Category Archives: health

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:


Leave a comment

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.

Comments Off on Tools for employees having controversial conversations surrounding GMOs

Filed under Agriculture, Agriculture and Agribusiness, communication, Events, Farming, Food, health, Health and Nutrition, professional development, Resources

Thanksgiving resources for Michigan residents

Table with Thanksgiving dishes and beverages.

Once again, as November rolls around, we begin to get questions about preparing Thanksgiving dinner and ensuring food safety. Our educators have done a great job of creating resources on our Michigan State University (MSU) Extension website. A year ago, I blogged about their work, and it was my most-read November post, so I thought it would be helpful to post it again this year in case you get calls to your offices or questions from loved ones.

In “Be Thankful for Food Safety This Thanksgiving,” Michigan State University (MSU) Extension health and nutrition educator Jane Hart guides us through all of our favorite foods – turkey, stuffing, relish and pumpkin pie – and tells us how to make sure that they are safe to eat.

Jeannie Nichols, health and nutrition educator, writes about two U.S. Department of Agriculture recommendations for preparing and cooking your Thanksgiving turkey, or any poultry for that matter. In her article, Jeannie explains why the USDA recommends that you do not rinse it before cooking it and that you do make sure it is cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. She also explains how to most effectively measure it.

Need some help with thawing times for turkey? Laurie Messing, health and nutrition educator, shares the safe ways to thaw food in her article “Thawing the Thanksgiving Turkey.”

If you won’t have time to thaw your turkey, Jeannie writes about how to safely roast a frozen one in her “Frozen Turkey for Thanksgiving” article.

Learn from health and nutrition educator Beth Waitrovich why the USDA recommends cooking stuffing outside of your turkey.

After the last forkful of pumpkin pie, many of us have leftovers to save – another important moment in food safety. Laurie explains how to properly store and use leftover turkey.

Need help in a pinch on Thanksgiving Day? Thankfully, Laurie shares with us that the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline, staffed by food safety specialists, will be answering food safety questions on Thanksgiving Day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Eastern Time. The phone number is 1-888-674-6854.

Lastly, to refer people to safe food and water experts in their area, visit our MSU Extension website.  

Comments Off on Thanksgiving resources for Michigan residents

Filed under Food, Food safety, health, Health and Nutrition, Nutrition, Resources

Bringing health and nutrition into our organizational culture – Fall Extension Conference

You might have noticed that the Fall Extension Conference (FEC) schedule looks a little different this year. If you read through it, you’ll see that there is time dedicated to activities such as “mindful movements,” “stroll through the park” and “mindful eating.” In fact, each day has at least four opportunities to engage in healthy practices in between our conference activities.

As we serve the people of Michigan and help them live healthier lives, we should also value our own health and create practices within our organizational culture to reflect this priority.

“Nearly half of our waking hours are spent at work, and many of those hours are spent in meetings and conferences,” Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educator Dawn Earnesty said. “By adopting healthy meeting guidelines, MSU Extension can help to create an environment that supports employees’ efforts to eat well and be physically active. By internally promoting and taking care of the health and well-being of our own employees, we can better meet the needs of the audiences we educate daily.”

Dawn, MSU Extension educator Bree Carlson and their team worked with the FEC planning committee to incorporate this initiative into our conference this year.

“Specific opportunities at FEC will include physical activity breaks, standing tables, all food and beverages served to meet healthy meeting guidelines, healthy messaging and specific sessions that provide social, physical and emotional professional development opportunities,” Dawn said.

We have a lot to look forward to at FEC. I would like to encourage you to join me and your colleagues to take full advantage of these health-focused opportunities. It’s important that we bring healthy practices into our organization and the way we operate, and I can’t think of a better time to start.

Comments Off on Bringing health and nutrition into our organizational culture – Fall Extension Conference

Filed under Fall Extension Conference, health

20+ year Extension partnership gears up for National Immunization Awareness Month

dna strands

As we count down to August, which is National Immunization Awareness Month, we reached out to  Dawn Contreras and Connie DeMars to highlight an important partnership and program serving Michigan medical professionals and residents. Michigan State University (MSU) Extension and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services began a partnership in 1995 as the result of a statewide need for tools and training to help raise Michigan’s immunization rate and promote better health among all residents. We formed the Physician Peer Education Program on Immunization that provides medical updates relevant to immunizations to practicing physicians and medical groups. Through this program, we provide updates on pediatrics; adult immunizations; vaccines for women’s health, influenza and HPV; and recommendations for health care personnel. All are valid for Continuing Medical Education credit.

“Since October 1 of last year, we have organized almost 70 presentations reaching over 2,000 medical professionals to answer questions,” Connie said. “Our audience has included many aspects, from hospitals to the automotive industry.”

How can we help? Connie shared that we can all help to promote our upcoming, one-hour Pediatric and Adult Influenza webinar on August 30, designed for medical professionals. It will discuss influenza rates, surveillance and coverage levels, and recommendations. It will identify strategies to improve vaccination rates. I’ve linked to the PDF of the webinar’s promotional flyer to this post below so that you can download and disseminate it.

Flu Webinar Poster

“Getting all needed immunizations is an important element of good health for many people,” Dawn said. We are honored to be a partner with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on this long-standing program geared toward protecting the lives of Michigan residents.”

To find out more, visit our website or contact Connie at

Comments Off on 20+ year Extension partnership gears up for National Immunization Awareness Month

Filed under health, Health and Nutrition, Partnerships

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.

Comments Off on MSU Extension team responds to help families with farm stress

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

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.

Comments Off on MSU Extension teams up with MDARD over baby chicks

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