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Michigan State Fair a huge success for Extension and the CANR

By Patrick Cudney

Many of our colleagues spent this Labor Day Weekend, Sept. 4‒7, at the Michigan State Fair at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.

We can all be proud of the work being done to enhance the Michigan State University Extension presence in southeastern Michigan. More than 112,000 visitors attended the fair this year, so the event created the opportunity to build awareness of our programs to a huge audience. The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources was fully engaged with us in the marketing effort.

Julie Chapin, Children and Youth Institute director, and I attended a VIP pre-opening event, which gave us a firsthand look at our giant 60-foot by 40-foot exhibit space that was free to MSU Extension. Credit for obtaining the free space goes to Debra (“Debbie”) Morgan, MSU Extension 4-H program coordinator, who has been coordinating a 4-H presence at other expos at the Suburban Collection Showplace since 2005. This is the first year we’ve had a coordinated presence from all of Extension. Debbie helped us to build on the base that she created through her previous work at the fair.

Michigan State University Extension staff contributed to the success of the Michigan State Fair that took place Sept. 4‒7, at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Mich

Michigan State University Extension staff contributed to the success of the Michigan State Fair that took place Sept. 4‒7, at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Mich:
Front row (left to right): Fran Adelaja, MSU Extension specialist; Debra Morgan, MSU Extension 4-H program coordinator – Oakland County; Margaret Stockert, MSU Extension 4-H support – Oakland County; Glenda Weiss, MSU Extension 4-H program coordinator – Wayne County
Back row: Patrick Cudney, MSU Extension associate director; Julie Chapin, MSU Extension Children and Youth Institute director; Alan Jaros, MSU Tollgate Education Center and Farm director; Karen Craig, MSU Tollgate Conference Center coordinator; Jason Scott, MSUE 4-H program coordinator – Oakland County; Jake DeDecker, MSU Extension children and youth associate state leader; Mary Blumka, 4-H program coordinator- Oakland County.
Photo credit: Lou Waldock, Waldock Tree Farm

Debbie said, “In 2014, I was invited to the press conference where Oakland County and District 11 were offered space at the 2014 Michigan State Fair. When I was invited in 2015, I asked if we could have a larger space to include all of MSU Extension and they said ‘absolutely – what do you need?’ It is a win-win situation and the folks with the Michigan State Fair and Suburban Collection Showplace have been super accommodating and so easy to work with. I believe we have created a mutually beneficial relationship and a great opportunity to showcase all the services MSU Extension has to offer to the public.”

She added that when Extension educator Alan Jaros, who is director of the MSU Tollgate Education Center and Farm just miles down the road from the Suburban Collection Showcase, attended the press conference with her this year, she knew then we were going to do something bigger and better this year.

Tollgate is Extension’s 160-acre learning laboratory visited annually by 12,000 people who explore food systems, agriculture and horticulture, and experience a greater connection to our natural resources.

“With Tollgate’s strong roots in Novi and the surrounding area, our partners and the local community have come to expect high-quality, unbiased, research-based and interactive educational opportunities from MSU Extension. When we were approached to have a stronger presence at the fair, it was an obvious chance to build a greater awareness of MSU Extension’s impact beyond Tollgate,” said Alan.

The fair provides the perfect opportunity for our 4-H youth to showcase their projects and apply for the scholarships offered to youth exhibitors. In fact, this year scholarships totaled $40,000.

It would be impossible to list everyone involved in our success. The following people were involved in coordinating the event. Besides Alan and Debbie, they included Fran Adelaja, Megghan Honke, Betsy Braid, Mindy Tape, Jake DeDecker, Kristine Hahn, Kristi Evans and Mary Wilson.

Others contributing to the event’s success included Beth Stuever, Kittie Butcher, Carol Lenchek, Mary Gerstenberger, Margaret Stockert, Glenda Weiss, Karen Craig, Jason Scott, Ed Scott and Mary Blumka.

In addition, approximately 80 staff and volunteers signed up to help set up, tear down and work the booth throughout the weekend. It really was a team effort!

Patrick Cudney, MSU Extension associate director, tests his skill at hoverball archery

Patrick Cudney, MSU Extension associate director, tests his skill at hoverball archery as Julie Chapin, MSU Extension Children and Youth Institute director, looks on at the Michigan State Fair that took place Sept. 4‒7, at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Mich.
Photo credit: Debra Morgan.

The large space was well utilized by each institute. The Children and Youth Institute supplied hands-on activities including crafts, hoverball archery (yep, I tried it, it’s fun), the 4-H Commodity Carnival interactive game, Legos, an early childhood sensory table and the 4-H Life Skills Wheel. 4-H Tech Wizards provided Rockets to the Rescue. The Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute Master Gardeners presented Smart Gardening daily, and the Health and Nutrition Institute provided information and a nutrition and health wheel game. Greening Michigan staffed a resource table with information on foreclosure counseling, Sea Grant and the Michigan Fresh program.

I appreciate all of your efforts in moving our organization visibility forward. This is an excellent example of how MSU Extension can improve our engagement and understanding of the work we do in fulfilling our mission. Strategic connections at the finest!

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MSU Extension Children and Youth has new associate state leader

I am pleased to announce that Jake DeDecker has accepted the position of associate state leader for Michigan 4-H Youth Development, part of the Children and Youth Institute (CYI) in Michigan State University Extension. He will begin his new role November 3.

Almost eight years ago, Jake began his career with MSU Extension as a 4-H program leader with responsibilities for science and animal science programs. He has continued to provide leadership in Michigan 4-H in the areas of science, engineering and technology programs. He has also worked extensively with the State 4-H Awards Program, conducted workshops and served as a linker for the North Region. He currently serves as the co-chair of the Academic Success Work Group and is a member of the Science Team. In addition, he has been a key member of the CYI MI PRS (Michigan Extension Planning and Reporting System) team.

Congratulations, Jake!

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4-H Exploration Days: The opportunities abound

4-H Exploration Days took place on the Michigan State University campus for the 44th time, June 19‒21. This successful pre-college program is MSU’s largest. More than 2,500 people attended. A little more than 2,000 of those attendees were youth aged 11 to 19 from 77 counties. The event even boasted youth and adult guests from as far away as Poland.

When we talk about a pre-college program, we might be thinking of students sitting in desks in the summertime – not something the average kid dreams of as a way to spend a few precious days of summer. But that could hardly describe 4-H Exploration Days. Attendees this year chose from more than 200 sessions.

Some sessions focused on animal and veterinary science. Besides taking part in hands-on activities such as exploring the inside of goats and caring for horses’ hooves, attendees took field trips to the various MSU teaching and research centers for horses, dairy cattle and sheep as well as the MSU Veterinary Medical Clinic.

Participants also choose from a wealth of other possibilities. They launched rockets, explored emergency service careers at the MSU Fire Station, explored Michigan government and history at the State Capitol and Michigan Historical Museum, and learned about the juvenile justice system. They got creative with sewing and other crafts, writing, singing, dancing, songwriting and performing in theatre. Kids learned to better communicate through sign language, news reporting and public speaking. They delved into entomology, fishing, history, cooking and nutrition. They explored new languages and culture, learned to manage money and studied technology. They got physical with basketball, field hockey, ice skating, running, bowling, archery and volleyball. You get the picture. But just don’t take my word for it. Check out the list of activities here.

As you might imagine, it takes a tremendous amount of time, effort and people to put on an event of this magnitude. Nearly 300 served as session instructors or helpers including adult volunteers, teen volunteers, MSU Extension staff (both on- and off-campus) and outside resource people. Many of the adult volunteers and staff doubled as chaperones in addition to the 167 adults who volunteered to attend as chaperones. The event racked up more than 20,000 volunteer hours this year.

Judy Ratkos, MSU Extension 4-H Youth Development senior program leader and coordinator of 4-H Exploration Days said, “4-H Exploration Days gives youth an authentic collegiate experience, develops important life skills like decision-making and critical thinking, and often sparks college major or career interests. Our participants stay in MSU residence halls and attend classes in their interest. Many are inspired to come to college at MSU because they feel confident here and are excited about all the opportunities MSU offers.”

A special feature this year was the launch of the Samsung Summer Science Program to engage more young people in science and related fields to support future career exploration through inquiry-based science activities. Judy and Extension program leader Jake DeDecker promise to provide more information to counties about this new initiative in the coming month.

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4-H’ers catch the entrepreneurial spirit raising show pigs

I’d like to share this great story with you that appeared in the March 2013 issue of Michigan Farmer. It focuses on two young 4-H’ers who with determination and hard work created a family business raising show pigs. Jacob and Wyatt Boyd convinced their parents Scot and Nikki, who own their own excavation and general contracting business, to expand their entrepreneurial skills into livestock.

But the boys didn’t just sit back and watch it happen. They worked hard to help build housing for the pigs. They read up on the subject, attended a Michigan State University clinic put on by MSU Extension 4-H program leader Jake DeDecker and visited World Hog Expo in Iowa.

They continue to work hard each day, earning a profit on the business. Read the article here:

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CV-CAT will help Extension educators integrate climate change into programs

Excuse the pun, but climate change is a hot topic. Increasingly, our stakeholders and our funding partners look to Michigan State University Extension as a trusted source of information on how to slow down, adapt to and communicate about the changing climate. The long-term impacts of climate change and the shorter term effects of climate variability vary widely, ranging from changes in precipitation, pests, water and air quality to storm water runoff, forest ecology and species migration. And, as we’re all aware, the topic can be controversial. That’s why Julie Doll, MSU Kellogg Biological Station Long-term Ecological Research Program outreach and education coordinator, and Claire Layman, public policy education specialist in the Greening Michigan Institute, embarked on a listening tour to discover what one group of stakeholders – those involved in field crop agriculture – thought MSU Extension should do to help farmers prepare for the changing physical and policy climates.

 Julie and Claire brought their focus group results to field crop educators in March 2011. They paired delivery of the focus group results with a workshop on climate science, led by Dr. Jeff Andresen, state climatologist and associate professor in MSU’s Department of Geography. At the conclusion of the two-day workshop, participants came to agreement that MSU Extension should increase the climate literacy of its educators and their clients.

 As a result, the Climate Variability and Change Action Team (CV-CAT) formed with members across all of our institutes and from other Extension affiliates. Current members of the team include Julie and Claire; Dr. Andresen; Jake DeDecker and Brian Wibby, Children and Youth Institute; Becky Henne and Brenda Long, Health and Nutrition Institute; Chuck Pistis, Sea Grant; and Dennis Pennington, George Silva and Marilyn Thelen, Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute.

 The CV-CAT has sponsored three fact sheets available at the MSU Extension Bookstore: (Greenhouse Gas Basics, Field Crop Agriculture and Climate Change and Frequently Asked Questions about Climate Change). In addition, they are co-hosting a face-to-face session at Fall Extension Conference on climate and water. Panelists and individual speakers will provide overviews of the water and climate systems, lead a discussion on how climate variability and change may affect Michigan communities, land systems and agriculture, and consider how to find common ground on this politically polarizing topic. Read the summary for the FEC11 session, “Climate and Water: Implications for MSU Extension Programs,” here. The live face-to-face session takes place Oct. 12 from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.

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On-campus events strengthen off-campus outreach

It never ceases to amaze me how smoothly 4-H Exploration Days (led by Judy Ratkos) and the 4-H State Awards program (led by Jake DeDecker) come off each year, and this year was no exception. Behind the scenes, county and state staff members, volunteers, interns, parents, outside instructors, chaperones and countless others dealt with crises and problems as they cropped up, but to the more than 2,000 youth who participated last week, these events seemed to run like clockwork. New sessions on topics such as worm farming or working with sled dogs were hits, as were returning favorites such as producing a TV show or climbing and rappelling.

 And it seemed that no sooner did the last of the Exploration Days youth leave for home, when another group moved in – youth and grandparents for Grandparents University (led by Kathryn Reed). Since Tuesday of this week, hundreds of youth/grandparent teams have been experiencing campus life and learning about how MSU milk becomes cheese and ice cream, aquatic ecology, “green” packaging, digital storytelling – even Israeli folk dancing!

 The Grandparents U folks head for home today, but next week MSU welcomes yet ANOTHER group to campus – participants and chaperones for 4-H’s first ever Discovery Camp (led by Jake DeDecker). This small group of 10 teens will get a much more intimate experience, spending a week learning about alternative energy solutions both on campus and through several field trips. Not only do these camps make for a busy few weeks here on campus, but they also strengthen the conduit between knowledge and resources on the MSU campus and our “clients” out in the state who are the main audience for MSU Extension’s outreach mission.

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