Category Archives: Agriculture and Agribusiness

Focus on Forages and the Future: The 2nd annual Ag Innovation Day

The second annual Michigan State University (MSU) Agriculture Innovation Day that took place at the MSU Lake City Research Center welcomed 230 guests. This year, the theme was Focus on Forages and the Future. The educational field day delivered a cutting-edge, in-depth look at critical topics such as forages, livestock and the future to help farmers meet growing producer demands. People came from across the state, the Midwest and Canada.

Shari Spoelman, MSU Extension District 6 coordinator, helped shuttle people back and forth from their cars, giving her the opportunity to interact with visitors.

“I talked with folks from Ohio, Indiana, Ontario and southern Michigan,” Shari said. “Some wanted to just explore the research center property. Others said they wanted to go to all the sessions. Some had certain things they were especially interested in like soil health or double-cropping. One man arrived with his grandkids – they said they came for something fun to do in the area.”

Throughout the afternoon, farmers had the opportunity to participate in nine sessions focused on topics such as alfalfa genetics, silage, double-cropping, dairy cattle monitoring, soil health, baleage, beef operations management and land regeneration.

MSU senior Extension educator Marilyn Thelen shared that producers from across the state attended her session “Expand Your Land Use With Double-Cropping.”

“The session generated a lot of discussion on how cover crops could be incorporated into various systems for feed or simply for cover,” Marilyn said.

You can find session handouts on the Speakers page.

In the evening, participants attended a reception and were able to hear from President Lou Anna K. Simon and Dean Ron Hendrick and connect with other leaders in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“Attendees and staff got a chance to mingle with stakeholders and talk about emerging and trending topics in agriculture, including the grass-fed beef and sustainability research Dr. Jason Rowntree is involved with, and matters as important as how we talk about ‘climate change,’” Shari said.

MSU Agriculture Innovation Day rotates to various locations throughout the state to give farmers access to experts who can help them improve their businesses while maintaining environmentally sound practices on their farms. MSU hosted the first Ag Innovation Day on Aug. 24, 2016. The event is the vision brought about after Ag Expo was re-envisioned.

“Ag Innovation Day is the opportunity for farmers to get the most up-to-date information from MSU,” said John Mossner, farmer and MSU Extension and AgBioResearch State Council member. “It is focusing on sound research and science relating to the type of agriculture conducted at each research station. Having attended both events in the last two years, I am impressed with the effort that MSU Extension is doing to make it a meaningful day.”

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Gearing up for Ag Innovation Day 2017

Our second annual Michigan State University (MSU) Agriculture Innovation Day is almost here. The event takes place August 24 at our Lake City Research Center. The theme this year is Focus on Forages and the Future. I hope that you’ll spread the word about this program, and I would like to invite you to join us as well. There’s a great line-up designed to deliver a cutting-edge, in-depth look at forages, livestock and the future to help farmers meet growing demands.

Here are the sessions that will be offered:

  • Making the Most of Reduced-Lignin Alfalfa in Your Operation
  • Precision is the Division in Silage
  • Expand Your Use With Double-Cropping
  • Precision Dairy Cattle Monitoring
  • Finding the Right Mix for Soil Health
  • Baleage Made Tight, Made Right
  • Creating Profitable Beef Operations by Managing Land, Livestock and People
  • Grass-Fed Beef – Research and Experience
  • Is Your Land Regenerating?

Another important element of the day is that MSU will send recruiters to the event to provide students with information about all of the degrees available through the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. We want to engage our next generation of farmers and producers, and give them the tools they need to meet the challenges they will face in the future.

We’ll also have an opportunity to hear from President Lou Anna K. Simon and Dean Ron Hendrick over the dinner portion of the event.

The event will begin at 12:30 p.m. and end around 9 p.m. For course descriptions and to register for the event, visit the Ag Innovation Day website. I hope to see you there!

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Filed under Ag Innovation Day, Agriculture and Agribusiness, Animal Science, Events, Farming, Field Days, Uncategorized

MSU Extension team responds to help families with farm stress

A person with a hat sits in a field with a combine in the background.

About a year ago, commodity prices fell, especially affecting dairy farmers. Michigan saw a rise in attempted suicides among farmers and farm families. Michigan State University (MSU) Extension responded by forming the Farm Stress team, made up of Suzanne Pish, Adam Kantrovich, Roger Betz, Tom Cummins and Beth Stuever, to create resources for educators and others who work with farmers and their families.

The team, with the assistance of ANR Communications and Marketing, put together a fact sheet and video for farmers and farm families so that our staff could have access to resources they could use in their programming and interaction. The team also put together two programs to help Extension educators and others who work with farmers and farm families. The first was a mental health first-aid training: a full-day, hands-on, certification course that can help those people working with farmers and farm families to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness and emotional crisis. The second was a workshop designed for people who work with agriculture producers and farm families who want to know more about managing farm-related stress and ways to approach and communicate with those in need.

The team and the resources that they have produced are an example of how important it is that we work across institute or department lines, and that we mobilize to meet immediate needs of Michigan residents. We have our traditional programs that provide ongoing, stable service to our constituents, but we also can function in an emergency response role, just like we did in our response to the Flint water emergency.

Do you work with farmers, farm families or both? Do you have connections who do? You might want to take some time to watch the video about stress management for farmers and take a look at the other resources on our MSU Extension webpage devoted to farm stress. If you have any questions about the resources or the team’s work, feel free to reach out to Suzanne Pish.

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Filed under Agriculture, Agriculture and Agribusiness, health, Impacts, Resources, Social and emotional health

Save the date and join us for summer field days

A corn field with blue sky and clouds. The image text reads: Field Days 2017.

Michigan State University (MSU) AgBioResearch has announced the schedule for the research centers’ summer field days. These field days are an important opportunity to connect Michigan residents and industry with the latest MSU research. Often, the field days showcase research and extension through an open house format, and often offer educational opportunities and trainings. We hope that you’ll spread the word and be able to join us!

Kellogg Biological Station – Multiple Field Days
June 13 and Aug. 1, 4–8 p.m. – Pasture Dairy Center Open House
June 28 – Barley Field Day
November 3 – Cover Crops Field Day

Southwest Michigan Research and Extension Center – July 26
The 28th annual MSU Viticulture Field Day

Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center – July 29

Montcalm Research Center – August 3

Saginaw Valley Research and Extension Center – August 10
This field day features a morning program on dry beans, sugar beets, wheat, corn and soybeans. Lunch will follow.

Lake City Research Center – August 24
Ag Innovation Day: Focus on Forage and the Future

Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center – August 24
3 p.m. Field day will include an equipment show, dinner and the annual meeting of the Leelanau Horticulture Society.

For more information, see the MSU AgBioResearch press release about their field days.

 

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Filed under Ag Innovation Day, Agriculture, Agriculture and Agribusiness, Field Days

Congratulations to our MSU Extension 2017 NACAA award winners

Congratulations to our Michigan State University (MSU) Extension colleagues on their work and their awards from the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA). They will receive their awards at the NACAA national conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, July 9–14. Take a minute to read about the work they’ve done, and check out some of their publications and other award-winning work online. Please join me in congratulating them on their achievements.

James DeDecker

Achievement Award – National Winner

James DeDecker, MSU Extension field crops educator in Presque Isle County, is being recognized as this year’s NACAA Achievement Award winner for Michigan. This prestigious award recognizes excellence in the field of professional Extension for NACAA members with less than 10 years of service. A Michigan Association of Extension Agents (MAEA) member since 2012, James has served as North Region chair, program recognition chair, professional improvement chair and most recently, secretary. James was awarded the MAEA President’s Citation in 2013 and NACAA communication awards in 2014 and 2016.

Phillip Durst

Personal Column – National Finalist

Phillip Durst and Stan Moore, both senior agriculture and agribusiness educators, were invited to write a series of six columns on topics relating to employee management for the Nebraska Cattleman magazine. According to the editor, the Nebraska Cattleman magazine goes to 15,000 producers (all industry segments) across Nebraska and into surrounding states, as well as to top seedstock, cow-calf and feedlot operations in the U.S. Phil wrote columns on recruiting employees, training employees and developing teamwork. The columns on recruitment and building teamwork were later reformatted and published in the Michigan Cattleman magazine. Read “Effective Employee Training” and “Employee Recruitment: Intentional and Continuous.”

Ronald Goldy

Video Presentation – National Finalist

Ron Goldy, MSU Extension senior agriculture and agribusiness educator, and Kraig Ehm from ANR Communications & Marketing, produced a consumer-oriented video on pickle production that showed the production process from beginning to end. The idea was to develop a high-quality educational video to educate consumers on how their food is produced and how it makes it to their tables. View the video: https://youtu.be/5BiZEBtIIdA.

Thomas Guthrie

Distinguished Service Award – National Winner

Tom Guthrie, statewide Extension educator based in Jackson County, will be representing Michigan and receiving the NACAA Distinguished Service Award. The NACAA Distinguished Service Award is presented to members who have served at least 10 years as members of the Cooperative Extension Service, who have conducted outstanding programs and who are held in high esteem by their fellow workers. Tom is in the midst of his 14th year working for MSU Extension. During that span, his responsibilities have included working within the swine and equine industries throughout the state. Tom was also recently awarded the Michigan Association of Extension 4-H Youth Staff (MAE4-HYS) colleague award for his work with colleagues on biosecurity and swine health management at county fairs. He continues to be an active member of MAEA after serving as president of MAEA and the Michigan Council of Extension Associations in 2015.

Heidi M. Lindberg

Search for Excellence in Consumer or Commercial Horticulture – National Winner

Program Promotional Piece – National Finalist

Newsletter, Individual – State Winner

Published Photo & Caption – State Winner

Fact Sheet – State Winner

Heidi Lindberg, a greenhouse and nursery Extension educator for west Michigan, was the national winner in the Search for Excellence in Consumer or Commercial Horticulture (http://www.nacaa.com/awards/apps/display_award.php?id=10354-18922) category for the Online College of Knowledge classes “Biological Control for Greenhouse Growers” and “Greenhouse and Horticultural Lighting.” She will deliver a presentation at the NACAA meeting on these two online courses. Heidi also was a national finalist for the communications award Program Promotional Piece (http://www.nacaa.com/awards/apps/display_award.php?id=10068-18922) for a flyer she developed advertising the “Biological Control for Greenhouse Growers” course. 

Ben Phillips

Feature Story – Regional Winner

Audio Recording – State Winner

Ben Phillips, an agriculture and agribusiness educator, covered a unique and long-standing event hosted by a vegetable grower in his region. His feature story, “Kraut-Making Day a Successful Marketing Tool for Michigan Vegetable Grower,” won the regional award for feature story. Ben also won the state level award for his audio recording for his interview with Nicole Heslip about Swede midge in Michigan.  Listen to the podcast: http://brownfieldagnews.com/news/139962/

Brenda Reau

Publication – Regional Winner

In her publication, Cultivating the Entrepreneurial Landscape, Brenda Reau, Extension academic specialist, showcases the work of the MSU Product Center to decision makers, industry stakeholders and key clientele. Fifteen hundred hard copies of the eight-page publication were printed and distributed statewide. Additionally, a digital version of the publication was sent to 700 individuals, posted on MSU websites and distributed through social media. MSU Extension district coordinators deemed the publication especially useful in their work with county commissioners in demonstrating the economic impact of MSU Extension programs. The publication was provided to state legislators to spotlight work with constituents in their districts. It was shared with university donors at a brunch hosted by the president of MSU.

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Great Lakes Hop and Barley Conference in Detroit

Each spring, educators from Michigan State University (MSU) Extension with support from MSU AgBioResearch and the Michigan Brewers Guild host the Great Lakes Hop and Barley Conference. For the first time, this year the conference was held in downtown Detroit. March 2-3, over 300 agricultural producers, processors, vendors, brewers and others attended, coming from 15 states and multiple countries. The conference offered both basic and advanced sessions for hop growers, and a barley session and malting tour for both growers and brewers.

Kevin Riel, Owner of Double ‘R’ Hop Ranches, Inc. and President of Hop Growers of America, stands at the front of the room at a podium giving a presentation to a ballroom filled with seats and participants.

Kevin Riel, Owner of Double ‘R’ Hop Ranches, Inc. and President of Hop Growers of America, addresses a near capacity crowd at the 3rd annual Great Lakes Hop & Barley Conference in Detroit, MI. Photo credit: Rob Sirrine.

The conference incorporated elements that are unique to the area. For example, Dan Carmody, president of the Eastern Market Corporation, described Detroit’s increasing demand for local food and craft beer. Another Detroit highlight for participants was the evening reception held at the Detroit Beer Company. Participants left rave reviews of the location and the experiences that they had.

The conference is an important way to support all of the participants in the growing craft beverage industry. According to the national Brewers Association, Michigan ranks sixth in the United States in the number of craft breweries, and the industry creates an economic impact of $1.8 million. MSU Extension is proud of our educators who are at the forefront of education and working with this evolving industry.

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Speaking of our educators, we’d like to send a huge thank you to the conference planning committee, made up of Ashley McFarland, Erin Lizotte and Rob Sirrine, and Scott Graham from the Michigan Brewers Guild. Also, thank you to MSU Events Management (Betsy Braid and Megghan Honke) and MSU county-based staff members Annette Kleinschmit and Michelle Coleman, who helped behind the scenes.

As soon as it’s posted, I’ll link to Rob, Ashley and Erin’s news article about the conference so that you can read more about all of the opportunities that participants had, the tours and the speakers.

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Filed under Agriculture, Agriculture and Agribusiness, Conferences, Farming, Hop & Barley

An apple a day, brought to you by strategic connections

With fall in full swing, hopefully you’ve had a chance to pick up some Michigan apples from your local farmers market, orchard or grocery store. Did you know that Michigan is our country’s third largest producer of apples with more than 11.3 million apple trees on over 35,000 acres (according to the Michigan Apple Committee)? That’s 825 family-run farms that produce our juicy and delicious Pure Michigan apples. Who can bring the apple industry groups and families to the table with the university to problem-solve specific needs? Michigan State University (MSU) Extension agriculture and agribusiness educators Amy Irish-Brown and Phil Schwallier.

Through their strategic connections, Amy and Phil facilitated the creation of the lab on the Ridge near Sparta to measure apple maturity indices. The Ridge is Michigan’s major apple-producing region that is located in Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties. This region has the topography, soil, elevation and microclimate that are perfect for growing apples. The idea for a lab grew from a conversation Amy and Phil had on the way to a meeting about the need to closely monitor Honeycrisp and Fuji apples that had been experiencing some serious quality issues. When they pitched the idea to the Michigan Tree Fruit Commission, they received an outstanding response from the entire apple industry.

The Michigan Tree Fruit Commission responded with $50,000 in funding for the project, the Michigan Apple Committee with $15,000, and the Michigan State Horticulture Society with $20,000. Storage Control Systems responded by donating space for the lab at a value of $5,000. AgroFresh donated an automatic firmness tester (valued at $5,000) and Riveridge Produce Marketing donated the use of a quality database ($2,000). Dr. Randy Beaudry, from the MSU Department of Horticulture, donated use of a gas chromatograph ($3,000) and served as MSU specialist for this effort. When local apple growers donated fruit for testing, the lab was ready for action.

Why was there such an overwhelming response? Because Amy and Phil had formed strategic connections and relationships with the people involved in the apple industry from growers, to businesses, to campus connections.

“It’s really been a lifetime of connections that have developed and continue to develop.” Amy said. “We work with a great group of producers – they are supportive and fun. We treat everyone with respect and listen to their issues. The one-on-one connections lead to an insight into the bigger issues facing the apple industry as a whole, which best helps us help growers. Growers often just want to be growers, so sometimes, we have to make connections with media, state and federal agencies and services, commodity groups, and others to represent the interests of the apple industry for them.”

The lab has been up and running since 2015, and it provides critical real-time information to Michigan apple producers from pre-harvest through the harvest season and in post-harvest storage. Amy and Phil are able to integrate, summarize and deliver information to Michigan apple growers in concise weekly reports on apple pruning indices, nutritional impact, maturity indices for appropriate harvest, and storage indices. These reports help growers make the best real-time decisions and grow high-quality apples at a profit. Using this technology, they identify what is working well for the current year apple crop and where growers can make decisions to improve this year’s harvest outcomes.

“We have the fruit industry’s issues at heart; it is our passion.” Phil said. “To be valued, successful and admired requires knowing the people, performing tasks that address their most pressing issues, and the persistence to complete the work the growers and industry define as important. This means that ‘people skills’ is the most important characteristic an Extension person needs to have; but fruit knowledge, hard work, self-motivation and job dedication are also important. We work for the fruit industry and thus the fruit industry works for us, MSU and Michigan.”

Check out this great video created by the Michigan Apple Committee that describes growers’ relationship with MSU Extension.

Amy and Phil are a great example of strategic connections and building relationships. Have you thought about connecting with committees in your area or faculty specialists on campus? What needs to do you see in your communities that could be met by a collaboration with local businesses, companies and governmental groups?

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Filed under Agriculture, Agriculture and Agribusiness, Horticulture, Partnerships, strategic connections