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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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Extension educators and specialists receive awards at NACAA conference

Two weeks ago in an Aug. 11 Spotlight article, I told you about the tremendous involvement of our Michigan State University Extension colleagues in the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) and their Annual Meeting and Professional Conference. I promised you that I would describe the awards that were presented to these MSU Extension professionals at the conference Aug. 7–11 in Overland, Kan., and although it’s a week later than planned, I’m making good on that promise.

 Two Extension educators in the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute earned the NACAA Distinguished Service Award for educators with more than ten years of service: Robert Bricault, Extension educator in Washtenaw County, and Warren Schauer, Extension educator in the Upper Peninsula.

 During 19 years in Extension, Robert Bricault served as an educator in consumer and commercial horticulture, and natural resources in southeastern Michigan. Bob worked to reduce phosphorus impacts on local rivers through a soil-testing initiative and helped develop an educational resource notebook on the emerald ash borer for each county in Michigan. He provides specialized training in diagnosing landscape problems.

 As business management educator, Warren Schauer served most of his 32-year Extension career delivering farm financial management and agricultural educational programs to clientele in the Upper Peninsula and northeastern Michigan. Significant programming includes farm financial analysis, business planning, estate planning, livestock marketing and wind energy programs. Warren has also been involved in the Agriculture for Tomorrow Conference, Annie’s Project, U.P. Youth Market Livestock recordkeeping project, Bay de Noc Gardening Conference, Master Gardener, and farm financial management seminars in the Ukraine, Africa and the eastern Caribbean.

 Tom Guthrie, Extension educator in Jackson County, received the NACAA Achievement Award given to educators with less than ten years of service. As a member of the MSU Extension Pork Area of Expertise team, Tom is responsible for developing statewide accessibility to swine management educational programming, which also includes environmental issues. Tom’s major educational programming initiatives include swine production management, utilization of Distiller’s Dried Grains with Solubles (DDGS) in swine rations, environmental sustainability of pork operations and pork industry assurance programs. Tom also works with youth pork producers across the state.

 National finalists for “Search for Excellence in Crop Production” for “Sustainable Hops Production in the Great Lakes Region” were Robert Sirrine, Extension educator in the Greening Michigan Institute; Erin Lizotte, agriculture and agribusiness Extension educator at the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station (NWMHRS); and Nikki Rothwell, district horticulturalist and NWMHRS coordinator. Through the program, the group of educators strives toward the goal of providing potential hops growers with an accurate assessment of the costs, challenges and opportunities for small-scale hops production in the Great Lakes Region by providing science-based growing and marketing information. The program has made significant progress toward this goal through grant-funded on-farm research, brewer surveys, educational programming, field days, and marketing and outreach. A significant investment in program evaluations has served to ensure that programming efforts remain relevant and timely. Results demonstrate increased knowledge in hops production and processing, and confidence in growing and marketing hops. Small-scale hops production has and will continue to provide economic development opportunities in Michigan and the surrounding Great Lakes Region. 

 Robert Sirrine; Cheryl Peters, Extension specialist; Nikki Rothwell; Erin Lizotte; Stan Moore, Extension educator; and Duke Elsner, Extension educator; were state winners for “Search for Excellence in Young, Beginner, or Small Farmers/Ranchers” for “Northwest Michigan New FARM Program.” It’s becoming harder for young people to enter and stay in the farming profession due to lack of farm transfers, the decline of traditional processing markets, residential development, increasing land costs and other financial difficulties. The Northwest Michigan New FARM (Farmer Assistance and Resource Management) Program is designed to assist beginning farmers, increase economic viability, maintain and enhance environmental stewardship and conserve northwestern Michigan’s rural character. Forty beginning farmers from northwestern Michigan’s five-county area were selected to participate in this comprehensive two-year program. A series of eleven workshops and four educational trips will educate these young farmers with the ultimate goal of a future of viable and sustainable agriculture in northwestern Michigan.

 Tom Dudek, senior Extension educator, and Charles Gould, Extension educator, were poster presentations finalists for “Determining Nutrient Removal Rates for Selected Herbaceous Perennial Crops.” Data generated from the study presented will be used by growers to comply with Michigan’s Right to Farm guidelines with respect to phosphorus applications to their farms.

 Duke Elsner and Mogens Nielsen, MSU adjunct curator, were poster presentations finalists for “Encouraging Citizen Science Activity to Obtain Data on Butterfly Distribution in Michigan.” Mogens’ book “Michigan Butterflies & Skippers” (E2675) was first published in 1999. Although he gathered information through many decades of personal study and examination of museum specimens, county distribution data appeared to be incomplete. Readers were asked to become “citizen scientists” and examine their personal collections in an effort to gain complete and accurate county distribution data. The data collected from this process was extensive enough to remove one species from the “special concern” list in the state.

 Many of our colleagues won communications awards.

 Phil Durst, Extension dairy educator, was state winner and regional finalist for an audio recording. Phil wrote the “Dairy Moosings” podcasts, which were reviewed by researchers. Phil and Stan Moore recorded, edited and produced the podcasts. You can find them on the MSU Dairy Team website at http://dairyteam.msu.edu/. The podcasts are published in Libsyn (http://dairymoosings.libsyn.com/webpage) in a library of Dairy Moosings podcasts and are available for RSS feeds. The podcasts, “Bovine Leukosis Virus: More Bark Than Bite?” and “High Production and Reproduction: Do the Two Mix?” present current dairy management research information in an interesting and adaptable format, accessible when and where producers want it.

 Robert Sirrine and Annette Kleinschmit, Leelanau County Extension administrative assistant, were state winners for a program promotional piece. Twenty promotional pieces were displayed at area Extension offices, grocery stores and other locales to promote the 2010 Hops Field Day and Tour. The event was also publicized on a weekly radio program and sent out via email and mail in a monthly agriculture newsletter. As a result of this promotion and marketing, 53 participants enrolled in the session.

 Duke Elsner was a state winner for a feature story that appeared in the Traverse City Record-Eagle. Field crop production is often overlooked in the Grand Traverse Bay region where most media coverage focuses on cherry and wine grape production. In the summer of 2010, it became clear that the region’s field corn crop was going to be at record-setting levels. Duke called attention to this agricultural achievement by preparing a feature article about the types of corn grown in the country, the numerous uses for corn and the significance of corn production in the local area.

 Extension educators Diane Brown-Rytlewski and Bruce Mackellar were state winners and national finalists for a team newsletter that is distributed to commercial fruit, vegetable and field crop growers in Berrien County and other parts of southwestern Michigan. Copies are printed and mailed to a list of more than 500 subscribers, and the publication is also available via email or at the Extension office. Created three to four times per year, the newsletter provides timely meeting notifications and other information pertinent to growers and others involved with commercial crop production.

 Dennis Pennington, Extension educator, was state winner and regional finalist for a bioenergy website, developed to address a key gap in delivering information to farmers and Extension educators. Existing MSU bioenergy websites focused on current research and grants but did not include general information about what bioenergy is, what the potential crops are, and how these crops can be processed into energy. This site conveys this general information as well as current results from applied research, national policy objectives, economics of production and links to external resources. The site is also used to share speaker presentations from various events. Visit the website at http://bioenergy.msu.edu/.

 Erin Lizotte, Nikki Rothwell and Extension educators Phil Tocco and Jane Herbert were state winners and regional finalists for a learning module. As farmers continue to struggle with GAPs (good agricultural practices) and new food safety standards, it has become necessary to train growers step by step about food safety. A Web series was launched designed to get growers one step closer to GAP certification. A compilation of fact sheets, video clips and a GAP Manual Template were bundled on a CD (the learning module), and a graphical user interface was developed to guide producers with a limited access to the Web.

 Phil Tocco was a state winner for a video recording, which is part of the Web series described above.

 Phil Tocco and Jane Herbert were state winners for a fact sheet. Food safety has become a significant issue among produce growers in Michigan. Of particular concern has been the lack of a uniform action threshold among auditing agencies concerning irrigation water quality. Working with water quality educators and specialists in Michigan, the food safety Extension group vetted two standards in use within the U.S. relating to irrigation water, then wrote a fact sheet to aid growers in adopting a standard. Drafted in August of 2010, the factsheet has been distributed online and in various grower meetings to at least 150 individuals.

 Congratulations to all of our winners! Our colleagues in NACAA do a great job of modeling creativity, innovation and teamwork.

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Webinar trains food entrepreneurs in following Cottage Food Law

Michigan’s Cottage Food Law, enacted in 2010, allows individuals to manufacture and store certain types of foods in an unlicensed home kitchen. It’s intended to support farmers markets by allowing certain value-added products to be sold without the expense and trouble of preparing them in a licensed commercial kitchen.

 The Michigan State University Extension Food Safety Team made a teaching webinar in order to meet the needs of Michigan residents in relationship to food safety pertaining to the Cottage Food Law. The webinar was the most efficient and consistent way of providing educational information to this audience. Led by food safety co-chairs and Extension educators Jeannie Nichols and Jan Seitz, the Food Safety team members include Jennifer Berkey, Robin Danto, Diana Fair, Eileen Haraminac, Jane Hart, Linda Huyck, Pat Joyce, Joyce McGarry, Laurie Messing, Lucia Patritto, Janet Rathke, Christy Rivette, Phil Tocco, Lisa Treiber, Chris Venema and Beth Waitrovich.

 Jeannie stated, “For us as educators, it meant learning about developing a professional, interactive and interesting site.”

 The team developed “MI Cottage Food Law Food Safety Training/Webinar” with support from Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications team members Laura Probyn, Steve Evans and Kraig Ehm. Laura edited and revised the initial script. Laura and Kraig voiced the project, and Steve edited the PowerPoint that was the basis for the webinar and built quiz and evaluation modules for the project.

 According to Jeannie, the quiz at the end of the webinar evaluates the knowledge that participants gain as well as their intent to use the information from the webinar. Once a participant completes the quiz with 70 percent accuracy, he or she can purchase a certificate to display at a farmers market booth. Farmers markets customers would then see that the vendor had taken the initiative to take some extra food safety training in relation to cottage foods.

 Food Safety Team members conducted face-to-face presentations throughout the state using the curriculum to validate its content and usefulness before it was made available online. To help with this project, the team applied for and received a Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) grant that allowed the production of this webinar including marketing materials.

 You can view the webinar here: http://vimeo.com/24282676

 Plans are underway to add the webinar to the governor’s weekly video feature rotation and to be placed on the MDARD’s YouTube channel.

 This is a great illustration of what the new MSUE is all about and how we’re embracing technology to achieve our mission. And it shows the interlinkage among work teams and institutes. Some of the greatest demand for the webinar is likely to come from individuals and businesses who sell homemade products at farmers markets, which are among the assets that we try to support through the community food systems group in the Greening Michigan Institute.

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