Tag Archives: david douches

CANR Extension specialist and professor receives outstanding faculty award

Mary Hausbeck, professor and Extension specialist in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, was one of 10 faculty members who received William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty awards at the February 11 Founders Day and Awards Convocation in the Pasant Theatre in the Wharton Center following President Lou Anna K. Simon’s State of the University Address. Dr. Hausbeck is a plant pathologist who studies a variety of diseases and focuses on those that threaten Michigan’s vegetable and floricultural crops. There’s not a vegetable grower in Michigan who doesn’t know Dr. Hausbeck or benefit from her work. On top of managing a very productive research enterprise at MSU, she is noted for going to farms to better understand the field conditions that might affect the onset or progress of a plant disease outbreak.

Two other professors from the Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources received the Outstanding Faculty award as well: Dave Douches, professor in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, and Rick Horan, professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food, And Resource Economics. Although Dr. Douches and Dr. Horan do not have Extension appointments, they make their expertise available to Extension professionals and stakeholders unselfishly. Dr. Douches is a potato breeder and Dr. Horan studies factors that influence public policy related to environmental and natural resource issues.

Read more about each awardee in this MSU Today article: http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2014/2014-william-j-beal-outstanding-faculty-awards/

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Helping our customers succeed

Twice in one week, I heard comments that struck a chord with me and with the mission of Michigan State University Extension.

Last Friday, I had an opportunity to tour Sklarczyk’s Seed Farm, a family farming operation located near Johannesburg, Michigan, that specializes in the application of aseptic tissue-culture techniques to produce the first generation of potato tubers that eventually supply seed potatoes to commercial potato producers. The Sklarczyk farm is one of two in the nation that assure propagation of varieties with the desired genetic traits for the industry and in tubers that are verified as disease-free. The Sklarczyk farm was the first of the two to adopt the practices. The Sklarczyks’ work has hinged on the development of new varieties by Dr. David Douches, professor of plant, soil and microbial sciences at MSU, and a handful of other potato breeders in the United States. As fascinating as the technology is that the Sklarczyk farm uses, Benjamin Sklarczyk, who represents the third generation of his family in the business, made a statement that really caught my ear. He said that Sklarczyk’s Seed Farm exists in order to help their customers succeed. They want to provide the best quality seed for the seed potato growers they serve directly and the commercial growers that their customers serve.

One of the reasons that comment caught my ear is because I’ve heard the same comment from another business owner involved in the Michigan potato business, Todd Forbush, partner and vice president of Techmark, Inc. Techmark specializes in the design and construction of computerized ventilation systems for potato storage and for other agricultural crops. I have heard Todd make the same statement that I heard Benjamin Sklarczyk make: “My main goal is to help my customers be profitable and successful.” In fact, the mission statement for Techmark captures this: “To serve high quality agricultural producers, always striving to make the best producers better by combining high quality service and products with innovative ideas and training.”

And that sounds a lot like our own mission statement “to help people improve their lives through education” and the 4-H motto: “to make the best better.”

I was reminded of that connection between the Sklarczyk and Techmark mission statements in listening to one of our colleagues, Amy Irish-Brown, senior Extension educator, who was quoted in a radio news feature on Monday. You may remember that National Public Radio reporter Noah Adams produced a feature on the devastating crop loss that Michigan apple growers experienced last fall. He conducted a follow-up report this spring and his story was broadcast on NPR’s Morning Edition on Monday this week. In listening to Amy’s cautions to growers at an update meeting, I can hear the same commitment to helping “customers succeed” in her comments as I’ve heard from Benjamin and Todd. In all of these cases, what makes for a successful operation – whether it’s a business or a service such as MSU Extension – is a commitment to serving others in a way that helps them to succeed. I consider myself fortunate to work with Extension professionals who live and breathe that ethos every day, and to work in partnership with businesses and industries like Benjamin’s and Todd’s that thrive on the same ethos.

That this merits commentary is further supported by this note from Amy about Mr. Adams’ decision to conduct a follow-up story on the apple industry in Michigan: “Mr. Adams tells me that in his 30 years of broadcasting and over 30,000 pieces, he has only done follow-up for a handful of stories over the years. I think he was impressed with the integrity of the Michigan apple industry and the people who make it successful – that’s why he came back to hear more.”

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Apple scab – Extension and research working across state boundaries

One of the greatest challenges of helping people understand “what’s different about Michigan State University Extension” is to get beyond the mission statements and legislative talking points and journalistic strategies and PowerPoint presentations to give people an actual example that shows “this is how MSU Extension works in our new structure.” Whenever I find one of these stories, I like to relay it to others to help give a context for understanding what often comes across as abstract concepts.

 This week we had the good fortune of receiving a visit from the Honorable Tom Vilsack, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chairperson of the Agriculture Committee in the U.S. Senate. During our conversation, Secretary Vilsack alerted us to the fact that he anticipates even greater emphasis on competitive funding for the work we do in the future and a greater emphasis on working across missions (research and Extension together) and across state lines. I shared with him that the plant genomics projects funded by the USDA Specialty Crops competitive funds and led by MSU scientists (Dr. David Douches on the potato/tomato genome project and Dr. Amy Iezzoni on the apple/peach/strawberry genome project) are great examples of cross-state collaboration and integration of research with Extension.

 The next day I had another example show up in my inbox, and thought I’d share this one through my blog: Dr. George Sundin, professor of plant pathology with appointments in MSU AgBioResearch AND MSU Extension, is a collaborator in a project addressing the challenges of a disease that affects the quality of apples and diminishes product value – apple scab. Apple scab results in brown marks on apples that make the fruit unacceptable to consumers. New varieties of apple scab are emerging that are resistant to the cocktail of fungicides that scientists like Dr. Sundin have recommended to growers in the past. What was particularly pleasing about the email I received from Dr. Sundin is that he and his colleagues from other states are addressing this collaboratively in a way that integrates research and Extension. And the story was conveyed in an article released by the Associated Press and picked up in the New York Times, the Washington Post and other significant media outlets. You can read the story here:


I’m sure others are involved in efforts like this that give a great example of how MSU AgBioResearch and MSU Extension work in the 21st century. Thanks to Dr. Sundin and his colleagues for giving an example that can help Secretary Vilsack, Sen. Stabenow and others understand how we are addressing needs in our transformed organization.

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