Tag Archives: nancy thelen

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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Breakfast on the Farm at the Crandall Dairy serves up food, fun and learning

 Two young attendees learn about dairy farming at the Calhoun County Breakfast on the Farm, July 19, 2014, at the Crandall Dairy Farm

Two young attendees learn about dairy farming at the Calhoun County Breakfast on the Farm, July 19, 2014, at the Crandall Dairy Farm in Battle Creek, Mich. Photo by Jamie Wilson, MSU ANR Communications.

The Calhoun County Breakfast on the Farm (BOTF) took place Saturday, July 19, at Crandall Dairy Farm in Battle Creek, Michigan. Attendees enjoyed a pancake and sausage breakfast as well as a tour of this Centennial Farm owned by Brad and Mark Crandall and their families.

Richard and Dawn Myers (in yellow shirts) answer attendees’ questions at the Calhoun County Breakfast on the Farm (BOTF), July 19, 2014

Richard and Dawn Myers (in yellow shirts) answer attendees’ questions at the Calhoun County Breakfast on the Farm (BOTF), July 19, 2014, at the Crandall Dairy Farm in Battle Creek, Mich. The Myers are dairy farmers who hosted their own BOTF in 2012 and volunteered their time at this event. Photo by Jamie Wilson, MSU ANR Communications.

BOTF events are a great way for people to learn about modern agriculture on a Michigan farm. Past surveys have shown that about 45 percent of those who attend have not been on a farm in the past 20 years. Visitors to the Crandall Dairy talked to local farmer volunteers, saw baby calves and learned from educational exhibits.

Extension educator Nancy Thelen shared that more than 3,300 people attended assisted by 280 volunteers on a picture-perfect day. She said that the Crandall family mentioned that many attendees thanked them for opening up the farm. Some told them it was one of the most educational mornings they ever had.

Check out these videos from WOTV4Women.com.The following features Nancy as well as Ashley Kuschel, coordinator of Breakfast on the Farm, and Crandall family members:


The following takes you right inside the Crandall Dairy farm: http://wotv4women.com/2014/07/14/how-a-dairy-farm-works/

If you missed this BOTF event, there are two more scheduled:

  • August 16: Mecosta County BOTF hosted by De Grins Oer Dairy Farm in Blanchard
  • September 6: Washtenaw County BOTF hosted by Uphaus Farms in Manchester

For more information on Breakfast on the Farm, visit http://www.breakfastonthefarm.com/.



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Video highlights St. Clair County Breakfast on the Farm

In last week’s Spotlight, I mentioned the success of the St. Clair County Breakfast on the Farm (BOTF) at the Reid Dairy Farm in Jeddo, Mich. June 15. Michigan State University Extension St. Clair County put out a video that gives a clear picture of just how many people it takes to put on the event.

Ashley Kuschel, MSU Extension Breakfast on the Farm coordinator, said, “Around 300 people volunteered, making the event a huge success!”

Ashley works with Nancy Thelen, MSU Extension agriculture literacy educator, to put on all of the BOTF events.

BOTF is not just about eating a delicious breakfast. The event gives consumers an opportunity to learn about agriculture. They learn how farmers use technology to produce the food they enjoy. They can see firsthand how producers take good care of the animals to produce a healthy product for the consumer.

View the video below.  You may recognize many familiar faces.

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Extension will wow participants at Ag Expo with new information and experiences in CANR Tent

Michigan State University Extension looks forward to having a big presence at the 33rd Ag Expo this year. The event runs July 17–19 at the corner of Mt. Hope and Farm Lane on the MSU campus.

Faculty, educators and specialists will be on site, offering educational sessions and demonstrations. The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Tent will brim with educational exhibits and demonstrations from the Master Gardener Volunteer Program, Firewise, the Farm Information Resources Management Team, AgrAbility, 4-H Youth Development, the Health and Nutrition Institute and others.

Master Gardener staff members and volunteers will present gardening sessions: Gretchen Voyle on tomato diseases, Hal Hudson on drip irrigation and Jarred Morris on cucurbit downy mildew.

Breakfast on the Farm, led by Extension educators Mary Dunckel and Nancy Thelen, will present a large walk-through experience showcasing what Extension is doing to educate consumers about modern food production.

Joyce McGarry, Extension educator, will present food preservation tips.

James Whaley, a Bryon 4-H’er and entrepreneur, will educate visitors about raising poultry.

And to answer any other visitors’ questions, Extension experts will staff the “Ask an Expert” booth.

Don’t leave the Expo without your free MSU Dairy Store ice cream. Donations for the ice cream go to the CANR Alumni Scholarship Fund.

Ag Expo, Michigan’s largest outdoor farm show, gives us another opportunity to reach out to Michigan residents.

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Breakfast on the Farm sets attendance record, helps the public understand how their food is produced

In a recent Spotlight article, I let you know that Breakfast on the Farm (BOTF) is entering its fourth season this year. BOTF is a popular event that attracts Michigan residents who want to learn more about how a farm operates, have a delicious down-on-the-farm breakfast and just enjoy a Saturday with family or friends.

The first BOTF took place in Clinton County in 2009. This Michigan State University Extension program guided by a statewide advisory council has held 13 events from 2009 through 2011. This year, eight events will take place in eight counties.

The first 2012 BOTF occurred June 16 at Myers Farms LLC near Scotts in Kalamazoo County, the first time the event took place in southwestern Michigan. Despite the more than 90-degree heat, 2,430 visitors from 71 cities and 8 states got a firsthand look at how farmers care for the environment and their animals, and how they produce a safe, wholesome food supply. Nearly 50 percent of those who completed surveys stated this was the first time they had visited a working dairy farm in at least the past 20 years. Many were impressed with the cleanliness of the operation.

Jackson County’s first Breakfast on the Farm took place June 23 at Choate’s Belly Acres near Cement City. This BOTF set a new attendance record of 2,658 attendees. Long lines did not dampen the interest of the visitors who came to enjoy the pancakes, sausage, eggs, applesauce and yogurt breakfast, and to learn from the more than 200 volunteers about modern agriculture. This family farm uses technology in their dairy and cropping system. The majority of those completing surveys said the event increased their knowledge and changed their perceptions about modern food production, including how farmers care for the environment, how they treat their animals and how they provide comfortable housing for them. They also reported that their participation increased the likelihood that they will purchase Michigan products and increased their trust in milk as a safe food.

MSU Extension agriculture literacy educators Nancy Thelen and Mary Dunckel would like to thank all of the Extension educators, specialists and district coordinators who’ve assisted or will assist in BOTF and the generous statewide and local sponsors and many local volunteers who make the events possible. They say local planning committees are the key to implementing each breakfast.

Enjoy a visit to the Goma Dairy in Sanilac County on July 21 or check the schedule for a BOTF near you.

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Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute showcases program highlights in webinar

One of the core principles of our Michigan State University Extension redesign process has been the need to embrace technology as a tool in extending the reach of our programs and expanding the information we make available. Not surprisingly, other organizations we work with are trying to learn how to use technology as well and some have asked to learn from our experience. A good example is the Michigan Association of Counties (MAC), which has asked for advice as they seek to use webinars and Web conferences to connect county commissioners across the state. One of the best ways to learn the use of technology is to use it, and this week some of our colleagues in the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute provided a webinar on programs in the institute for the Agriculture and Tourism Subcommittee of MAC (chaired by retired Kalamazoo County Extension director Ann Nieuwenhuis).

 The webinar achieved much more than helping MAC members to learn how to participate in a webinar. It also provided a great overview of current projects and priorities within the institute. Wendy Powers, AABI director, served as the facilitator, and then Beth Stuever, Bruce MacKellar, Beth Franz, Jerry May, Marilyn Thelen, Brenda Reau, Nancy Thelen, Phil Tocco and Rebecca Finneran provided details on programs and resources in the institute. It’s a great overview of what our colleagues in AABI have accomplished and what they are working on. To view a recording of the two-hour presentation, go to http://breeze.msu.edu/p3c604jf1e9/. Beth Bishop prepared a separate recording on the Enviroweather program as an additional resource and it is available at http://breeze.msu.edu/p55e0jzhue2/. Thanks to all for putting together such a great illustration of what’s new at MSUE in agriculture.

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Breakfast pizza on the farm

I had a chance to attend the second Breakfast on the Farm event of the summer last weekend at the Horning family dairy farm in Washtenaw County. The first event was held the previous weekend near Pewamo, and a third will be held on July 24 near Shepherd in Isabella County. Dean Ross, dairy Extension educator, and Nancy Thelen, Washtenaw County Extension director, provided key leadership for last Saturday’s event, and it was a remarkable success. More than 2,300 people attended the event, at which they had a free breakfast and could explore the workings of a modern dairy operation with helpful instructional signage and a number of Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) educators and specialists distributed around the farm to help people understand better where the milk and dairy products they buy from grocery shelves originate. It was great to see so many MSUE educators and volunteers helping to staff the event and to hear the discussion among adults and children as they realized how complex a dairy operation really is.

 The breakfast menu was a bit different at the Horning farm. At the previous Breakfast on the Farm events, the fare has included eggs, pancakes (with Michigan blueberries), sausage, Michigan apples and Michigan juices. Only the coffee comes from outside of Michigan. At last week’s event, we were served breakfast pizza. Apparently, a prominent Washtenaw County company (Domino’s Pizza) is exploring this as a new product and we had a chance to sample it. Just so you know, this was pretty nutritious pizza: wheat-based dough with egg and ham topping and of course a blend of cheeses on top. I understand there was some public consternation about whether breakfast pizza was sending a bad signal about nutrition to the adults and youngsters attending. I thought it was pretty balanced and packed quite a nutrient punch. The Michigan Empire apples and grape juices rounded it out well. By the way, the pizza provided an effective way of carrying the message that the largest buyer of dairy products in the country is the pizza business, given its size and the importance of cheese to any kind of pizza.

 Thanks go to Dean, Nancy and the many MSUE staff and volunteers who made this a success. We especially thank the Horning family for opening their farm to the public and being such gracious hosts to those who participated.

 For photos and more information, visit http://breakfastonthefarm.com/.

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