Members of the Greening Michigan Institute (GMI) received a final note from Dr. Rick Foster this week as he prepares to return to his faculty position and focus his leadership on Michigan State University’s program aimed at developing food, water and energy systems for 21st century metropolitan areas. The program, termed MetroFoodsPlus, was announced in a Detroit press conference yesterday, presented jointly by MSU President LouAnna K. Simon and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing. We have been fortunate to benefit from Dr. Foster’s leadership over the past two years, during which he has served as the director of GMI. As one of our four institute directors, he helped to give definition to a concept that we created as part of our restructuring. He came to us with a tremendous background of leadership experience, having served in a variety of roles, ranging from high school agriscience teacher to vice president of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Rick’s leadership has helped to create a sense of unity and joint purpose among educators working in programs that had been only distantly connected in our previous organizational structure. He embraced the notion that what holds these programs together – from community development to family financial management to community food systems to natural resources stewardship – is a focus on equipping Michigan’s families, communities and industries to adopt practices that ensure sustainability of not only our natural assets but also our communities and families as well.
I’ve personally benefited tremendously from Rick’s generosity with his time and insights, and I’ve had many in GMI share their appreciation for his positive outlook and affirming support for group-generated suggestions and programs. GMI has innovated in a number of ways and we’ve all benefited from their new ways of approaching everything from revenue generation to creating reality around the concept of food hubs.
We will miss Rick’s leadership as he turns his full attention to MetroFoodsPlus, but we’ll also continue to benefit from his deep understanding of MSU Extension and integrate our strengths into this bold effort to join Michigan’s agricultural heritage and industrial innovation history with the challenges and opportunities resting in Michigan’s urban centers. Rick will retain a faculty appointment in MSUE and will especially connect frequently with the community food systems work group within GMI. I’ll always deeply appreciate Rick’s willingness to help us create this new, 21st century version of MSU Extension. Thanks, Rick, and good luck in your MetroFoodsPlus efforts!