Author Archives: jeffdwyer

Extension educator participates in panel at CARET/AHS Joint Meeting

Suzanne Pish sits with two other panel members.

MSU Extension educator Suzanne Pish with other panel members at the 2018 CARET/AHS conference.

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educator Suzanne Pish was asked to participate on a panel at the annual Council for Agricultural Research, Extension and Teaching (CARET)/AHS Joint Meeting in Washington, D.C., on March 5, and share about MSU Extension’s work with farm stress management. The panel was put together because farm families across the nation have come into the spotlight because of a rise in suicides. Psychologist Dr. Michael Rosmann, featured in an article in The Guardian in December 2017, “On the Ground: Reporting From All Corners of America – Why Are America’s Farmers Killing Themselves in Record Numbers?”, was invited to speak about farm-related stress at the meeting and Suzanne was part of the  panel to respond after his talk.

During her time on the panel, Suzanne shared about MSU Extension’s response to the rise in struggling Michigan farm families. Adam Kantrovich, Roger Betz and Suzanne developed a workshop. They also worked with Beth Stuever, Tom Cummins and others from ANR Communications and Marketing to develop a fact sheet and a video. The initial workshop was specially designed for people who work with agricultural producers and farm families who want to know more about managing farm-related stress and learn ways to approach and communicate with those in need.

Additionally, they designed Weathering the Storm: How to Handle Stress on the Farm to help farm families gain a better understanding of the signs and symptoms of chronic stress and cultivate a more productive mindset. The MSU Extension online, self-paced course allows participants to access this information in a comfortable setting at their own convenience.

Suzanne was asked to participate because MSU Extension was recognized as an organization who got involved from the beginning of this emerging issue.

“I hope other Extension services across the country took away the importance of having agricultural educators and family and consumer science educators teaming up to provide this education,” Suzanne said.

Our ability to respond to emerging issues and emergencies in our state make us relevant and essential. I think we are uniquely positioned to provide a national example of how Extension can meet people where they are. At FEC Detroit, you may remember that I discussed the Emergent Issues Incentive Program, an opportunity for cross-institute teams to receive funding to quickly respond to urgent issues in the communities they serve. You can apply for these grants using this link:


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Filed under Agriculture, Agriculture and Agribusiness, Conferences, health, Health and Nutrition, Impacts

Speaking out for MSU Extension and AgBioResearch in DC

Last week, four Michigan State University (MSU) Council for Agricultural Research, Extension and Teaching (CARET) volunteers traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend the annual CARET meeting and to meet with each of our Michigan congressional offices.

Have you met our CARET representatives? Char Wenham and Saturnino “Nino” Rodriguez come from education backgrounds – serving first as teachers, then as administrators, and continuing to serve in various education capacities today. Doug Lewis is the director of student legal services for the University of Michigan and is the president of the Michigan 4-H Foundation. Glenn Preston is a dairy farmer who owns Preston Farms in Quincy.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, each of our CARET representatives paired up with someone from MSU for their visits. They thanked our U.S. senators and representatives for their support, and shared stories of how Extension and AgBioResearch makes a difference in their communities.

“For me, the significance of the trip is being able to talk about the importance of Michigan State’s responsibilities that are land-grant related and different from any of the other universities in the state,” Char said. “As a volunteer, it is also a wonderful experience to travel, make congressional visits, and get to know the people who make our Extension and AgBioResearch so successful. Everyone that I talked to was positive about MSU, the land-grant mission, and the specific work of MSU Extension and AgBioResearch in their areas.”

Our CARET representatives serve as a liaison between district councils, field station advisory groups, and state agencies and organizations. They help to facilitate a two-way relationship, between MSU and our partners and stakeholders. They learn about us and share information about us, and they share information about their communities with us.

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Congratulations to MSU Extension distinguished staff

Congratulations to Philip Schwallier, George Silva and Lois Wolfson, who received the 2018 Distinguished Academic Staff Award from Michigan State University. What do they all have in common? They have Extension appointments, and they are making a difference statewide and nationwide. Read more about each person and their work in MSU Today.

The Distinguished Academic Staff Award recognizes the outstanding achievements of those professionals who serve MSU in advising, curriculum development, outreach, extension, research and teaching. Up to four Distinguished Academic Staff Awards are given annually. These awards provide universitywide recognition and reward to outstanding individuals with careers demonstrating long-term excellence and exceptional contributions to MSU.

On February 6, MSU Extension held a reception to honor Phil, George and Lois at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center where we heard from their nominators, Amy Irish-Brown, Ron Bates and Jo Latimore, respectively. A huge thanks to everyone who attended the reception and who participated in putting it together. Please join me in congratulating Phil, George and Lois.

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Filed under Accomplishments, Awards

Tools for employees having controversial conversations surrounding GMOs

corn field

According to a Pew Research Center report, “the way Americans eat has become a source of potential social, economic and political friction as people follow personal preferences reflecting their beliefs about how foods connect with their health and ailments.”

As Michigan State University’s (MSU) connection with Michigan residents, MSU Extension professionals are increasingly engaged in conversations about genetically modified organisms (GMOs). But in a survey conducted by our program evaluation specialist Cheryl Eschbach, only 37 percent of Extension survey respondents felt capable of replying to GMO-related questions with science-based information, and only 1 percent felt extremely capable.

Recognizing a need, Ron Bates, Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute (AABI) director, brought together a cross-institute committee to develop a training for MSU Extension professionals. The result was a two-day training, “Getting your GMO Questions Answered 101,” offered January 8-9, 2018. MSU faculty and Extension professionals shared presentations on research and technology as well as communicating with clientele about GMOs with over 100 Extension staff members.

“It was a really great workshop,” Extension agriculture and agribusiness educator Jeannine Schweihofer said. “I think it helped me to hear viewpoints from different aspects and concerns that people have about GMOs. Getting the right information out there so people have it is really important.”

“The GMO workshop increased my understanding, and that will help me to confidently answer consumer questions about GMO foods that arise during my food safety programs,” MSU Extension health and nutrition educator Beth Waitrovich said.

Ron Goldy, MSU Extension agriculture and agribusiness educator and event committee chair, felt the event was successful in opening up dialogue and providing tools to talk to MSU Extension clientele, especially during the interactive activities.

This workshop was designed to be the first of many opportunities to provide MSU Extension professionals with resources and to open up dialogues.

“We’re hoping that people from other institutes will take the idea back, and that institute will develop a program with their clientele’s concerns in mind,” Ron said. “There will be further trainings within AABI, and we’re trying to figure that out as well. As soon as we hear back from the event evaluations, we’ll decide on the next steps.”

Additionally, the committee is working on creating an online space to make the documents and presentations from the workshop available to all Extension employees.

I would like to thank the team of people who made the event possible: Ron Bates, Betsy Braid, Erin Carter, Julia Darnton, James DeDecker, Mary Dunckel, Cheryl Eschbach, Theodore Ferris, Elizabeth Ferry, Ron Goldy, Rebecca Grumet, Courtney Hollender, Rebecca Krans, Joyce McGarry, George Silva, Lisa Treiber, Kendra Wills and Garrett Ziegler. I’d also like to thank all of the speakers and presenters throughout the event.

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Filed under Agriculture, Agriculture and Agribusiness, communication, Events, Farming, Food, health, Health and Nutrition, professional development, Resources

Weed Science Society of America names Sprague 2018 Outstanding Extension Award winner

Christy kneels in a field of crops.Congratulations to Christy Sprague on receiving the 2018 Outstanding Extension Award from the Weed Science Society of American (WSSA). Christy is a professor in the Michigan State University (MSU) Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences and an Extension specialist who works to understand weed and crop interactions and ways to improve overall weed management systems. Because of the caliber of her service to growers in Michigan and her ability to provide information and build partnerships beyond Michigan borders, Christy was recognized at the WSSA’s annual meeting in Arlington, Virginia.

“I was both greatly honored and humbled to receive the award,” Christy said. “I have one of the greatest jobs at MSU: I have an Extension appointment that gives me the opportunity to not only work just with students but to teach farmers, ag retailers and others about weeds and weed management. It is an extremely rewarding feeling to be able to help someone and make a positive impact on their farming operations.”

Christy’s research and extension program focuses on integrated weed management, which means she examines weed biology and ecology, and weed interactions with other pests and pest/crop management practices. Michigan is a state of diverse soils where farmers grow a variety of field crops, so her work includes soybeans, sugar beets, dry beans and potatoes. Her work with growers has increased their revenues and decreased weed control costs.

Please join me in congratulating Christy on her work and this award.

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Filed under Agriculture, Agriculture and Agribusiness, Awards

Award-winning photo shows MSU Extension collaboration

MSU Extension staff member holds a plant in a garden box as small child touches it.

The mother of this child in the award-winning photo shared, “I love when my child and I can get our hands dirty together.” Photo submitted by Kendra Gibson.

A photo submitted by Michigan State University (MSU) Extension Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program–Education instructor Kendra Gibson titled “Exploration!” received third place in the category of “Gratitude” in the Food Policy Networks 2017 Photo Contest hosted by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. The photo of Kendra and a child symbolizes the link between MSU Extension and the Lake County Community Food Council: community-driven collaboration. MSU Extension has helped the council with capacity building and community development, based on the community’s goals and needs.

The child in the photo is exploring a garden box constructed and distributed to families by the council. The council has constructed and distributed almost 600 garden boxes in the past two years in the rural county they serve. Council volunteers have worked side by side with families sharing how to start small gardens regardless of where they live. This is reflected in the photo. The funds from the award will go to the council to support its ongoing work in service to the community. Congratulation to Kendra and the Lake County Community Food Council!

For more information about this collaboration, check out the following video that highlights the MSU Extension and Lake County Community Food Council collaboration:

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Filed under Awards, Gardening, Health and Nutrition, Partnerships

CANR announces new staffing

Ron Hendrick, Dean of the Michigan State University (MSU) College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, recently announced two new members of the college’s leadership. We are fortunate to have Dru Montri joining us as our new director of governmental affairs and stakeholder relations, and Quentin Tyler as our new associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Headshot of Dr. Dru Montri.Dr. Montri is coming to us from the Michigan Farmers Market Association (MIFMA) where she has provided overall leadership to MIFMA through long-term strategic planning to achieve its mission. At MIFMA, she managed staff members and volunteers, developed and maintained sound financial practices, oversaw membership recruitment and retention, promoted Michigan farmers and farmers markets, and directed special events. You might remember Dr. Montri from her attendance at our Fall Extension Conference in Detroit – she received a Michigan State University Extension Key Partner Award on behalf of the Michigan Farmers Market Association. Her appointment will be effective Jan. 8, 2018.

Headshot of Quentin TylerDr. Tyler currently serves as assistant dean and director of diversity at the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. In that role, he has provided leadership in strengthening workplace diversity, recruiting and retaining a diverse student body, and building cultural competency, as well as monitoring assessment and reporting activities. He will begin in March 2018.

Please join me in welcoming Dr. Montri and Dr. Tyler on campus with us in the new year.

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