The Michigan Department of Agricultural and Rural Development is celebrating a century of serving Michigan farmers. Director Gary McDowell is overjoyed at this accomplishment, which is just beginning.
“After coming out of the pandemic last year, it’s nice to be celebrating from July 1 of this year to June 30, 2022,” he said. “We’ve got a whole year planned—festivities, events, talking about Michigan ag and how important it is to Michigan.
Last year Michigan’s food and ag industry contributed $104.7 billion to the economy, and it employs 805,000 people. In the last 2.5 years serving in his role, McDowell has witnessed change. But the changes in the last 100 years have been remarkable.
“What we deal with today is revolutionary [with] how much ag has changed and how much we are able to produce now than what we used to,” he said. “[We] can do so much more efficiently and environmentally safe. Our stakeholders are so important to us—our farmers, processors and agribusiness people who support our farmers every day. We’re constantly changing with the times and the needs and demands of agriculture.”
While McDowell isn’t wanting to make any hard and fast predictions on how things will change over the next century, he does think a few factors will continue driving agriculture.
“It’s going to [do] so much with technology, science, and precision agriculture—how we can raise more, produce more with less like less fertilizers, less pesticides and using them smarter,” he said. “I grew up watching ‘The Jetsons’ and that’s so futuristic and most of it now is real. I couldn’t predict, but I know we’re going to do a better and better job at what we do.”
Follow MDARD on its social media channels, #MDARD100Years, or visit Michigan.gov/MDARD to share in the celebration.