Local farmer is Michigan’s Farm Bureau Volunteer of the Year
By Jeremy C. Nagel
Previously published in Michigan Farm Bureau News
Michigan Farm Bureau’s (MFB) 2017 Volunteer of the Year is Washtenaw County dairy farmer Katelyn Packard.
Growing up in a family already deeply involved in Farm Bureau, Packard started volunteering at a young age, helping her mother at Washtenaw County’s popular Project RED (Rural Education Day) event. Scooping ice cream for young students soon led to staffing the event’s dairy station—good preparation for eventually guiding tours of her family’s dairy, Horning Farms.
“My parents have always been really involved in Farm Bureau. It’s always been part of my life,” Packard said. “Now I do a lot of the tours on our farm. The number one thing we try to get across to people who visit the farm is our cow care—that our animals are well cared for and we’re doing the best we can to make sure they’re happy and healthy.”
Well regarded as a wellspring of new ideas for her county’s active outreachers, Packard has been central in planning a successful farm safety day, National Agriculture Week events, and other activities that help illuminate the mysterious world of food production for curious consumers.
The farm safety event drew more than 100 attendees and incorporated content targeting young and old alike. Packard designed promotional postcards and banners, and a popular “farm safety passport” used to motivate younger participants through the different topical stations.
Packard’s annual “Proud Farmer” t-shirt designs have helped raise the profile of Washtenaw County’s activities during National Agriculture Week in March. She also gathers on-farm photos from members to share on social media platforms, helping further illustrate the breadth of daily work farm families put into food production.
“I think it’s really important to share our story as farmers with consumers and people who aren’t involved in it every day,” Packard said. “They’re interested in learning but they just aren’t informed about it. They don’t have the resources to learn about it if we aren’t willing to volunteer and help them.
“That’s really what drives me: I really enjoy teaching people about what I do every day.”
Packard also works directly with her local livestock clubs to help better illustrate to prospective buyers what goes into raising the animals they purchase at local fair auctions.
“‘Sharing Our Story in Agriculture’ is a project we’ve been doing for a few years now,” Packard said, rooted in Washtenaw’s countywide and three small community fairs. “At each of those fairs the kids who show the different livestock species collect pictures from throughout the year of them and their animals.”
Packard compiles those photos into a cohesive slideshow presentation shown during the pre-auction buyers’ dinner—where the impact on those buyers is evident.
“The buyers … love to see the kids with their animals at home, giving them a bath, taking them out for a walk,” Packard said. “They love seeing the whole project come together instead of just that one night at the auction.”
Also active in the organization’s Young Farmer program, Packard helped pull off an enriched event that transcended the usual emphasis on camaraderie and networking. Her Young Farmer Advocacy Breakfast attracted participants from several counties to dig into the details of upping their outreach game back home.
“It helped us all learn more about how to share our stories,” said Packard, who after breakfast pulled back the curtain on how she conducts public tours of her own family’s dairy farm. The “how-to walk-through” provided a forum of sharing insights about how to handle visitors’ questions and explaining what goes into choosing tour stops.
Packard will receive her award at the 98th Michigan Farm Bureau Awards Banquet, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 at the DeVos Place in Grand Rapids.