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Faces of Farming

tannerAt age 36, Tanner Michael is the youngest — and one of the newest—members of MFA Incorporated’s board of directors, elected in 2022 to serve District 2 in the north-central area of MFA’s territory.

Raised on his family’s cattle and row-crop operation in Unionville, Mo., Michael earned an agribusiness degree from the University of Missouri and returned to the farm full time in 2011. Today, he farms with his father, Nick, and brother-in-law, Bennett, raising 1,200 acres of row crops and 100 head of feeder calves.

Michael and his wife, Kate, have two children, 4-year-old Grady and 7-month-old Nola (short for Magnolia). When he’s not farming, Michael enjoys pursuing his other passion—tractor pulling.

He spoke to Today’s Farmer in March after co-hosting MFA Incorporated’s delegate meeting for districts 1, 2 and 4 in Albany, Mo.
What made you want to return to the farm full time?

After college, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, so I worked a couple of jobs, one in trucking and one in the ag industry. In 2011, I had an opportunity to come back to the farm and pick up my own ground without competing for acreage with my dad. So that’s what I did. I always liked the sight of a freshly planted or harvested field, and I enjoy watching the crops and calves grow throughout the season. Plus, there’s a lot to be said for being your own boss and setting your own schedule.

What prompted you to serve on MFA Incorporated’s board?
In college, I wrote a senior essay on cooperatives, and that was one of the driving factors behind why I wanted to do business with MFA in the first place. As a co-op member, you actually have a stake in the company, unlike a lot of our competitors. When I was asked to run for the board, I felt like it would not only be a chance to see behind the curtain of MFA, so to speak, but also a good way to give back and represent the interests of farmers in my district, especially being a young farmer.

What are some of MFA’s most significant accomplishments during your first years on the board?
I’m just starting my third year as a director, but I’ve seen several changes and steps in the right direction. Gaining efficiencies has been a focus ever since I joined the board. Sites like Ravenwood and Higginsville are two examples—not spending money on outdated facilities but building something that’s going to be able to serve members well into the future. MFA Connect is another example. People today are used to things like online banking, so giving people access to their MFA account information at their fingertips and at their convenience is a smart move. There’s a new crop of people my age and younger who do business differently than the last generation. It’s important to connect with these members and show them the value of our co-op versus the competitor down the road.

What have you learned as a member of the MFA board that you might not have known without the closer involvement?
Every board meeting involves a good, productive roundtable discussion. If you have a concern or questions, everybody gets a chance to be heard, and everybody’s opinion is valued. Even though the directors all have very different perspectives, the board as a whole is focused on the future of MFA and able to see the big picture. And I really do believe that staff feels the same way.

What would be your advice to fellow farmers about getting involved with leadership at MFA or other ag organizations?
I’m president of our Putnam County Fair board, and it’s a young board. And what I tell them is that the more you get involved, the more it’s going to help you in life. Start in your local community, learn how boards work, and then step up from there, whether it be the county, region, state or even national level. Be a good listener, and when you speak, make sure it’s something important and on topic. The ones who step up and get involved are the ones who will have an advantage over those who don’t.

CLICK TO READ MORE FROM THE 2024 MAY ISSUE OF TODAY'S FARMER MAGAZINE.

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