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Simple but smart

Many people tend their gardens and care for their lawns but not everyone knows how to approach these tasks in an environmentally friendly fashion that can save money. Michigan State University Extension educators and specialists are doing their part to make sure that folks become knowledgeable about earth-friendly, research-based lawn-care and gardening techniques through the Smart Gardening initiative.

MSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer Judy Workman (right) of Oakland County helps a client

MSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer Judy Workman (right) of Oakland County helps a client learn about using native plants in the landscape at the Cottage and Lakefront Living Show in Novi on February, 21, 2013. (Photo: Rebecca Finneran)

According to Extension educator Rebecca Finneran, it all started when MSU professor of entomology David Smitley said to her, “Rebecca, the commercial green industry folks are doing a great job of implementing MSUE research to help be better stewards of the environment but not homeowners ‒ why not?”

Rebecca realized that the message needed to be reinforced with home gardeners. Rebecca and the consumer horticulture team members’ desire to reach home gardeners about getting smart about the environment launched the Smart Gardening initiative. Throughout this campaign, the message of smart gardening comes across in everything they do.

Besides Rebecca and Dr. Smitley, other members of the Smart Gardening team include Bob Bricault, Mallory Fournier, Mary Gerstenberger, Gary Heilig (retired), Hal Hudson, Joy Landis, Carol Lenchek, Beth Stuever, Gretchen Voyle, Linda Whitlock and Mary Wilson.

The team’s directed outreach focuses on three simple messages: smart soils, smart lawns and smart plants. That’s it. Simple but smart.

The smart gardening team along with Master Gardener volunteers got out their smart messages to the public at Ag Expo and at home and garden shows in Novi and Grand Rapids that reached approximately 45,000 people. The educators delivered 16 mini-seminars at the two shows.

MSU Extension horticulture educator Mary Wilson (left) shares gardening expertise

MSU Extension horticulture educator Mary Wilson (left) shares gardening expertise Feb. 21, 2013, at the Cottage and Lakefront Living Show in Novi, Mich. This was just one of a series of 16 Smart Gardening lectures provided by MSU Extension staffers at two public shows in winter 2013. (Photo: Rebecca Finneran)

The Gardening in Michigan website redesign produced the Smart Gardening website where folks could not only access fact sheets and watch videos, but also leave their live questions in an “Ask an Expert” box. The team distributes electronic fact sheets across the state to all of the district coordinators who in turn give them to local leaders such as county commissioners who place them in e-newsletters.

The team and volunteers have had thousands of discussions with clients and have distributed nearly 32,000 Smart Gardening tip sheets. They’ve continuously reinforced the smart gardening message through public outreach, conferences, classes, seminars, media work, websites and day-to-day discussions. And of course, it’s all research-based.

Going forward, the team is collaborating with the Ohio State University Extension to pool resources to create an even stronger impact.

A Smart Gardening Conference will take place Sept. 14 in Marquette. Read more here.

The Smart Gardening initiative connects people to the tools they need to care for their lawns and gardens while protecting the earth and saving money as well.

MSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer Linda Dodge of Kent County directs a client

MSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer Linda Dodge of Kent County directs a client to learn more about reducing the use of phosphorous in her lawn March 1, 2013, at the West Michigan Home and Garden Show in Grand Rapids. (Photo: Rebecca Finneran)

 

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Retirees honored at reception

Each year at a luncheon, Michigan State University recognizes faculty and academic staff who have retired in the past year. MSU Extension and Epsilon Sigma Phi (ESP) co-host a reception prior to the luncheon at the Kellogg Center. This year, the event took place April 2.

As I do every year, I’d like to share some brief information about each retiree.

 Extension educator William (“Bill”) J. Carpenter began his career in MSU Extension in 1981 as county Extension director for Luce County. He later became county Extension director for Berrien, Iosco and Montcalm counties. He also served for a year as the district coordinator in District 4 before serving as an MSU Extension educator in the district in MSU Extension’s Greening Michigan Institute. Early in his career, Bill took a leave of absence to serve for a year as a senior Extension advisor in Armenia working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). He did exceptional work in community and economic development, particularly in land-use planning, working with nonprofit groups and building capacity in organizations and people.

Kenneth R. Geuns served as Extension specialist for livestock youth programs from 1978 to 2012. From 1984 through 1986, he also served as the coordinator of livestock programs in the Institute of Agricultural Technology. From 2007 through 2012, he served as the faculty coordinator of the MSU Purebred Beef Cattle Teaching and Research Center. He taught courses in the Department of Animal Science, coached the collegiate livestock judging teams at MSU and served as faculty advisor to the MSU Block and Bridle Club. He received the Block and Bridle Club Honored Portrait Award, the Michigan Pork Producers Distinguished Service Award, the National FFA Honorary American FFA Degree and Outstanding Specialist awards from MSU Extension and the Michigan Association of Extension Agents. Other awards include the Black Hawk College Outstanding Alumni Award and Agriculture Merit Award, the Michigan Association of FFA Honorary Degree and Honorary Membership awards, and the Michigan Association of Extension 4-H Youth Staff Colleague Award and Team Effort Award.

 Gary L. Heilig has been an Extension Ingham County horticulture agent for 34 years. He has provided commercial and consumer horticulture programming for primarily the residents of Ingham County but he reached consumers around the state through his extensive live and taped television broadcasts. Gary is well known and highly respected for using multiple methods of teaching such as radio and television, video, online classes, audio files and fact sheets. He has provided relevant, substantive, well-developed, responsive educational programs throughout his career. He was part of the MSU Extension Consumer Horticulture Team, which received the eXtension Working Differently in Extension Award for the creation of the Gardening in Michigan Web site. He also received a Communication Award from the National Association of County Agricultural Agents and was a co-author of the original Master Gardener Manual.

Extension educator Linda Huyck began her work with MSU Extension in 1998 as a Montcalm County home economist. She secured funding to grow the Senior Project FRESH (Farm Resources Expanding and Supporting Health) programs in Gratiot and Montcalm counties, helped to develop the Family Living curriculum for Spectrum Health and updated the Building Better Bodies curriculum for volunteers in nutrition education in Gratiot County. In addition, she helped to plan the first ever Tri-FCS (Family and Consumer Science) Association conference for three family and consumer science professional organizations. Linda recently held a joint appointment in MSU Extension’s Health and Nutrition Institute and Greening Michigan Institute, specializing in food safety and financial literacy education. Her exceptional work focused on family capacity building, reaching hundreds of people and establishing mentorship programs. She received national recognition numerous times from the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS) including the Distinguished Service Award, Regional Educational Technology Award, State Community Partnership Team Award, State Financial Management Award and the State Impact on Youth and Family Award.

Children and youth program leader Elizabeth (“Betsy”) McPherson Knox served as an Ionia County home economics educator and 4-H youth agent before moving to campus as an associate program leader and then program leader. Betsy wrote, developed and used a variety of curricula for the performing and visual arts, and the promotion of global, cultural and international understanding. She has also worked in the area of 4-H environmental and outdoor education and more recently in leadership and civic engagement. She has coordinated more than 1,750 4-H Exploration Days sessions in nearly 25 years on campus. She’s received recognition on numerous occasions including the John A. Hannah Award for Excellence for leading the Chengdu China Dance Troupe Project. Over time, this stellar program resulted in more than 11 different cross-cultural programs with China and reached more than 300,000 Michigan youth. The ongoing 4-H Children’s Art Exchange with China is one of those programs.

In 1988, Extension educator Michael McFadden joined MSU Extension as an agricultural agent for Gladwin and Isabella counties. In 1994, he became an Extension dairy educator for Clare, Gladwin, Isabella, Midland and Saginaw counties. He provided educational programing, problem solving and applied research in a variety of agriculture and animal agriculture areas throughout his career. Highly respected by colleagues, advisory groups and the producers with whom he worked for his exceptional competency in a wide variety of areas, Michael was well known for developing meaningful professional relationships with producers and others in the community. He specialized in conducting farm research to solve local problems. The community routinely sought him out as a valuable source of credible, relevant timely information. He found it important to reach underserved farmers and their families, and included the entire farm family when appropriate.

Senior Extension educator Norman (“Norm”) L. Myers began his career as a county agriculture Extension agent in 1982, serving for two years in Montcalm County. He then moved to Newaygo and Muskegon counties for five years, and in 1989, he became county Extension director for Oceana County. In 2009, Mr. Myers earned the advanced title of senior Extension educator. At the time of his retirement, he was serving as a regional vegetable educator in MSU Extension’s Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute (AABI). Norm was an active leader in animal and plant production, particularly in the areas of vegetables and Christmas trees. He developed strong working relationships and did significant work on behalf of many commodity groups. He developed the annual Oceana Asparagus Day, which has grown into the largest educational program for asparagus growers in North America. He assisted in advancing the Tom-Cast disease forecasting system and PCR testing of aster yellows infectivity as important pest management tools in asparagus and carrots. He demonstrated and promoted petiole sap nitrogen testing as a means of reducing nitrogen use and costs in carrots, and he promoted higher density asparagus planting as a means for increasing asparagus yields. He received numerous awards including MSU Extension’s Diversity and Pluralism Award, the Michigan Vegetable Council’s Master Farmer Associate Award, the National Association of County Agricultural Agent’s Distinguished Service Award for Excellence and the Michigan Christmas Tree Association’s President’s Award.

Throughout her 31 years in MSU Extension, senior Extension educator Natalie Rector has reached hundreds of farmers in south central Michigan as a widely respected crop agent. In that role, she helped producers coordinate the Innovative Farmers of South Central Michigan, conducting demonstration plots and on-farm tours. As MSU Extension’s manure nutrient management field specialist, she helped livestock and crop producers work together to make efficient and conscientious use of animal waste as fertilizer. Natalie worked with state officials to develop the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP). She conducted research and outreach focused on helping farmers utilize manure in an economical and environmentally friendly manner. Her work helped farmers save money while conscientiously taking advantage of valuable resources. She has been a team player within Michigan as well as across the Midwest as coordinator of a 10-state grant project to bring Extension faculty and staff together on manure management issues. She has received numerous awards. Most recently, the Michigan Farm Bureau named her the recipient of the organization’s 2012 Distinguished Service to Agriculture (DSA) Award. She was also the 2004 MSU Distinguished Academic Staff Award recipient and received the Distinguished Service Award from the Michigan Pork Producers Association. Since retiring, Natalie has joined the Corn Marketing Program of Michigan as research coordinator.

Extension educator Carol A. Rosinski joined MSU Extension as a home economist in 1994, serving Cheboygan County. She later became an Extension family development agent in that same county. Her focus on programs affecting youth and families at risk through the Cheboygan County Juvenile Court proved innovative and successful. She continually evaluated her programs through data collection to make improvements and increase effectiveness. Her work empowered young people and parents, and strengthened families by providing needed services, activities and training. She effectively collaborated with area counseling agencies, law enforcement agencies, school personnel and administrators, Community Mental Health personnel and Probate Court judges. Carol developed and managed a collaborative program, the Straits Area Youth Promotion Academy, a successful partnership day treatment program between MSU Extension and the Cheboygan County Family Court. This treatment program served youth at risk of being placed out of their homes and assigned to residential placements. Parents and youth learned life-changing skills such as developing positive relationships as well as addressing drug abuse and violent behavior. Carol served as director, juvenile officer, case manager and licensed social worker for all young people ordered to the program.

Extension educator Patricia Waugh began her work with MSU Extension as a Lapeer County 4-H program assistant. She left MSU for a short time to work as a Head Start teacher and parent educator, and to coordinate the volunteer services for McLaren Hospice. She then rejoined Extension where she coordinated the Lapeer County 4-H youth program and served as a resource for positive youth development to others in the county. Patricia showed outstanding dedication and commitment to the youth and families of Michigan throughout her career. Adult volunteers and youth members often expressed their support and confidence in her leadership. She forged many collaborative efforts in the county she served as well as in neighboring counties. She received recognition for her work often throughout her career including a nomination for Lapeer Chamber of Commerce Female Citizen of the Year in 2009. Other professional awards included the Michigan Distinguished Service Award, the Team Effort Award for 4-H Afterschool, the Presidential Citation for the Club Read Program, the Michigan Association of Extension 4-H Youth Staff (MAE4-HYS) Presidential award, the MAE4-HYS Team Award for Take the Day on Diversity Program and the 4-H International Award.

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MSUE Consumer Hort Team wins eXtension award

With reduced budgets and staff and increased programmatic responsibilities, Michigan State University Extension staff must maximize limited time and resources to meet growing demands. With those challenges in mind, the MSUE Consumer Horticulture Team faced the daunting task of delivering science-based, environmentally sound information to more than 8 million gardeners. With a firm grasp of the importance of technology and a collaborative spirit, they not only met their responsibilities but also won an award for their efforts.

The consumer hort team along with Bindu Bhakta will receive the eXtension Working Differently in Extension Award Oct. 2 at the National eXtension Conference in Oklahoma City. The team consists of Bob Bricault, Rebecca Finneran, Gary Heilig, Hal Hudson, Gretchen Voyle, Linda Whitlock and Mary Wilson.

Senior Extension specialist Lela Vandenberg nominated the team for the award, which recognizes the team’s engagement with clientele, co-workers and others in new and different ways and the demonstrable impacts made. It provides an opportunity to show how the team works online and within a learning network.

In 2010, the team launched the “Gardening in Michigan”website as a platform to offer a variety of online classes and resources. The website now serves thousands of people. In early 2011, the team decided to add an Ask an Expert (AaE) widget to the website’s front page. But before they put up the widget, they would need experts to answer the questions. The team worked with the MSUE eXtension Institutional Team to develop an AaE training process suited for advanced Master Gardeners. Fifteen Master Gardener volunteers were recruited and trained online in Adobe Connect, allowing the launch of the AaE widget in June 2011. Through the widget, the team answered more than 700 questions in 13 months.

But the team did not stop with the widget. Thinking a statewide hotline to answer gardeners’ questions a good idea, they used technology to link existing county hotlines together under one toll free number to provide the service 24/7 to all counties. Having the hotline required more training for more volunteers. The training established uniformity and quality control. Within one year, calls increased by one thousand, and the hotline has served clients from 80 percent of Michigan’s 84 counties. I wrote about the hotline in a previous Spotlight.

You’ve also heard me talk about the new soil test self-mailers in a previous Spotlight. The team created the kits provided with a postage-paid return mailer consumers can purchase online from the MSU Extension Bookstore. The consumer mails the soil sample in to the MSU Soil and Plant Nutrient Lab. Once the folks at the lab analyze the sample, the consumer receives an email with results and access to an interactive website, which provides customized fertilizer calculations, instructions on correct application and links to AaE and additional resources on the Gardening in Michigan website.

Additionally, the team redesigned the Master Gardener program to reduce volunteer management time and create a statewide, easy-to-replicate program integrating a hybrid in-person and electronic delivery method. These efforts will lead to greater focus upon the educational products, which translate to more trained Master Gardeners and increased involvement of those volunteers in local community development projects.

 When asked about the team, Lela said, “MSUE’s Consumer Horticulture Team is an inspiration to all of the MSUE work teams and a model for working smarter with reduced resources. They have risen to the challenge when faced with cuts in budget and personnel, and creatively implemented transformational change in the way we satisfy the educational and informational needs of Michigan gardeners. The team deserves this award!” I couldn’t agree more. We owe them a great debt of gratitude for their leadership in helping to transform MSU Extension.

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