MOUNT PLEASANT, MI --
The 2016 Great Lakes Crop Summit, a joint effort of the Corn Marketing Program of Michigan (CMPM), the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee (MSPC), and the Michigan Wheat Program, in partnership with nearly 30 Elite, Premier, Select, and speaker sponsors presented two days of educational sessions featuring 3 keynote speakers and 27 breakout sessions. Attendees who participated in sessions on both days could earn a total of 8 RUP recertification credits and Phase 1 credit with the MAEAP program.Farmers are oftentimes considered to be gamblers, but the over 900 farmers and other agribusiness professional who gathered at the Soaring Eagle Casino and Convention Center at Mt. Pleasant, Michigan on January 27 & 28 weren’t there to sit at the blackjack table or play the slots, but to keep up on the latest technical and business practices for improving their farm businesses.
During the break times from the educational sessions participants were invited to visit the trade show exhibit area where nearly 60 businesses had displays and staff to expose the attendees to their products and services available for Michigan farms.
Kickoff on Wednesday morning featured keynote speaker Randy Dowdy, a first generation farmer from Valdosta, Georgia. Dowdy stressed the need for ”professional results in daily efforts” and explained how that motto has worked for him as he followed it in his effort to successfully grow a 500-bushel-per-acre corn crop. He outlined how a crop has a certain yield potential when planted, but that everything happening to the crop from then on can push the “minus button” to reduce the final yield harvested by the farmer. Dowdy outlined how to use a simple “flag test” to follow the emergence of the plants to determine possible problems in the planting method, soil condition or surface compaction that can lead to reduced yields. The use of plant tissue testing could possibly indicate a nutrient problem the farm might be unaware of by just doing a visual assessment of the growing crops in his fields. Farmers were told tissue testing every week is the best method to spot problems early on. Farmers were encouraged to “try things” on their farms, and to give the tests a couple of years before deciding whether to apply the new practice on the entire farming operation.
Jolene Brown presented the second keynote address “Stop the Fighting on the Way to the Funeral Home”. Brown, a farmer and author from West Branch, Iowa was sponsored by Foster, Swift Collins & Smith PC. She used personal examples and humor in detailing how proper planning needs to be used in a farm business operation. In her address she outlined 10 major points that need to be considered not only running the farm business, but in making plans for it to be carried on after the parents or partners pass on or wish to retire from the business.
Using several examples from families she has consulted with, Brown cautioned attendees to: “Hire family members well because it’s hard to fire them”, “Use common courtesy”, “Being part of a business is conditional. It is not a birthright”, and “Hope is not a good business strategy” which is a good example of why everything should be in writing to avoid misunderstandings and hard feels among family members.
The Thursday morning session was kicked off with a keynote from Terry Fleck from the Center for Food Integrity, in St. Louis, Missouri. Fleck outlined the various “Food Consumer Personalities” in today’s world.’’ He explained how social media has changed consumer views of foods, the food supply chain, and also farmers. He indicated that farmers need to work to connect with the consumer so that they are viewed as being trustworthy. Farmers need to spend less effort on explaining the science of agriculture, but more on building trust with their consumers.
Breakout session topics over the two days covered a large array of topics on crop production methods, crop storage, soil fertility, herbicide management, problem weed control, ethanol’s impact on corn’s future, increasing soybean demand, elder care issues, wheat diseases and accelerating wheat yields, and a farmer panel on cost management for the 2016 crop.
Following the Wednesday afternoon breakout sessions, the Michigan Corn Growers Association (MCGA) and the Michigan Soybean Association held their annual meetings. Both organizations are again planning to hold their annual meetings during the 2017 Great Lakes Crop Summit scheduled for the Mt. Pleasant location January 25 - 26, 2017.