When Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer shut down farmer-owned greenhouses, nurseries and landscape companies under statewide “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive orders, Michigan Farm Bureau rallied its thousands of farmer members via emails, texts and social media to urge lawmakers and the governor to join the 48 other states allowing those types of businesses to reopen.
Michigan Farm Bureau’s call to action prompted members – and many others – to send more than 56,000 messages to state legislators and the governor within one week. The issue presented a unique opportunity to engage consumers and ag supporters who were willing and able to advocate on behalf of farmers, further amplifying agriculture’s voice and demonstrating that the needs of the state’s agriculture sector overlap on many fronts with consumers’ needs.
Just days before the expiration of the current Stay Home order, Whitmer extended it through May 15, but allowed greenhouses, nurseries and landscape companies to reopen, provided they follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention safety guidelines. Garden centers in all retail stores, including big box stores, which had also been closed under the original order, are allowed to reopen as well.
MFB President Carl Bednarski said the state’s fourth-largest agricultural sector will benefit from the move. In total, the industry contributes $700 million annually to the economy and employs roughly 9,000 people.
“Michigan Farm Bureau supports Gov. Whitmer’s decision to safely reopen the state’s greenhouses and garden centers and permit landscapers to return to work,” Bednarski said. “These common-sense changes are the first step to restarting our economy and protecting the financial and social health of our state.”
He continued, “Our farmers are businessmen and women who are innovators and entrepreneurs. They have the tools, talent pool and technology to quickly adapt and adopt new best practices with a stronger focus on public health to provide safe customer experiences.”
In addition to members’ messages, MFB staff were very engaged as well, keeping in constant contact with state Department of Agriculture and Rural Development leaders, the governor's office, state Legislature leaders and the House and Senate Agriculture committee chairs.
On the media front, MFB’s articles and news releases resulted in coverage seen by as many as 750,000 people in eight states. And the organization reached nearly 2 million people over the past 28 days via social media.
Now focusing on safely reopening the state’s economy, MFB continues to work through the state’s leadership channels.
“Our diverse network of farms and businesses — the backbone of our communities — are relying on their collaboration and coordination,” Bednarski said.