Tag Archives: dairy

Educators shine at NACAA conference

A group of seven of our Michigan State University Extension educators attended the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) Annual Meeting and Professional Improvement Conference (AM/PIC) July 20‒24 in Mobile, Alabama. Attendees included Phil Durst, Tom Guthrie, Phil Kaatz, Stan Moore, George Silva, Mike Staton and Nancy Thelen.

“The AM/PIC provides a wide variety of educational and networking opportunities from which we learn and are inspired,” said Phil Durst, senior Extension educator and president of the Michigan Association of Extension Agents (the Michigan affiliate of the NACAA). “This is also a great team-building time.”

Phil let us know that the conference offered 65 seminars on a variety of agricultural topics and super seminars provided opportunity for in-depth study of topics such as climate science and agriculture, farm business transfer, and soil health and cover crops. Educators went on more than 20 tours that focused on agricultural enterprises, resource management, business and local attractions. An exhibit featuring more than 100 professional posters provided a glimpse of a wide variety of research and educational projects. Dr. Dana Chandler of Tuskegee University provided the keynote address on the role of George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington and Thomas Monroe Campbell, all of Tuskegee, in pioneering Extension work.

As in years past, many of our colleagues received awards, presented or were involved in other ways.

Nancy Thelen received the Distinguished Service Award that encourages and recognizes excellence in the field of professional Extension from NACAA members with more than 10 years of service. She also was the national winner of the Agricultural Awareness and Appreciation Award. In addition, she presented two posters at the conference about Breakfast on the Farm.

Mike Staton was a national finalist for a published photo. A team consisting of Ned Birkey, Dan Rajzer, Marilyn Thelen, Dan Rossman, Bruce MacKellar and Mike Staton were national finalists in the “Search for Excellence in Crop Production.” Mike had the opportunity to present the work at the meeting.

The Extension Dairy Team was a national winner for a promotional piece, the 2013/14 Dairy Programs booklet. The team includes Stan Moore, Kathy Lee, Phil Durst, Frank Wardynski, Faith Cullens and Craig Thomas.

Stan Moore and Phil Durst were national finalists for an audio recording, their “Dairy Moosings” podcasts.

Tom Guthrie and Phil Durst served as voting delegates.

Congratulations to all!

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Extension educator wins dairy honor

Dr. Craig V. Thomas, Michigan State University Extension dairy educator, became the recipient of the Jim Frey Memorial Award. Given in the memory of Sanilac County dairy producer Jim Frey, the award honors one individual each year who exhibits outstanding leadership and involvement in the Sanilac County dairy industry and who is outstanding in his or her participation in other community, state and national activities.

 Dr. Thomas received the award at the 75th annual Sanilac County Dairy Banquet Jan. 15.

 Says Dr. Thomas, “I consider this the highest of honors since it comes directly from the dairy producers I seek to serve. It is very humbling also, especially when considering the award is a memorial of Jim Frey and the many wonderful Sanilac County people who have received the award before me.”

 The Extension educator did his undergraduate work at Purdue University, majoring in animal science with an emphasis on dairy farming. After graduating with honors, he went on to obtain a master’s degree with an emphasis on veterinary physiology from Louisiana State University. He graduated with honors from the University of Florida with a doctorate in dairy science and agricultural economics. Throughout his career, Dr. Thomas has been involved in extensive research, has published in professional journals and popular press publications, and has produced Extension bulletins.

 Besides working with a milking machine manufacturing company in California, managing a large dairy farm in Florida and serving as director of the Florida Dairy Management Project with the University of Florida Dairy Science Department, Dr. Thomas has vast Extension experience.

 Early in his career, he worked as a dairy and livestock agent with the University of Wisconsin Extension Service and later as dairy and forage crops advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension Service.

 In 1995, Dr. Thomas became MSU Extension dairy educator for Sanilac and St. Clair counties. While with MSUE, he has developed many important programs in dairy farm business management and milk marketing. He has helped dairy producers with numerous issues while winning many awards in the process. He currently has dairy educator responsibilities in eight counties: Genesee, Huron, Lapeer, Macomb, Oakland, St. Clair, Sanilac and Tuscola.

 Congratulations to Dr. Thomas on this well-earned award.

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Breakfast pizza on the farm

I had a chance to attend the second Breakfast on the Farm event of the summer last weekend at the Horning family dairy farm in Washtenaw County. The first event was held the previous weekend near Pewamo, and a third will be held on July 24 near Shepherd in Isabella County. Dean Ross, dairy Extension educator, and Nancy Thelen, Washtenaw County Extension director, provided key leadership for last Saturday’s event, and it was a remarkable success. More than 2,300 people attended the event, at which they had a free breakfast and could explore the workings of a modern dairy operation with helpful instructional signage and a number of Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) educators and specialists distributed around the farm to help people understand better where the milk and dairy products they buy from grocery shelves originate. It was great to see so many MSUE educators and volunteers helping to staff the event and to hear the discussion among adults and children as they realized how complex a dairy operation really is.

 The breakfast menu was a bit different at the Horning farm. At the previous Breakfast on the Farm events, the fare has included eggs, pancakes (with Michigan blueberries), sausage, Michigan apples and Michigan juices. Only the coffee comes from outside of Michigan. At last week’s event, we were served breakfast pizza. Apparently, a prominent Washtenaw County company (Domino’s Pizza) is exploring this as a new product and we had a chance to sample it. Just so you know, this was pretty nutritious pizza: wheat-based dough with egg and ham topping and of course a blend of cheeses on top. I understand there was some public consternation about whether breakfast pizza was sending a bad signal about nutrition to the adults and youngsters attending. I thought it was pretty balanced and packed quite a nutrient punch. The Michigan Empire apples and grape juices rounded it out well. By the way, the pizza provided an effective way of carrying the message that the largest buyer of dairy products in the country is the pizza business, given its size and the importance of cheese to any kind of pizza.

 Thanks go to Dean, Nancy and the many MSUE staff and volunteers who made this a success. We especially thank the Horning family for opening their farm to the public and being such gracious hosts to those who participated.

 For photos and more information, visit http://breakfastonthefarm.com/.

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Filed under Agriculture, Farming, Food

Waterbeds, robots and backscratchers highlight dairy open house

On August 19, I had the opportunity to spend the morning learning about the new pasture dairy and robotic milking facility at the Kellogg Biological Station. It was a beautiful day to celebrate a beautiful facility. Nearly 200 commodity group leaders, MDA representatives and other stakeholders joined us for a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the morning. In the afternoon, more than 1,100 people from the community toured the farm. They got to learn about the health benefits of robotic milkers, hear how waterbeds in freestall barns help promote animal well being, and watch cows enjoy getting their backs scratched. KBS Director Kay Gross likened the facility to a “day spa for cows” – not a bad analogy, especially when you think about the hoof trimming that goes on as well. The cows certainly seem happy – happier than the ones in those commercials about milk from California.

The pasture dairy and robotic milking system at KBS is an excellent example of Extension and research working together on an innovative approach to dairy production. Though this isn’t a typical dairy, our researchers are sure to learn things that will be applicable to dairy farms throughout the state—probably throughout the nation. That information will be shared by Extension staff members, as we hold true to our promise of bringing knowledge to life. And the public seems to have a great interest in milk and where it comes from. With 1,100 attending yesterday and 1,500 attending the Breakfast on the Farm event earlier this summer in Clinton County, I’ve been overwhelmed by the public’s interest in seeing what’s behind the production of food in their communities.

If you weren’t able to join us in Hickory Corners, you can learn more here.

Congratulations to all the people who helped bring the new facility together. And special thanks to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for their generous support.

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Filed under Agriculture, Farming, Food, Funding

MSU Extension Dairy Team featured in JOE

by Michelle Rodgers, MSU Extension associate director of operations

You may have seen my email this week announcing that the June issue of the Journal of Extension (JOE) focusses on program evaluation. That’s good news for those of us who often struggle with this important topic. The better news is that the MSU Extension Dairy Team penned one of JOE’s featured articles!

Be sure to check out Extension Teams Collecting Industry-Specific Stakeholder Input by Vera Bitsch, Ted Ferris and Kathy Lee.

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Filed under Agriculture, Farming, Guest bloggers

Breakfast on the farm—sold out!

When I started this article, I was going to suggest that those of you in mid-Michigan looking for something fun to do this father’s day weekend join me in St. Johns for Breakfast on the Farm. However, I just checked the Web site, and the breakfast is sold out! But though you won’t be able to partake in the delicious pancakes and sausage with 1,000 other families, you can still check out the educational exhibits and tour the farm.

The one-day event is the brainchild of Faith Cullens, a dairy educator who has been planning it since she joined MSU Extension last year. She worked closely with a diverse committee of educators and community volunteers and numerous sponsors to create a fun, educational farm tour.

Congratulations to Faith and the many people who contributed to this event. I look forward to joining in on the fun on June 20!

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Let summer begin!

It’s only Memorial Weekend, but it already seems like summer is in full swing! Our educators, specialists and faculty are planning many events. Here’s just a smattering of the MSUE-sponsored events that will be taking place on campus:

What have you got going on this summer? Tell us about it in the comments section.

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Filed under 4-H, Agriculture, Conferences, Farming, natural resources

Mmmmmm … cheese

Faith Cullens tries her hand at making cheese during the ANR Week workshop.

Faith Cullens tries her hand at making cheese during the ANR Week workshop.

Low milk prices got you down? Make cheese! That was the message from Peter Dixon, a dairy foods consultant from Vermont, during ANR Week’s Artisan Cheese-Making Workshop last month.

The MSU Extension Dairy Team pulled together to offer this insightful, three-day class that filled to capacity as soon as it was announced. The 20 participants ranged from small-flock goat owners to 1,000-cow dairy producers—all of whom wanted to learn how to add profitability to their business with a handmade cheese enterprise.

John Partridge, associate professor in food science and human nutrition, said the waiting list was so long that they decided to bring Peter back this summer for another class. Thanks go out to John, Bill Robb, Faith Cullens and the other members of the team who are helping farmers think outside the box.

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Get some Final Four Fudge Dribble today!

Those of you who are not on campus are just going to think I’m teasing you, but this is definitely information worth sharing. The MSU Dairy Store pumped up the volume this week and made extra Final Four Fudge Dribble in honor of the MSU men’s basketball team. If you’re on campus, be sure to swing by the Dairy Store—they’ll have plenty in the Union as well as the original Dairy Store in Anthony Hall.

And for those of you out in the counties, if you don’t have a meeting on campus in the next few days, plan one! This stuff is too good to miss – it features two of Michigan’s key agricultural products: cream and fudge (a value-added dairy product in itself)!

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