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Visitors acquire knowledge at Ag Expo

This year as they do every year, our Michigan State University Extension colleagues were out doing what they do best ‒ educating the public and promoting our programs at the Ag Expo, which ran July 22‒24 on the MSU campus. Two out of the three days produced comfortable temperatures in the 70s ‒ a welcome relief from the past few years in which staff worked in 90-plus degree heat and high humidity.

The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) tent featured diverse exhibits and educational presentations.

A new and popular presentation focused on drone technology. A representative from the MSU Department of Geological Sciences gave daily presentations about the unmanned aerial vehicles, their uses and pending litigations.

Michigan 4-H Youth Development featured traditional exhibits with new twists. Children received free books, which promoted early childhood literacy. They learned about science from “Oobleck,” a substance made from common ingredients. The idea comes from the Dr. Seuss book “Bartholomew and the Oobleck.” Attendees spun the Targeting 4-H Life Skills Interactive Educational Display wheel and learned about the 4-Hs in 4-H (head, heart, hands and health). The Commodity Carnival game taught visitors about how weather and commodity prices affect profit when selling livestock.

Michigan State University Extension educator Makena Schultz interests a visitor in the Targeting 4-H Life Skills Interactive Educational Display wheel at Ag Expo

Michigan State University Extension educator Makena Schultz interests a visitor in the Targeting 4-H Life Skills Interactive Educational Display wheel at Ag Expo. The event ran July 22-24, 2014, on the MSU campus. Photo credit: MSU ANR Communications

Master Gardeners exhibited the Smart Gardening initiative.

Our MSU Extension staff educated visitors with a variety of presentations. Gardeners enjoyed presentations on insect friends and foes in the garden as well as on growing smart tomatoes. They learned how to care for soil through talks on the foundation of soil and on the MSU soil test mailer. They also learned how to preserve food after harvest.

Producers learned about how rainfall simulation expands knowledge of crop production. They attended presentations on the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) and deer mortality composition. Visitors also learned about the Affordable Care Act and the 2014 Farm Bill.

Staff at the MSU Extension Bookstore tent gave away free pesticide manuals and other products of interest to visitors. They also gave away promotional materials to direct people to the bookstore’s website.

 

Two Ag Expo visitors examine baby chicks at Ag Expo.

Two Ag Expo visitors examine baby chicks at Ag Expo. The event ran July 22-24, 2014, on the MSU campus. Photo credit: MSU ANR Communications

The distribution of knowledge was not confined to the grounds. Our staff also gave tours of the MSU Horse Teaching and Research Center and the MSU Poultry Teaching and Research Center.

Finally, it wouldn’t be Ag Expo without the opportunity to taste the traditional free dairy store ice cream or to hold a baby chick.

I don’t have the space to cover everything that our Extension staff presented or exhibited at Ag Expo. If you want to talk about your exhibit or presentation, feel free to let us know in the comments below this article.

Thanks to all of our staff who made the event a successful educational opportunity! Whether you worked out front or behind the scenes, we appreciate you!

 

 

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MSU Extension staff members educate at Ag Expo

Visitors to Ag Expo take a break from the heat.

Visitors to Ag Expo take a break from the heat. The event took place July 16‒18, 2013, in East Lansing, Mich. Photo credit: Amanda Mitchell, ANR Communications.

It was another hot one! Just like last year and the year before that, Michigan State University Extension staff members braved the 90-plus degree heat and high humidity July 16‒18 at the 2013 Ag Expo on the MSU campus. Although attendance was down from last year (total attendance was 12,600), and the heat even prompted some visitors to stop and find a shady place to rest during the event, our staff members kept up the task at hand – delivering research-based education and promoting our programs.

At the Crop and Soil Science Corner, attendees learned about energy crops and biomass pelletization, and the soil practices that impact soil health.

In the Mortality Management Tent, visitors heard experts talk about work directed at minimizing environmental impacts of animal agriculture including manure and mortality composting (with daily demonstrations), air quality management and on-farm water use.

At the Information Station, the MSU Extension Bookstore offered selected educational publications at no charge along with MSU Extension bookmarks and tote bags. The tent also contained publications for purchase and sample publications and DVDs on a wide variety of topics that people could purchase online. In addition, randomly selected visitors took an MSU Extension Bookstore survey. Upon completion of the survey, these attendees received a book as a thank-you.

Michigan State University Extension staff members Joyce McGarry (green shirt) and Beth Jabin (white shirt), interact with Ag Expo attendees

Michigan State University Extension staff members Joyce McGarry (green shirt) and Beth Jabin (white shirt), interact with Ag Expo attendees at the Health and Nutrition Institute Booth. The event took place July 16‒18, 2013, in East Lansing, Mich. Photo credit: Dawn Contreras.

Staff members gave a tour of the MSU Horse Teaching and Research Center.

Our staff educated through demonstrations and displays in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Tent.

Extension staff members presented sessions on gardening in containers, starting a successful cottage food industry and growing tomatoes.

At the combined MSU Extension and AgBioResearch area, visitors received educational information about the two organizations. They learned the locations of MSU Extension county offices and AgBioResearch research centers. They picked up brochures and some fun giveaways for both adults and kids.

Attendees learned about healthy eating at the Health and Nutrition Institute’s display, which featured visual models to help visitors better understand nutrition. Examples included a one-pound replica of human fat and a display showing the amount of hidden sugar and fat in commonly consumed items. Visitors viewed jars containing jellybeans, which demonstrated the amount of bacteria that grows on food when it’s left out for extended periods, increasing the risk of foodborne illness.

Jars with jellybeans demonstrate the amount of bacteria that grows on food

Jars with jellybeans demonstrate the amount of bacteria that grows on food when it’s left out for extended periods, increasing the risk of foodborne illness. The jars were part of the Michigan State University Extension Health and Nutrition Institute display at Ag Expo July 16‒18, 2013, in East Lansing, Mich. Photo credit: Dawn Contreras

The Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute (AABI) area featured Breakfast on the Farm and agriculture literacy. Topic areas included dairy and crop progress, soil conservation, Michigan agriculture, animal well-being and the cow as a natural recycler. Visitors practiced milking a wooden dairy cow. A display featured food items made in Michigan; another showed Michigan’s number-one national ranking for the production of blueberries, sour cherries, pickling cucumbers and 12 floriculture crops. Children and adults enjoyed making butter by shaking containers of whipping cream until they had butter and buttermilk. The AABI area also included a display on irrigation management.

Plenty of activities in the tent commanded the attention of young visitors. The Children and Youth Institute display area featured the Commodity Carnival game in which young people learned how weather and commodity prices affect profit when selling livestock. Kids also spun a life-skills wheel, where they learned more about the four cornerstones of 4-H (head, heart, hands and health) and won prizes. The early childhood education team promoted early childhood literacy and gave away books donated by the Molina Foundation.

MSU Extension got the message out about smart gardening. Master Gardener volunteers and MSU Extension staff members found that Ag Expo was the perfect place to discuss how home gardeners can be good stewards of the environment while growing gardens and lawns.

Michigan State University Extension educator Sara Keinath explains the 4-H life-skills wheel to two young attendees of Ag Expo.

Michigan State University Extension educator Sara Keinath explains the 4-H life-skills wheel to two young attendees of Ag Expo. The event took place July 16‒18, 2013, in East Lansing, Mich. Photo credit: Amanda Mitchell, ANR Communications.

Visitors to the CANR tent contributed $1,727 to support CANR scholarships and enjoyed complimentary ice cream from the MSU Dairy Store.

Other exhibitors in the CANR Tent included the national agricultural fraternity Alpha Gamma Rho, the CANR Alumni Association, the CANR Office of Academic and Student Affairs, the College of Veterinary Medicine, Firewise, the Institute of Water Research, Kettunen Center, Michigan FFA, the Michigan Nut Growers Association, Michigan Pork, My Horse University and Michigan Equine News, the MSU Product Center and MSU Surplus and Recycling,

Michigan State University Extension Master Gardener Marianna Foster (right) gives attendees tips on smart gardening at Ag Expo.

Michigan State University Extension Master Gardener Marianna Foster (right) gives attendees tips on smart gardening at Ag Expo. The event took place July 16‒18, 2013, in East Lansing, Mich. Photo credit: Amanda Mitchell, ANR Communications.

Since our staff did so much, I’ve probably left something out. If you’d like to mention your display or presentation or anything else about Ag Expo, please let us know about it in the comments section for this article.

Thanks to all who helped out at Ag Expo whether out front or behind the scenes.

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Volunteer at Ag Expo

It’s that time of year again. We’re looking for volunteers for the 2013 Michigan Ag Expo, July 16‒18.

Be the first to volunteer and take your pick of the many opportunities to assist at Michigan’s largest outdoor farm show. Help with youth activities in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) tent, staff the on-site information stations, count cars or serve as a safety monitor for demonstrations such as tractor driving.

Besides the intrinsic rewards, you’ll receive a free T-shirt and ticket for a free meal.

You can choose from two shifts on each day of the event:

Tuesday, July 16

  • Morning: 8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • Afternoon: 12:30 p.m. – 5:15 p.m.

Wednesday, July 17

  • Morning: 8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • Afternoon: 12:30 p.m. – 5:15 p.m.

Thursday, July 18

  • Morning: 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
  • Afternoon: noon – 3:30 p.m.

If interested, please contact Jennifer DeClerg at declergj@anr.msu.edu by July 8. Include your T-shirt size, cell phone number, shift(s) you would like to work and the area you would like to volunteer in. We will accommodate your requests as much as possible.

If you know of others that may be interested in volunteering, feel free to spread the word. Just keep in mind that we ask that volunteers be at least 15 years old.

Thank you for your help!

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Extension educators and specialists educate Ag Expo visitors

This year’s Ag Expo July 17-19 offered a prime example of MSUE doing what it does best, helping people solve problems and meet real-life challenges.

Despite the extreme heat, this year’s Ag Expo boasted the highest attendance in 10 years –18,250 people showed up for the annual event. They met with close to 250 commercial exhibitors, and of course, demonstrations and educational sessions presented by our educators and specialists.

Extension had a real and meaningful presence at the show. In the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) tent, MSUE staff members and volunteers offered visitors a slice of our popular Breakfast on the Farm program. Our Master Gardeners and consumer horticulture educators talked about growing and preserving that great Michigan produce. Other presentations and displays featured Firewise, the Product Center, members of the Farm Information Resources Management Team, AgrAbility, 4-H Youth Development and information about food safety. (Read my June 28 Spotlight article for more details.)

MSUE’s representation wasn’t confined to one location. Ag Expo visitors could find MSU Extension Bookstore publications and Michigan Fresh fact sheets in another tent while AABI educators and specialists were on hand to answer farmers’ questions about dealing with the drought. Others offered a biodiesel processing demonstration.

Off site, our staff members were involved in hosting demonstrations on mortality composting and field tillage.

As usual, I hesitate to make a list of people to thank for their participation because of the possibility that I’ll leave someone or something out. If I missed mentioning your program or area, please feel free to mention it by leaving a comment under this article on my blog.

 

Extension educator Gretchen Voyle speaks to an attentive audience at Ag Expo about protecting tomatoes from four major diseases

Extension educator Gretchen Voyle speaks to an attentive audience at Ag Expo about protecting tomatoes from disease. The event took place July 17-19, 2012, in East Lansing, Mich.

 

A standing-room-only crowd listens to a session at Ag Expo in the CANR Tent July 2012, East Lansing, Mich.

A standing-room-only crowd listens to a session at Ag Expo in the CANR Tent July 2012, in East Lansing, Mich.

 

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Extension will wow participants at Ag Expo with new information and experiences in CANR Tent

Michigan State University Extension looks forward to having a big presence at the 33rd Ag Expo this year. The event runs July 17–19 at the corner of Mt. Hope and Farm Lane on the MSU campus.

Faculty, educators and specialists will be on site, offering educational sessions and demonstrations. The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Tent will brim with educational exhibits and demonstrations from the Master Gardener Volunteer Program, Firewise, the Farm Information Resources Management Team, AgrAbility, 4-H Youth Development, the Health and Nutrition Institute and others.

Master Gardener staff members and volunteers will present gardening sessions: Gretchen Voyle on tomato diseases, Hal Hudson on drip irrigation and Jarred Morris on cucurbit downy mildew.

Breakfast on the Farm, led by Extension educators Mary Dunckel and Nancy Thelen, will present a large walk-through experience showcasing what Extension is doing to educate consumers about modern food production.

Joyce McGarry, Extension educator, will present food preservation tips.

James Whaley, a Bryon 4-H’er and entrepreneur, will educate visitors about raising poultry.

And to answer any other visitors’ questions, Extension experts will staff the “Ask an Expert” booth.

Don’t leave the Expo without your free MSU Dairy Store ice cream. Donations for the ice cream go to the CANR Alumni Scholarship Fund.

Ag Expo, Michigan’s largest outdoor farm show, gives us another opportunity to reach out to Michigan residents.

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I Know MI Numbers featured at Ag Expo

As you know, Michigan State University Extension is implementing the I Know MI Numbers initiative, focusing on five targeted programs among many identified as critical to the state’s future on Gov. Rick Snyder’s dashboard. MSU Extension staff members educated the public about each issue in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources tent and the MSU Extension Bookstore tent at Ag ExpoJuly 19–21. In temperatures in the 90s with humidity that led to heat indexes in the 100s, our dedicated staff soldiered on to encourage attendees to improve their quality of life.

MSU Extension Bookstore tent

MSU Extension Bookstore tent

At the MSU Extension Bookstore tent, Ag Expo attendees could purchase soil test kits. The kits make it easy for gardeners to get quick results and information when they send in their soil samples through Extension to the MSU Soil and Plant Nutrient Lab. Mary Wilson, MSU Extension consumer horticulture educator and state coordinator of the MSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program, was on hand in the CANR tent to explain the process. Using the soil test results, gardeners can more accurately determine the amount of fertilizers and herbicides to use – lessening the chance of overuse. This would reduce runoff, improving water quality – a goal of the I Know MI Numbers targeted program: Agriculture That Protects Michigan’s Waters. We’d like to see Michigan’s water index moving higher than 88, on a scale of 100. (If you missed getting a soil test kit, you can still get one at the MSU Extension Bookstore at bookstore.msue.msu.edu.) Staff involved with the water quality initiative staffed a display at the CANR tent as well. And during Ag Expo, many demonstrations throughout the three-day event focused on agriculture that improves water quality. We have nearly 60 programs or events throughout the state that focus on key water-quality issues.

Agriculture That Protects Michigan's Waters

Agriculture That Protects Michigan's Waters exhibit. Photo by Katie Alexander.

In the CANR tent, Extension staff members measured visitors’ height and weight to help them determine their BMI (body mass index). Staff members were ready to talk nutrition and healthy habits with attendees. Reducing adult obesity is a targeted program that aims at reaching 8,000 people across the state to make healthy changes in their behavior. In Genesee and Saginaw counties, 35 adult obesity prevention/reduction classes reach hundreds of adults with information to help them improve their BMI.

Reducing adult obesity

Reducing adult obesity exhibit. Photo by Katie Alexander.

Helping Our Cities and Towns Succeed aims at helping local officials address the fiscal crisis and reduce the cost of government. Michigan residents attending Ag Expo could determine their local fiscal health number (by checking a chart on the Michigan Department of Treasury’s website, created by MSUE) and compare it to other communities. They then placed a colored tack on a map that represented one of three categories: neutral, watch or stress. The goal of this targeted program is to have all communities fall in the neutral category, a number between zero and four. Extension is partnering with the governor and the Michigan Department of Treasury to educate Michigan residents about fiscal health.

Helping Our Cities and Towns Succeed

Helping Our Cities and Towns Succeed exhibit. Photo by Katie Alexander.

Increasing early childhood literacy focuses on Michigan children entering kindergarten with the skills they need in order to be reading at grade level by the third grade. In the CANR tent, a children’s story hour took place every hour. After listening to the story, a child could choose a free book to take home. MSU Extension has held five events since June in which children and parents focused on developing pre-reading skills. And we’ll be distributing up to 500,000 books donated by First Book to youth living in low-income situations.

Increasing Early Childhood Literacy

Increasing Early Childhood Literacy exhibit. Photo by Katie Alexander

MSU Extension is helping to improve science literacy by supporting teachers with resources, experiments and lesson plans that align with Michigan Science Education standards and coordinating 4-H Science Blast and 4-H National Youth Science Day. Kids who attended Ag Expo participated in two water-quality science experiments and the Fashion-a-Fish project activity to improve their own science literacy.

Improving Science Literacy

Improving Science Literacy exhibit. Photo by Katie Alexander.

Thanks to all who participated in making it possible to get the word out about the I Know MI Numbers initiative at Ag Expo.

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Michigan AgrAbility session takes place at Ag Expo

Kelly Ewalt, Michigan State University Extension AgrAbility educator, will present a session at Ag Expo this year, explaining the program, “Michigan AgrAbility – What is it?” at 2:30 p.m. on July 19 and 20 and at 9:30 a.m. on July 21 in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) tent.

 AgrAbility is a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant-funded partnership of MSUE, Easter Seals Michigan, United Cerebral Palsy of Michigan and Michigan Farm Bureau, as well as Michigan Rehabilitation Services. Michigan AgrAbility helps people with disabilities who are employed in agriculture to continue to farm and to live independently.

 Clients’ needs can vary widely. For example, through AgrAbility, clients with amputations might have additional steps put on their tractors. They might install drive-through gates so they don’t have to mount and dismount their tractors when entering pastures, and they may put in squeeze chutes to help control their animals. A client who doesn’t have the strength to push the brake or clutch petals down might receive advice on putting hand controls on tractors. One may need specially designed stairs to safely access the cab of a skid steer over the bucket.

 AgrAbility staff members will make an on-site farm assessment, locate the equipment, help with installation and assist the farmer with learning to use it.

 At Ag Expo, Kelly will demonstrate some common equipment modifications and discuss the services that AgrAbility offers.

 Visit the Michigan AgrAbility website to find out more about the program: www.michiganagrability.org

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