Tag Archives: msu center for regional food systems

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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When the president comes for a visit …

On February 7, Michigan State University was part of a historic moment when President Barack Obama visited the MSU campus to sign the Farm Bill. Many of our colleagues were at work behind the scenes, helping the event run smoothly. Others got to be part of the action front and center. And still others have been lending their expertise to the bill’s foundation.

Thanks to Doug Buhler, director of MSU AgBioResearch and senior associate dean for research for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, who was part of the advance team from MSU. The event cost Doug a week, with the myriad security, program and planning meetings beginning on Friday, January 31. But because this was the Farm Bill, CANR was front and center, and Doug did a great job of making sure President Obama learned about the role we all play in turning federal policy into improvements in agricultural production, environmental management, food safety, bioenergy innovation, and community and youth development. Thanks to Doug for all he did to represent us so well.

A big shout-out to Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Communications and in particular Beth Stuever. In a Michigan Farmer story on Jennifer Vincent Kiel, the magazine’s editor, Jennifer acknowledges the vast contacts and deep understanding of the communications manager. Jennifer said she enjoys working with “the many, many great people at MSU Extension. Beth Stuever is priceless there. I’m always calling on her for help, and she’s always there.” Read the story here: http://magissues.farmprogress.com/mif/MF02Feb14/mif013.pdf

Then there’s Greening Michigan Institute Extension educator Julia Darnton. U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee invited Julia to be his guest at the signing of the Farm Bill. Julia was asked to come because she helped the congressman promote his bill “Local Food for Healthy Families,” which is designed to expand SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) incentive programs such as Double Up Food Bucks. Mark Tower of the Saginaw News featured Julia in an MLive article: http://www.mlive.com/news/saginaw/index.ssf/2014/02/obama_in_east_lansing_saginaw.html

We’ve had other media mentions related to our work. Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero mentioned the contributions of Extension and the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems to the support of Lansing area food hubs and markets in a Lansing State Journal editorial:

http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014302060049&nclick_check=1

MSU student Domonique Clemons experienced what may be the highlight of his life. Invited to attend the Farm Bill signing, the former 4-H’er from Flint got to shake President Obama’s hand. Domonique is a public policy major who helps organize the 4-H Capitol Experience event coming up in March.

But how did we finally get to this moment in the first place? It happened because of people like Dave Schweikhardt, professor of agricultural, food and resource economics, who studies farm policy, providing Extension programming on that policy. Dr. Schweikhardt is one of a number of MSU faculty who were tapped as experts by Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s staffers as they worked through the policy changes in the bill.

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Extension staff member receives agriculture award

Michigan State University Extension program instructor and MSU Product Center Food-Ag-Bio innovation counselor Wendy Wieland received the Food and Farming Network Chapman Award for leadership in building a robust community food system in northwestern Michigan. She received the award Jan. 31 at the sixth annual Food and Farming Summit in Traverse City.

The Chapman Award is named after John Chapman better known as Johnny Appleseed. The inscription on the award reads “The 2014 Chapman award ‒ Given each year to the person that shows unerring dedication, enduring fortitude, and embodies the exceptional pioneering spirit that is remaking American agriculture right here in Northwest Michigan.”

“Wendy fits that bill precisely,” said Bill Palladino, senior policy specialist at the Michigan Land Use Institute, who organized the summit along with Extension educator Rob Sirrine, chair of the Food and Farming Network that sponsors the award.

Wendy served as co-chair of this year’s Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference, which coincided with the Food and Farming Summit. The conference had a record attendance of more than 1,000 individuals. It originated as an MSU Extension‒led grazing conference and has grown in both scope and size ever since. Now, a collective of MSU Extension staff and community partners conducts the conference. It receives sponsorship support from Extension, the MSU Product Center, the C.S. Mott Chair of Sustainable Agriculture at MSU, the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems and a whole host of other regional and statewide sponsors.

 Congratulations, Wendy!

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Extension educators and specialists receive awards at 2012 NACAA conference

Many Michigan State University Extension educators and specialists received awards at the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) Annual Meeting and Professional Improvement Conference July 15–19 in Charleston, S.C.

Extension educators in the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute Kevin Gould and Phil Kaatz earned the NACAA Distinguished Service Award that encourages and recognizes excellence in the field of professional Extension for members with more than ten years of service.

Kevin Gould has served 19 years with Extension, starting in 1993 as an agricultural educator in the Thumb. The following year, he accepted a regional livestock position in western Michigan. Kevin is a leader in the industry, serving on the state cattlemen’s board and state bull evaluation. He is current president of the Michigan Association of Extension Agents (MAEA) and co-chair of the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) Livestock Systems Subcommittee.

Serving 12 years with Extension, Phil Kaatz’s programming focus includes the Michigan Thumb Ag Research and Education (TARE) Program and statewide forage responsibilities for alfalfa and corn silage production. He’s recently been involved in TARE field trials and the Michigan Forage and Grazing Conference. The TARE trials are a unique partnership between field crop producers, agribusinesses and commodity groups.

 Rob Sirrine and Phillip Tocco each received the NACAA Achievement Award in recognition of excellence in Extension service and educational programs given to educators with less than ten years of service.

Dr. J. Robert Sirrine, Extension educator in the Greening Michigan Institute, provides leadership for community food system efforts in northwest lower Michigan, holds statewide leadership responsibilities for hops production and provides expertise in other areas, including  entrepreneurial and value-added agriculture and organic production. He serves as the chair of the Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network and is affiliated with the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems.

Phillip Tocco, Extension educator in the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute, serves as secretary of the MAEA and president of his local agricultural council. He has served as a member of the MSU Product Center’s Ag Innovation Counselor network. He has been involved in creating a number of community-based initiatives, including coordinating community gardens at homeless shelters and creating gardening classes to develop capacity among people living in low-income situations to meet their fresh food needs.

Extension educator Erin Lizotte, district horticulturist and Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station coordinator Nikki Rothwell, Extension specialist Cheryl Peters and Rob Sirrine were national finalists for the “Search for Excellence in Young, Beginner or Small Farmers/Ranchers” for the Northwest Michigan New FARM (Farmer Assistance and Resource Management) Program, which assists beginning farmers.

Many of our colleagues won communications awards.

Rob Sirrine was a national winner for the website hops.msu.edu on small scale hops production in the Great Lakes Region. The site was built with collaboration from Mallory Fournier, Joy Landis and Annette Kleinschmit. It offers information on every aspect of hops production a potential grower would need to make a decision to enter into this new market.

Senior Extension dairy and beef educator Phillip Durst was a regional winner for a computer-generated graphics presentation “Breakfast on the Farm at Circle K Farms.” Phil put the presentation together with quotes from Breakfast on the Farm attendees and photos taken by Mindy Stokoszynkski.

Rob Sirrine was a regional winner for a feature story “The Good Earth: Carbon and Agriculture.” The article is an introduction to soils and carbon in agricultural production. It appeared in “Edible Grande Traverse,” a community food system/agriculture magazine for northwest lower Michigan.

Phil Tocco was a regional winner for a video presentation “Chlorine as a Sanitizer.” The video is part of his series “Agrifood Safety Minute.”

Martin L. Nagelkirk, senior Extension educator in the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute, was a state winner for a fact sheet “Winter Wheat.” The document serves as a reference to understanding industry trends and to identifying lessons learned or particular challenges.

Phil Kaatz was a state winner for a publication “TARE: Thumb Ag Research & Education 2011 Field Trials.” Other authors included Robert Battel, Martin Nagelkirk and Dennis Stein. An advisory board consisting of producers, agribusiness and Extension personnel provide oversight for the project. The Extension educators and other technicians were responsible for all phases of producing the crops included in the trials.

Congratulations to everyone!

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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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