Agriculture/Agribusiness Institute well represented at NACAA

I had the privilege of attending the Annual Meeting and Professional Improvement Conference (AM/PIC) of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) in Overland Park, Kan., this week. It was a great conference for all attendees but particularly rewarding for me to see the tremendous involvement of our Michigan State University Extension colleagues in the association and conference. The Michigan Association of Extension Agents (MAEA) is the Michigan affiliate of NACAA. I’d like to share a few big impressions I came home with: 

  • Our colleagues are leaders! Our own Stan Moore, Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute (AABI) Extension educator, has served as president of the national association for the past year, presided over the entire conference with great class and demonstrated a great example of servant leadership throughout the conference. In addition, Charles Gould and Dennis Pennington provided leadership for an astounding amount of professional development opportunities on bioenergy research and Extension programming (two field tours, four luncheon seminars, ten other seminars and the unveiling of a new curriculum on bioenergy). They worked with colleagues from other states in the North Central region and received a grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to support their efforts.
  • Our colleagues excel in their work! MSUE professionals came away with awards for distinguished service, leadership and presentations, which I will describe in greater detail in next week’s MSUE Spotlight.
  • Our colleagues are serious! Everywhere I went, I encountered our colleagues engaged in intense discussions, trying to learn more about their craft and sharing their insights with colleagues from across the country.
  • We have some incredible 4-H youth from Marquette County! At the annual 4-H Talent Revue on Monday evening, 11 different acts were presented by 4-H youth from across the country, and the lead-off act was the Goldmine Sisters, Gentian and RiLee Waller, 4-H youth from Marquette County. They performed two bluesy numbers, singing, and playing guitar and mountain dulcimer (first time I’ve heard one of those on a blues number!). Their second song was one they had written about 4-H called “Count on Us,” and they had the crowd singing along with them. We need to get a recording of them performing that on the National 4-H Council’s Join the Revolution of Responsibilitywebsite! Click on this YouTube link to hear the sisters play “Baby Elephant Walk” and “Count on Us” at the 2010 Exploration Days Talent Show.

 Especially at times like this, it’s tempting to scale back on investments in professional development. And for certain, we are reducing our expenditures in this to some extent. But the trip to NACAA’s AM/PIC was all I needed to remind me how critical it is to remain invested at some level in professional development. It keeps us up to date on knowledge and skills and gives us a chance to venture into new areas that we need to address as we help Michigan face the challenges and opportunities ahead. And it’s also great to see how exceptional our colleagues are on a national platform. Congratulations to all who participated! They were Oz-some.

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