Tag Archives: betsy braid

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

Great Lakes Hop and Barley Conference in Detroit

Each spring, educators from Michigan State University (MSU) Extension with support from MSU AgBioResearch and the Michigan Brewers Guild host the Great Lakes Hop and Barley Conference. For the first time, this year the conference was held in downtown Detroit. March 2-3, over 300 agricultural producers, processors, vendors, brewers and others attended, coming from 15 states and multiple countries. The conference offered both basic and advanced sessions for hop growers, and a barley session and malting tour for both growers and brewers.

Kevin Riel, Owner of Double ‘R’ Hop Ranches, Inc. and President of Hop Growers of America, stands at the front of the room at a podium giving a presentation to a ballroom filled with seats and participants.

Kevin Riel, Owner of Double ‘R’ Hop Ranches, Inc. and President of Hop Growers of America, addresses a near capacity crowd at the 3rd annual Great Lakes Hop & Barley Conference in Detroit, MI. Photo credit: Rob Sirrine.

The conference incorporated elements that are unique to the area. For example, Dan Carmody, president of the Eastern Market Corporation, described Detroit’s increasing demand for local food and craft beer. Another Detroit highlight for participants was the evening reception held at the Detroit Beer Company. Participants left rave reviews of the location and the experiences that they had.

The conference is an important way to support all of the participants in the growing craft beverage industry. According to the national Brewers Association, Michigan ranks sixth in the United States in the number of craft breweries, and the industry creates an economic impact of $1.8 million. MSU Extension is proud of our educators who are at the forefront of education and working with this evolving industry.

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Speaking of our educators, we’d like to send a huge thank you to the conference planning committee, made up of Ashley McFarland, Erin Lizotte and Rob Sirrine, and Scott Graham from the Michigan Brewers Guild. Also, thank you to MSU Events Management (Betsy Braid and Megghan Honke) and MSU county-based staff members Annette Kleinschmit and Michelle Coleman, who helped behind the scenes.

As soon as it’s posted, I’ll link to Rob, Ashley and Erin’s news article about the conference so that you can read more about all of the opportunities that participants had, the tours and the speakers.

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Filed under Agriculture, Agriculture and Agribusiness, Conferences, Farming, Hop & Barley

Upload your photos for Fall Extension Conference

Celebrate your team, event and programming by uploading photos at http://events.anr.msu.edu/FECPhotos/ for our annual Michigan State University Fall Extension Conference. You may submit as many photos as you like of your various teams, programs and activities. For each photo, you’ll be asked for some information (institute, county, event name, names of staff pictured in photo, program focus). If you are submitting photos of programming, please ensure that you have a signed photo release for any individuals in the image, especially if those individuals are youth.

Reach out to your team members and co-workers (everyone wants to know before a photo is posted), find a photo or take a team selfie, take a minute or two and answer the questions and submit, it’s just that easy! Please submit photos by September 1 so we can be sure to include them in the slideshow.

In an organization as large as ours, spread out throughout the state and with new faces every year, we have a great opportunity to get to know each other once a year when we all come together at Fall Extension Conference. In brainstorming ways that we can enhance this time for getting to know each other, we came up with an idea for a silent slide show to showcase our Extension teams and the work you’re doing. We want to feature work teams, districts, clusters, county offices, events, programs ‒ any group of Extension folks coming together. This will allow us to get to know the faces and programs of our educators, associates, instructors and coordinators as well as our county support staff we may not have a chance to meet at the conference.

We hope that this encourages everyone to mix, mingle and take this great opportunity to get to know each other better at this year’s Fall Extension Conference.

Any questions? Contact Betsy Braid at braidbet@anr.msu.edu.

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Celebrating our Distinguished Academic Staff

Last week I had the privilege of attending the MSU Extension Reception for our Distinguished Academic Staff Award recipients: Phil Durst, Terry Gibb and Kurt Schindler. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, this year Extension cleaned house, taking home three of the four DAS awards given. It was great to come together with our award winners, their families and colleagues to celebrate at the Kellogg Center.

Group photo with our MSU Extension award recipients. Left to right: Jeff Dwyer, Kurt Schindler, Terry Gibb, Phillip Durst, Patrick Cudney.

Group photo with our MSU Extension award recipients. Left to right: Jeff Dwyer, Kurt Schindler, Terry Gibb, Phillip Durst, Patrick Cudney. Photo courtesy of ANR Communications.

It was such a privilege to be able to get to know more about our distinguished colleagues and their outstanding work.

As I promised in the January 2016 issue of Spotlight, here is the link to the Michigan State University news release highlighting our award winners’ accomplishments:

2016 Distinguished Academic Staff Awards

As I listened to each nominator speak about Phil, Terry and Kurt, I realized how much Extension staff members rely on each other and how important mentoring is in this organization.

I would like to thank Betsy Braid, Megghan Honke Seidel and the rest of our Events Management team, and Terri Badgley for a great event. I would also like to express my gratitude again to Phil, Terry and Kurt for their outstanding service.

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Michigan State Fair a huge success for Extension and the CANR

By Patrick Cudney

Many of our colleagues spent this Labor Day Weekend, Sept. 4‒7, at the Michigan State Fair at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.

We can all be proud of the work being done to enhance the Michigan State University Extension presence in southeastern Michigan. More than 112,000 visitors attended the fair this year, so the event created the opportunity to build awareness of our programs to a huge audience. The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources was fully engaged with us in the marketing effort.

Julie Chapin, Children and Youth Institute director, and I attended a VIP pre-opening event, which gave us a firsthand look at our giant 60-foot by 40-foot exhibit space that was free to MSU Extension. Credit for obtaining the free space goes to Debra (“Debbie”) Morgan, MSU Extension 4-H program coordinator, who has been coordinating a 4-H presence at other expos at the Suburban Collection Showplace since 2005. This is the first year we’ve had a coordinated presence from all of Extension. Debbie helped us to build on the base that she created through her previous work at the fair.

Michigan State University Extension staff contributed to the success of the Michigan State Fair that took place Sept. 4‒7, at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Mich

Michigan State University Extension staff contributed to the success of the Michigan State Fair that took place Sept. 4‒7, at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Mich:
Front row (left to right): Fran Adelaja, MSU Extension specialist; Debra Morgan, MSU Extension 4-H program coordinator – Oakland County; Margaret Stockert, MSU Extension 4-H support – Oakland County; Glenda Weiss, MSU Extension 4-H program coordinator – Wayne County
Back row: Patrick Cudney, MSU Extension associate director; Julie Chapin, MSU Extension Children and Youth Institute director; Alan Jaros, MSU Tollgate Education Center and Farm director; Karen Craig, MSU Tollgate Conference Center coordinator; Jason Scott, MSUE 4-H program coordinator – Oakland County; Jake DeDecker, MSU Extension children and youth associate state leader; Mary Blumka, 4-H program coordinator- Oakland County.
Photo credit: Lou Waldock, Waldock Tree Farm

Debbie said, “In 2014, I was invited to the press conference where Oakland County and District 11 were offered space at the 2014 Michigan State Fair. When I was invited in 2015, I asked if we could have a larger space to include all of MSU Extension and they said ‘absolutely – what do you need?’ It is a win-win situation and the folks with the Michigan State Fair and Suburban Collection Showplace have been super accommodating and so easy to work with. I believe we have created a mutually beneficial relationship and a great opportunity to showcase all the services MSU Extension has to offer to the public.”

She added that when Extension educator Alan Jaros, who is director of the MSU Tollgate Education Center and Farm just miles down the road from the Suburban Collection Showcase, attended the press conference with her this year, she knew then we were going to do something bigger and better this year.

Tollgate is Extension’s 160-acre learning laboratory visited annually by 12,000 people who explore food systems, agriculture and horticulture, and experience a greater connection to our natural resources.

“With Tollgate’s strong roots in Novi and the surrounding area, our partners and the local community have come to expect high-quality, unbiased, research-based and interactive educational opportunities from MSU Extension. When we were approached to have a stronger presence at the fair, it was an obvious chance to build a greater awareness of MSU Extension’s impact beyond Tollgate,” said Alan.

The fair provides the perfect opportunity for our 4-H youth to showcase their projects and apply for the scholarships offered to youth exhibitors. In fact, this year scholarships totaled $40,000.

It would be impossible to list everyone involved in our success. The following people were involved in coordinating the event. Besides Alan and Debbie, they included Fran Adelaja, Megghan Honke, Betsy Braid, Mindy Tape, Jake DeDecker, Kristine Hahn, Kristi Evans and Mary Wilson.

Others contributing to the event’s success included Beth Stuever, Kittie Butcher, Carol Lenchek, Mary Gerstenberger, Margaret Stockert, Glenda Weiss, Karen Craig, Jason Scott, Ed Scott and Mary Blumka.

In addition, approximately 80 staff and volunteers signed up to help set up, tear down and work the booth throughout the weekend. It really was a team effort!

Patrick Cudney, MSU Extension associate director, tests his skill at hoverball archery

Patrick Cudney, MSU Extension associate director, tests his skill at hoverball archery as Julie Chapin, MSU Extension Children and Youth Institute director, looks on at the Michigan State Fair that took place Sept. 4‒7, at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Mich.
Photo credit: Debra Morgan.

The large space was well utilized by each institute. The Children and Youth Institute supplied hands-on activities including crafts, hoverball archery (yep, I tried it, it’s fun), the 4-H Commodity Carnival interactive game, Legos, an early childhood sensory table and the 4-H Life Skills Wheel. 4-H Tech Wizards provided Rockets to the Rescue. The Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute Master Gardeners presented Smart Gardening daily, and the Health and Nutrition Institute provided information and a nutrition and health wheel game. Greening Michigan staffed a resource table with information on foreclosure counseling, Sea Grant and the Michigan Fresh program.

I appreciate all of your efforts in moving our organization visibility forward. This is an excellent example of how MSU Extension can improve our engagement and understanding of the work we do in fulfilling our mission. Strategic connections at the finest!

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MSU Extension staff member named CANR Staffer of the Month

Betsy Braid, Michigan State University Extension educational program coordinator in Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Event Services, has received the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Staff Advisory Committee September 2015 Administrative/Technical Staffer of the Month award.

The award goes to a member of the CANR support staff who has done something special or noteworthy within his or her college or unit.

Steven Safferman, associate professor in the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, and Bindu Bhakta and Terry Gibb, Extension educators in the Greening Michigan Institute, nominated Betsy. The three recognized her for her enthusiasm and efficiency in taking on the coordination of the MSU Extension Comprehensive Onsite Wastewater Management Education Program. They believe her tackling this challenging program shows the “spirit of MSUE.”

Congratulations to Betsy and thanks to Steven, Bindu and Terry for nominating her.

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Great Lakes Hop and Barley Conference featured Sen. Stabenow

The Great Lakes Hop and Barley Conference was a great success in its first year, held in Grand Rapids April 10-11. Hosted by Michigan State University Extension, MSU AgBioResearch and Michigan Brewers Guild, the event was the first of its kind, and it immediately filled up – pulling in 333 attendees. The craft beer industry boom has made this an exciting time for hop and barley producers, providing more opportunities for growth and added need for collaboration.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, attended. She delivered opening remarks on April 10, and even featured the conference in her newsletter the week following. Her presence at the conference, as well as extensive media coverage, helped spread the word about the great work being done among the producers.

Betsy Braid, educational program coordinator with Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Event Services, said “Attendees were all very excited, especially as the industry continues to grow. It was so successful that they are starting to talk about holding a 2016 conference.”

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MAFI reflects confidence in Michigan food and agriculture industry

Leaders in Michigan’s food and agriculture industry are feeling positive about food and agriculture in Michigan. The results of the recent Michigan Agriculture and Food Index (MAFI) reflect their optimistic outlook. In addition, their confidence in our state’s economy overall is climbing.

Twice a year since April 2013, staff members at the Michigan State University Product Center Food-Ag-Bio have sent questionnaires to leaders chosen to give their opinions about the current business climate in the food and agriculture industry. These leaders, members of the Food and Agriculture Roundtable, are made up of farmers, food processors and people who run agribusinesses.

The results of the surveys are used to create the MAFI. A score of 100 is considered neutral on the index’s rating system. Ratings above 100 are considered positive and ratings below 100 are considered negative. Since the index’s inception in 2013, the ratings have never been negative. In addition, ratings on the state of Michigan’s overall economy have grown from 115 in April 2013 to 120 in January 2014 to 133 in April 2014. More than 70 percent of those surveyed are positive about Michigan’s economy.

The index also showed respondents ratings of the state of the food and agriculture system, which showed a steady confidence on all three surveys with indexes of 147, 146 and 145 for each survey, respectively. In addition, respondents generally believe that sales will increase, and the investment index increased 8.4 percent from January to April. The employment index remains unchanged from January.

The index helps Michigan State University Extension educators and specialists to better understand the needs of the industry and determine how our efforts influence conditions.

Check out this article and video from WILX, which features Gov. Rick Snyder; Dr. Chris Peterson, director of the Product Center; and Betsy Braid, Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications educational program coordinator: http://www.wilx.com/home/headlines/State-Agriculture-Business-Booming-268187132.html

Read more on the MAFI in the executive summary: http://expeng.anr.msu.edu/uploads/files/42/MI%20Food%20and%20Ag%20Roundtable%20results%207-18.pdf

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MSUE Events Management System is working

Michigan State University Extension took on an initiative several years ago to develop an events management information system that would make it possible for someone to organize and manage a workshop, field day, training or other educational event in a way that economizes on staff time. We wanted something that was adaptable to the variety of programs we offer and that would allow participants to register online and pay their registration fee online if they desired. We wanted something that would mesh well with our financial system so that revenue would be allocated to the correct MSU account and expenses would be paid directly by MSU using funds in the designated account.

Colleagues in ANR Technology Services, particularly Bob Kriegel and Jim Brija, and in ANR Communications, particularly Megghan Honke, Betsy Braid and Katie Gallagher, have led the process of designing and implementing this system. The system went “live” in March 2012. In order to meet that target date, we agreed to start with a simplified system and then add functions and specialized applications as we gained experience with the system. I am pleased to report that, although the system is still being refined and further developed, and although challenges still need to be overcome, the system is working and MSUE staff are adopting it with greater frequency as their solution for helping to manage the business side of our educational program events.

From the beginning of April 2012 to Jan. 15, 2013, we had 117 events entered into the system. We served 3,589 participants in programs who registered in the system. And what’s particularly encouraging is that as we’ve attempted to balance the tension between statewide program priorities and more centralized support services with local program delivery, I see some sign that we’re managing that balance well. From these 117 events, we had people from every one of Michigan’s 83 counties enroll in the system. That even includes Schoolcraft County, where we currently do not have a partnership with the county nor an office nor staff in the county.

We have more improvements to make in the system, and as demand increases, we’re working to expand our staff dedicated to events management so it works as smoothly and efficiently as possible. If you’ve used the system already, I hope you’ve let folks know about your experience. If you had challenges, please let the staff in ANR Communications know so they can address those in the system. If you’ve found it to be helpful, please let your colleagues know. The more we use this, the more we can make it relevant and efficient for all of our events management needs. Thanks to those who have helped to make this a reality and to those who have been pioneers in using the system. We CAN make the best better, and we’ll continue to work on this system with the 4-H motto as our driving principle.

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Fall Extension Conference 2012 – Thanks!

Another Fall Extension Conference has come and gone, and I want to send my thanks out to all who helped make it a valuable and productive experience. I’m always overwhelmed by FEC as it approaches, worried not so much about how things will work – we have great colleagues who worry about that for us and their worry produces a well-run and cost-efficient conference – but more about how to make the most of this opportunity. In my comments on Monday and Tuesday, I tried to convey how grateful I am for the work this organization does and the people who work so hard to make it successful. I’m never satisfied that I’ve fully expressed how much this organization means to me and to Michigan. You are awesome, and I take great pleasure in each day that I get to work with you to help people improve their lives. You teach me a great deal. I hope you found the conference to be as nourishing (not only in food) as I did. And I thank you for being part of it.

The organizing team – Betsy Braid, Megghan Honke and Doug Brahee as co-chairs, and Julie Chapin, Dawn Contreras, Dave Ivan and Wendy Powers as steering committee members deserve many thanks and credit for making this as productive and meaningful as it was. I would also like to offer a special thanks to George Silva and Marilyn Thelen for helping develop the cross-institute session.

Watch your inbox for a survey to provide feedback on FEC 2012.

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