At the Intersection of Tradition and Tomorrow

We all know the world of agriculture is changing. And there’s no better place to see that than where growing cities expand into areas once considered “the country,” and reserved exclusively for agriculture. That’s where YF&R Excellence in Agriculture Award winner Mike Miron lives, and where he works to teach a new generation about the industry that feeds us all.

Mike is the fifth generation to live and work on his family’s dairy and crop farm near Hugo, Minnesota. “My family established the farm in 1887,” he explains. “I’m active on the farm, but it’s my brothers Paul and Andrew who maintain the family tradition, along with our parents, Fran and Mary Ann, who continue to own the farm.

“We’re primarily a dairy farm; most of the crops we raise are fed back to our herd of about 100 milking cows. I stay close to my ag roots. When things get busy, my dad reminds me to come get some hands-on ‘practical development,’ by adding some muscle or driving the tractor. But as an agriculture teacher and FFA advisor, I’m plenty busy already.”

Miron finds that the majority of students he teaches and advises at Forest Lake High School come from non-farm backgrounds.

“We’re only about a half hour from downtown Saint Paul, and I don’t have many students who come from a farming background. Not all of my students will pursue ag careers, but I know they’ll all be consumers. So I try to open their eyes to agriculture, to share exciting innovations and technologies, and to let them know about agriculture companies that offer career opportunities for them in the Twin Cities.

“We have five ag classes that provide concurrent enrollment. That means students taking the classes have the option to also enroll for college credit. We have partnerships with the University of Minnesota and Hennepin Technical College, and the classes use the same textbook and materials as [those used] in college. That’s a great deal for the kids; they don’t have to leave high school to get college credit.

“I think ag teachers form a special connection with students. We see them outside of school, we help with career planning, with their FFA award applications and competitions. That’s something I value.”

While his roles as an educator and farm family member might seem like a full enough plate, Miron finds time to maintain his active participation in Washington-Ramsey County Farm Bureau.

“I’ve been a Minnesota Farm Bureau member ever since I started college. The family had always been members, and when I moved out to go to school, I took out my own membership. I also started in the YF&R program, and took part in competitive activities like the discussion meet early on.

“I know how important Farm Bureau’s advocacy and ag literacy efforts are. Being so close to the Twin Cities, we can share agriculture’s story and heritage with people who haven’t had that much exposure to it. I know some people view urbanization as a challenge; we see it as an opportunity to open dialogue around our hard work, our values and our commitment to producing healthy, wholesome food.”

That commitment, and Miron’s communications skills, brought an additional benefit in January when he won the AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Excellence in Agriculture competition at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Annual Meeting. His award included a 2016 GMC Sierra pickup.

“When I picked up the Sierra at Whitaker GMC in Forest Lake, the folks at the dealership hosted a barbecue celebration where our county Farm Bureau board, plus people from the high school – students, faculty, administrators, alumni – all joined us. That was nice, because a lot of people locally have played a role in this achievement.”

And how has the truck been working out? “Certainly in terms of work use, it’s been great. I use it to haul plants, tools and equipment around. It’s been nice to have a truck that I can use to transport items for FFA projects.” He pauses. “I can’t say I’ve let my brothers use it for farm work … yet.”

You don’t have to win a national award to reap Farm Bureau rewards. If you have been a Farm Bureau member for at least 30 days, you’re eligible for $500 off the purchase or lease of qualified most new 2016 and 2017 Chevrolet, Buick or GMC cars, trucks, crossovers, vans and SUVs.

As much as he values the new truck, Miron emphasizes how important his Farm Bureau membership has been to him.

“Farm Bureau does a great job. It’s been a real benefit to me, both professionally and personally. The conferences, annual meetings and YF&R competitions that I’ve been able to participate in have helped me grow. And I can bring that value back to my job as a teacher. It’s a full-circle partnership, where Farm Bureau has invested in me, and because of that, I can advocate for ag.”