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Hirsch, Fisher see opportunity for growth
In their addresses to delegates at the annual meeting, both Ohio Farm Bureau President Steve Hirsch and Executive Vice President Jack Fisher discussed the need to consider a new membership model.
Hirsch encouraged Farm Bureau to “build a bigger tent” and to partner with those who believe in what Farm Bureau does and share the organization's values.
“I believe our organization becomes stronger by welcoming people who share mutual self interests with farmers,” he said. “I believe it’s time we tell our closest allies we want them to be engaged partners, not silent ones.”
Hirsch said he believes Farm Bureau should welcome those whose jobs don’t require them to sit on a tractor seat, such as the chemical salesmen, seed dealers and irrigation specialists, but who all rely on farmers for their livelihood. He also believes the organization should welcome those who grew up on farms, were in 4-H and know the importance of the farm bill, tax policy and water quality to farmers but now may work at Bob Evans or manage the local bakery or grocery store. He said they also rely on farmers for their livelihood and are important allies, partners and potential members.
He said he reached? this conclusion for several reasons, one being that Farm Bureau’s membership trend line “is not a thing of beauty” and another being the changing world in which our partners operate.
“I want Farm Bureau to be here to get things done for farmers when my kids and grandkids are running our farm,” Hirsch said.
Fisher discussed some of the questions being asked of Farm Bureau members: Who should be a member of Farm Bureau? How much of a member? How much engagement should they have? He said these are very important questions considering it appears our current model may have plateaued, in terms of number of members for the organization.
Fisher said that in the latest census it was revealed that there are approximately 75,000 farmers in Ohio and more than 8 million registered voters.
“I’m not great at math but 75,000 versus 8 million—I think we should pay attention,” he said. “If we’re not having a dialogue, if we’re not answering their questions, if we’re not hearing them out, we may get consequences that are not good for farm families.”
“Bottom-line, we want to positively impact quality of life for you, your family and your community. That is Farm Bureau’s opportunity,” he said.