Category Archives: Agriculture

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: https://events.anr.msu.edu/msuedirgrant/

 

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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

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

MSU Extension teams up with MDARD over baby chicks

Two baby chicks huddle together.I recently saw a T-shirt that made me chuckle. It read, “Chickens are like potato chips, you can’t have just one.” Each spring, customers flock to farm supply stores across the country for Chick Days, where live chicks are available for purchase. The adorable baby birds are tiny and cute, but many people do not know that the chicks also carry dangerous germs such as Salmonella. With a rise in salmonella cases in 2016, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and Michigan State University (MSU) Extension decided to work together to improve educational efforts around salmonella prevention with chick buyers in 2017. Extension educator Katie Ockert and Mindy Tape and Jamie Wilson from our communications team worked closely with MDARD on collaborative efforts that resulted in “Chick Bags.” Each bag contains a series of informative rack cards, disinfectant and cleaning brushes. More than 1,000 free bags will be distributed to chick buyers at 10 Family Farm and Home stores. In addition to helping chick buyers understand ways to prevent Salmonella contamination, the cards also provide new owners with valuable information on caring for their animals and preventing the spread of disease among their birds.

These are great guides that are worth taking a look at and sharing with any chick buyers you might know. You can find them on the MSU Extension website and at the sites below.

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Filed under Agriculture, Animal Science, communication, health, Health and Nutrition, Partnerships, Publications

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