Extension educators and specialists receive awards at 2012 NACAA conference

Many Michigan State University Extension educators and specialists received awards at the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) Annual Meeting and Professional Improvement Conference July 15–19 in Charleston, S.C.

Extension educators in the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute Kevin Gould and Phil Kaatz earned the NACAA Distinguished Service Award that encourages and recognizes excellence in the field of professional Extension for members with more than ten years of service.

Kevin Gould has served 19 years with Extension, starting in 1993 as an agricultural educator in the Thumb. The following year, he accepted a regional livestock position in western Michigan. Kevin is a leader in the industry, serving on the state cattlemen’s board and state bull evaluation. He is current president of the Michigan Association of Extension Agents (MAEA) and co-chair of the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) Livestock Systems Subcommittee.

Serving 12 years with Extension, Phil Kaatz’s programming focus includes the Michigan Thumb Ag Research and Education (TARE) Program and statewide forage responsibilities for alfalfa and corn silage production. He’s recently been involved in TARE field trials and the Michigan Forage and Grazing Conference. The TARE trials are a unique partnership between field crop producers, agribusinesses and commodity groups.

 Rob Sirrine and Phillip Tocco each received the NACAA Achievement Award in recognition of excellence in Extension service and educational programs given to educators with less than ten years of service.

Dr. J. Robert Sirrine, Extension educator in the Greening Michigan Institute, provides leadership for community food system efforts in northwest lower Michigan, holds statewide leadership responsibilities for hops production and provides expertise in other areas, including  entrepreneurial and value-added agriculture and organic production. He serves as the chair of the Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network and is affiliated with the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems.

Phillip Tocco, Extension educator in the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute, serves as secretary of the MAEA and president of his local agricultural council. He has served as a member of the MSU Product Center’s Ag Innovation Counselor network. He has been involved in creating a number of community-based initiatives, including coordinating community gardens at homeless shelters and creating gardening classes to develop capacity among people living in low-income situations to meet their fresh food needs.

Extension educator Erin Lizotte, district horticulturist and Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station coordinator Nikki Rothwell, Extension specialist Cheryl Peters and Rob Sirrine were national finalists for the “Search for Excellence in Young, Beginner or Small Farmers/Ranchers” for the Northwest Michigan New FARM (Farmer Assistance and Resource Management) Program, which assists beginning farmers.

Many of our colleagues won communications awards.

Rob Sirrine was a national winner for the website hops.msu.edu on small scale hops production in the Great Lakes Region. The site was built with collaboration from Mallory Fournier, Joy Landis and Annette Kleinschmit. It offers information on every aspect of hops production a potential grower would need to make a decision to enter into this new market.

Senior Extension dairy and beef educator Phillip Durst was a regional winner for a computer-generated graphics presentation “Breakfast on the Farm at Circle K Farms.” Phil put the presentation together with quotes from Breakfast on the Farm attendees and photos taken by Mindy Stokoszynkski.

Rob Sirrine was a regional winner for a feature story “The Good Earth: Carbon and Agriculture.” The article is an introduction to soils and carbon in agricultural production. It appeared in “Edible Grande Traverse,” a community food system/agriculture magazine for northwest lower Michigan.

Phil Tocco was a regional winner for a video presentation “Chlorine as a Sanitizer.” The video is part of his series “Agrifood Safety Minute.”

Martin L. Nagelkirk, senior Extension educator in the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute, was a state winner for a fact sheet “Winter Wheat.” The document serves as a reference to understanding industry trends and to identifying lessons learned or particular challenges.

Phil Kaatz was a state winner for a publication “TARE: Thumb Ag Research & Education 2011 Field Trials.” Other authors included Robert Battel, Martin Nagelkirk and Dennis Stein. An advisory board consisting of producers, agribusiness and Extension personnel provide oversight for the project. The Extension educators and other technicians were responsible for all phases of producing the crops included in the trials.

Congratulations to everyone!

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