New online tool helps push MSU Extension to get information to farmers, stakeholders

Earlier this week, creators of MSU Extension News for Agriculture celebrated a “soft launch” to members of the Ag and Agribusiness Institute (AABI). The March 7, 2011, announcement that this new website is now live was one giant step toward ensuring that Michigan State University Extension remains relevant and visible in the 21st century.

The site gives farmers and others interested in agriculture access to the newest information and research from MSUE in one convenient, online location. It helps break down those county and regional borders we’ve talked so much about, and allows our faculty and staff members to spread their expertise throughout the state.

Wendy Powers, AABI director, said it best. “Even though we may have a livestock specialist in central Michigan, someone in northern Michigan might need their expertise,” she said. “By having educators contribute articles and share their knowledge on the Internet, MSU Extension can make sure that all farmers in the state have access, immediately, to information that is of vital importance to the success of their operations.”

It took many hands to pull this off – especially because it went from concept to launch in only five months. Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications joined forces with Integrated Pest Management folks with CATAlert expertise to perfect the concept and then worked with ANR Technology Services to create the site. Most importantly, a task force of 25 educators, specialists and faculty members weighed in on the process to ensure it meets clients’ needs. And let’s not forget the more than 160 AABI members, faculty and educators who will contribute to the site every month.

The next step is to finish a mobile version of the site (set to be available by April 15) and then create a comprehensive database so information can be pushed out via e-mail and, eventually, text message. For that, I owe a debt of thanks to the ANRTS team, led by Erica Ciupak. They continue to lead the way in helping us to adopt new technologies and use them to deliver to a broader audience with the latest information and expertise.

It’s an exciting process that moves us forward in how we communicate timely information with our key audiences. I encourage you to visit the site and send any suggestions for improvement to Beth Stuever. The team will continue to tweak the site over time. It plans to announce it statewide once the search box begins working (something that we rely on Google “spiders” to get rolling) and the mobile site is near completion. Thanks to Joy Landis, from the IPM team, Dennis Bond in ANRTS, Wendy, Beth and the entire AABI, ANR Communications Team and IPM team for helping to transform us and the way we serve our stakeholders!

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