Tag Archives: agriculture and agribusiness institute

New director announced for Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute

I am very pleased to announce that Ron Bates, professor of animal science and Extension specialist, has been named director of the Michigan State University Extension Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute. He will assume the role on April 1.

Dr. Bates began his career at the University of Missouri in 1986. Later, he served as technical director for Osborne Industries. He joined the faculty of MSU in 1996, and in every academic position since that time, he has had Extension as his primary appointment. He has received numerous awards, including the Michigan Association of Extension Agent’s Outstanding Extension Specialist Award in 2011.

In his interview presentation, Dr. Bates explained his long-term goals for the development of the institute within MSU Extension, which included ensuring that stakeholders see MSU Extension as a primary trusted source of need-based, research-grounded information and resources.

“My vision is not a destination, it’s really a journey,” said Dr. Bates.

In his presentation, he listed our well-trained, confident, self-reliant Extension educators and specialists as our greatest asset to promote the continued growth of the organization over time. In a series of implementation steps, he outlined his vision for more clarification, collaboration and engagement within the institute.

Upon accepting this appointment, Dr. Bates said, “It is my privilege to serve in this capacity continuing the important and excellent work done statewide by Extension educators, who provide a trusted source of research and need-based, unbiased educational programs, tools and information to our important and varied partners, stakeholders and clientele.”

We are pleased to have Dr. Bates join the administrative team for MSU Extension. Special thanks to the search committee for helping us through the selection process. Chaired by Jim Kells, the committee also included Julie Chapin, Chris Difonzo, Tom Guthrie, Michael Krauch, and Dennis Pennington.

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Promoting a vibrant local agriculture community

With the intention of promoting and building a vibrant local agriculture community, the 2015 Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference hosted more than 1,000 attendees this past weekend in Traverse City. Two former Michigan State University Extension staff members, Jack Middleton and Dave Glenn, started this event approximately 18 years ago as a grazing conference in Otsego County. Both have since retired, but the conference continued to grow throughout the years. It now fills the largest venue in northern Michigan, the Grand Traverse Resort. The conference now has its own independent planning committee, but many MSU Extension staff members serve, including Stan Moore, Rob Sirrine, Barb Smutek and Wendy Wieland, as well as Susan Cocciarelli from the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems .

Associate director of operations Patrick Cudney and Greening Michigan Institute director Dave Ivan both attended the event, and both were proud of how far the program has come.

“The northern Michigan Small Farm Conference is a wonderful example of Extension work at its finest,” said Patrick. “MSU Extension was there at the beginning to meet the needs of the small farm grazing community by working with producers to identify their needs, bringing research-based education to the community and planning and hosting the event. Over time, the conference has evolved to the point where Extension no longer is needed to be the sole event planner; rather we are at the table, with many partners to plan the event.”

Additionally, many Michigan State University (Extension and otherwise) staff members taught sessions this year, including Julie Avery (MSUE), Jude Barry (MSU CRFS), Noel Bielaczyc (MSU CRFS), George Bird (MSU), Vicki Morrone (MSU CRFS), Rich Pirog (MSU CRFS), Jason Rowntree (MSU), Rob Sirrine (MSUE), Collin Thompson, (MSU Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center) and Michelle Walk (MSUE). In this way, our university was able to add value by offering our research-based educational content to meet growers’ needs even while we no longer host the event.

Patrick went on to say, “In essence, we built capacity and leadership, we support and partner, and we expand our mission of improving the lives of others by applying research-based knowledge to critical issues, needs and opportunities. Being there Saturday, I reflected upon where this conference has been, where it is today, and where it will go in the future and I was again reminded of the importance of our work and very proud to be part of this organization.”

Congratulations and thank you to all of our team, past and present, for your part in making the conference the success it is.

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Farm Bill website building momentum

One of the projects that Michigan State University Extension educators have been working on has been in response to the Agricultural Act of 2014 – commonly called the 2014 Farm Bill – that was signed in early 2014. It is quite different from what farmers and landowners were accustomed to in former farm bills, so our educators and campus specialists from the Farm Information Resource Management (FIRM) Team are working together to provide farmers with information to navigate Farm Bill programs.

Although there may be similarities to past farm bills, it is very important that farmers begin to learn as much as they can before deciding on what program is best suited for their current situation. Farmers can find answers by checking out the Farm Bill page full of resources, important dates, email newsletters and upcoming educational events hosted throughout Michigan.  Each farm location and each farmer’s individual needs vary, therefore, choosing which programs are a good fit will depend on farm-specific variables.

Adam Kantrovich, an Extension educator for the southwest region of the FIRM team, manages the website for this project. He shared the stats of this program page with me, saying that the Farm Bill page is the Number 1 program on the MSU Extension website. From Dec. 12, 2014, to Jan. 11, 2015, the pages have had more than 4,300 visits. We hope to continue to see success with the program as we move forward.

Please feel free to explore MSU Extension’s Farm Bill page, and share it with those in your network who would be interested.

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Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute candidates to address question in public seminars

The search committee for the new Agriculture and Agribusiness (AABI) director, which includes Julie Chapin, Chris DiFonzo, Tom Guthrie, Mike Krauch, Dennis Pennington and search chair Jim Kells, has announced that the search has narrowed to two exceptional candidates: Dr. Ron Bates and Dr. Larry Gut.

As part of the selection process, the two candidates have been asked to address the following question in a 30- to 40-minute public seminar: “Share your vision for AABI and the strategy for implementing that vision.”

The schedule for the public seminars follows:

Monday, January 26
Dr. Larry Gut
10-11 a.m.: Public Seminar ‒ “The MSU Extension Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute in 2020 and How We Will Get There” (Auditorium, MSU Pavilion)
11-11:45 a.m.: Open Roundtable (Classroom A, MSU Pavilion)

Tuesday, February 3
Dr. Ron Bates
10-11 a.m.: Public Seminar ‒ “Making Our Best Better, Driving Progress in Michigan Agriculture” (Auditorium, MSU Pavilion)
11-11:45 a.m.: Open Roundtable (Classroom A, MSU Pavilion)

Feedback from all who attend the presentations at the MSU Pavilion and those who watch the recorded video presentations will be sought and appreciated. Please RSVP to attend the seminar.

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Great honor in District 5

In December, Kathy Walicki, district support at the Michigan State University Extension office in Oceana County, was named 2014 Michigan Farm Bureau Volunteer of the Year.

Kathy was Michigan Farm Bureau’s Volunteer of the Month in April of 2014, and a panel of Farm Bureau staff chose her Volunteer of the Year to be honored during a Dec. 3 ceremony. Chosen from among the previous 12 volunteers of the month, Michigan Farm Bureau’s Volunteer of the Year award goes to a member demonstrating outstanding commitment and focused efforts toward a Farm Bureau program or event.

Specifically, Kathy showed exemplary leadership by bringing together several Oceana County commodity organizations during National Agriculture Week in March for a celebratory banquet. As lead organizer of the event, she worked individually with each group to coordinate efforts and unite them for a special evening of recognition and honors.

She tells her Michigan Farm Bureau story best in her interview, which you can see here:

Congratulations, Kathy!

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Update on the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute Director

Another important transition in Michigan State University Extension has been in the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute (AABI). Ray Hammerschmidt has been acting as the interim institute director since July 1. The search is on for the permanent institute director, as Ray moves into his new role as the director of MSU Extension on January 1, 2015.

The position announcement has closed. The search committee, chaired by Dr. Jim Kells, will evaluate the applicants, and interviews will likely be held in early January. Hopefully we will soon have an announcement for our permanent institute director. Good luck to all of the candidates!

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Local cherries and beer: The impact of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station

Nikki Rothwell, coordinator of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station and a Michigan State University Extension specialist, was recently highlighted on Greening of the Great Lakes, hosted by Kirk Heinze. She was also written about in the MLive article “Michigan State University Research and Michigan Agriculture Are Making a Global Impact.”

The coverage went into detail about how the station assists commercial fruit growers in the “fruit belt” of Northwest Michigan.

When describing the impact of the station on the area, Nikki said, “It’s the hub of activity, research and information for the Michigan grower community.”

One of the major areas of research is hops production.

According to Nikki in her interview, “The major market for local hops is microbreweries. Locality is something consumers really embrace and there’s something about knowing that the hops used to make your beer were grown by a local farmer.”

With the help of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station, local growers are selling to local microbreweries, which keeps the entire production cycle local. The microbrewery market is growing as well, because many Michiganders appreciate the nature of supporting the local producer.

Hops are not the only crops being researched by the station – Rothwell spoke about the station’s contribution to the growth of the market for Michigan cherries across the country: specifically the Hungarian Balaton cherry.

“There are markets in New York City and Chicago with people from Eastern European descent that really miss their cherries from their homeland. There’s a company that trucks our Balaton cherries from northern Michigan all the way back to those markets and they get sold like hot cakes,” she said.

To see the full article and hear the interview, visit “Michigan State University Research and Michigan Agriculture Are Making a Global Impact” on MLive.

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Breakfast on the Farm succeeds despite many adversities

The last Breakfast on the Farm event of this season took place last weekend at Uphaus Farms in Washtenaw County. I was proud to hear how the event went off without a major hitch, especially considering the storm that hit the area on Friday night. The resourcefulness and perseverance of the family, volunteers and our staff prove that nothing holds down Michigan State University Extension.

A little background on Uphaus Farms: The host of this event, Lyndon Uphaus, is the fifth generation to operate the family-owned farm, which got its start 139 years ago. He and his wife, Ann, care for about 1,000 beef animals annually, with about 450 cattle on site at one time. They also work approximately 600 acres of crop land. This year, the farm boasted 450 acres of corn, 100 acres of soybeans and 50 acres of wheat.

At 8 p.m. Friday, 70 mile-per-hour winds and heavy rain caused a power outage, holding off set-up until the next morning. In addition, the rains made parking on the now-soaked grounds impossible. The family made a phone call to ensure that the drivers of four school buses would be on standby to transport visitors to the farm on Saturday morning from off-site parking two miles away.

By 7 a.m. the morning of the event, the volunteers had completed trial bus runs and rearranged some of the stations around the farm. They also acquired a second generator. The next two hours passed in a flurry of activity as workers set up stations and put up signs directing visitors to the new parking area.

“The resourcefulness and flexibility of a great group of volunteers and outstanding host family was very evident last Friday and Saturday when some quick decisions needed to be made,” said Nancy Thelen, MSU Extension educator. “The host family, every volunteer and Extension staff member worked together to make sure the flow of visitors would be safe and workable. When the last visitor left the farm at 2 p.m., it was remarkable to reflect on all the positive actions from everyone involved.”

Despite the storm and the last-minute parking changes, 2,400 visitors enjoyed the event. The Uphaus family, Nancy Thelen, program coordinator Ashley Kuschel, the planning committee and more than 400 volunteers all demonstrated just how adaptable and innovative they are by making adjustments to run the event without power and in very wet field conditions. This was the final Breakfast on the Farm for 2014, but next year, more farms will open up their doors for our program.

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Potato field days

By Patrick I. Cudney

Last week, Chris Long, Michigan State University potato specialist, and James DeDecker, MSU Extension specialty field crop and bioenergy educator, collaborated with Mike Wenkel, executive director of the Michigan Potato Industry Commission, and Christian Kapp, research technician at the Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center (UPREC), to put on two Potato Field Days. The first event took place Aug. 26 at Erke Farms in Rogers City in Presque Isle County, Michigan, and the second took place Aug. 27 at TJJ Farms in Cornell in Delta County, Michigan. I was able to attend both of these events. They were a great example of industry, extension and research, working collaboratively in support of agricultural economic development.

This program offered an opportunity for producers and agribusiness professionals to view an on-farm potato variety trial and receive industry updates from commission representatives and MSU Extension specialists. The sessions included updates on local crops, insect management, the seed industry and the potato industry.

The events grew this year, particularly in Presque Isle County, more than doubling the attendees from last year’s event. There were some new faces, including new agribusiness representatives interested in getting involved in the potato industry so that they will know what the growers will need in the future. Some consumers attended as well. This is important because the agriculture industry comes under scrutiny by the public at times. Giving them a first-hand look at farm management practices can be very useful.

James DeDecker said, “Diversity in crops and production systems is what makes Michigan agriculture unique and resilient. The fresh market and seed potato industries in northeast lower Michigan and the U.P. are examples of producers and agribusiness advancing the tradition of making the most of what Michigan has to offer in soils, climate, etc., in order to produce an abundant, healthful and profitable crop. MSU Extension is dedicated to supporting the potato industry in its efforts through research and outreach events like the annual Potato Field Days held in Presque Isle and Delta counties.”

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Senior Extension educators receive distinguished university awards

Michigan State University senior Extension educators Jill O’Donnell and Dean Solomon each received Distinguished Academic Staff Awards Feb. 11 at the annual Founders Day and Awards Convocation in the Pasant Theatre in the Wharton Center. The awards presentation followed President Lou Anna K. Simon’s State of the University Address.

Jill O'Donnell, senior Michigan State University Extension educator, received a Distinguished Academic Staff award on Feb. 11, 2014.

Jill O’Donnell, senior Michigan State University Extension educator, received a Distinguished Academic Staff award on Feb. 11, 2014.

The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) honored the awardees with a reception in the Centennial Room of the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center just prior to the Awards Convocation.

They are two of four academic staff who will receive the award this year.

Jill O’Donnell of the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute is a nationally recognized expert in Christmas tree production with an emphasis on early pest identification and management. With Jill, it’s all about relationships. Because of Jill’s dedication to growers as well as her commitment to quality and sustainability, Christmas tree producers know that they can trust her to help them deal with significant issues in the industry. She does it all professionally, working with MSU researchers as well as specialists in other states. Her efforts have helped growers increase yields and reduce or even eliminate pesticide applications, leading to additional profits for the growers and benefits to the environment. Of course, all of her efforts are based on scientific research. With her involvement, Michigan remains a national leader in the Christmas tree industry.

Dean Solomon, senior Michigan State University Extension educator, received a Distinguished Academic Staff award on Feb. 11, 2014.

Dean Solomon, senior Michigan State University Extension educator, received a Distinguished Academic Staff award on Feb. 11, 2014.

Dean Solomon of the Greening Michigan Institute is another of our experts others rely on. He makes complicated issues involving land use policy and natural resource protection easy to understand and accessible to both landowners and local government officials. He plays a significant part in the Michigan Citizen Planner Program. The program offers land use education and training to locally appointed and elected planning officials throughout the state. He often teaches both the core and advanced sessions of the curriculum. Dean is sought out for his engaging and humorous teaching style. He is a highly respected leader both in our organization and in the national Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals.

Gary Parsons, academic specialist in the Department of Entomology, also received the Distinguished Academic Staff Award. Gary does not have an Extension appointment, but his work as manager of the Albert J. Cook Arthropod Research Collection assists the many Extension specialists on the faculty in entomology and many Extension educators who work on pest management issues.

Congratulations to all!

Read more in this MSU Today article: http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2014/2014-distinguished-academic-staff-awards/



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