MSU Extension staff members educate at Ag Expo

Visitors to Ag Expo take a break from the heat.

Visitors to Ag Expo take a break from the heat. The event took place July 16‒18, 2013, in East Lansing, Mich. Photo credit: Amanda Mitchell, ANR Communications.

It was another hot one! Just like last year and the year before that, Michigan State University Extension staff members braved the 90-plus degree heat and high humidity July 16‒18 at the 2013 Ag Expo on the MSU campus. Although attendance was down from last year (total attendance was 12,600), and the heat even prompted some visitors to stop and find a shady place to rest during the event, our staff members kept up the task at hand – delivering research-based education and promoting our programs.

At the Crop and Soil Science Corner, attendees learned about energy crops and biomass pelletization, and the soil practices that impact soil health.

In the Mortality Management Tent, visitors heard experts talk about work directed at minimizing environmental impacts of animal agriculture including manure and mortality composting (with daily demonstrations), air quality management and on-farm water use.

At the Information Station, the MSU Extension Bookstore offered selected educational publications at no charge along with MSU Extension bookmarks and tote bags. The tent also contained publications for purchase and sample publications and DVDs on a wide variety of topics that people could purchase online. In addition, randomly selected visitors took an MSU Extension Bookstore survey. Upon completion of the survey, these attendees received a book as a thank-you.

Michigan State University Extension staff members Joyce McGarry (green shirt) and Beth Jabin (white shirt), interact with Ag Expo attendees

Michigan State University Extension staff members Joyce McGarry (green shirt) and Beth Jabin (white shirt), interact with Ag Expo attendees at the Health and Nutrition Institute Booth. The event took place July 16‒18, 2013, in East Lansing, Mich. Photo credit: Dawn Contreras.

Staff members gave a tour of the MSU Horse Teaching and Research Center.

Our staff educated through demonstrations and displays in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Tent.

Extension staff members presented sessions on gardening in containers, starting a successful cottage food industry and growing tomatoes.

At the combined MSU Extension and AgBioResearch area, visitors received educational information about the two organizations. They learned the locations of MSU Extension county offices and AgBioResearch research centers. They picked up brochures and some fun giveaways for both adults and kids.

Attendees learned about healthy eating at the Health and Nutrition Institute’s display, which featured visual models to help visitors better understand nutrition. Examples included a one-pound replica of human fat and a display showing the amount of hidden sugar and fat in commonly consumed items. Visitors viewed jars containing jellybeans, which demonstrated the amount of bacteria that grows on food when it’s left out for extended periods, increasing the risk of foodborne illness.

Jars with jellybeans demonstrate the amount of bacteria that grows on food

Jars with jellybeans demonstrate the amount of bacteria that grows on food when it’s left out for extended periods, increasing the risk of foodborne illness. The jars were part of the Michigan State University Extension Health and Nutrition Institute display at Ag Expo July 16‒18, 2013, in East Lansing, Mich. Photo credit: Dawn Contreras

The Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute (AABI) area featured Breakfast on the Farm and agriculture literacy. Topic areas included dairy and crop progress, soil conservation, Michigan agriculture, animal well-being and the cow as a natural recycler. Visitors practiced milking a wooden dairy cow. A display featured food items made in Michigan; another showed Michigan’s number-one national ranking for the production of blueberries, sour cherries, pickling cucumbers and 12 floriculture crops. Children and adults enjoyed making butter by shaking containers of whipping cream until they had butter and buttermilk. The AABI area also included a display on irrigation management.

Plenty of activities in the tent commanded the attention of young visitors. The Children and Youth Institute display area featured the Commodity Carnival game in which young people learned how weather and commodity prices affect profit when selling livestock. Kids also spun a life-skills wheel, where they learned more about the four cornerstones of 4-H (head, heart, hands and health) and won prizes. The early childhood education team promoted early childhood literacy and gave away books donated by the Molina Foundation.

MSU Extension got the message out about smart gardening. Master Gardener volunteers and MSU Extension staff members found that Ag Expo was the perfect place to discuss how home gardeners can be good stewards of the environment while growing gardens and lawns.

Michigan State University Extension educator Sara Keinath explains the 4-H life-skills wheel to two young attendees of Ag Expo.

Michigan State University Extension educator Sara Keinath explains the 4-H life-skills wheel to two young attendees of Ag Expo. The event took place July 16‒18, 2013, in East Lansing, Mich. Photo credit: Amanda Mitchell, ANR Communications.

Visitors to the CANR tent contributed $1,727 to support CANR scholarships and enjoyed complimentary ice cream from the MSU Dairy Store.

Other exhibitors in the CANR Tent included the national agricultural fraternity Alpha Gamma Rho, the CANR Alumni Association, the CANR Office of Academic and Student Affairs, the College of Veterinary Medicine, Firewise, the Institute of Water Research, Kettunen Center, Michigan FFA, the Michigan Nut Growers Association, Michigan Pork, My Horse University and Michigan Equine News, the MSU Product Center and MSU Surplus and Recycling,

Michigan State University Extension Master Gardener Marianna Foster (right) gives attendees tips on smart gardening at Ag Expo.

Michigan State University Extension Master Gardener Marianna Foster (right) gives attendees tips on smart gardening at Ag Expo. The event took place July 16‒18, 2013, in East Lansing, Mich. Photo credit: Amanda Mitchell, ANR Communications.

Since our staff did so much, I’ve probably left something out. If you’d like to mention your display or presentation or anything else about Ag Expo, please let us know about it in the comments section for this article.

Thanks to all who helped out at Ag Expo whether out front or behind the scenes.

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