Tag Archives: Food

Great Thanksgiving and Holiday advice … From all of YOU!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving and no one should be checking their email, I thought I would make this week’s Spotlight a little shorter and send it today, so that you can all get to your families and celebrations.

You are all amazing, and the following highlighted articles are receiving tremendous hits – 1,403 in the last 30 days! This is just a small sampling, and many others have had a lot of success as well. A lot of you have used this holiday as a launching point to create informative and timely articles on the Michigan State University Extension website. Here’s a sampling of the articles I’ve seen!

To make sure you’re safe in the kitchen while preparing such a huge meal, make sure you follow these tips to keep safe from kitchen fires. And if you haven’t properly thawed your turkey yet, you might want to cook it frozen. Also, did you know that cooking stuffing inside the turkey might not be the safest way to cook it? Learn more in the video below:

You may have kids home this week that are very excited about Thanksgiving and the holiday season beginning, and you can help them appreciate it more by explaining why we eat cranberries at Thanksgiving, or by teaching them to appreciate the science behind mashed potatoes and gravy.

I know that some of you will be starting your holiday shopping this weekend, so look to your colleagues for advice on choosing the right Christmas tree and keeping that tree fresh through the holiday season. You might also want to create a budget for your Christmas presents so that you don’t break the bank and learn more about the return policies for stores where you’ll be buying presents before you camp out for Black Friday deals.

After this weekend is over, don’t forget about food safety. Throw out any remaining leftovers to keep your family safe. You may also consider inviting friends and neighbors to partake in your festivities while the food is still fresh, to help those struggling with hunger in your community.

I am thankful for all of you and the excellent education and service you provide for the people of the state of Michigan. Have safe travels and food preparation! Happy Thanksgiving!

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What’s new with Michigan Fresh?

Can Michigan Fresh get any fresher? Apparently so. The Michigan State University Extension program that helps people explore the state’s fresh locally grown fruits, vegetables, flowers and ornamentals has updated its website with a fresh new look.

The program, which involves MSU Extension staff members collaborating across institutes, launched May 1, 2012. Back then, we offered three Michigan Fresh fact sheets – on asparagus, rhubarb and starting seeds. Today, we offer nine fact sheets on fruit, 31 on vegetables, nine on general gardening tips and three on food preservation. In addition, we’ve produced five fact sheets in Spanish. Extension educators write the facts sheets designed by Alicia Burnell, Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Communications graphics artist.

We’ve been promoting the fact sheets and the Michigan Fresh program at the Detroit Eastern Market, the Grand Rapids Downtown Market and across Michigan.

We have a new Michigan Fresh flier that explains the program and lists the fact sheets available. It gives some interesting facts about our great state. For example, did you know that Michigan is the leading producer of dry beans and several varieties of annual flowers including geraniums, petunias and Easter lilies? And we’re No. 1 in the nation in production of blueberries, cucumbers for pickles, Niagara grapes and tart cherries. Check out the flier for more Michigan facts as related to food and agriculture.

The Michigan Availability Guide lets us know when to buy fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables.

So fresh we’re still working on putting it up on the Michigan Fresh website, a new Michigan Fresh fact sheet gives fresh produce donation guidelines for gardeners. Authors and Extension educators Kathe Hale of the Greening Michigan Institute and Eileen Haraminac of the Health and Nutrition Institute let us know helpful tips for donating that extra zucchini to food banks and pantries.

In addition, Steve Evans, ANR Communications multimedia production team leader, produced all of the Michigan Fresh videos starring MSU Extension educators and program instructors. Watch them for some great recipes and tips on cooking Michigan produce. In this week’s featured video, Extension nutrition program instructor Maggie Kantola focuses on kale.

Kathe Hale coordinates the Michigan Fresh program. Visit the updated Michigan Fresh website at http://msue.anr.msu.edu/program/info/mi_fresh.

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Governor’s budget proposal recommends increase for higher education

Governor Rick Snyder released his proposed state government budget for fiscal year 2014 this morning. He has proposed increasing the state investment in higher education an average of 2 percent over last year’s appropriations and specifically proposed increasing funding for MSU AgBioResearch and MSU Extension by 2 percent. This is a welcome investment in our programs, and reflects an improvement from last year, when the executive budget did not propose any increase in our funding. The 3 percent budget increase that we did receive in the current fiscal year was a result of negotiations in the legislative process. So starting with a 2 percent increase instead of no increase in the first step of the appropriations process would seem to indicate that we stand a good chance of ending up with a budget increase by the end of the process.

One other facet of the governor’s budget presents further opportunities for faculty and staff in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and in MSU Extension and MSU AgBioResearch. The wording from the governor’s announcement follows:

The governor recommends $1 million general fund for a new Food and Agriculture Industry Growth Initiative focused on removing barriers and leveraging opportunities identified by food processors, agri-business, and those in agricultural production as critical to business development and growth. A competitive grant process will fund research, education, and technical assistance efforts. An advisory board, consisting of food and agriculture industry representatives, will identify criteria for grant funding. Grant recipients will be required to identify program outcomes and performance metrics. In addition, up to $2 million will be available in the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) budget to support eligible projects that meet the goals and mission of this initiative. MDARD will collaborate with MSF in identifying projects for funding.

This is a follow-up to the governor’s production agriculture summit held in August 2011. At the summit, he proposed four areas of focus that would help to grow Michigan’s food and agriculture-based economy: increasing the overall economic impact of food and agriculture, increasing the number of jobs in this sector, increasing the value of exports in this sector and strengthening the availability of nutritious food to all of Michigan’s residents.

The appropriation process now turns to the Michigan Legislature. In the past two years, the legislature has completed the appropriations process and the governor has signed the appropriations bills by the early part of June. I anticipate a similar schedule this year. I will join Dr. Steve Pueppke next Wednesday at a joint hearing of the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittees for the House and the Senate, during which we will have an opportunity to provide an update of our research and extension programs and their impacts. We will also address questions legislators may have at the hearing as well.

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Thanks, Rick!

Members of the Greening Michigan Institute (GMI) received a final note from Dr. Rick Foster this week as he prepares to return to his faculty position and focus his leadership on Michigan State University’s program aimed at developing food, water and energy systems for 21st century metropolitan areas. The program, termed MetroFoodsPlus, was announced in a Detroit press conference yesterday, presented jointly by MSU President LouAnna K. Simon and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing. We have been fortunate to benefit from Dr. Foster’s leadership over the past two years, during which he has served as the director of GMI. As one of our four institute directors, he helped to give definition to a concept that we created as part of our restructuring. He came to us with a tremendous background of leadership experience, having served in a variety of roles, ranging from high school agriscience teacher to vice president of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Rick’s leadership has helped to create a sense of unity and joint purpose among educators working in programs that had been only distantly connected in our previous organizational structure. He embraced the notion that what holds these programs together – from community development to family financial management to community food systems to natural resources stewardship – is a focus on equipping Michigan’s families, communities and industries to adopt practices that ensure sustainability of not only our natural assets but also our communities and families as well.

I’ve personally benefited tremendously from Rick’s generosity with his time and insights, and I’ve had many in GMI share their appreciation for his positive outlook and affirming support for group-generated suggestions and programs. GMI has innovated in a number of ways and we’ve all benefited from their new ways of approaching everything from revenue generation to creating reality around the concept of food hubs.

We will miss Rick’s leadership as he turns his full attention to MetroFoodsPlus, but we’ll also continue to benefit from his deep understanding of MSU Extension and integrate our strengths into this bold effort to join Michigan’s agricultural heritage and industrial innovation history with the challenges and opportunities resting in Michigan’s urban centers. Rick will retain a faculty appointment in MSUE and will especially connect frequently with the community food systems work group within GMI. I’ll always deeply appreciate Rick’s willingness to help us create this new, 21st century version of MSU Extension. Thanks, Rick, and good luck in your MetroFoodsPlus efforts!

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Product Center survey reflects desire for safe and healthy food

The MSU Product Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources recently conducted a report sponsored by Det Norske Veritas (DNV), a global provider of services for managing risk.

The report, “Food Safety Certification: A Study of Food Safety in the U.S. Supply Chain,” compiles data generated from online surveys of more than 400 consumers and 73 food companies under the management of the Product Center. The survey found that consumers want to see evidence that the food that they are buying has gone through an independent safety certification process. In fact, many would be willing to pay more for a product if it was marked with a certification label. Industry professionals are more interested in traceability. If something goes wrong, they need to find out the source of the problem. Both suppliers and consumers feel that safe and healthy food is of prime importance. And both suppliers and consumers have changed their habits and business practices to line up with their belief in food safety.

 These results reinforce the importance of developing greater strength in our programs on food safety in our redesign. This is one of those areas that cuts across institutes, with both the Agriculture/Agribusiness Institute and the Health and Nutrition Institute investing in educator positions to ensure we are delivering research-based information to individuals at multiple points in the food supply chain, beginning with producers and ending with consumers. As our teams develop curricula and applied research in this area, I anticipate we may find a need for greater expertise on campus, and we have had productive conversations with department chairs regarding specialist and faculty positions that may be needed to ensure a strong program in food safety.

 The MSU Product Center was established in 2003 with funds from the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station (MAES) and Michigan State University Extension to improve economic opportunities in the Michigan agriculture, food and natural resource sectors. It’s led by director Chris Peterson.

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Volunteerism – It’s especially strong among Extension professionals

I had a number of heartening responses to my final Spotlight message for 2009 on the many ways that people contribute to their communities and organizations beyond their financial contributions.  A point that many of them made is that our own Extension professionals are supreme volunteers, and I know that is true for so many of you and I applaud you for that.  I thought I would share one of the stories I received, not to say that this one is extraordinary, but rather to share it as one of many examples that I’ve learned about both before and after I wrote that Spotlight.  Keep in mind that this message was sent in the spirit of “here’s another example of what you were talking about” and not “see what WE’VE done.” I think Dave Stroud makes that point clear and better in his own words.

Tom, I thought I would second your thoughts about some of the unspoken time that MSUE staff devote to their communities. I am not looking for any recognition for something we did here in our office but it is a good story I would like for you to hear about.

Here in Lake City and Missaukee County we are lucky to have the MSU Beef Research Station, and as you may know there is a considerable amount of potato research done there. Each year they plant 10 acres of potatoes to research varieties, as Dave Douches and his team work hard to develop new varieties. After they take their many samples to be analyzed at the lab, the gates are opened to the community to come in and glean the potatoes that are left, probably 95% of the crop remains, all dug up and laying on the surface. Community radar seems to be able to sense this event and many calls are made to the station from the public to find out about the date the gates are open. Many individuals and organizations, pick up the potatoes to distribute to needy families or those who cannot physically do it for themselves, and of course many are looking to store/and or extend their winter supply of spuds.

Our Missaukee MSUE office has a food bank located right across the hall from our lobby door, so we know the need, and see the traffic and importance to the community that the “Cooperative Ministry Food-bank” plays in our community that has such a high unemployment rate. So the thought came to our mind to glean some potatoes to store to keep them supplied with potatoes. So one fine October morning the Station Manager Doug Carmichael allowed us in to pick before the gates were opened at noon to the public. Judy Brinks our office secretary and I picked about 30 bushels of potatoes in about an hour. With the help of my son Ty, who works at the station, and his pickup we put the potatoes in storage at my farm in a well insulated hay barn bunk. Our goal was to keep the Food Bank supplied with potatoes until Christmas. Several times a week we brought in 5 gallon pails of potatoes that the Food Bank would bag and hand out to their clients. The near zero temps in early December did not help our temporary storage, but with some improvements, we were able to keep them supplied until Christmas Eve.  It took us one lunch break, and a few minutes a week to help out, just a little, those in need.


Thanks to Dave and the Missaukee staff and to all of you for your generosity throughout the year.

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Giving when there’s nothing to give

When I visited with a friend near my home in Williamston, Mich., on Dec. 19, I came away inspired and overwhelmed by his generosity. Our sons are both involved in scouting and we were both working at the local Food Bank, preparing and delivering food and gift packages for families in our community. I learned that he spent the previous day working there, too. On the surface it may not seem noteworthy that he put in two successive days with a charitable organization. However, he has been unemployed since last January. You can imagine the kinds of challenges he and his family have faced over the past year. Even though his wife is still employed, any family that loses one income for nearly a year is bound to be under considerable stress. Yet there he was, giving his time to make sure that others in our community would have food for their families.

Our society often focuses on financial transactions and financial contributions as measures of generosity. We tend to overlook and undervalue the contributions that people make with their unmonetized time and talents. I’m as guilty as anyone—over the past few weeks I’ve sent and received the usual “end-of-year” solicitations for monetary gifts to our programs and the charities that support our programs, but I didn’t send out a solicitation for volunteers to give of their time, intellect and skills. Every year we prepare a simple report for legislators and other decision-makers that spells out the monetary value of the leveraging we achieve with the appropriations we are granted, but we don’t report the value of the 4-H, Master Gardener, agricultural research and other volunteers who help to make our programs successful. We generate reports on the monetary value of gifts that are given to MSU Extension, 4-H, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and other entities, but we don’t compare the number of volunteer hours we generate to those of other units at Michigan State University.

Our programs are greatly enhanced by the work of thousands of volunteers. I, for one, need to do a better job of telling that story to those we work with and report to. Under Michigan’s current economic condition, it is even more important for us to demonstrate the value of MSUE by documenting not only the numbers, but also the lasting impacts of the volunteers who invest their time and talents in our mission. There are few measures more telling of our impacts than the scope and scale of investments that others make in the mission of MSUE. As we continue through our redesign process—and particularly our revisions to program planning and reporting—we need to keep this in mind: the most valuable gifts people give are those that are direct and personal, whether it is their time, money, thoughts or actions. I have my friend to thank for helping me to understand this in a deeper and more lasting way. And I know that his life’s work for others is something he will continue to invest, whether he receives compensation for it or not.

I want to thank all of the MSUE staff, faculty members, educators, volunteers and program participants for the contributions they make to MSUE’s mission, whether it is their time and talents or other resources. We’ve had a challenging year, but our challenges pale in comparison with those experienced by so many of our fellow Michigan residents. Thanks to all for investing in Michigan and in MSU Extension. I wish us all well in the new year.

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