Category Archives: Agriculture and Agribusiness

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

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

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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Filed under Ag Innovation Day, Agriculture and Agribusiness

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