Tag Archives: betty blase

FEC 2015: You spoke, we listened

Mark your calendars for Fall Extension Conference (FEC) 2015. This year’s event takes place at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center on the Michigan State University campus Oct. 13-14.

The conference really kicks off on Monday, Oct. 12, with pre-conference sessions. We have two full days of sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Awards Banquet runs Tuesday evening from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The banquet helps us acknowledge and thank our Key Partners and our Friends of Extension that allow us to be successful across the state. We’ll also honor our colleagues for a variety of awards. One post-conference session takes place Thursday, Oct. 15.

Betty Blase chairs our FEC planning committee, a large group of 16 members, representative of all of our staff across the state. We’ve designed this year’s conference with staff in mind. We listened to what you wanted from a conference and we’ve delivered. FEC 2015 focuses on two core competencies: program planning and reporting, and educational and information technology. You’ll learn more about MSU resources and you’ll connect to MSU faculty. We’ll have attendees up and moving with 11 tours and 58 sessions. We even have an FEC 2015 mobile app.

Tuesday’s keynote speaker is Walt Drenth, director of MSU cross country and track and field, who led the 2014 women’s team to a national championship. Wednesday’s keynote is June Youatt, MSU provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. Dr. Youatt has a history with Extension both professionally and personally.

Registration will be open by Wednesday, Aug. 26. You must register by Oct. 4.

Visit the FEC website (http://fec.msue.msu.edu/) to register, to find a schedule and a listing of discounted accommodations.

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Kudos and suggestions from the civil rights auditors

As you know, Michigan State University Extension recently took part in a U. S. Department of Agriculture civil rights audit. They occur once every four or five years. I’ve been involved in four of these – twice as a regional director and now twice as director of Extension – the last time was in 2004.

I’m very proud of the work we are doing to demographically reach target audiences. We are reaching the audiences in close demographic comparison in categories of race and gender. You may be surprised by some of the data. For example, of youth participants in the Children and Youth Institute, only 9 percent live on farms. This differs from the popular perception that 4-H only serves farm youth. The data shows that we meet people where the need is great with health and nutrition information as well as financial and money management.

The auditors were thrilled with the way we presented the data. I’d like to thank the many staff involved in helping to gather the data and put it into an understandable format. They include Nancy Axtell, Jessica Nakfour, Jean Schueller, Bruce Haas, Cheryl Peters, Olga Santiago, Kathy Raphael, Mary Wilson, Gloria Ellerhorst, Emily Proctor, Christi Sovis, Doug Brinklow, Michelle Lavra, Marian Reiter, Beth Stuever, Julie Chapin, Dave Ivan, Dawn Contreras, Paul Putnam, Jim Lucas, Pat Cudney, Kelley Hiemstra, Michael Krauch, Shari Spoelman, Don Lehman, Betty Blase, Deanna East, Joe Bixler, Marie Ruemenapp, Matt Shane and Ginger Hentz. Without your hard work for months in advance of this review, we could not have done it.

The auditors took all of that data and examined it. They also went out into the field to get more information from you. They were pleased with everyone’s availability to meet with the reviewers and with the helpfulness of the staff in giving them access to our information – as I am!

They combined the data and the information to give us feedback on a few things we can work on.

In working with people, we need to diversify our overall employment makeup throughout the organization as well as work to integrate and diversify membership within 4-H clubs and broaden the programming we’re doing with female farm operators. We need to expand our nutrition programming to include demonstrated outreach with other agencies.

Consistency is something that came up in several areas. We need to be consistent in demonstrating the work we do in each county through data, and train staff in the method for collecting that data. We need to update our race/ethnicity/gender data collection forms to include the recommended way to collect race and ethnicity data. We need to use the statement concerning accommodations consistently and ensure consistency with regard to civil rights training.

We need to ensure that brochures and other promotional pieces have pictorial displays of diverse populations. I know this is something that we’ve strived to do and we will continue to focus on it.

In addition, we need to revise our Civil Rights Plan and education to include the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act as amended.

The auditors had many good things to say about our accomplishments. They praised our work with Tribal Communities as well as the work we’re doing with prisons. They believe that our work translating program documents and brochures and making them available in Spanish, Arabic and Braille is outstanding. They haven’t seen as much of that in other states. They believe we have great outreach through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-ED) and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). They believe we have strong nutrition programming at the grass roots level.

Please be sure to review the August 4 MSU Extension webinar to view the charts and graphs that we put together for the audit. Viewing them will help you get a better picture of where we stand in our efforts. We’ve worked hard to pull together a lot of information for the audit. This information is not just something that was used for the audits; we can also use this information in many other ways. View the webinar here: https://connect.msu.edu/p4bz0fut3rj/

Also, please keep checking back to the MSU Extension Civil Rights site for additional materials that will be added: http://od.msue.msu.edu/civil_rights_diversity_multiculturalism.

Once again, thank you, everyone, for all of your hard work in making the USDA audit a powerful learning experience for all of us!

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Sen. Stabenow discusses farm bill

On Aug. 21, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow held a discussion on the new Farm Bill at the Michigan State University Extension Kent County office in Grand Rapids. This was the last of five sessions she held around the state. A number of MSUE colleagues have attended these, including the one that MSUE hosted this week. Because we hosted the Grand Rapids meeting, Betty Blase, district coordinator for MSUE District 7, provided the introduction of Sen. Stabenow. About 70 local agricultural producers and agribusiness leaders attended the meeting in Grand Rapids.

The Farm Bill comes up for renewal every five years and among its elements is the authorization for federal funding of Cooperative Extension and Agricultural Experiment Station partnerships with land-grant universities. It also sets broad policy direction for the nation on food, food production, food safety, food security, rural development, conservation, development and production of bio-energy and bio-materials, and risk management for agricultural production. The current Farm Bill expires on Sept. 30, 2012. The U.S. Senate has approved a revision of the Farm Bill and is waiting on the House of Representatives to approve their version so the two chambers can reach compromises on the language through the conference committee process. The House Agriculture Committee approved a revision of the Farm Bill, but House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio has not allowed it to come to a vote on the floor of the House.

You can find more about the revision of the Farm Bill that passed the Senate at http://www.ag.senate.gov/issues/farm-bill.

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Thanks for a great Fall Extension Conference!

Michigan State University Fall Extension Conference 2011 has come and gone. Integrating both the in-person and the virtual portions proved to be an exciting opportunity for all to gather and learn. As we attended educational sessions, institute sessions, association meetings, work team meetings and yes, even some individual meetings with colleagues we hadn’t seen in a while, we learned from the presenters and we learned from each other.

 The able and consistent effort of the Fall Extension Conference Team created a successful event. This year, those participating as members of the planning team were Betty Blase, Doug Brahee, Betsy Braid, Molly Frendo, Megghan Honke, Dave Ivan, Shannon Lindquist, Cheryl Peters, Alan Pilkenton, Luke Reese, Michelle Rodgers and Lela Vandenberg. Each contributed in his or her own way, from serving as MC of our lively events to providing support and logistics for our hosts and presenters to working behind the scenes to bring you a conference full of opportunity. A gigantic MSU Extension Sparty thank-you to all of them for their effort and creativity!

 Thanks to Julie Pioch, our MC for the important and meaningful Key Partner Awards Banquet. We appreciate and applaud the many others who made the entire conference run so smoothly. In addition, a special thank-you to the Organizational Development Team who reviewed all of the applications for individual educational sessions, selected those that would be presented and worked directly with the presenters in preparation for delivery as needed. It was an immense task as they reviewed nearly 100 applications.

 Thanks for a job well done! Go right through….

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History worth saving

With all the moves and changes in recent months, several county staff members have played an active part in saving Michigan State University Extension content information, and in doing so, filling in the blanks of our history from its beginning to the present. It’s important to chronicle and honor the traditions of our organization. With every period of change, there’s often wisdom to be found in the experiences of our predecessors. Whether we find those kernels of wisdom or not, we have a responsibility to preserve what records exist so that others can benefit from past experiences. Here are three examples of folks working hard to determine what to save and how to save it.

 In August, MSU Extension Allegan County downsized their office space. Betty Blase, District 7 coordinator, and Lynn Vecziedins, administrative assistant, contacted Cindy Straus, electronic information manager, to find out what they should do with the vast amount of information they faced with the downsize. A trip to their office revealed a well-organized and extensive array of bulletins, notebooks, programming materials and historical newspaper articles. These materials document how MSU Extension started in early 1917 when Allegan County’s first agricultural agent was hired. Included in their materials is a report from a summer intern who worked on food safety for support of the war work – that’s World War I. The materials included an extensive run of annual reports, many from the ’20s to the ’40s with photos of events. Allegan County staff members sorted the vast collection of files. Some files were sent to MSU Archives, and some will be scanned to be added to the MSU Extension historical bulletin collection.

 Soon after, MSU Extension Clare County also contacted Cindy about the same kind of downsizing, but they were facing loss of staff as well as space. Materials needed to be sorted so that what was kept provided support for the remaining staff. Michelle Neff, Extension educator, helped to sort and evaluate the materials, which included documents related to the tuberculosis work done in the early ’20s and ’30s and forestry work and research being done in conjunction with the district specialists in the ’50s and ’60s. It also included information on the PBB disaster in the ’70s in which cattle feed was contaminated with a fire retardant.

 Finally, Extension educator Mark Longstroth contacted Cindy with an extensive listing of historical fruit materials that supported research work started in southwestern Michigan. These files are now being sorted and scanned with many going to the MSU Archives, and some to the MSU Main Library collection, the MSUE historical bulletin collection or the Knowledge Repository.

 Bulletins uncovered in the three historical records projects include research reports written on the development of brome grass (1940s), energy management for dairy farms (1950s), small business development (1930s–60s), community zoning and management (1930s–80s), youth patterns for moving out of a county (1950s) and the list goes on.

 It is never too late to pass on files of newsletter series, program curriculum (written for and by MSU staff), audio, video, slide sets (all with complete materials), photos (dated and documented), and program support materials of any kind written by and for MSU staff and clientele. To see a list of MSUE bulletins that are already on file, go to http://web2.msue.msu.edu/Bulletins/Bulletin/PDF/Historical/finished_pubs/index.html.

 For more information on what you should be saving or sending to campus, contact Cindy Straus at strausc@msu.edu.

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Extension educator empowers grower to achieve

Sometimes it’s the small successes, achieved one person or project at a time, that give the clearest examples of our value to the state. Betty Blase, District 7 coordinator, feels that Kent County Michigan State University Extension educator Carlos Garcia-Salazar’s work with one Sparta blueberry grower is an example of that value. The grower inherited a 3-acre U-pick blueberry farm neglected for many years. He had no idea how to raise blueberries much less run a successful business selling them. However, after three years of training and technical assistance from Carlos, this part-time business owner has seen his profits grow, increasing blueberry production and income from $1,000 in 2008 to $9,000 in 2010. This is just one great example of how MSUE continues to empower people to achieve success. Although one-one-one training isn’t our predominant approach to programming, in some situations it is needed to help equip clients with basic skills so they can benefit from our other education programs. Thanks to Carlos for his willingness to reach out in this way.

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