Tag Archives: Agriculture

MSU Extension continues to meet Flint needs

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension is providing adaptable programming to meet the specific and urgent needs of the people of Flint. Through cooking demonstrations and instruction from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ‒ Education (SNAP-Ed) on purchasing and preparing healthy foods, we have been disseminating nutrition information to help block lead absorption. Through our Master Gardeners and edible flint, we’ve taught about growing healthy food in lead-contaminated soils and water. Through the 4-H dog, rabbit and cavy clubs, we’ve led discussions in caring for animals exposed to lead. Through early childhood development education, we’ve identified the importance of using play to combat lead effects. We have also developed the Fight Lead Exposure site to provide important resources and information to the people of Flint and the state at large.

We have been facilitating partnerships with those wanting to pitch in and help. We appreciate the resource donations from the Michigan Milk Producers and the Michigan Vegetable Growers. We are also grateful to MSU Athletics and MSU students, faculty and alumni that have donated their time volunteering. The Food Bank Council of Michigan and the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan have been an essential partner in our efforts.

Why does Extension have such an important role to play? We have been serving the people of Flint since 1913 and have built an essential level of trust. MSU Extension has strong partnerships with county government, health and nutrition, agriculture, 4-H and early childhood development, which makes us a presence that can adapt to specific and urgent needs in the community. Not just in Flint, but across Michigan.

Now, more than ever, MSU Extension is in the state and national spotlight. For example, everyone who received the email invitation to the Democratic Debate on Sunday, March 6, received the MSU Extension “Fight Lead With Nutrition” handout attached by the Democratic National Committee Debate Team. Our work was recognized by the national debate team putting the event together. The effects and range of our outreach are growing. Remember that it is important that each link in our organization be strong and ready to respond to the next crisis or need in our communities.

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Filed under 4-H, Agriculture and Agribusiness, Children and Youth, communication, Flint Water, Food, Health and Nutrition, Impacts, Nutrition, Partnerships

Senior educator earns Charles Eastin Award

Yesterday, the Agriculture Council of America awarded our very own Dennis Pennington, Michigan State University Extension senior educator from Barry County, the Charles Eastin Award for involvement in agriculture advocacy. Dennis received the award at the Celebration of Agriculture Dinner held at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., on National Ag Day.

The Charles Eastin Award highlights individuals who advocate for agriculture awareness, as well as accurate communications between rural and urban audiences. It is named after Charles “Charlie” Eastin, whose “passion and dedication will continue to inspire those who work on behalf of promoting a greater understanding between rural and urban folk” according to the National Ag Day website.

Dennis was surprised to learn that he had been nominated for this award, and he is very proud of the work that led him to receive it.

“I have leveraged partnerships between MSU Extension, Farm Bureau, 4-H and FFA in my community to help teach kids and adults about agriculture and food production. I would not have been able to achieve this without the strong support of volunteers and kids in each of these organizations. They are what keeps my passion ignited,” he said.

Rachelle Lehman from the Barry County Farm Bureau nominated him, citing his willingness to communicate with the public about agriculture through educational efforts at the fair, Ag Awareness Day and online informative videos. For example, the videos he produced with the Hastings FFA students reached thousands of viewers, spreading research-based facts about agriculture to new and expanding audiences.

Our work advocating for agriculture awareness is never done, and it’s individuals like Dennis who inspire us to do more. Congratulations, Dennis!

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ANR Week celebrates its centennial year

The Michigan State University campus will be housing a variety of agriculture and natural resources trainings next week March 7‒14 during the annual ANR Week on campus. Many of you may be interested in attending some of the events. Consider checking out the schedule, and referring friends and family to the events that might be of interest. Many of the trainings can be useful for individuals of any age.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of ANR Week, presented by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Michigan State University Extension and MSU AgBioResearch. Debuting as “Farmers Week” in 1914, the event has since developed into more than 50 programs and annual association meetings related to agriculture, horticulture and natural resources. Learn more about the history of ANR Week on the ANR Week website.

This year’s schedule includes conferences and programs on many hot topics, including sessions on the latest Farm Bill, subsidies, the Right-to-Farm Act, the emerging trend of nontraditional farmers in minority communities, the increase in urban and suburban backyard farmers and the need for rapidly growing farmers markets.

ANR Week consistently proves to be an exciting week full of informative experiences. If you have a chance to come out and join us, we would love to have you!

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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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Filed under Agriculture, Agriculture and Agribusiness

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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Filed under Agriculture, Agriculture and Agribusiness