MSU Extension delegation at the Public Issues Leadership Development (PILD Conference, along with a few retirees – left to right: Phil Durst, Tom Coon, Seaman Knapp (Iowa, Texas, and USDA), Lynnae Jess, Rep. Asbury Lever (South Carolina), Bindu Bhakta, Sen. Hoke Smith (Georgia), Deanna East, Bev Przystas, and Sharon Jeffery. The conference took place April 6-9 in Alexandria, Va. near Washington, D.C.
I had the good fortune of spending some time with colleagues from Michigan State University Extension at the Public Issues Leadership Development (PILD) Conference in the Washington, D.C. area this week. The conference offers workshops and features speakers on the federal side of the partnership that makes up Cooperative Extension. It also provides opportunities to meet with leaders in the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) who support and work with Cooperative Extension programs across the country. The capstone to the conference was visiting Congressional offices to meet with elected members of Congress and their staff members to help them learn about what we do in MSU Extension to help people improve their lives.
This year’s conference had a good dose of history in recognition of the centennial of the Smith-Lever Act, which established the federal partnership with land-grant universities and county government to form our uniquely American institution. We even had life-size cut-out figures representing Seaman Knapp, Congressman Asbury Lever and Senator Hoke Smith. Knapp pioneered the concept of farm demonstration agents, which gave rise to Extension agents, and Lever and Smith were the co-sponsors of the Congressional Act, which carries their names. Lever was from South Carolina and Smith was from Georgia. The seven Spartans at the conference couldn’t pass up a photo opportunity with Knapp, Smith and Lever.
I was joined by Bindu Bhakta, Phil Durst, Deanna East, Sharon Jeffery, Lynnae Jess and Bev Przystas, each representing his or her professional Extension association.
Bonnie Powell, secretary in Michigan State University Extension Tuscola County Health and Nutrition Institute, received a note and certificate of appreciation from Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Bonnie works on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ‒ Education (SNAP-Ed) and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) data entry.
The certificate of appreciation is for taking initiative to improve the functionality of WebNEERS and the accuracy of reports. WebNEERS is the Web-based Nutrition Education Evaluation and Reporting System for NIFA. Bonnie’s contributions greatly improved the WebNEERS system for users across the country.
Stephanie Blake, WebNEERS project coordinator at the USDA, spoke to Kathy Raphael, MSU Extension associate program leader, at the National EFNEP Coordinators Conference in Washington, D.C. at the end of February about how invaluable Bonnie’s contributions were and Kathy asked that I repeat the compliment. In a separate note, Stephanie writes that she can’t thank Bonnie enough for all of her help. She has truly made a huge difference with WebNEERS. Way to go, Bonnie!
On Feb. 27, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan held a press conference at South Dakota State University to announce federal grant funding for the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s (AFRI) Food Security project. Teams at 21 universities received more than $75 million in grants for research, education and extension activities to ensure food security in the U.S. and worldwide.
May 29 to 31, Michigan State University Extension educator Becky Henne will take the lead in hosting the six-state team of partners that includes MSU Extension. Extension partners from Purdue, the Ohio State University, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the University of Missouri and South Dakota State will meet in Michigan with MSU Extension colleagues to get started on research focusing on food security particularly regarding food policy councils.
Becky has played a large role in this collaborative, helping to assemble the initial grant and coordinating meetings.
I had the privilege of attending the Annual Meeting and Professional Improvement Conference (AM/PIC) of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) in Overland Park, Kan., this week. It was a great conference for all attendees but particularly rewarding for me to see the tremendous involvement of our Michigan State University Extension colleagues in the association and conference. The Michigan Association of Extension Agents (MAEA) is the Michigan affiliate of NACAA. I’d like to share a few big impressions I came home with:
- Our colleagues are leaders! Our own Stan Moore, Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute (AABI) Extension educator, has served as president of the national association for the past year, presided over the entire conference with great class and demonstrated a great example of servant leadership throughout the conference. In addition, Charles Gould and Dennis Pennington provided leadership for an astounding amount of professional development opportunities on bioenergy research and Extension programming (two field tours, four luncheon seminars, ten other seminars and the unveiling of a new curriculum on bioenergy). They worked with colleagues from other states in the North Central region and received a grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to support their efforts.
- Our colleagues excel in their work! MSUE professionals came away with awards for distinguished service, leadership and presentations, which I will describe in greater detail in next week’s MSUE Spotlight.
- Our colleagues are serious! Everywhere I went, I encountered our colleagues engaged in intense discussions, trying to learn more about their craft and sharing their insights with colleagues from across the country.
- We have some incredible 4-H youth from Marquette County! At the annual 4-H Talent Revue on Monday evening, 11 different acts were presented by 4-H youth from across the country, and the lead-off act was the Goldmine Sisters, Gentian and RiLee Waller, 4-H youth from Marquette County. They performed two bluesy numbers, singing, and playing guitar and mountain dulcimer (first time I’ve heard one of those on a blues number!). Their second song was one they had written about 4-H called “Count on Us,” and they had the crowd singing along with them. We need to get a recording of them performing that on the National 4-H Council’s Join the Revolution of Responsibilitywebsite! Click on this YouTube link to hear the sisters play “Baby Elephant Walk” and “Count on Us” at the 2010 Exploration Days Talent Show.
Especially at times like this, it’s tempting to scale back on investments in professional development. And for certain, we are reducing our expenditures in this to some extent. But the trip to NACAA’s AM/PIC was all I needed to remind me how critical it is to remain invested at some level in professional development. It keeps us up to date on knowledge and skills and gives us a chance to venture into new areas that we need to address as we help Michigan face the challenges and opportunities ahead. And it’s also great to see how exceptional our colleagues are on a national platform. Congratulations to all who participated! They were Oz-some.
In last week’s Spotlight, I highlighted the cover crop selector tool, an online tool developed by Michigan State University Extension and the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC). The National Water program at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture noticed the work of the MCCC and awarded the council with their Project of Excellence Award. Congratulations to Dale Mutch, senior Extension educator and Extension specialist, and his colleagues. Read more about it in the comment I made on my blog.
I also had a suggestion from another reader to consider adding an economic analysis to the cover crop selector tool. Sounds like a great idea – there’s always room for improvement in any of our products and services.
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