Category Archives: Events

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

Pumpkin everything

Giant wooden bins filled with pumpkins, trees in the background.

You can tell it’s fall when you start seeing pumpkin everything: pumpkin lattes, pie, muffins, soups, cookies, cakes, coffee creamer, ice cream and Cheerios – what? Today, I thought I’d point out some great resources that our Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educators have created to help us get into the pumpkin spirit.

First, we’ll need to know how to pick the perfect pumpkin. Good thing we have the “How to Choose the Right Pumpkin” resource by MSU Extension educator Jeannie Nichols with information on finding fully mature and delicious pumpkins.

Once we’ve found the right pumpkin, we turn to MSU Extension educator Lisa Treiber who prepared a great Michigan Fresh bulletin on using, storing and preserving pumpkins with detailed instructions and recommendations.

In case you’d like to dive deeper into pumpkin preservation, MSU Extension educator Stephanie Ostrenga has some important information in her “Pumpkin Preservation Safety Tips” article.

MSU Extension educator Stephanie Marino also has great advice on “Incorporating Pumpkin Into Your Diet This Season” with recipes included.

To fully immerse ourselves in all things pumpkin, the MSU Tollgate Farm and Education Center in Novi is hosting their annual Pumpkinfest Oct.7–8, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. that draws about 6,000 visitors. This will be a fantastic event for the whole family with a children’s straw maze, educational exhibits, music, pumpkin bowling, antique tractors, the MSU Bug House and more. On Sept. 27, we received MSU Extension educator Alan Jaros’ email encouraging us all to attend, represent our program areas at the event and bring interactive elements to engage the crowd. This is a great opportunity to show off what we do and celebrate all things pumpkin. If you have questions or if you would like to sign up, contact Aba Holmes at holme146@anr.msu.edu. Hope you can make it.

Happy pumpkin season, everyone!

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Filed under Children and Youth, Events, Food, Food safety, Health and Nutrition, Horticulture, Nutrition, Resources

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

4-H’ers receive scholarships, Extension engages the public at the Michigan State Fair

The Michigan State Fair (MSF) was a complete success. Thanks to over 60 4-H volunteers and staff members, we had an outstanding opportunity to engage with visitors throughout the Labor Day weekend. Over 112,000 people attended the fair, and it was a great opportunity to get the word out about all Michigan State University (MSU) Extension has to offer them.

MSU Extension staff members hosted a booth to present programs and activities to the public, and our 4-H’ers and volunteers led activities for youth such as hoverball, archery, arts and crafts, and other hands-on activities.

We also received the big news that our outstanding Oakland County 4-H youth received a total of over $10,000 in urban farming and rural scholarships from the MSF. On September 22, they even got a chance to visit the State Capitol where they were welcomed by Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall and Rep. Kathy Crawford to celebrate their achievements.

Oakland County 4-H youth and leaders pose for a photograph at the State Capitol with Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall and Rep. Kathy Crawford to celebrate their achievements. Photo courtesy of Oakland County 4-H.

Oakland County 4-H visited the Capitol visit the State Capitol where they were welcomed by Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall and Rep. Kathy Crawford. Photo courtesy of Oakland County 4-H.

The 4-H relationship with the Fifth Third Bank, MSF and Suburban Collection Showplace began several years ago at the Novi Equestrian Expo 4-H Youth Activities area. Because of our reputation, MSU Extension was invited to be a participant at the 2015 MSF and given a free booth to showcase its many awesome programs. This year, the MSF gave the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) , AgBioResearch and MSU Extension a 40-foot by 70-foot booth to present programs and activities. For participating, MSU Extension gets a seat on the State Fair steering committee, free entry for all MSU Extension staff and volunteers serving at the booth, and reduced parking fees. In addition, top representatives of the CANR, AgBioResearch and MSU Extension are invited to attend the MSF VIP event for networking.

Photo of the Oakland County 4-H, MSU Extension, AgBioResearch and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources booth. Several people standing and sitting and chatting.

The MSF’s generous donation of space for Oakland County 4-H, MSU Extension, AgBioResearch and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Photo courtesy of Fran Adelaja.

This has been an amazing opportunity for our organization and our 4-H youth. Mark your calendars for next year’s fair on Labor Day weekend!

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Filed under Children and Youth, Events, michigan state fair

MSU celebrates National Pollinator Week

Michigan State University (MSU) hosted two events on June 19, Bee Palooza and Science on Tap: Beezzz & Brewzzz to celebrate National Pollinator Week.

Bee Palooza, a free, fun and educational event centered on understanding pollinators, is designed for people of all ages. MSU Horticulture Gardens hosted displays that focused on honeybee colonies, bumble bees, the wild bees of Michigan, plants to support pollinators and the importance of bees and other pollinators to the food supply. Hands-on workshops engaged visitors on how to create a native bee hotel and how to identify pollinators in their gardens.

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Beezzz & Brewzzz, an adults-only event, took place at the Beer Grotto in Lansing. Participants heard from MSU experts Dr. Jason Gibbs, Dr. Meghan Milbrath and Dr. Rufus Isaacs about native bees, the work Michigan is doing to protect our pollinators and the role of bees in your favorite drinks. Following the presentations, entomology graduate students answered questions from the audience on topics ranging from the types of flowers to plant for bees and general bee biology to beekeeping regulations in Lansing. There were also special bee-related drinks on tap for the night. Over 100 people attended throughout the night and many received raffle giveaways including photo prints of wild bees taken by Jason Gibbs, pocket guides, local honey, native bee hotels, T-shirts and a Beer Grotto gift certificate.

Are you interested in knowing more about pollinators in Michigan or have you gotten calls with questions about them? Dr. David Smitley worked with a team of entomologists to put together “Protecting and Enhancing Pollinators in Urban Landscapes for the U.S. North Central Region,” a free 30-page PDF resource they hope will answer nearly every question that gardeners, landscapers and tree care professionals may have about protecting pollinators.

Michigan is a leader in honey production and in many pollination-dependent fruit and vegetable crops. With worldwide concerns about pollinator declines, we’re seeking to raise awareness about their importance and spread the word about what individuals can do to help. MSU Extension provides the latest information on pollinators and pollination including fact sheets from the Smart Gardening Program, webinars, educational seminars, email newsletters and other online resources.

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Filed under Entomology, Events, Gardening, Horticulture

Getting the word out to Flint families

On Tuesday, April 26, MSU Extension participated in the Flint Farmers Market event held by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and attended by representatives from state and local agencies, the media and the public. The event raised awareness about the nutrition assistance programs and guidance resources available to Flint residents.

During the press conference, speakers from many organizations and programs such as the Fair Food Network, the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Farmers Market Nutrition Program, the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan and the United Dairy Industry of Michigan joined USDA speakers to share about nutrition and program information. Erin Powell, MSU Extension health and nutrition educator, spoke at the press conference, highlighting MSU Extension resources and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ‒ Education (SNAP‒Ed).

After the press conference, participants interacted with program staff during activities and demonstrations, and at informational booths. Our MSU Extension team provided a cooking demonstration, a Cooking Matters class and a Discover Michigan Fresh tour. They also set up a “fender blender” bike for participants to ride to create a healthy smoothie and taste the results of their efforts. The MSU Extension booth showcased our nutrition education curricula, fight lead brochures and class fliers.

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The event provided accurate information, brought partners together who support the efforts in Flint and delivered a cohesive message. The USDA took sounds bites and video footage to develop public service announcements for future use to reach out and educate more of the public about the important resources available.

Thank you, Dawn Contreras, Deanna East, Erin Powell, Lynette Kaiser, Rich Ashley and his son Gabe, Liz Josaitis, Maha Khrais, Shane Jackson, Nancy Latham, Becky Henne and Tom Cummins for your efforts to provide meaningful activities and content, and for representing MSU Extension at this successful event.

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Filed under Children and Youth, communication, Events, Flint Water, Food, Health and Nutrition, Nutrition, Partnerships, Publications, Resources

MSU Extension helps Michigan hop into craft beer

I was privileged to be one of the approximately 340 people to attend the second annual Great Lakes Hop and Barley Conference March 16‒17 in Traverse City. The conference was sponsored by Michigan State University and the Michigan Brewers Guild (MBG). Prominent speakers from around the country and the university provided sessions on horticultural practices, pest and disease control, harvest and post-harvest practices, nutrient management and much more. The conference also included expert panels featuring producers, industry representatives and brewers. This year, attendees also had the opportunity to go on a tour of MI LOCAL, Michigan’s newest and largest hop operation with 200 acres planted in 2015 that will be ready for harvest this coming fall.

MSU Extension has collaborated with the MBG on nearly every hop and barley educational program that we have developed over the last eight years. Our close working relationship with the MBG has really been instrumental in connecting hop and barley producers with brewers. The director of the MBG, Scott Graham, received the Friend of Extension Award at the 2015 Fall Extension Conference for his efforts; we are light-years ahead of where we would have been without this excellent working relationship.

MSU Extension educator Rob Sirrine provides statewide leadership for hop research, education and outreach in collaboration with other staff members. MSU Extension hosts multiple educational programs throughout the year and the Great Lakes Hop and Barley Conference is the main highlight. Rob also represents Extension on the newly formed Hop Growers of America Best Practices Advisory Committee. MSU Extension educator Erin Lizotte provides her integrated pest management expertise. She coordinates the Great Lakes Hop Working Group that she formed with Rob two years ago. The group is composed of educators, researchers and other industry professionals that share information to benefit growers in their region. Dr. Mary Hausbeck, University Distinguished Professor, Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, and her graduate student Doug Higgins have been working to develop downy mildew control strategies over the last two years, and Dr. Bernie Zandstra, MSU professor in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, will be researching weed control options in the upcoming year.

MSU Extension educator Ashley McFarland has provided statewide leadership for malting barley research, education and outreach for the past three years. Projects have included collaboration with many field crop Extension personnel throughout the state in an attempt to support this reemerging crop in response to the burgeoning craft beverage industry. In addition to variety and management trials, the program also connects farmers with entrepreneurs in the newly developed craft malting market. Ashley is supported by Christian Kapp, MSU crop research technician at the Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center. Ashley also serves on the National Barley Improvement Committee.

In Michigan, the craft beer industry is relatively young, but it is experiencing tremendous growth and making its mark nationally. According to the Michigan Brewers Guild, Michigan ranks fifth in the nation in number of breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs. We are competitive on a national scale, but it’s also important to recognize the impact to Michigan residents. Data released by the Brewers Association show that in 2014, craft brewing in Michigan was responsible for 14,773 full-time jobs and $571.6 million in wages, and it contributed $1.85 billion in economic impact to our state. The Brewers Association reports that national growth of small and independent brewers continues to rise. As the craft industry grows, there will be an increased need for research-based resources and opportunities where MSU Extension can partner with the industry to facilitate its growth.

 

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Filed under Agriculture and Agribusiness, Conferences, Economic development, Entrepreneurial, Events