Michigan State University Extension educator Jennifer Berkey received the National Cherry Festival’s Very Cherry Promotion Annual Award Jan. 15 at the Cherry Marketing Institute luncheon, part of the annual Fruit Growers Orchard Show at the Grand Traverse Resort in Acme, Mich. The National Cherry Festival Cherry Promotions Committee honored Jennifer with the award for her work as the National Cherry Festival director of the Cherry Connection event from 1999 to 2011.
“It is an honor to be receiving this award as it was my privilege to have worked with the cherry industry on their behalf for 12 years,” said Jennifer. “Increasing consumer’s knowledge about how cherries grow, the myriad of ways they can be used in foods along with how to integrate cherries into their everyday meals was the focus of this educational initiative, and it was a wonderful collaboration with MSU, the National Cherry Festival, growers and producers of cherry products.”
The National Cherry Festival’s Very Cherry Promotion Award was established in 1986. It is given to an individual, couple, group or business, which has demonstrated outstanding efforts in promotion and/or production in the world of cherries. Past winners have included the Grand Traverse Pie Company, Friske Orchards and James Bardenhagen, retired Leelanau County Extension director.
Michigan’s tart cherry industry has taken a hit due to the unseasonable weather this spring. An Aug. 16 PBS Newshour feature on the subject included expert information from Michigan State University Extension faculty and staff. Jeffrey Andresen, associate professor in the Department of Geography, and Nikki Rothwell, district horticulturist and Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station coordinator, lent their expertise to the piece along with retired educator Jim Nugent and District 3 Advisory Council member Pat McGuire. Watch the video here: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/climate-change/july-dec12/cherries_08-16.html.
Speaking of things cherry, Dr. Amy Iezzoni, Michigan State University Professor of Horticulture, was named the Cherry Industry Person of the Year by the Cherry Marketing Institute (CMI) in conjunction with the National Cherry Festival on July 6. Dr. Iezzoni is a plant geneticist and plant breeder who has focused her scholarship for more than 28 years on developing varieties of cherries that strengthen Michigan’s cherry industry. Dr. Iezzoni does not have an Extension appointment, but her position is funded largely by the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station and reflects the importance of our integration with MAES. Her close attention to industry needs is reflective of the MSUE and MAES commitments to respond to new challenges and opportunities we learn about through our relationships with industry partners like the CMI.
In addition to her own advancements in cherry genetics, Dr. Iezzoni has led a national effort to coordinate research and Extension work among geneticists and breeders with the wider array of plants that belong to the Rosaceae family, which includes apples, plums, peaches, pears and strawberries in addition to cherries. Their team was awarded a four-year, $14.4 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant-funded research project that aims to use knowledge of plant genetics to improve the quality of cherries and other fruits in the globally important botanical family Rosaceae. The grant is the largest awarded by the USDA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative since its inception in 2007. And the project includes an Extension mission that seeks to connect the findings of this broad array of scientists with industry needs and applications.
As a kid who enjoyed climbing our own tart cherry tree for the cherries my older siblings were too short to reach from the ground and too big to be supported by the tree branches, it’s hard for me to imagine what it must be like to be surrounded by cherries in daily work. I think I’d probably weigh considerably more than I do. But I certainly appreciate all that Amy has done to ensure that kids and consumers will have even better cherries to eat in the future – whether they pick them or buy them from a grocer or farm market. You can learn more about Amy’s work and award at http://anrcom.msu.edu/press/070110/070710_iezzoni.htm.
Congratulations to Larry Olsen, MSU Extension state program leader for agriculture. Last week, Larry was honored with the award for Distinguished Service to the Cherry Industry from the Leelanau County Horticultural Society.
The group gave the award to Larry in a surprise ceremony during the 30th Anniversary Open House at the MSU Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station near Sutton’s Bay. Here’s what Francis Otto, president of the hort society, had to say when he presented Larry with the award.
“… Larry developed a reputation during his career for listening to the issues and concerns of farmers and Extension educators and working tirelessly to help find solutions. He often worked behind the scenes with state and federal regulators on pesticide issues to assure that grower concerns were being considered. His leadership did much to expand IPM programs in Michigan. Throughout the years, Larry has always maintained a special place in his heart for the fruit industry and has helped our industry whenever he could.”
Congratulations, Larry! I can’t think of a more deserving colleague. And it was fun to see the surprise on his face when the award was announced.