Tag Archives: product center

Making It in Michigan Conference honors entrepreneurs, director

The eighth annual Making It in Michigan conference and Premier Specialty Food Marketplace Trade Show took place Nov. 10 at the Lansing Center in Lansing. This year’s theme was “Ingredients for Success – Components and Processes for Safe, Sound and Smart Product Development.”

The Michigan State University Product Center hosts the conference. The Product Center was established in 2003 with funds from AgBioResearch and MSU Extension to improve economic opportunities in the Michigan agriculture, food and natural resource sectors.

Chris Peterson, Nowlin Chair for Consumer-Responsive Agriculture in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics, is the center’s director. Dean Fred Poston presented Dr. Peterson with a tribute letter sent on behalf of Gov. Rick Snyder. In the letter, the governor expressed deep appreciation for his years of dedication through his work with the Product Center.

MSU CANR Dean Fred Poston (left) reads from the tribute letter presented to Dr. Chris Peterson, MSU Product Center director, (right) on behalf of Gov. Rick Snyder.

Michigan State University (MSU) College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Dean Fred Poston (left) reads from the tribute letter presented to Dr. Chris Peterson, MSU Product Center director, (right) on behalf of Gov. Rick Snyder at the Making It in Michigan Conference at the Lansing Center in Lansing, Mich., Nov. 10, 2015. Photo credit: Kraig Ehm

The letter said in part, “On behalf of the people of Michigan, thank you for your dedication and commitment in helping Michigan businesses develop and commercialize goods in the food, agriculture, and bio economy industries. Utilizing the talent that Michigan has to offer is key to our comeback and reinvention. I am confident our state and countless individuals will long reap the rewards of your positive contributions.”

Product Center innovation counselors regularly assist entrepreneurs in making critical marketing, business and product decisions. As you view the following videos of Making It in Michigan award winners, you’ll get an idea of just how important the counselor-client relationship is. Watch as winners talk about the help and guidance they received from the Product Center. Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications television producer/director Kraig Ehm and Matt Birbeck of the Product Center produced the videos.

Click on the embedded links in the award title to watch:

Director’s Award: Mary Safie, president and CEO, Safie’s Specialty Foods

Barrier Buster: Joseph Oginsky, baker and business manager, Town-to-Town Gourmet Pastries

Value-Added Agricultural: Bonnie Steinman, public relations, Hop Head Farms

Entrepreneur of the Year: Brian Rudolph, co-founder, Banza

Start-Up to Watch: Jill Bommarito, president and founder, Ethel’s Edibles

 

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East Tawas welcomes MSU Extension’s Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference

This year’s Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference took place in East Tawas, Michigan, Oct. 8-9, and welcomed more than 120 individuals into the community to learn about the best way to encourage entrepreneurship in Michigan. Michigan State University Extension has been involved in helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses for many years. We created the Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities program in Michigan approximately eight years ago in an effort to educate communities on the various tools and resources available to help them help entrepreneurs grow in their communities.

The interesting thing about the Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference when compared to other conferences is that each of the breakout sessions took place in various businesses throughout the community. This gave the attendees a chance to experience the entrepreneurial spirit in that community as well as the valuable lessons taught by the session leaders.

According to Frank Gublo, Michigan State University Extension educator, “East Tawas really wanted to make this something, and the local people promoted it and helped work to get people out to it, and the local enthusiasm from the people in the town was beyond anything we’ve seen before.”

To add to the excitement, colleagues from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension attended with the purpose of launching a multi-state collaboration between the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension and Michigan State University Extension. We hope that both programs can learn a lot from each other as we move forward in this partnership!

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‘A great week to be in Extension’

Brenda Reau, Michigan State University Extension educator and associate director of the MSU Product Center Food-Ag-Bio, shared that quote with me last Thursday, attributing it to Dr. Gordon Guyer, former director of MSU Extension (and president emeritus, MSU). The context was that on any given day, one of Dr. Guyer’s more famous comments was, “it’s a great day to be in Extension.” Well, I’d say his description captures the essence of this week for me.

On Wednesday, Feb. 5, Gov. Rick Snyder presented his budget recommendations for FY2015 to the Michigan Legislature. In it, he proposed to increase funding for higher education by an average of 6.1 percent, and he further specified that the funding for MSU Extension and MSU AgBioResearch should be increased by 6.1 percent. That represents a $3.4 million increase in funding for MSU Extension and AgBioResearch combined. Just one year ago, I was giddy about the governor proposing a 2 percent increase in our state appropriation, and eventually the legislature doubled that to 4 percent. Here we are one year later, starting with a 6.1 percent proposed increase, and if anything, that suggests to me that the work MSU Extension and AgBioResearch is doing in support of research and its application to agriculture, food safety and nutrition, community and natural resource development, and youth development is seen as being important and worthy of increased support. To me, this is a message that the work we have carried out to focus and improve our programs, to adopt technology as a tool to reach more people, and to be more accountable for what we do and what difference it makes is paying off. We’re heading in the right direction.

It’s fine to take a moment to relish this development, but this is no time to relax and rest on our laurels. Rather, this is a time when we need to continue improving our programs, following our work plans for the year and adapting technology to help us reach even more people in Michigan. It’s also a good time to share some good news with our stakeholders. And it’s a great time for our stakeholders to share their thoughts with decision makers about the programs they value and the impact our programs are having on their lives, their farms, their businesses, their communities and their families. County commissioners, state legislators and members of Congress all need to hear from their constituents about our programs. And the most effective messages they hear are ones that are not scripted, but rather are authentic and come from the experience of the constituents who are telling their stories.

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New associate director named at the Product Center

Brenda Reau recently took on the job of associate director of the Michigan State University Product Center Food-Ag-Bio. Brenda replaces Tom Kalchik who retired June 1 (see note about Tom accepting the Product Center’s recent award in my previous blog posting). Tom was associate director of the Product Center when it first was created in 2003.

Brenda has served MSU Extension for 32 years including as Monroe County Extension director. No stranger to the Product Center, she’s been a Product Center innovations counselor since 2011.

Directed by Dr. Chris Peterson, the Product Center was created with funding from MSU Extension and MSU AgBioReseach along with some key grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Serving the needs of entrepreneurs in the agriculture, natural resources and bioeconomy sectors, the center provides counseling to clients who have created new enterprises. These clients create new jobs and help to retain existing jobs.

Read more here.

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Extension partners with Expo Board to present Great Lakes Expo

We’ve been looking for new ways to reach out to audiences but sometimes the old, familiar ways work best. What’s especially helpful is when our stakeholders all come together at one location and over a few days to make it easy for us to reach them.

Senior Michigan State University Extension educator Roger Betz makes a point as he presents an educational session on the Farm Bill

Senior Michigan State University Extension educator Roger Betz makes a point as he presents an educational session on the Farm Bill at the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo Dec. 6, 2012, in Grand Rapids, Mich. Photo credit: Beth Stuever

The Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo is taking place this week, Dec. 4–6 in Grand Rapids, Mich., at the Devos Place Convention Center. Once again, our colleagues are providing expertise through educational sessions at the Expo, promoting Michigan State University Extension in the best way we can – by delivering sound, unbiased and research-based information in effective presentations and demonstrations.

Extension, AgBioResearch, ANR Technology Services, EnviroWeather, the Product Center and the Rogers Reserve provide booths to further the educational offerings. In addition, our MSU Extension colleagues staff a booth offering educational bulletins for sale in the lobby. Sales are quite successful.

Dave Smith, executive director of the Michigan Vegetable Council and one of the organizers of the event had this to say, “We think the Expo is the premier show in North America for specialty crop growers and farm marketers. More than 4,000 attend, with a third coming from outside Michigan. MSU Extension plans the education program, which this year offered 68 sessions and workshops over three days covering a wide range of production, marketing and general interest topics.”

Extension educator Mark Longstroth believes the Expo is a great way for potential growers to learn about the business.

“I get calls from people who want to start a fruit or vegetable farm. I always recommend they attend the Great Lakes Expo to get a true picture of the industry,” said Mark.

Michigan State University Extension educator Curtis Talley Jr. leads an educational session on disaster planning

Michigan State University Extension educator Curtis Talley Jr. leads an educational session on disaster planning at the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo Dec. 6, 2012, in Grand Rapids, Mich. Photo credit: Beth Stuever

I believe MSU Extension associate director Dr. Steve Lovejoy would agree that it’s a great place for both new and experienced producers.

“The Great Lakes Expo is again a major opportunity for producers to discover new management practices, learn the results of MSU research projects and trials, and communicate with their peers about the 2012 crop,” he said.

Dr. Lovejoy has attended the event this week and gained insights from visiting with growers and industry representatives who serve specialty crop producers.

 “While the frost damage to tree fruit orchards was a topic of conversation, growers are increasingly optimistic about the 2013 crop year. This week of educational opportunities and trade show provide a valuable venue to make decisions about how to move forward. Anticipation of a large crop in 2013 is in the air. Let us hope Mother Nature cooperates,” he said.

MSU Extension educators and specialists design the educational sessions with growers in mind. The sessions feature experts and practitioners from Michigan and across the nation. Sessions cover everything from specific crops to timely topics such as labor, irrigation and food safety. Farm market sessions feature a bus tour of Michigan farm markets and a roundtable discussion. Some areas include sessions on using social media to grow agricultural businesses.

The Expo gives educators and specialists an opportunity to interact with a large number of growers, sharing expertise or just creating an important connection.

Extension educators and specialists put together the sessions and line up the speakers through their strong connections with industry leaders across the country. The Expo benefits from the positive relationship between MSU Extension and the Expo Board.

“The Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo is a unique partnership between MSU and the various specialty crop industries,” said senior Extension educator Amy Irish-Brown. “The Expo registration cost is offset by the trade show. It would be difficult for Extension to pull off something of this caliber without the trade show and the joint effort with the Expo Board.

“All parties involved in the Expo planning benefit – MSU, MSU Extension, the Expo Board, the exhibitors and the producers who attend,” she said.

Nearly 400 exhibitors take part in the trade show involving 4 acres of exhibit space. The variety of exhibits attracts attendees interested in diverse topics.

I’d like to acknowledge all of our colleagues who help to make the event a success but the list would be quite lengthy and it would be too easy to leave someone out. Check out this brochure to get a list of your colleagues and others who participated and to get an idea of the scope of the event: http://glexpo.com/docs/brochure2012.pdf

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Making It in Michigan Conference promotes and educates food and agricultural entrepreneurs

It’s evident that many creative and hard-working people live and work in Michigan – a good number of them building their own businesses. Many of those entrepreneurs attended the Michigan State University Product Center’s fourth Making It in Michigan Conference Nov. 1 at the Lansing Center in downtown Lansing. The conference promotes and educates food and agricultural entrepreneurs.

Prior to the conference, MSU Extension educator and Product Center Food-Ag-Bio innovation counselor Frank Gublo received the Innovation Counselor of the Year award. Innovation counselors are professionals from MSU and partnering organizations strategically positioned around Michigan to guide entrepreneurs as they make critical decisions about market opportunities and business and product development. Frank serves the southeastern part of the state. He has worked with more than 100 entrepreneurs in the last year, assisting them in business planning, navigating the regulatory maze, entering the supply chain and securing capital. In addition, he assisted clients in accessing campus resources for product testing, nutritional labeling and packaging assistance.

During the conference, nearly 240 people participated in the morning educational sessions. Two hundred people registered in advance, which meant that there were almost 40 walk-ins. With the state of our economy and all of the consumer interest in locally produced foods, many folks aspire to launch new food-related businesses. Sixteen individuals registered at the conference to become new Product Center clients. Additional requests are still coming in.

 Bob Fish, CEO and co-founder of BIGGBY COFFEE, served as conference keynote speaker, contributing an inspirational talk on entrepreneurship.

The afternoon trade show featured 160 vendor booths occupied by 141 companies. Two-thirds of those vendors were Product Center clients.

A number of buyers in attendance made connections with the exhibitors to carry the products in their retail establishments.

Westborn Market selected three exhibitors who won shelf space in Westborn’s three stores in southeastern Michigan. Winners included Dago Joe’s Specialty Foods of Macomb, Johnny Secreto Foods of Rockford and Esch Road Great Lakes True Foods of Honor.

The Product Center gives out annual awards that recognize their clients for special accomplishments. During the conference, the Product Center presented awards to three clients.

Ben Tirrell of Tirrell Farmstead Specialties of Charlotte won the Entrepreneur of the Year award. Ben exemplifies the new generation of farmers adding value to their operations by focusing on consumer-driven agriculture.

Ben Tirrell receives award

Ben Tirrell of Tirrell Farmstead Specialties of Charlotte receives the MSU Product Center’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award from Product Center director Chris Peterson at the Making It in Michigan Conference Nov. 1, 2012, at the Lansing Center in Lansing, Mich. Photo credit: Erin Groom

Michigan’s only sheep dairy, Tirrell Farmstead Specialties produces sheep milk it makes into artisan cheeses marketed to high-end retail markets. In addition to the cheeses, Ben produces pasture-raised beef and lamb he supplies to retail stores and restaurants. He also adds value to his wool crop by processing the wool and selling woolen items in the on-farm store. Consumers come to the farm for special events like “Spring Fling” and “Lamb Safari,” and enjoy shopping in the on-farm store. Ben also participates in several farmers markets.

Tony Menyhart receives award

Tony Menyhart of Easy Artisan Bread Mix of Tecumseh receives the MSU Product Center’s Start-Up to Watch Award from Product Center director Chris Peterson at the Making It in Michigan Conference Nov. 1, 2012, at the Lansing Center in Lansing, Mich. Photo credit: Erin Groom

Tony Menyhart won the Start-Up to Watch award for Easy Artisan Bread Mix of Tecumseh that he owns with Sally Gralla. Tony, a long-time amateur baker, developed the first recipes for his “One Bowl, One Minute” bread mixes in 2010. He began selling the mix at the Saline Farmers Market and later debuted his product at the 2011 Making It in Michigan Trade Show. His product began selling in retail stores in late 2011. Today, you can find Easy Artisan Bread Mix in more than 150 stores in Michigan. Tony intends to expand to other states.

Grand Traverse Pie receives award

Mike Busley (left) and Tim Rice (center) of the Grand Traverse Pie Company receive the MSU Product Center’s Barrier Buster Award for a Stage 2 Company from Product Center director Chris Peterson at the Making It in Michigan Conference Nov. 1, 2012, at the Lansing Center in Lansing, Mich.

The Grand Traverse Pie Company, started by Mike and Denise Busley,won the Barrier Buster Award for a Stage 2 Company. The company has worked with the Product Center’s HI-VAT (High Impact Venture Action Team) program that assists larger companies in taking the business to the next level. The Grand Traverse Pie Company has overcome many barriers in moving from a small company with six employees in downtown Traverse City to one that now employs more than 300 people in 15 Grand Traverse Pie shops across Michigan and Indiana.

Watch this ANR Communications video with Product Center director Chris Peterson. It gives an excellent overview of the services the Product Center Food-Ag-Bio offers clients.

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Extension educators and specialists educate Ag Expo visitors

This year’s Ag Expo July 17-19 offered a prime example of MSUE doing what it does best, helping people solve problems and meet real-life challenges.

Despite the extreme heat, this year’s Ag Expo boasted the highest attendance in 10 years –18,250 people showed up for the annual event. They met with close to 250 commercial exhibitors, and of course, demonstrations and educational sessions presented by our educators and specialists.

Extension had a real and meaningful presence at the show. In the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) tent, MSUE staff members and volunteers offered visitors a slice of our popular Breakfast on the Farm program. Our Master Gardeners and consumer horticulture educators talked about growing and preserving that great Michigan produce. Other presentations and displays featured Firewise, the Product Center, members of the Farm Information Resources Management Team, AgrAbility, 4-H Youth Development and information about food safety. (Read my June 28 Spotlight article for more details.)

MSUE’s representation wasn’t confined to one location. Ag Expo visitors could find MSU Extension Bookstore publications and Michigan Fresh fact sheets in another tent while AABI educators and specialists were on hand to answer farmers’ questions about dealing with the drought. Others offered a biodiesel processing demonstration.

Off site, our staff members were involved in hosting demonstrations on mortality composting and field tillage.

As usual, I hesitate to make a list of people to thank for their participation because of the possibility that I’ll leave someone or something out. If I missed mentioning your program or area, please feel free to mention it by leaving a comment under this article on my blog.

 

Extension educator Gretchen Voyle speaks to an attentive audience at Ag Expo about protecting tomatoes from four major diseases

Extension educator Gretchen Voyle speaks to an attentive audience at Ag Expo about protecting tomatoes from disease. The event took place July 17-19, 2012, in East Lansing, Mich.

 

A standing-room-only crowd listens to a session at Ag Expo in the CANR Tent July 2012, East Lansing, Mich.

A standing-room-only crowd listens to a session at Ag Expo in the CANR Tent July 2012, in East Lansing, Mich.

 

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