Tag Archives: mark longstroth

10 facts about MSU and eXtension you didn’t know

Chris Geith, CEO to the eXtension Foundation, provided me with some exciting news and information about eXtension. The mission of eXtension is to help Cooperative Extension System professionals increase their measurable local impact by helping them accomplish their work more effectively using an online constellation of people, resources and tools. Michigan State University Extension has a long and active history with eXtension and continues to partner with this great initiative. Here are 10 facts about our involvement with eXtension that you didn’t know.

  1. In 2015, 2,446 questions from Michigan residents were answered using the Ask an Expert system.
  1. 167 MSU Extension specialists, educators and volunteers helped to answer these 2,446 questions through Ask an Expert.
  1. eXtension also has two communities of practice led by MSU: All About Blueberries, led by Extension educator Mark Longstroth, and Community Planning and Zoning ‒ Land Use Planning, led by Extension educator Glenn Pape.
  1. For the Land Use Planning Community of Practice, MSU Extension and eXtension are partnering to pilot a third-party service to see if we can increase the usefulness of content and potentially generate new revenue sources together.
  1. This pilot partnership is not out of the ordinary; MSU Extension has a history of building new models with eXtension – such as MyHorseUniversity, which continues to have a strong relationship with the HorseQuest community of practice.
  1. Three members of the newly formed i-Three Issue Corps are from MSU: Mariel Borgman, Kaitlin Wojciak and Garret Zeigler. They are contributing to the Michigan Supply Chain Wizards that will address key issues in food systems and climate.
  1. MSU Extension also has almost 40 online courses available through the eXtension Campus/Moodle Because of MSU’s premium membership with eXtension, there are several important benefits available to MSU Extension staff.
  1. Recently awarded to MSU Extension, the $1.48 million New Technologies in Ag Extension grant includes instructional design by Gwyn Shelle, administrative support provided by Angela Jernstadt, with Chris Geith serving as the primary investigator.
  1. Gwyn is also a recipient of one of nine Innovation grants eXtension awarded last year out of almost 50 proposals submitted. Gwyn and Katie Ockert are presented at the National eXtension annual conference that takes place in San Antonio, Texas, March 22‒
  1. Bruce Haas served a critical role as a key advisor to the i-Three Issue Corps in the new “boot camp” at the event.

Thanks to Chris for welcoming me and sharing such great news from eXtension.

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Extension partners with Expo Board to present Great Lakes Expo

We’ve been looking for new ways to reach out to audiences but sometimes the old, familiar ways work best. What’s especially helpful is when our stakeholders all come together at one location and over a few days to make it easy for us to reach them.

Senior Michigan State University Extension educator Roger Betz makes a point as he presents an educational session on the Farm Bill

Senior Michigan State University Extension educator Roger Betz makes a point as he presents an educational session on the Farm Bill at the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo Dec. 6, 2012, in Grand Rapids, Mich. Photo credit: Beth Stuever

The Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo is taking place this week, Dec. 4–6 in Grand Rapids, Mich., at the Devos Place Convention Center. Once again, our colleagues are providing expertise through educational sessions at the Expo, promoting Michigan State University Extension in the best way we can – by delivering sound, unbiased and research-based information in effective presentations and demonstrations.

Extension, AgBioResearch, ANR Technology Services, EnviroWeather, the Product Center and the Rogers Reserve provide booths to further the educational offerings. In addition, our MSU Extension colleagues staff a booth offering educational bulletins for sale in the lobby. Sales are quite successful.

Dave Smith, executive director of the Michigan Vegetable Council and one of the organizers of the event had this to say, “We think the Expo is the premier show in North America for specialty crop growers and farm marketers. More than 4,000 attend, with a third coming from outside Michigan. MSU Extension plans the education program, which this year offered 68 sessions and workshops over three days covering a wide range of production, marketing and general interest topics.”

Extension educator Mark Longstroth believes the Expo is a great way for potential growers to learn about the business.

“I get calls from people who want to start a fruit or vegetable farm. I always recommend they attend the Great Lakes Expo to get a true picture of the industry,” said Mark.

Michigan State University Extension educator Curtis Talley Jr. leads an educational session on disaster planning

Michigan State University Extension educator Curtis Talley Jr. leads an educational session on disaster planning at the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo Dec. 6, 2012, in Grand Rapids, Mich. Photo credit: Beth Stuever

I believe MSU Extension associate director Dr. Steve Lovejoy would agree that it’s a great place for both new and experienced producers.

“The Great Lakes Expo is again a major opportunity for producers to discover new management practices, learn the results of MSU research projects and trials, and communicate with their peers about the 2012 crop,” he said.

Dr. Lovejoy has attended the event this week and gained insights from visiting with growers and industry representatives who serve specialty crop producers.

 “While the frost damage to tree fruit orchards was a topic of conversation, growers are increasingly optimistic about the 2013 crop year. This week of educational opportunities and trade show provide a valuable venue to make decisions about how to move forward. Anticipation of a large crop in 2013 is in the air. Let us hope Mother Nature cooperates,” he said.

MSU Extension educators and specialists design the educational sessions with growers in mind. The sessions feature experts and practitioners from Michigan and across the nation. Sessions cover everything from specific crops to timely topics such as labor, irrigation and food safety. Farm market sessions feature a bus tour of Michigan farm markets and a roundtable discussion. Some areas include sessions on using social media to grow agricultural businesses.

The Expo gives educators and specialists an opportunity to interact with a large number of growers, sharing expertise or just creating an important connection.

Extension educators and specialists put together the sessions and line up the speakers through their strong connections with industry leaders across the country. The Expo benefits from the positive relationship between MSU Extension and the Expo Board.

“The Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo is a unique partnership between MSU and the various specialty crop industries,” said senior Extension educator Amy Irish-Brown. “The Expo registration cost is offset by the trade show. It would be difficult for Extension to pull off something of this caliber without the trade show and the joint effort with the Expo Board.

“All parties involved in the Expo planning benefit – MSU, MSU Extension, the Expo Board, the exhibitors and the producers who attend,” she said.

Nearly 400 exhibitors take part in the trade show involving 4 acres of exhibit space. The variety of exhibits attracts attendees interested in diverse topics.

I’d like to acknowledge all of our colleagues who help to make the event a success but the list would be quite lengthy and it would be too easy to leave someone out. Check out this brochure to get a list of your colleagues and others who participated and to get an idea of the scope of the event: http://glexpo.com/docs/brochure2012.pdf

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New soil test self-mailers are a team effort

In a past Spotlight, I wrote about the efforts of the Consumer Horticulture Team to simplify the process by which consumers can submit samples of their soil for testing to get an accurate assessment of soil quality for their lawns or gardens. The result was a soil test self-mailer.

 Now, thanks to the hard work and creative efforts of the soil test team, the new Michigan State University Extension’s Home Lawn and Garden Soil Test Mailer (E3154) is now available through the MSUE Bookstore. Past kits handled lawns and veggies only. These new kits, strictly for homeowners, include all home and garden uses – lawns and veggies as well as trees, shrubs, annual flowers, perennial flowers or fruit.

 I want to thank the soil test team for their diligence in bringing this product to fruition.

 Back in 2006, Mary Wilson led an effort in MSU Extension Oakland County to increase staff efficiency, decrease turnaround time for soil-test customers and create consistency between counties in the soil-testing process. Of course, the main goal remained to protect water quality while helping people grow healthy plants. At that time, large counties would receive 600 to 800 homeowner soil tests to interpret. Mary submitted a regional Project GREEEN grant proposal to develop a related soil test website. Funded in 2007, website production involved Mary, Jeremy Lounds (the current programmer), Kevin Frank and Ron Calhoun.

 The Oakland County soil testing initiative led by Bindu Bhakta generated hundreds of homeowner soil samples. Consumers turned their samples in at local garden centers.

 Mary recalls, “We would then pick up the samples and deliver them to campus. It was a very inefficient and cumbersome process during a very busy time of year. We kept brainstorming about how to improve efficiency, make the program less cumbersome and be cost effective. During one of our brainstorming sessions with support staff person Linda Smith, we came across the idea of a soil test self-mailer based on one created by Clemson University. Bingo! We thought it would be great solution. And, we could couple the self-mailer with the soil-test interpretation website…”

 The soil test team includes Bindu Bhakta, Bert Cregg, Jon Dahl, Rebecca Finneran, Kevin Frank, Mark Longstroth, Jeremy Lounds, Cheryl Peters and Mary Wilson. Jennie Stanger and Allen Krizek were involved with the project before they retired.

 Bindu Bhakta became project leader in 2009, keeping the project moving and on track. Under her leadership, the project received additional funding from two MSUE PREF (Program Recovery Funds) grants for development and implementation. Both Bindu and the soil-test team members took this on in addition to their regular tasks, developing the soil test self-mailer and completing work on the MSU Soil test website so it could develop custom recommendations for home lawn and garden soil samples.

 How does the soil test kit work? Customers order a kit online from the MSUE Bookstore at http://web2.msue.msu.edu/bulletins2/product/soil-test-kit-selfmailer-1116.cfm. The cost is $25. The kit contains everything a home gardener needs to submit a soil sample for testing to the MSU Soil and Plant Nutrient Laboratory (SPNL). SPNL will analyze the sample and contact the customer through email. The email will contain a direct link to the MSU Soil Test website where the customer can view his or her fertilizer recommendation and any necessary pH modification instructions. Customers without email or Internet access will receive printed copies of their personalized recommendations from the SPNL. Counties may also order soil test mailers to sell through their offices.

 Thank you to all who made this project possible. With creative use of technology, our staff worked together to come up with an efficient solution.

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Extension staff members calm growers’ weather-related fears through expertise and technology

Although we’re all enjoying the warm spring weather, the unseasonable conditions have raised concerns with growers. Eileen Gianiodis, Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications news manager, has received several calls from the media with questions about how this spring’s wacky weather may affect various crops. True to form, Michigan State University Extension educators and specialists have risen to the challenge. They’ve written numerous stories for MSU Extension News dealing with the weather craziness, and reporters have picked up those and called educators directly.

 Though we have not been able to track exactly how much publicity the issue has generated (at least a dozen media hits, but that’s way underestimated), I have been impressed with how ready, willing and able educators are to talk to reporters to help their readers, listeners and viewers understand the implications of an early spring followed by a frost. 

 This MLive Kalamazoo News article links to an MSU Extension News report by Jeff Andresen, associate professor, and Aaron Pollyea, research technologist, both in the Department of Geography. The report discusses the abnormally warm weather and the chances of a hard frost. The Kalamazoo News article also gives specific fruit information from Extension educator Mark Longstroth. Many of our staff members including Mark, Amy Irish Brown, Diane Brown, Duke Elsner, Erin Lizotte, Nikki Rothwell, Carlos Garcia-Salazar, Phil Schwallier, Bill Shane and Bob Tritten have written MSU Extension News regional reports on Michigan fruit.

 Reporters have interviewed staff members about the weather issue. View the following WZZM video in which Rebecca Finneran, MSU Extension horticulture educator, gives expert advice on how to cover plants to protect the early buds from overnight frost:

http://www.wzzm13.com/video/default.aspx?bctid=1531266435001&odyssey=mod|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|featured

 MSU Extension News has proven to be a winner in expanding the reach of our expertise, and our educators and specialists are willing and more than capable of meeting the challenge of sharing their knowledge about an important issue, whether it’s through written articles, bulletins, interviews, workshops or one-on-one meetings with the public. Thanks to all who have helped to make us a valuable resource to farmers, gardeners and consumers in these uncertain times!

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History worth saving

With all the moves and changes in recent months, several county staff members have played an active part in saving Michigan State University Extension content information, and in doing so, filling in the blanks of our history from its beginning to the present. It’s important to chronicle and honor the traditions of our organization. With every period of change, there’s often wisdom to be found in the experiences of our predecessors. Whether we find those kernels of wisdom or not, we have a responsibility to preserve what records exist so that others can benefit from past experiences. Here are three examples of folks working hard to determine what to save and how to save it.

 In August, MSU Extension Allegan County downsized their office space. Betty Blase, District 7 coordinator, and Lynn Vecziedins, administrative assistant, contacted Cindy Straus, electronic information manager, to find out what they should do with the vast amount of information they faced with the downsize. A trip to their office revealed a well-organized and extensive array of bulletins, notebooks, programming materials and historical newspaper articles. These materials document how MSU Extension started in early 1917 when Allegan County’s first agricultural agent was hired. Included in their materials is a report from a summer intern who worked on food safety for support of the war work – that’s World War I. The materials included an extensive run of annual reports, many from the ’20s to the ’40s with photos of events. Allegan County staff members sorted the vast collection of files. Some files were sent to MSU Archives, and some will be scanned to be added to the MSU Extension historical bulletin collection.

 Soon after, MSU Extension Clare County also contacted Cindy about the same kind of downsizing, but they were facing loss of staff as well as space. Materials needed to be sorted so that what was kept provided support for the remaining staff. Michelle Neff, Extension educator, helped to sort and evaluate the materials, which included documents related to the tuberculosis work done in the early ’20s and ’30s and forestry work and research being done in conjunction with the district specialists in the ’50s and ’60s. It also included information on the PBB disaster in the ’70s in which cattle feed was contaminated with a fire retardant.

 Finally, Extension educator Mark Longstroth contacted Cindy with an extensive listing of historical fruit materials that supported research work started in southwestern Michigan. These files are now being sorted and scanned with many going to the MSU Archives, and some to the MSU Main Library collection, the MSUE historical bulletin collection or the Knowledge Repository.

 Bulletins uncovered in the three historical records projects include research reports written on the development of brome grass (1940s), energy management for dairy farms (1950s), small business development (1930s–60s), community zoning and management (1930s–80s), youth patterns for moving out of a county (1950s) and the list goes on.

 It is never too late to pass on files of newsletter series, program curriculum (written for and by MSU staff), audio, video, slide sets (all with complete materials), photos (dated and documented), and program support materials of any kind written by and for MSU staff and clientele. To see a list of MSUE bulletins that are already on file, go to http://web2.msue.msu.edu/Bulletins/Bulletin/PDF/Historical/finished_pubs/index.html.

 For more information on what you should be saving or sending to campus, contact Cindy Straus at strausc@msu.edu.

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