Tag Archives: marilyn thelen

Focus on Forages and the Future: The 2nd annual Ag Innovation Day

The second annual Michigan State University (MSU) Agriculture Innovation Day that took place at the MSU Lake City Research Center welcomed 230 guests. This year, the theme was Focus on Forages and the Future. The educational field day delivered a cutting-edge, in-depth look at critical topics such as forages, livestock and the future to help farmers meet growing producer demands. People came from across the state, the Midwest and Canada.

Shari Spoelman, MSU Extension District 6 coordinator, helped shuttle people back and forth from their cars, giving her the opportunity to interact with visitors.

“I talked with folks from Ohio, Indiana, Ontario and southern Michigan,” Shari said. “Some wanted to just explore the research center property. Others said they wanted to go to all the sessions. Some had certain things they were especially interested in like soil health or double-cropping. One man arrived with his grandkids – they said they came for something fun to do in the area.”

Throughout the afternoon, farmers had the opportunity to participate in nine sessions focused on topics such as alfalfa genetics, silage, double-cropping, dairy cattle monitoring, soil health, baleage, beef operations management and land regeneration.

MSU senior Extension educator Marilyn Thelen shared that producers from across the state attended her session “Expand Your Land Use With Double-Cropping.”

“The session generated a lot of discussion on how cover crops could be incorporated into various systems for feed or simply for cover,” Marilyn said.

You can find session handouts on the Speakers page.

In the evening, participants attended a reception and were able to hear from President Lou Anna K. Simon and Dean Ron Hendrick and connect with other leaders in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“Attendees and staff got a chance to mingle with stakeholders and talk about emerging and trending topics in agriculture, including the grass-fed beef and sustainability research Dr. Jason Rowntree is involved with, and matters as important as how we talk about ‘climate change,’” Shari said.

MSU Agriculture Innovation Day rotates to various locations throughout the state to give farmers access to experts who can help them improve their businesses while maintaining environmentally sound practices on their farms. MSU hosted the first Ag Innovation Day on Aug. 24, 2016. The event is the vision brought about after Ag Expo was re-envisioned.

“Ag Innovation Day is the opportunity for farmers to get the most up-to-date information from MSU,” said John Mossner, farmer and MSU Extension and AgBioResearch State Council member. “It is focusing on sound research and science relating to the type of agriculture conducted at each research station. Having attended both events in the last two years, I am impressed with the effort that MSU Extension is doing to make it a meaningful day.”

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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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AABI group are NACAA national finalists

I recently heard from James DeDecker, Michigan State University Extension educator. He wanted to share that Ned Birkey, Bruce Mackellar, Dan Rajzer, Dan Rossman, Mike Staton and Marilyn Thelen were selected as national finalists in the 2014 National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) Search for Excellence competition Crop Production category. Bruce is an Extension educator and Dan Rossman, Mike and Marilyn are senior Extension educators, all in the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute. Ned Birkey and Dan Rajzer are MSU Extension retirees now working for the Michigan Soy Promotion Committee.

 James said, “The group’s program focused on reducing soybean harvest losses and is just one example of the high-quality, impactful outreach that MAEA (Michigan Association of Extension Agents) members deliver every day. Well done everyone!”

 Congratulations to all!

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Fall Extension Conference 2012 – Thanks!

Another Fall Extension Conference has come and gone, and I want to send my thanks out to all who helped make it a valuable and productive experience. I’m always overwhelmed by FEC as it approaches, worried not so much about how things will work – we have great colleagues who worry about that for us and their worry produces a well-run and cost-efficient conference – but more about how to make the most of this opportunity. In my comments on Monday and Tuesday, I tried to convey how grateful I am for the work this organization does and the people who work so hard to make it successful. I’m never satisfied that I’ve fully expressed how much this organization means to me and to Michigan. You are awesome, and I take great pleasure in each day that I get to work with you to help people improve their lives. You teach me a great deal. I hope you found the conference to be as nourishing (not only in food) as I did. And I thank you for being part of it.

The organizing team – Betsy Braid, Megghan Honke and Doug Brahee as co-chairs, and Julie Chapin, Dawn Contreras, Dave Ivan and Wendy Powers as steering committee members deserve many thanks and credit for making this as productive and meaningful as it was. I would also like to offer a special thanks to George Silva and Marilyn Thelen for helping develop the cross-institute session.

Watch your inbox for a survey to provide feedback on FEC 2012.

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News segments raise awareness of Extension and the work we do

As I mentioned in several articles in this Spotlight, the MSU Extension website continues to be an effective medium to get the word out to folks about our great programs. Another avenue excels at communicating about our organization and the fantastic work we do. ANR Communications is producing two-minute news segments focusing on our programs, research and major initiatives. Marketed under a series titled “Did You Know?” the segments began airing last month, directly before Tim Skubick’s public affairs program “Off the Record” on WKAR Channel 23.

The video segments were developed to raise the public’s awareness of Extension and all it does. In addition to appearing along with “Off the Record,” they are also posted online, providing us with additional exposure and opportunities for sharing.

ANR Communications multimedia production team leader Steve Evans said, “We’ve strategically placed these videos ahead of ‘Off the Record’ because we believe key decision makers and those in major agencies in multiple areas of government watch the show.”

The videos have focused on Firewise, which offers resources in home and community fire protection, and Stepping Stones, a program that provides urban youngsters with outdoor education experiences. Another video featured Extension educator Marilyn Thelen discussing the 2012 drought. Future videos will spotlight 4-H Discovery Camp and 4-H Great Lakes & Natural Resources Camp. Another will highlight senior Extension educator Dennis Pennington discussing the feasibility of using marginal lands for energy crop production.

Steve co-produces the videos with video producer and director Kraig Ehm. If you have a story you’d like to submit for consideration, send your ideas to Steve at evansst@msu.edu or Kraig at ehm@msu.edu.

View the videos here.

Another venue that features work of MSUE colleagues is the Greening of the Great Lakes, a website and radio feature hosted by retired MSU Professor Kirk Heinze. Kirk recently hosted Rick Foster, W.K. Kellogg Chair in Food, Society and Sustainability and former director of MSUE’s Greening Michigan Institute. You can read and hear the interview with Rick on the MSU initiative to foster development of the metropolitan food system and related industries in Detroit.

Kirk’s radio productions are broadcast on Sunday nights from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on News/Talk 760 WJR. He often highlights innovations underway by MSUE scientists and educators.

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MSU Extension continues to assist with drought-related issues

In last week’s Spotlight, I talked about our nimble response to addressing social-emotional health issues brought on by reaction to drought and severe weather.

Though some areas have had a little rain in the past week, the weather situation is still dire. Our staffers are continuing to do a terrific job of providing counsel and writing articles to help farmers and others respond to drought conditions. This has included everything from dealing with drought-related depression to the potential for spider mite infestation to keeping blueberries irrigated.

As you are working with folks, please direct them to some new resources that we have created on the MSU Extension website in response to the drought. For information about current drought and heat stresses, click on “Agriculture,” and then click on “Drought Resources” or “Animal Heat Stress Management Resources” in the far right column. Both pages aim at giving drought-related resources to people who need them.

Another new communication tool is a handy-dandy card that can be used to lead people to our MSU Extension website. This card has links to the new drought-related resources pages. You can find the card in SharePoint. To access it, log in and go to the documents section in the “MSUE All Staff” section. The card is titled “Drought Resources Info Card 7-30-12.” I encourage you to print it out to get the word out at fairs, trade shows or anywhere you communicate with people. I know that I will.

Folks across institutes and work groups are working hard and sharing ideas that make a difference. MSU Extension educator Marilyn Thelen and senior Extension educator Dan Rossman lead the field crop work group with our response to the drought. I appreciate their aggressive but thoughtful approach.

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Extension educators quickly respond to emotional health issues brought on by drought

Part of Michigan State University Extension’s mission is to quickly respond to emerging issues affecting Michigan residents. The recent drought has certainly given us the opportunity to do so, and we had a great report from Marilyn Thelen, AABI Extension educator, on our July 16 webinar to describe how the work groups in the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute have responded.

We also heard Suzanne Pish, Extension educator in the Health and Nutrition Institute, describe how she recognized that severe weather was causing stress in growers dealing with the loss of the cherry crop. The recent drought is similarly affecting farmers and Suzanne is feeling its effects personally. Her Dad is a dairy farmer in southern Michigan where the drought is hitting hard. In addition, Suzanne and her husband raise goats and hay. The drought took one-tenth of their hay crop. She felt both the financial and emotional toll the drought was taking and could relate to the feelings of her dad, the cherry growers and other farmers in the state. Suzanne connected her experience with the effects of stress with her expertise as a social-emotional educator to write an article for our MSU Extension News “Farm-related Depression: Signs and Symptoms.”

A farm blog picked up the story. Fred Peralta, producer/director of WEIU-TV in Charleston, Ill., read Suzanne’s story and invited her for a web-video chat interview on his local agricultural program “Four Rivers Ag Report.” The interview aired July 20. You can watch it here:

This is a great example of how Extension educators and specialists get information out quickly to the MSU Extension News website and that information expands out in many directions. It’s also a great example of taking a core set of program priorities and recognizing how those might apply to audiences that aren’t regularly served by a particular work group. AABI colleagues immediately realized the need to provide technical expertise to groups they routinely serve. Suzanne and other colleagues on the Social-Emotional Health work group saw a need with that same audience, even though they mostly focus on youth and young adults with their programs.

Extension educator Karen Pace contributed to the subject as well with an article for MSU Extension News on the emotional toll severe weather can place on farmers and their families.

Extension educator Holly Tiret and members of the Health and Nutrition Institute are also putting together a workshop dealing with stress, anger management, and financial and credit issues. It will be ready soon to present all over the state.

I’m proud of how quickly our groups have responded to this issue not only in the usual ways but stretching beyond their focal audience.

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