someday seek an elected office.

Off the farm he enjoys homebrewing, riding ATVs and snowmobiles, and exploring Michigan with his wife Morgan.

Byron Fogarasi is the fourth-generation owner of his family's centennial farm in Arenac County near Sterling, raising cash crops, hay and beef cattle with his wife Robyn and their children, Ryder and Rose. Combining childhood lessons learned from his grandparents with formal education in mechanical engineering and business administration, Fogarasi is deeply committed to ensuring future generations can embrace the farming heritage his forbears made possible for him.

A member of Arenac County Farm Bureau’s executive committee, Fogarasi is already politically active as a township supervisor, taking an active role in policymaking to maintain his community’s agricultural legacy.

Loren King comes from St. Joseph County, where he serves on the count Farm Bureau board of directors and helps his family raise corn and soybeans. Off the farm he works with digital media for an agricultural startup serving farmers with digital media technology including photography, videography and drones. 

His Farm Bureau involvement has him hooked on developing solid policy and advocating for farm-friendly legislation. In 4-H and FFA, and as an MFB policy intern, King has developed and fed his passion agricultural policymaking, and personally lobbied lawmakers in advocating for measures that benefit American farmers.

Brad Lubbers farms near Hamilton in Allegan County with his parents, wife Konni and their children Thomas and Noelle. Together they raise hogs on a 200-sow farrow-to-finish farm, in addition to 900 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat.

An active member of the Allegan County Farm Bureau, Lubbers has a deep resume of involvement in every corner of the organization, from candidate evaluation and policy development to the Young Farmer program and serving on the county board of directors, including as county president.

Allan Robinette is a fifth-generation fruit grower near Grand Rapids, and a member of the Kent County Farm Bureau. His family operates a popular agritourism destination where Allan works behind the scenes, growing apples, sweet cherries and peaches.

Robeinette’s Apple Haus includes operate a year-round farm market, cider mill, bakery and winery.

Ed Scheffler comes from a third-generation farm in northeastern Lenawee County he shares with his wife Wendy and their children Faith and Austin. A member of the Lenawee County Farm Bureau board of directors, he farms alongside his father, raising about 150 acres soybeans, 100 acres of hay and 80 acres each of wheat and oats.

By day Scheffler is Lenawee County’s deputy drain commissioner, a position that informs his volunteer work with the River Raisin Watershed Council’s farmer group promoting water-quality practices and public outreach.

At their June kickoff meeting all new Academy participants will spend time getting acquainted with each other and the program itself.

MFB President Carl Bednarski will speak to the need for farmers to be active politically.

Participants will take part in training mass-media interviewing skills, social media strategy and campaign material design.

Dist. 88 State Representative Luke Meerman, a dairy farmer from Coopersville and active Farm Bureau member, will share what he’s learned from campaigning and serving constituents.

MFB Legal Counsel Andy Kok will speak to the role of the judiciary and State Legislative Counsel Rob Anderson staff will walk participants through the process of how legislation really becomes the law of the land.

The program continues with subsequent sessions in late June and mid-August, and concludes with a mid-September session in Washington, D.C. (tentative, depending on the status of pandemic precautions there.)

MFB’s Academy for Political Leadership is designed for Farm Bureau members interested in politics and government. Some participants aspire to public office themselves or seek to learn how to support office-holders, while others simply want to learn more about how government works.

The academy takes place every other year in non-election years. Contact your county Farm Bureau if you or someone you know is interested in taking part in a future class.

MFB staff contacts: Matt Kapp, 517-679-5883, and Melissa Palma, 517-323-6740