Category Archives: Greening Michigan

MNFI helps to inform global policymakers regarding biodiversity sustainability

For over two years, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, formed by the United Nations in 2012, conducted four regional assessments of biodiversity and ecosystems services. Brian Klatt, director of the Michigan Natural Features Inventory, a program of Michigan State University Extension, was a coordinating lead author for the Americas assessment, leading a team of 15 scientists, from eight countries, to synthesize information on trends in biodiversity, the factors affecting biodiversity, the likely implications of those trends and the actions humans can take to lessen the factors negatively affecting biodiversity.

The Americas assessment found that while the Americas possess a phenomenal amount of biodiversity, human activities have decreased biodiversity (as measured by mean species abundance) by 30 percent since European settlement, with an anticipated loss of an additional 10 percent by 2050 unless steps are taken; the most promising pathways are to lessen human consumption and address climate change.

The four regional assessments were approved in March 2018, and the summaries for policy makers for all four regions are now available at

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Filed under Accomplishments, Greening Michigan, natural resources

GLLA inducted into Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame

Jordan Burroughs and Ritchie Harrison, co-directors of the Great Lakes Leadership Academy (GLLA), shared that GLLA will be inducted into the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame on May 9 at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids.

The Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame was established in 2010 by the Muskegon Environmental Research & Education Society. They are recognizing GLLA under the category of colleges and schools that are longtime supporters of the environment.

The mission of the GLLA is to promote positive change, economic vitality, and resource conservation and enhance the quality of life in Michigan by encouraging leadership for the common good. You may recall that GLLA was formed in 2007 and was recently moved into the Michigan State University Extension Greening Michigan Institute portfolio under the leadership of Jordan and Ritchie.

Congratulations to all the people involved in past and current GLLA facilitation and leadership efforts.

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Filed under Awards, Greening Michigan

Strategic connections take time: Reflections from D10

Andy Northrop, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educator, works with communities statewide to create and maintain sustainable communities using tourism and economic development. He is the chair of the tourism team for our Greening Michigan Institute (GMI), and he is also on the government and public policy work team. Andy has built connections over the past two years by consistent networking and needs assessment in the communities where he serves.

“I have a personal passion for social change and sustainability,” Andy said. He also gives credit to his GMI colleagues and their programming for building trust in communities around the state through their track record of facilitating the rebirth of rural communities. “I have learned that strategic connections and anticipated outcomes take significant time,” he reflected. “Although we want to see change today, being patient and confident success will come is all part of the process.”

In St. Clair County, in MSU Extension District 10, Andy built a relationship with the St. Clair County Economic Development Alliance (EDA) and The Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce. The EDA and the Chamber of Commerce became partners in hosting the Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference in 2016. Their collaboration on the conference brought together planning agencies, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, private investors, nonprofits, educational professionals, and a number of partners and interested citizens in seeing Port Huron’s rebirth and vision for fostering a culture to support entrepreneurs. The conference drew 138 people, who traveled from two countries, five states, 27 counties and 58 communities.

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Andy, like many of you, works to create connections across the state as well. He has developed key partnerships with Region 6 of Gov. Snyder’s Prosperity Initiative (RPI 6), which comprises seven counties across MSU Extension Districts 9 and 10. One key partner in RPI 6 is Genesee County Planning, which has been instrumental in strengthening our relationship by employing GMI’s tourism team to deliver four First Impressions: Assessing Your Community for Tourism (FIT) programs during 2017.

FIT, officially offered in 2017 for the first time, assesses communities through the eyes of first-time visitors. Four teams of four educators from GMI will conduct unannounced assessments as tourists to four communities across RPI 6 during the spring and summer of 2017 and work directly with their community leadership teams to strengthen their rural tourism industry potential.

This program was adapted to Michigan by modeling from program partnerships with five Northeast Central for Rural Development land-grant universities. It will be the first of its kind to be offered under Extension in partnership with a prosperity initiative.

The four successful communities will also receive state funding from RPI 6 to implement the suggested results from assessments. In 2017, the program is already serving as a cross-workgroup program within GMI. The tourism team envisions this being a cross-institute/Extension-wide program where experts across all four institutes can be tapped to move rural community tourism development forward.

“Overall, these partnerships have positioned GMI and other institutes as reputable partners in areas related to business and economic development, sustainable tourism and placemaking,” Andy said.

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Filed under Economic development, Entrepreneurial, Greening Michigan, Leadership

How one person leads to another: Strategic connections in District 1

Erin Carter is a Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educator with the Extension Health Research (EHR) and Disease Prevention and Management (DPM) teams. She’s been with us since 2015 and serves our MSU Extension District 1. As part of the DPM aspect of her position, she offers programming in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Diabetes Prevention Program, Dining with Diabetes, Matter of Balance, Personal Action Toward Health (PATH) and Diabetes PATH. She works with an Ishpeming 5th grade class to offer the SPartners physical activity and nutrition program.

Headshot of Erin Carter, MSU Extension health and nutrition educator in District 1.

Erin Carter, MSU Extension health and nutrition educator in District 1.

The goal of the recently formed EHR team is to serve as a model to promote partnerships nationwide between Extension and university academic faculty to advance health in all our communities. EHR offers “Are You Research Ready?” to train Extension educators to use their health programs, expertise and community connections to work closely with the MSU College of Human Medicine researchers. The team also offers “Speed Meetings” to inform statewide faculty about Extension programming so they may use our programming, our connections or both in their research.

When making strategic connections, Erin told us that she’s not quiet for long.

“When I feel strongly about something I only sit back when forced to do so. With this being said, I talk about Extension a lot, which opens doors to things I didn’t know existed or something I could be involved in,” Erin said. “It’s interesting how one person leads to another and with each relationship, positive things began to happen.”

Erin made an important connection when a person who works in health with the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians approached her. He asked her to help him form a coalition at the K. I. Sawyer community.

Once a pristine U.S. Air Force base, K. I. Sawyer, located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, turned rural Gwinn into a bustling small city starting in 1955. This all changed after the Base Realignment Commission of the federal government decided to close K. I. Sawyer in 1993. Upheaval of the Air Force base left behind miles of land. Air force properties sold to private individuals, companies and the Sault Tribe mostly for $1 per property. Some of the housing is vacant, but other homes are inhabited by families and individuals, many of whom cannot afford to live elsewhere.

Eighty-seven percent of students in the K. I. Sawyer School are eligible to receive free and reduced lunch. The community within K. I. Sawyer, Lake Superior Village, reports numbers of 100 percent free and reduced-lunch status. In this small section of K. I. Sawyer, the former community center has opened its doors to serve these families with volunteers within the neighboring counties. Donations have been the only means of providing services for an after-school and summer program, which offers healthy snacks.

The residents of Lake Superior Village do not have access to health care. The closest hospital is a 30-minute drive for individuals having the luxury of owning a car.

If employed, individuals usually work in service jobs earning minimum wage or just above minimum wage. Since these jobs are primarily in Marquette, workers must take public transit or drive personal cars requiring more cost and hardship.

“It only took me one visit to know this partnership was important and could do some great things in a community of need,” Erin said. “The social determinants of health talks about the importance of healthy communities and how unsafe or unhealthy communities affect everyone. If there are no programs for this community, what will happen to the outlying communities? It takes committed people willing to take the time to see the needs and begin to help the people of a community left behind.”

The coalition came together with representatives from the Sault Tribe, the YMCA of Marquette and MSU Extension. They teamed together with other local partners to offer programming in healthy food preparation, physical activity, diabetes prevention and gardening.

Erin sent us some amazing updates of the coalition’s progress:

  • A kickoff dinner brought the K. I. Sawyer Coalition idea to community leaders, police departments, city planners, early education specialists, garden experts, K. I. Sawyer community building employees, local papers and media, Marquette city professionals and community residents.
  • A new community center kitchen that will offer cooking demos and serve more people healthy food is in the blueprints stage.
  • The basketball courts are being repaved, and the MSU Extension Marquette County 4-H group is working to improve the baseball fields.
  • An abandoned hoop house at the school will be moved to make room for a garden.
  • Buses from the school will transport community residents to the events at the community center.
  • Volunteers from all over Marquette County will start a butterfly garden this summer.
  • Partnering with the Sault Tribe has increased MSU Extension programming participant numbers in the area three-fold.
  • Northern Michigan University students collaborate with us in the schools to bring healthy changes to the school’s students by encouraging physical activity.

Paul Putnam, MSU Extension District 1 coordinator, shared the results of Erin’s work.

“Erin has helped to expand our relationships and partnerships with her joint position, and has community connections in both the Houghton/Hancock and the Marquette areas,” he said. “She along with several other strong community partners are making significant impacts in a relatively short period of time.”

Erin said, “Being one of the core people to start the K. I. Sawyer coalition has made me realize how getting a few caring people together can really move a community forward. I’m fortunate I get an opportunity to see the impact a few projects can make to brighten a community and offer another type of value to people’s lives. Sometimes it feels like reaching out to make a connection takes too much time out of our schedules and remembering the value is difficult, but when this time is taken, it can really make a difference.”

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Filed under 4-H, Accomplishments, Children and Youth, Economic development, Greening Michigan, Health and Nutrition, Housing, Impacts, Native Americans, Nutrition, Partnerships, strategic connections, Uncategorized

NACDEP will honor MSU Extension for team diversity

Our Michigan State University Extension Tribal Governance Team will receive a Team Diversity Award from the National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals (NACDEP) next week at its annual conference Little Rock, Arkansas. The Team Diversity Award highlights the unique programming that the team has instituted in partnership with local tribal nations, particularly the focus on tribal communities, which are often overlooked. The three programs of Michigan Tribal Governance build partnerships with leaders of tribal nations, equipping them to provide culturally appropriate, high-quality governance.

Our Government and Public Policy Team educates local governments across the state of Michigan to ensure that our elected officials are equipped with the resources they need to serve their communities. The Tribal Governance programs act similarly, building strong capacity within the Michigan Tribal Communities, while also keeping in mind the specific considerations that affect tribal communities. Evaluation results show significant learning has occurred.

The members of the MSU Extension Tribal Governance Team included on the award were John Amrhein, Elaine Bush, Ann Chastain, Brad Neumann, Emily Proctor and Bethany Prykucki.

“All along we’ve known that we had a good program, and that the folks that participated in it thought it was a great program,” said John. “It was great to hear that someone else, someone who is used to looking at Extension programs at a national level, and recognizing that it is a program that helps people do good things for themselves and each other. That’s really the key. If we can help equip people to do their work better, particularly an underserved audience like tribal leadership, that’s pretty satisfying work.”

Congratulations, team!

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Filed under Greening Michigan

MSU Extension encourages Michigan to be “Money Smart”

This week, April 18-25, is Money Smart Week 2015. While the week may be more than halfway over, that does not mean you have to miss this excellent opportunity to get your finances in order with your colleagues in the Financial and Homeownership Education Work Team. In partnership with Money Smart Week Michigan, Michigan State University Extension staff members are hosting events going on across the state through Saturday, many of which you may complete online from the comfort of your own home. Visit Money Smart Week to see the events available.

Additionally, if you have a Michigan State University student in your family, you might want to let them know about the possibility of a $1,000 prize if they participate in “GeoCache for College Cash,” a hunt for personal finance treasures. While each of the colleges that participate in this program handle the contest differently, the event organizers at MSU decided to keep the contest to one location instead of all across the sprawling campus in East Lansing. The MSU event will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. tonight, April 23, in Room 300 of the Human Ecology building on campus.

If you aren’t available this week, but still want to help support your colleagues, you can find them at, and on Facebook and Twitter.

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Tom Izzo wants you to be on the winning team

The Michigan State University Extension Financial and Homeownership Education Work Group has just launched a radio campaign to promote its programming across the state. The 30-second commercial produced by Dave Ellis from Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications features Coach Tom Izzo from the Michigan State University basketball team.

You can view the ad here:

The ad will run from January to March 2015 on statewide radio stations, including during March Madness, to promote The Financial and Homeownership Education Work Group has updated its information and resources about money management, homeownership and foreclosure on their website. Their new postforeclosure curriculum, Starting Over After Foreclosure Toolkit, will launch on this site in early January.

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Filed under Greening Michigan

Some clarification on teams

Before and since Fall Extension Conference, we have called our TEAMS in Michigan State University Extension many different names and by institute, they are titled differently. We hear them referred to as teams, work groups, work teams, AOE teams, expertise teams and other names. Perhaps it does not matter so much as long as we get the job done. But while we are in the process of updating operating guidelines, developing strategies for team input on performance evaluation and streamlining plan of work development, it’s a good time to consider consistency in what we call our teams.

Our administrative team took time to review this at our last administrative meeting and concluded that we would use the terminology of work teams to describe the primary operating structures within our institutes and work groups to identify subsets of the work team that may be needed to carry out the programming of the institutes.

Each institute will use work teams as the primary structure for developing, delivering and evaluating programs. Institutes will likely need from four to 15 teams to deliver their educational content. Some teams will find it necessary to break into work groups within the team to address content specialties or projects that the team would like to address. This would be more desirable than forming a separate smaller work team. Most work teams will need a critical mass of at least 10 to 12 members to develop and deliver programs on a statewide basis.

Using our current institute structures, MSU Extension would look like this:

Agriculture Agribusiness Institute (AABI)

Work Teams (work teams currently under redevelopment!)

Children and Youth Institute (CYI)

Work Teams:

  • Academic Success
    Work Groups:

    • Early Childhood Education
    • Youth Life Skill Development
    • Science Literacy Education
  • Leadership & Civic Engagement
  • Career Exploration & Workforce Preparation
  • Capacity Building

Greening Michigan Institute (GMI)

Work Teams:

  • Government/Public Policy
  • Community Food Systems
  • Natural Resources
  • Sustainable Communities
    Work Groups:

    • Tourism
    • Entrepreneurial Development
    • Leadership & Community Engagement

Health and Nutrition Institute (HNI)

Work Teams:

  • Nutrition and Physical Activity
  • Disease Prevention and Management
  • Social-Emotional Health
  • Food Safety
  • Extension Health Research

As affirmed at our fall conference, MSU Extension has always valued teamwork and has used a variety of team structures over time to carry out program planning and delivery. Our focus in building a more “colorful future” for MSU Extension teams over the next year is determining how we can support our teams organizationally to become more effective and improve program outcomes and impact. Look for more to come in future Spotlights as we launch the action teams that were recruited at Fall Extension Conference.

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Filed under Agriculture and Agribusiness, Children and Youth, Greening Michigan, Health and Nutrition

New Commissioner Trainings educate county commissioners

Last week, our Michigan State University Extension educators finished up their New Commissioner Trainings across the state, partnering with the Michigan Association of Counties. Six separate sessions took place. Locations included Big Rapids, Kalamazoo, Gaylord, Escanaba, Novi and Frankenmuth. Julie Pioch, John Amrhein, Mark Skidmore, Eric Scorsone, Kurt Schindler, Brad Neumann and Terry Gibb taught the sessions.

The county is an important partner of MSU Extension, so it’s an opportunity to highlight our training abilities right from the get-go and provide an example of a quality educational program. It is also the only training opportunity that county commissioners have in this position.

From maintaining records of property ownership to issuing marriage licenses to collecting and distributing taxes to providing a functional and effective justice system, county government is responsible for handling a diverse array of functions for Michigan residents. Every two years, the citizens elect county commissioners to develop policy and provide financial oversight to all aspects of county government. The role of a county commissioner is well defined by statute; however, understanding the relationships between the county board and other elected officials and department heads is very complicated. We are training commissioners so that they understand their roles within the complex system of county government.

This is MSU Extension’s 46th year doing this program.

According to Julie Pioch, they’ve “attempted over time to make the program more interactive and to provide time for the commissioners to network with each other and learn from the more experienced commissioners by asking questions. The content changes with issues relevant to county government.”

Attending the workshops were 178 out of the 622 Michigan county commissioners. Attendees included a high percentage of newly elected officials, who felt more prepared to take on their new positions after this training.

When asked what they will do differently after attending the workshop, one participant wrote, “I will go in office being more of an asset now. I can hit the ground running and know better the questions I need to ask.”

Our county commissioners continue to depend on us for training of new commissioners, and this training is a great way to keep our communities strong!

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Grand Rapids Downtown Market MSU Extension new office opens doors to visitors

Betty Blase, MSU Extension District 7 Coordinator, and Jim Talen, Kent County Commissioner.

Betty Blase, MSU Extension District 7 Coordinator, and Jim Talen, Kent County Commissioner.

I mentioned in a recent Spotlight article that our Michigan State University Extension community food systems educators Kendra Wills and Garrett Ziegler moved into their new office space in the Grand Rapids Downtown Market on Sept. 1. The two work at the site full time, joined one to two days a week by Diane Smith, innovation counselor from the MSU Product Center Food-Ag-Bio.

An Open House Reception took place Oct. 1 at the office located at 109 Logan Street SW, Suite B102. Guests enjoyed light refreshments from the Downtown Market food businesses.

From left to right: Kendra Wills with MSU Extension at the Downtown Market, Jerry Adams with West Michigan Farmlink, Tim Sharer of Vertical Paradise Farms, and Garrett Ziegler of MSU Extension at the Downtown Market.

From left to right: Kendra Wills with MSU Extension at the Downtown Market, Jerry Adams with West Michigan Farmlink, Tim Sharer of Vertical Paradise Farms, and Garrett Ziegler of MSU Extension at the Downtown Market.

In addition, visitors donated to support the Bethany Christian Services Hope Farms project. Hope Farms partners with Holland Home to provide employment and business skills to Nepali and Burmese refugees. These growers will be planting crops native to their homelands for sale in local markets. Hope Farms coordinators discussed the project at the event, which attracted 50 people including Sen. Mark Jansen R-Gaines Township, Kent County commissioners Jim Talen and Gary Rolls and Marcia Rapp, vice president of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

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Filed under Greening Michigan