Tag Archives: npr

She’s doing what needs to be done

A May 28 NPR broadcast of “All Things Considered” features Michigan State University horticulture professor Amy Iezzoni. Dr. Iezzoni is the nation’s only tart cherry breeding specialist. Although, she doesn’t have an Extension appointment, her work certainly relates directly to our Extension work.

The piece is titled “Inside a Tart Cherry Revival: ‘Somebody Needs to Do This!’” The quote is Dr. Iezzoni’s, referring to her quest to diversify Michigan’s varieties of tart cherries. The importance of variety was made clear when cherry trees froze last year after an early bloom. Because the cherry trees were genetically identical, they all bloomed together and thus froze at the same time. If other varieties were in play that bloomed later, perhaps some of the crop could have been saved.

Dr. Iezzoni is a great example of a hard-working, resourceful person whose quest to improve the Michigan cherry industry led her to the orchards and streets of Eastern Europe. Her goal: a variety of tart cherry that blooms later, tastes delicious and produces a big crop.

Dr. Iezzoni also serves as the lead investigator on a five-year $14.5 million project to apply modern, Marker-Assisted Breeding (MAB) techniques to improving the genetic lines of fruit species in the Rosaceae family, including apples, cherries, peaches, plums and strawberries. Named the RosBREED Project, it incorporates all the hallmarks of a land-grant effort: research, extension and the education of the next generation of scientists. The project includes scientists from Arkansas, Georgia, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington and several European countries. I was fortunate to join the team at a reception during a recent conference held in East Lansing. What struck me most was the realization that I was meeting not only the current leaders in plant breeding in these important fruit species but also the next generation of breeders joining in the work. Dr. Iezzoni’s work and leadership contribute greatly to the Michigan fruit industry, AND they are helping to set the stage for a sustainable future for these important crops across the nation.

Listen to the broadcast here: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/05/23/186076355/inside-a-tart-cherry-revival-somebody-needs-to-do-this

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NPR broadcast highlights electronic traceability

In 2011, I wrote a Spotlight article on Michigan State University researchers using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to track cattle. Michigan is the only state that requires electronic ear tags on cattle. The original purpose was to track the spread of tuberculosis. However, tracking can also assist the locavore who wants to know where that particular cut of meat comes from.

Listen to this broadcast that aired June 4 on NPR. It features MSU Department of Animal Science associate professor and Extension beef specialist Dan Buskirk. Dr. Buskirk explains the system that transferred the information from cattle ID tags to barcodes pinned to the carcasses. Butchers scanned the barcodes and printed new ones to go with the smaller pieces of meat they cut. The university’s food service used the meat to serve at campus cafeterias and restaurants. In a grocery store setting, shoppers could scan the bar code on a package of meat to find out the origin of the beef they will purchase. This gives producers the opportunity to add value to their product.

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Helping our customers succeed

Twice in one week, I heard comments that struck a chord with me and with the mission of Michigan State University Extension.

Last Friday, I had an opportunity to tour Sklarczyk’s Seed Farm, a family farming operation located near Johannesburg, Michigan, that specializes in the application of aseptic tissue-culture techniques to produce the first generation of potato tubers that eventually supply seed potatoes to commercial potato producers. The Sklarczyk farm is one of two in the nation that assure propagation of varieties with the desired genetic traits for the industry and in tubers that are verified as disease-free. The Sklarczyk farm was the first of the two to adopt the practices. The Sklarczyks’ work has hinged on the development of new varieties by Dr. David Douches, professor of plant, soil and microbial sciences at MSU, and a handful of other potato breeders in the United States. As fascinating as the technology is that the Sklarczyk farm uses, Benjamin Sklarczyk, who represents the third generation of his family in the business, made a statement that really caught my ear. He said that Sklarczyk’s Seed Farm exists in order to help their customers succeed. They want to provide the best quality seed for the seed potato growers they serve directly and the commercial growers that their customers serve.

One of the reasons that comment caught my ear is because I’ve heard the same comment from another business owner involved in the Michigan potato business, Todd Forbush, partner and vice president of Techmark, Inc. Techmark specializes in the design and construction of computerized ventilation systems for potato storage and for other agricultural crops. I have heard Todd make the same statement that I heard Benjamin Sklarczyk make: “My main goal is to help my customers be profitable and successful.” In fact, the mission statement for Techmark captures this: “To serve high quality agricultural producers, always striving to make the best producers better by combining high quality service and products with innovative ideas and training.”

And that sounds a lot like our own mission statement “to help people improve their lives through education” and the 4-H motto: “to make the best better.”

I was reminded of that connection between the Sklarczyk and Techmark mission statements in listening to one of our colleagues, Amy Irish-Brown, senior Extension educator, who was quoted in a radio news feature on Monday. You may remember that National Public Radio reporter Noah Adams produced a feature on the devastating crop loss that Michigan apple growers experienced last fall. He conducted a follow-up report this spring and his story was broadcast on NPR’s Morning Edition on Monday this week. In listening to Amy’s cautions to growers at an update meeting, I can hear the same commitment to helping “customers succeed” in her comments as I’ve heard from Benjamin and Todd. In all of these cases, what makes for a successful operation – whether it’s a business or a service such as MSU Extension – is a commitment to serving others in a way that helps them to succeed. I consider myself fortunate to work with Extension professionals who live and breathe that ethos every day, and to work in partnership with businesses and industries like Benjamin’s and Todd’s that thrive on the same ethos.

That this merits commentary is further supported by this note from Amy about Mr. Adams’ decision to conduct a follow-up story on the apple industry in Michigan: “Mr. Adams tells me that in his 30 years of broadcasting and over 30,000 pieces, he has only done follow-up for a handful of stories over the years. I think he was impressed with the integrity of the Michigan apple industry and the people who make it successful – that’s why he came back to hear more.”

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Extension educator talks on NPR about toll on apple industry

On Sept. 17, NPR aired a story on “All Things Considered” featuring the hit Michigan’s apple industry took this year. A mild winter followed by an April freeze reduced the harvest by 90 percent.

Amy Irish-Brown, senior Extension educator, contributed to the program, discussing the toll on apple orchards in the west Michigan region known as the Ridge. The 158 square miles of gently rolling slopes produces 65 percent of our state’s apple crop. This year’s harvest is only 10 to 15 percent of the usual crop. Amy helped the producers connect with producers and processors to help make the story compelling. And Phil Schwallier, Extension educator in AABI, and his wife, Judy, were interviewed from their perspective as the owners of a u-pick apple orchard.

Listen to the program, and read the NPR article here.

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