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Walking With My Farm Bureau Family

June 2, 2014

I’ve had many conversations over the years with fellow PR professionals who say the company I’ve worked for since 1985 simply doesn’t work on paper.

They’ve been fellow LSU journalism school graduates, people I’ve met through professional associations, as well as true PR hacks I’ve come across at conferences.

The conversation usually begins with them wanting to know exactly what Farm Bureau does and why it needs a PR department.  That’s my cue to start bragging and I never hesitate to lay it on thick.  I use the words Farm Bureau family a lot.

By the end of the night they’re scratching their heads, often in disbelief that a company can treat people the way the Farm Bureau does and still stay in business.

I’ve heard lots of the following:  “You give raises every year?  In this economy?  Are you crazy?  How about we just let you keep your job.”  “A company Christmas party?  That’s gotta cost 10 grand.”  “Sick days with pay? A company-provided health saving account?  Let’em be responsible for their own health.”  “Matching 401k, competitive salaries?  You pay your women what you pay your men?”  Seriously.

Which brings me to the pink flamingo.

One of the dearest members of my Farm Bureau family, Raquel Landry, sent me a CARE package Monday.  Inside were all my favorites; Snickers, Hershey bits, the works.  But also included was an inflatable pink flamingo and enough flamingo accessories to throw a beach party catered by the B-52s.  It was awesome.

My daughter Taylor was here and eagerly dove into the box of goodies.  In a few minutes my hospital room and its décor were transformed.  Large flamingo vinyl door panel, flamingo wall stickers, flamingo stirrers (oh for a Beefeaters and tonic right now), cups and even a flamingo lantern.  That lantern will come in handy I assure you, as I make my way to the you-know-where at odd hours.

The flamingo thing is kind of an inside joke among Federation staffers and our young farmers.  Quel and I go back a long way, with a photographic record of some events that are better left in the recesses of the darkest photo albums.  (Think Jell-O shots in Florida and ripping off that Wendy’s to get the ketchup cups we needed to make them.)

No sooner had the box of flamingo gear arrived than the door opened again.  This time it was cards from Cyndi Guercio, her boyfriend Trey and Kathy Labatut.  Inside Cyndi’s card were two photos that went back almost 20 years.  As a photographer it seems I remember only the photos I’ve taken, not the ones taken of me.

One was at Pat O’s in New Orleans, the other was the last night of LFBF convention at what used to be called the Farm Bureau dance.  Twenty years ago.  Not a care in the world looking back: new fatherhood, great job, great bosses, excellent working conditions, a company that cared about its people.

Little has changed.

Today the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation and the Louisiana Farm Bureau Mutual Casualty Insurance Company remain committed to its employees.  The Farm Bureau workforce has never been canon fodder for corporate profits.  Never will be.  When you think about all that’s happened to our company in the last 30 years, hurricanes, market crashes, recessions, you name it, not once has the company let people go.  As a cancer patient I can preach a little religion here when I say this.  Our company is a gift from God.

Just today I got a note from Melanie Dennis informing me that blue jean day for Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge raised more than $1,000.  As a company with several cancer-survivor employees and family members, that kind of community support by our employees is another reason the Farm Bureau family has remained so strong.  When you invest in people, good people, the dividends are guaranteed to bring you the highest returns.  It’s a no-brainer, the balance sheet be damned.

So be it a pink flamingo, a bag of candy, a snapshot from the past, or a text from a fellow employee and dear friend from Baker who donated platelets on my behalf, my Farm Bureau family has never let me down, never let me walk alone, held my hand and put its loving arm around my shoulder.  That love gives me a comfort and a peace that reassures me even now that everything will be OK.


5 Comments leave one →
  1. Betty O'Pry permalink
    June 2, 2014 8:48 pm

    What a family, huh?

  2. Raquel permalink
    June 2, 2014 10:03 pm

    Well damn – now you’ve gone and made me cry!! I couldn’t agree more! Never thought I’d be lucky enough to fall into such an incredible (work) family! Love u big brother!! Now get well quickly – I’ll bring the beefeaters you bring the cups!

  3. John Walter permalink
    June 3, 2014 2:29 pm

    Sounds like your are in (a) great company. Glad you are getting the support you deserve.

    Like the photos in your blog. Thanks.

    Best wishes – Get well soon.

  4. Kathy Labatut permalink
    June 4, 2014 6:48 am

    Mike, I couldn’t have said it any better. I brag to everyone about my Farm Bureau family. I love when someone ask, “Now, where do you work?” Let the bragging begin. I know my hardships in life can’t compare to what you’re going through, but yes through thick and thin they have been there. And yes, it is a gift from God. The way I see it God put me right where he knew I needed to be when I was going through some difficult times in my life. I truly don’t see how I could have faced some of these challenges had I not been with my Farm Bureau family. We are blessed beyond words.

    I hope you are doing good Mike. I think about you every day. My thoughts and prayers are always with you. And no, that’s not just a statement. LOL They truly are.

    Stay strong and your faith along with your wife, your family and your crazy Farm Bureau family will see you through this. I know you will do great!! Hug Hug

    With Love,


  5. Billie Middleton permalink
    June 5, 2014 9:42 am

    Mike, so thankful to hear the good news yesterday. Ashley called me all excited! Will continue to keep you and Renee in my prayers. And, by the way, congratulations to you both on your marriage. That is wonderful.

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