Tag Archives: potatoes

Entomology professor receives humanitarian award

Larry Olsen, Michigan State University entomology professor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources with an MSU Extension appointment, received the 2013 Humanitarian Award from his alma mater, Adrian College, Sept. 21 on the Adrian College campus. The award recognizes Dr. Olsen’s work in an agricultural development project in the central highlands of Peru. The project, which demonstrates improved varieties of potatoes that require fewer pesticides, aims to raise the economic status of the community.

Read more in this article: http://www.ent.msu.edu/news/article/larry_olsen_awarded_adrian_colleges_alumni_humanitarian_award

Congratulations to Dr. Olsen!

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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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Volunteerism – It’s especially strong among Extension professionals

I had a number of heartening responses to my final Spotlight message for 2009 on the many ways that people contribute to their communities and organizations beyond their financial contributions.  A point that many of them made is that our own Extension professionals are supreme volunteers, and I know that is true for so many of you and I applaud you for that.  I thought I would share one of the stories I received, not to say that this one is extraordinary, but rather to share it as one of many examples that I’ve learned about both before and after I wrote that Spotlight.  Keep in mind that this message was sent in the spirit of “here’s another example of what you were talking about” and not “see what WE’VE done.” I think Dave Stroud makes that point clear and better in his own words.

Tom, I thought I would second your thoughts about some of the unspoken time that MSUE staff devote to their communities. I am not looking for any recognition for something we did here in our office but it is a good story I would like for you to hear about.

Here in Lake City and Missaukee County we are lucky to have the MSU Beef Research Station, and as you may know there is a considerable amount of potato research done there. Each year they plant 10 acres of potatoes to research varieties, as Dave Douches and his team work hard to develop new varieties. After they take their many samples to be analyzed at the lab, the gates are opened to the community to come in and glean the potatoes that are left, probably 95% of the crop remains, all dug up and laying on the surface. Community radar seems to be able to sense this event and many calls are made to the station from the public to find out about the date the gates are open. Many individuals and organizations, pick up the potatoes to distribute to needy families or those who cannot physically do it for themselves, and of course many are looking to store/and or extend their winter supply of spuds.

Our Missaukee MSUE office has a food bank located right across the hall from our lobby door, so we know the need, and see the traffic and importance to the community that the “Cooperative Ministry Food-bank” plays in our community that has such a high unemployment rate. So the thought came to our mind to glean some potatoes to store to keep them supplied with potatoes. So one fine October morning the Station Manager Doug Carmichael allowed us in to pick before the gates were opened at noon to the public. Judy Brinks our office secretary and I picked about 30 bushels of potatoes in about an hour. With the help of my son Ty, who works at the station, and his pickup we put the potatoes in storage at my farm in a well insulated hay barn bunk. Our goal was to keep the Food Bank supplied with potatoes until Christmas. Several times a week we brought in 5 gallon pails of potatoes that the Food Bank would bag and hand out to their clients. The near zero temps in early December did not help our temporary storage, but with some improvements, we were able to keep them supplied until Christmas Eve.  It took us one lunch break, and a few minutes a week to help out, just a little, those in need.


Thanks to Dave and the Missaukee staff and to all of you for your generosity throughout the year.

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