Kathy Siler has been the public voice of Farm Bureau in Washtenaw County for more than 14 years. For her efforts, Michigan Farm Bureau recognized her as their 2017 Agricultural Promoter of the Year at their 98th Annual Meeting, during the Promotion & Education lunch banquet. County communication chair and newsletter editor since 2003, Kathy’s developed numerous new programs for all ages that have reached new audiences, as well as those in the farming community. Never turning down the opportunity to promote agriculture, local media outlets, such as Heritage Newspapers, have come to rely on her for information on farming. And she’s championed the use of social media, to help spread the word of food and fiber.
During her tenure, Kathy’s facilitated three, year-long “Adopt-a-Farm” series that covered life and farming activities on a dairy farm, a greenhouse operation, and a sheep farm. In 2011, Kathy began a mentoring partnership with the new, designated agriculture reporter, Tanya Wildt for Heritage Newspapers. Wildt’s extensive and almost daily coverage resulted in her being honored with the Michigan Farm Bureau 2012 Ag Communicator of the Year award.
“I’ve always thought I’d rather facilitate the news than be the news,” said Kathy. “I’m much more comfortable working behind the scenes. When I first took on the role as newsletter editor, I began to build relationships with the local media, with the idea I could begin to connect them with some of our great stories out here. And that seemed to work.”
Along with promoting agriculture to the media, Kathy has been involved with the Washtenaw County Farm Bureau Promotion and Education Committee. One project Kathy is particularly proud of was an interactive presentation entitled “Farmers Grow Your Pizza!” at Lawton Elementary in Ann Arbor. With the help of fellow County Farm Bureau member Nancy Thelen, 425 students and staff explored agriculture’s contributions to the crust, tomato-sauce, cheese and more, when it comes to what it takes to make a pizza. She then took the project to a smaller scale, to utilize it through an Ag-in-the-Classroom activity.
Since 2015, the Washtenaw County Farm Bureau has been growing their Proud Farmer Campaign with Kathy’s help. She, along with fellow PE Committee members, have been sharing on social media photos and bios of farmers on their farms, wearing “Proud to Farm in Washtenaw County” t-shirts. And Kathy’s created a YouTube video of the Proud Farmer participants.
“We ordered around 100 of the Proud Farmer shirts and began asking people if they’d be part of our campaign. Along with taking their pictures, we thought it’d be interesting to write some narratives about what their farm family was about, what their operation was about. That started almost three years ago, and it’s still going strong,” said Siler.
The Agricultural Promoter of the Year award is designed to recognize outstanding, successful people that both promote and educate throughout the agricultural and public communities, with efforts evenly disbursed between child and adult education.
From left to right: Nancy Thelen, Lynda Horning, Kathy Siler, Katelyn Packard.