Tag Archives: michelle walk

MSU Extension hosts FoodCorps service members, supports farm-to-school program

Childhood hunger and childhood obesity may seem to be opposite problems, but both may be caused by a lack of healthy food. Schools may be just the place to help prevent both problems.

FoodCorps is a nationwide team of AmeriCorps leaders who collaborate with communities to make schools a healthier place for kids to eat, learn and grow. FoodCorps aims to let all children know what healthy food is, where it comes from and how it keeps them healthy. In the process of helping children, FoodCorps service members gain experience for future careers in the food and health services.

In this new program year, FoodCorps has 205 service members placed with over 500 schools in 17 states and Washington, D.C. Michigan is one of those states.

Michigan State University Extension in Grand Traverse County is a local FoodCorps Michigan service site. Our organization hosts FoodCorps service member Mikaela Taylor who along with Stephanie Cumper, hosted by the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities (formerly the Michigan Land Use Institute), is busy building partnerships with food service workers, farmers, school administrators, teachers, parents and community members. They are using a team approach to support farm-to-school programming in Grand Traverse and Benzie counties.

MSU Extension Health and Nutrition Institute educator Sarah Eichberger serves as the site supervisor for Mikaela at the Traverse City FoodCorps service site. FoodCorps service members have been in Traverse City since the founding of the program five years ago. This is the first year that Groundworks and MSU Extension Grand Traverse County are working jointly to host and provide leadership to service members.

The two service members and their service sites took part in the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance, partnering with the Father Fred Foundation to organize a garden restoration project that will provide the Father Fred food pantry in Traverse City with fresh local produce.

In addition, MSU Extension hosts a FoodCorps service site in Chippewa County. MSU Extension Greening Michigan Institute educator Michelle Walk supervises FoodCorps service member Jeannette Cushway.

Terry McLean, MSU Extension Greening Michigan Institute educator has served as the host site supervisor for the FoodCorps Michigan program on behalf of the Community Food Systems work team since 2013.

Terry says that the FoodCorps National Service Program touches all of the core work areas of MSU Extension through teaching school-aged children about healthy food, encouraging healthy eating habits, assisting in development of school gardens and sourcing healthy food for school cafeterias.

In addition, FoodCorps service members get back what they give.

“As service members perform a year of paid public service alongside educators and community leaders in high-need schools across Michigan communities, leadership skills emerge, preparing them for a range of future careers in education, food and health services,” Terry said.

Read this MSU Extension News article by Sarah Eichberger, which tells more about the work of FoodCorps and the two service members working in Grand Traverse and Benzie counties: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/northwest_michigan_welcomes_two_new_foodcorps_service_members

Also read this MSU Extension News article by Terry McLean, which gives a great overview of FoodCorps as well as FoodCorps Michigan: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/foodcorps_michigan_cultivating_healthy_kids_through_healthy_school_diets

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Promoting a vibrant local agriculture community

With the intention of promoting and building a vibrant local agriculture community, the 2015 Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference hosted more than 1,000 attendees this past weekend in Traverse City. Two former Michigan State University Extension staff members, Jack Middleton and Dave Glenn, started this event approximately 18 years ago as a grazing conference in Otsego County. Both have since retired, but the conference continued to grow throughout the years. It now fills the largest venue in northern Michigan, the Grand Traverse Resort. The conference now has its own independent planning committee, but many MSU Extension staff members serve, including Stan Moore, Rob Sirrine, Barb Smutek and Wendy Wieland, as well as Susan Cocciarelli from the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems .

Associate director of operations Patrick Cudney and Greening Michigan Institute director Dave Ivan both attended the event, and both were proud of how far the program has come.

“The northern Michigan Small Farm Conference is a wonderful example of Extension work at its finest,” said Patrick. “MSU Extension was there at the beginning to meet the needs of the small farm grazing community by working with producers to identify their needs, bringing research-based education to the community and planning and hosting the event. Over time, the conference has evolved to the point where Extension no longer is needed to be the sole event planner; rather we are at the table, with many partners to plan the event.”

Additionally, many Michigan State University (Extension and otherwise) staff members taught sessions this year, including Julie Avery (MSUE), Jude Barry (MSU CRFS), Noel Bielaczyc (MSU CRFS), George Bird (MSU), Vicki Morrone (MSU CRFS), Rich Pirog (MSU CRFS), Jason Rowntree (MSU), Rob Sirrine (MSUE), Collin Thompson, (MSU Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center) and Michelle Walk (MSUE). In this way, our university was able to add value by offering our research-based educational content to meet growers’ needs even while we no longer host the event.

Patrick went on to say, “In essence, we built capacity and leadership, we support and partner, and we expand our mission of improving the lives of others by applying research-based knowledge to critical issues, needs and opportunities. Being there Saturday, I reflected upon where this conference has been, where it is today, and where it will go in the future and I was again reminded of the importance of our work and very proud to be part of this organization.”

Congratulations and thank you to all of our team, past and present, for your part in making the conference the success it is.

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UP food summits put spotlight on local food movement

The local food movement is a force moving across the country. Here in our own state, Michigan State University Extension has been a big part of that movement.

Three local food summits recently took place in each region of the Upper Peninsula. “Together at the Table: Recipes for a Sustainable Local Food System” took place Nov. 5 in Houghton (western), Nov. 6 in Marquette (central) and Nov. 7 in Sault Ste. Marie (eastern). This was the third summit for the eastern U.P. and the first in central and western U.P.

The U.P. Food Exchange put on the summits. The exchange, a collaborative partnership between MSU Extension and the Marquette Food Co-op, connects local food activity within each of the U.P.’s three regions and coordinates local food efforts between the regions. It was created in November 2012 with funds from a Regional Food Systems Grant from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).

MSU Extension educator Michelle Walk co-leads the U.P. Food Exchange initiative with Natasha Lantz of the Marquette Food Co-op.

Each of the three U.P. regions has its own steering committee to coordinate activities specific to each region, and each committee had input into the overall format of the summits. Committee members identified local speakers for the panel portions and local topics for the table discussions.

Keynote speaker at all three summits was Ken Meter, president of Crossroads Resource Center in Minneapolis and food system analyst.

“The summits are a culmination of some of the work we are doing across the U.P. in local foods,” said Michelle. “We were able to work with Ken Meter on the economic impact study under the Regional Food Systems Grant we received from MDARD last fall.”

The summits included 75 participants in Houghton, 135 in Marquette and 71 in Sault Ste. Marie.

“All three summits had participation from farmers, schools, health departments, chambers, restaurants, agencies (such as conservation districts and the USDA), elected officials of local, state and federal offices, interested consumers, retail outlets, tribes and many more stakeholders,” said Michelle, who presented at the summits.

The summits promoted ways to expand the local food market – through selling at farmers markets, expanding the customer base to include local institutions such as schools and hospitals, and extending the growing season with hoop houses. Strengthening the local food system strengthens the local economy.

The media took notice of the summits’ importance. Local news covered all three events.

Watch this video from ABC10 about the Houghton summit: http://abc10U.P..com/u-p-food-exchange-meetings-week/

 Watch this video from Fox TV6 about the Marquette summit:

http://www.uppermichiganssource.com/news/story.aspx?id=968231#.UpyGU7Uo7KI (Search for “food summit.” Then choose “Supporting Local Foods.”)

Watch this video from 9&10 News about the Sault Ste. Marie summit: http://www.9and10news.com/video?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=9503989

Below is just one of the many local news articles that covered the events:

Sault Ste. Marie location in the Soo Evening News: http://www.sooeveningnews.com/article/20131108/NEWS/131109418/0/SEARCH

Thanks for your leadership, Michelle!

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PlacePlans initiative leads to passage of Allegan riverfront proposal

More than 70 percent of Allegan voters approved a proposal Nov. 5 to take $500,000 from the city’s sinking fund to support a riverfront plan.

The plan is a collaborative effort of the Michigan State University School of Planning, Design and Construction (SPDC), MSU Extension and the Michigan Municipal League (MML). The concept is built around Gov. Snyder’s MI Place initiative that focuses on placemaking – creating vibrant, walkable places where people want to live and work. The three parties worked together through PlacePlans, a MI Place partnership that helps communities design and plan for transformative placemaking projects with the support of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). MSU received a grant from MSHDA to develop design proposals around placemaking.

Warren Rauhe, SPDC associate professor, said, “The passing of the proposal is an outstanding first step. This is seed money. Other grants and funds could double or triple that amount.”

“One of the main tenets of PlacePlans was to build local consensus resulting in a shared local vision and tangible outcomes,” said Wayne Beyea, outreach specialist in the SPDC. “The community got together and there was real action that happened right on the heels of the proposal’s unveiling.”

The Allegan riverfront plan involved three components: 1) the plan and the illustrations 2) the audit of the assets that the community already had to support the plan and 3) the actual process itself involving hundreds of people including a design charrette. A charrette is an intensive multi-day, collaborative design workshop resulting in shared guiding principles for physical improvements.

The primary role of the SPDC, led by Wayne and Warren, was to develop planning and design recommendations and offer technical assistance.

Luke Forrest and Heather Van Poucker of the MML coordinated and audited the community’s assets.

MSU Extension field staff played a key role in guiding the charrettes following the National Charrette Institute’s Charrette System. They interacted with key stakeholders and assisted with facilitation of interviews. MSU Extension educators involved are part of the government and public policy work group in the Greening Michigan Institute. They include Brad Neumann, Julie Pioch, Dean Solomon, Michelle Walk and Richard Wooten.

“The collaborative approach using Extension expertise around design charrettes is what makes this project unique,” said Wayne. “Warren and I worked in concert with students, faculty, MSU Extension educators, MML and state agency partners, using funding from MSHDA. The effort went so well that the same three partners are under contract to do this again.”

Allegan is one of four cities that were part of MI Place placemaking projects and collaborative efforts by MSU SPDC, MSU Extension and the MML. The others include Alpena, Sault Ste. Marie and Dearborn.

“The projects involved more than 1,400 local participants among the four communities – extensive public involvement,” said Warren.

“PlacePlans strives to reach the goal of attracting vibrant talent to the state,” he said.

The work of the SPDC, Extension and the MML should help that goal become a reality.

Read the Downtown Allegan Riverfront Development Project PlacePlan Concept Report:


Read an article and watch a video about the proposal on this WZZM 13 webpage: http://www.wzzm13.com/news/article/272417/2/Riverfront-proposal-on-Allegan-city-ballot

Read more here in this MLive article: http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2013/11/allegan_city_voters_xxxx_50000.html#incart_river_default

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GMI educator receives NACDEP service award

Michelle Walk, Michigan State University Extension Greening Michigan Institute educator, received the National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals (NACDEP) State Distinguished Extension Community Development Service Award at the NACDEP Conference in Park City, Utah, May 21.

 In her role, Michelle focuses primarily on business development related to tourism and community food systems. She also serves as an innovation counselor with the MSU Product Center Food–Ag–Bio and as an affiliate with the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems.

 Michelle works with organizations and communities across the Upper Peninsula and regularly partners with educators in other program areas, particularly agriculture and health and nutrition. Michelle has developed strong partnerships with key stakeholders in the region as well as with statewide associations and state agencies.

 Michelle provides leadership and coordination for the Eastern Upper Peninsula Food Hub project, which develops and implements strategies to support the viability and sustainability of eastern U.P. agriculture and food production. Through the project, she has partnered with the Marquette Food Co-op to conduct an Upper Peninsula Agriculture Assessment and develop plans for improving access to processing, aggregation and distribution across the U.P.

 In 2007, Michelle provided leadership to the development of the plan for the North Huron Scenic Pathway, a non-motorized pathway that will be nearly 80 miles in length once complete.

 Michelle served as part of a team that in 2009 published an economic opportunity study for the U.P. and Wisconsin border counties. She continues to be active on the tourism strategy group and assists in the planning of a U.P. Tourism Summit. She’s also part of a team of MSU faculty and Extension staff that will work with the Michigan Travel Commission to update their strategic plan.

 Michelle serves on numerous boards and commissions. She has received many awards including in 2011, the Community and Natural Resource Development Association’s (CNRDA’s) Raymond D. Vlasin Award that pays the highest tribute to Extension professionals who have consistently exhibited continuing leadership and excellence in Extension program planning, delivery and evaluation.

 Congratulations, Michelle!

Michelle Walk, MSU Extension educator, receives NACDEP State Distinguished Extension Community Development Service Award

Michelle Walk, MSU Extension educator, receives National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals (NACDEP) State Distinguished Extension Community Development Service Award at the NACDEP Conference in Park City, Utah, May 21, 2012.

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