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My story

By Ray Hammerschmidt

I grew up in LaGrange Park, Illinois, a village just outside of Chicago. My dad, like many in his family, was a carpenter, and my mom was a homemaker.

As far back as I can remember, I was interested in science. I attended Purdue University with the intention of becoming a biology teacher. However, shortly after I arrived at Purdue, I realized my interests were more in biology and chemistry. I was able to combine those interests by switching my major to biochemistry and in 1974 received a B.S. degree. Biochemistry was, and still is, in the School of Agriculture at Purdue, and it was through that connection and research opportunities in the Biochemistry Department that I became interested in plant pathology. I stayed on at Purdue and earned a master’s in plant pathology in 1976.

I then studied the biochemistry of plant disease resistance at the University of Kentucky, where I received a Ph.D. in 1980.

Dr. Ray Hammerschmidt

Dr. Ray Hammerschmidt is currently serving as interim associate director of programs for Michigan State University Extension. Photo credit: Katie Gervasi, MSU ANR Communications. July 2014.

In 1980, I received a research and teaching appointment at Michigan State University doing fundamental and applied research on potato diseases. It was through the “applied” work that I became involved with Extension, talking to growers. Although I had no Extension appointment, I worked closely with specialists and became familiar with Extension’s role.

I have taught many courses and have been involved with the Diagnostics Services lab and Project GREEEN (Generating Research and Extension to meet Economic and Environmental Needs). I also direct the North Central Region part of the USDA-funded National Plant Diagnostic Network. For nearly 13 years, I was chair of the Plant Pathology Department.

My time at Purdue was significant not only in steering me toward my life work but also in introducing me to my life partner. Many of you may know my wife, Pat. We met on the first day at a freshman mixer.

Pat also had her sites on teaching and received a B.S. in vocational home economics from Purdue. She then went on to receive an M.S. in food science from Purdue.

At Kentucky, while I earned my doctorate, Pat taught in the Foods and Nutrition Department. In 1979, she began doing nutrition programming for Kentucky 4-H.

She started with Michigan 4-H Youth Development in 1981 and became state program leader for nutrition. Later, with organizational changes, she became nutrition program leader with Children, Youth and Families. Our two children, Eric and Sara, were often the guinea pigs for many of the projects Pat was involved with. Our kids were involved because we were involved, and we have many great memories of those times.

Today, we have one beautiful granddaughter. We enjoy visiting our children who both live in northern Virginia. We like to garden and cook, and drive around Michigan visiting microbreweries and wineries, and seeing the sites around this great state.

I’m honored and thrilled that Dean Poston invited me to become involved in Extension administration. Since I’m primarily a researcher, I like to take a problem, gather all relevant information, and think about ways we can solve it. We use research to make improvements. Any research we do is not complete till the information discovered gets out and we can use it to make a difference. That’s what we do in Extension, and I look forward to being part of that process with you.

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MSU AgBioResearch director receives two awards at Great Lakes EXPO

Doug Buhler, director of Michigan State University AgBioResearch and senior associate dean for research for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), received two awards on Dec. 11 during the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market EXPO annual banquet in Grand Rapids.

The Michigan State Horticultural Society (MSHS) honored Dr. Buhler with the Distinguished Service Award, and the Michigan Vegetable Council (MVC) honored him with the Master Farmer Associate Award. Both organizations recognized his strong commitment to serve the needs and listen to the concerns of industry stakeholders.

Dr. Buhler has served in a number of leadership positions at MSU, among them chairperson of the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, interim state leader for agriculture programs in MSU Extension, and most recently interim dean for the CANR.

He has been on the leadership team for MSU Project GREEEN (Generating Research and Extension to meet Economic and Environmental Needs) for many years. The awards credited him for helping develop this initiative into “an outstanding example of cooperation between industry stakeholders and the university.” Dr. Buhler was also credited for recognizing the importance of key research and extension positions to industry, and working to hire new scientists during financially difficult times.

Since 1970, the MSHS Distinguished Service Award has recognized those giving dedicated service toward improvement of the Michigan fruit industry. The MVC gives the Master Farmer Associate Award to an individual who, while not directly involved with farming, has had a significant impact on the well-being of the vegetable industry in Michigan.

Congratulations to Dr. Buhler! His leadership in research helps to strengthen the quality of Extension programs we deliver.

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Making It in Michigan conference assists food and agricultural entrepreneurs, exhibits products

The sixth annual Making It in Michigan conference and Premier Specialty Food Marketplace Trade Show will take place Nov. 12 from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Lansing Center in downtown Lansing. This year’s conference theme is “Celebrate Your Business – Accelerate Your Achievement at Every Stage of Your Company.”

The Michigan State University Product Center Food-Ag-Bio hosts the conference, and this year the center celebrates its 10th birthday. The conference as well as the center assists the state’s entrepreneurs, producers, buyers and processors in the food and agricultural businesses in achieving success. The MSU Product Center was established with funds from the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station (now AgBioResearch) and MSU Extension to improve economic opportunities in the Michigan agriculture, food and natural resource sectors. Project GREEEN also provides funding. Chris Peterson, Nowlin Chair for Consumer-Responsive Agriculture in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics at MSU, is the center’s director.

At morning educational sessions, conference attendees will learn to refine and grow their businesses. Topics covered will include focusing on the product in the package, growing your specialty food business further, marketing your food product and keeping regulatory requirements in check.

Tom McIntyre, vice president of communications for Domino’s Pizza, will deliver the keynote address.

Conference attendees will have the opportunity to exhibit their Michigan-made food and agricultural products at the Premier Specialty Food Marketplace Trade Show, which will feature more than 150 new and existing businesses showingcasing their products. During the morning, the marketplace trade show is open exclusively to buyers and store owners, distributors, brokers and many others looking for new products to use or sell. In the afternoon, the marketplace trade show is open to the public at no charge.

Product Center team members will be on hand at the conference to assist and interact with participants.

One company whose owner is grateful to the Product Center is RNS Packaging, winner of the Michigan Business and Professional Association Award for being the Elite Sustainable Small Business in Michigan for 2013. The company manufactures premium nontoxic packaging while employing and retraining returning veterans. Founder Rich Daniels credits the Product Center with guiding the company’s mission and creating valuable relationships with dozens of business leaders. The company also established new sales outlets through participation in the Making It in Michigan conference and marketplace trade show.

Extension educator Joanne Davidhizar is Product Center Innovation Counselor of the Year. Joanne’s work focuses on product and business development in specialty crops. Read more about Joanne’s work here.

It’s not too late to register for the conference. Conference registration includes breakfast, lunch, educational sessions, digital copies of all presentations and reference materials, and admission to the marketplace trade show. Early registration cost is $79. After Nov. 1, the cost goes up to $99 and vendor registration is $185. Register at http://productcenter.msu.edu/miim/registration

Please promote this conference in your communities.

Read more about the conference here: http://www.sharpmkt.com/

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Midwest Cover Crops Council receives national award

The Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) received the No-Till Innovator Award in the “Organization” category at the 21st National No-Tillage Conference that took place Jan. 9–12 in Indianapolis.

The MCCC is a diverse group from academia, production agriculture, nongovernmental organizations, commodity interests, the private sector, and federal and state agencies collaborating to address soil, water, air and agricultural quality concerns in the Great Lakes and Mississippi river basins.

The MCCC has had a tremendous impact across the Midwest on promoting cover crops. As a diverse organization, they have conducted research, educational programs and field days around no-till farming and cover crops throughout the region in the U.S. and Canada.

Michigan State University senior Extension educator Dale Mutch is the Michigan state coordinator for the MCCC. Dale is also an MSU adjunct professor of crop, soil and microbial sciences, a cover crop IPM Extension specialist and Michigan state coordinator of the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) Professional Development Program (PDP).

Eileen Kladivko (left), and adjunct professor Dale Mutch (center), receive the No-Till Innovator Award for the Organization category.

Purdue University professor Eileen Kladivko (left), and Michigan State University senior Extension educator and MSU adjunct professor Dale Mutch (center), receive the No-Till Innovator Award for the Organization category from Chuck Leonard of Syngenta. The two received the award on behalf of the Midwest Cover Crops Council and the Executive Committee at the 21st National No-Tillage Conference held Jan. 9–12, 2013, in Indianapolis, Ind.
Photo credit: Randall Reeder, Ohio State.

The MCCC has an annual meeting every year in one of the participating states or provinces to plan and present new cover crop information across the North Central Region. The group promotes field day events, proceedings of annual meetings and new information about cover crops through their Web site at www.mccc.msu.edu. The MCCC’s Listserv with more than 300 users allows farmers, educators and others to ask cover crop questions and to get immediate answers.

The MCCC headed the creation of a cover crop selector tool, funded by Project GREEEN and developed by MSU Extension senior research associate Dean Baas, that allows farmers, agribusinesses and others to choose cover crops for their farming systems. You can read a previous Spotlight article on the field crop selector tool. Since that March 2011 article, they’ve developed a cover crop selector tool for vegetable producers active since May 2012.

The MCCC also compiled cover crop species and application information to produce the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide, which has sold more than 10,000 copies since its February 2012 release.

Now in its 17th year, the No-Till Innovator Award Program is jointly sponsored by No-Till Farmer magazine and Syngenta. The program was developed to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to the advancement of no-till farming, regardless of the crop grown or brand of equipment or chemicals used.

Congratulations to the council and thanks to Dale for his leadership! See photo on my blog.

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New CANR dean takes the helm

Just two days ago, Dr. Fred Poston began his appointment as dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Dr. Poston is no stranger to the role. He served as dean previously from 1991 to 1998. During that time, he advanced many changes, among them the creation of Project GREEEN (Generating Research and Extension to meet Economic and Environmental Needs) and the development of the Partnership for Ecosystem Research and Management (PERM). He also guided the Revitalization of Animal Agriculture in Michigan Initiative (AAI).

Prior to stepping once again into the office of dean, Dr. Poston served as Michigan State University’s vice president for finance and operations.

As dean, Dr. Poston replaces interim dean Doug Buhler.

I’d like to thank Dr. Buhler for his steady leadership during a time of considerable challenges to our college and to Michigan State University Extension. Doug did a great job of building trust among faculty, academic staff, administrators and support staff. He helped to create a sense of optimism and directed us all to look forward to opportunities rather than to look back at challenges we had faced. And although he came to the interim dean role with considerable respect and appreciation for our mission in MSU Extension, I think it’s safe to say his appreciation grew even more during his tenure as interim dean.

And I’m honored to welcome Dr. Poston back to a role that he filled very well in the past and that has changed considerably since he left Agriculture Hall. He has changed as well – he comes to us as a vice president, and although the title does not come with him, the presence and experience that he had as vice president DOES come with him. The insights he has gained from that experience and the influence he had in that role will serve us extremely well in the months and years ahead.

For more on Dr. Poston, read his biography.

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Two communications projects receive ACE awards

I’m happy to announce that College of Agriculture and Natural Resources communicators and their partners received two awards from the Association for Communication Excellence (ACE) for their work with Michigan State University Extension in 2011. The ACE Critique and Awards program recognizes excellence in communication skills.

 Joy Landis, Beth Stuever, Mallory Fournier and Mindy Pratt were awarded a gold award for MSU Extension News for Ag. This pilot project was the launching pad for MSUE News, which now serves as the backbone of the new MSU Extension website. This award is in the Best Innovative Use of Communication Technology category.

 The four recipients focused on developing a system where all of our Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute field and campus staff could effectively deliver timely educational news through the new website. Joy and Beth note that this effort was truly a collaboration of many administrators and staff along with the communicators so in a sense we’ve all won this gold award. The communicators will be sharing their experience from developing MSUE News in a 90-minute session at ACE’s annual meeting in June.

 The second award is a bronze award for a Four-Color Popular Publication. Native Plants and Ecosystem Services (E3167) was a Project GREEEN effort by recent doctoral graduate Anna Fiedler, entomology professors Rufus Isaacs and Doug Landis, and communicator Joy Landis. Sold through the MSUE Bookstore, the colorful publication explains the value of using native plants to enhance the many landscapes that make up our environment. See nativeplants.msu.edu for more about the publication (find the pub under Resources, Teaching Tools) and the Project GREEEN research and extension behind it.

 Both awards will be presented at ACE’s annual meeting in Annapolis, Md., in June.

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Project GREEEN calls for RFPs

With budgets tight, we’re learning to do more with less. Often that propels us to perform above the rest, knowing that we have to be at the top of our game to succeed. When opportunity strikes, it’s necessary to be prepared to meet it.

 Michigan State University’s Project GREEEN (Generating Research and Extension to meet Economic and Environmental Needs) has issued its request for proposals (RFP) for fiscal year 2012-2013. More than $2 million will be available for funding research and Extension projects focusing on plant agriculture in 2012 – about half will be for new projects.

 Because funding is limited, competition will be intense. Only the most outstanding projects will be funded.

 Proposals will be accepted in four categories: basic research, applied research, Extension/education/demonstration and seed grants.

 Submit proposals and letters of support through the Project GREEEN website by Jan. 12, 2012 at 5 p.m.

 Project GREEEN is a cooperative effort between plant-based commodities and businesses together with AgBioResearch, MSU Extension and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to advance Michigan’s economy through its plant-based agriculture.

 Read more here.

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Making It in Michigan Conference opportunity for food and agricultural entrepreneurs

One of the themes of the year for Michigan has been that there is tremendous opportunity for economic development in food processing and other value-added activities that build on Michigan’s unique and diverse agricultural economy. It began with a white paper produced by Drs. Bill Knudson, Steven Miller and Chris Peterson of the Michigan State University Product Center, which caught the attention of Governor Rick Snyder and his administration. That led to an industry summit in April that focused attention on steps that could enhance development of new enterprises and expansion of existing ones in the food sector. The MSU Product Center already sponsors an important event that promotes opportunities for food businesses in Michigan, the Making It in Michigan conference. The conference takes place Oct. 19 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Lansing Center in downtown Lansing. Please help spread the word about this extremely important event.

 The conference targets food and agricultural entrepreneurs who are just starting out as well as those well established in the food industry. The event offers educational sessions and the opportunity for entrepreneurs to put their products in front of hundreds of buyers at the Marketplace Trade Show. Attendees who have an idea that they may want to develop and take to market have direct access to MSU Product Center team members.

 The MSU Product Center was established in spring 2003 with funds from AgBioResearch and Michigan State University Extension to improve economic opportunities in the Michigan agriculture, food and natural resource sectors. Project GREEEN also provides funding.

Chris Peterson, Nowlin Chair for Consumer-Responsive Agriculture in the Department of Agricultural Economics at MSU, is the center’s director. Watch the following video in which Chris talks about the services that the Product Center offers, which range from developing an idea to testing the product to sustaining and growing the product’s sales.

In this following video, Scott Below, owner of LOL Ventures, talks about how the Product Center and Mark Thomas, innovation counselor for the Product Center, gave him the “straight scoop” about improving his business.

 The Making It in Michigan Conference is the ideal event for those looking for resources for their food and agricultural businesses or who have products that they want to showcase.

 Westborn Market is sponsoring a competition for vendors to win a year’s worth of shelf space at their stores. Watch the following video for details.

 Read more about the Making It in Michigan Conference here.

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New online tool available to assist farmers

As we continue to seek ways to innovate and to serve broader audiences through technology, it’s great to have an example to illustrate what can be done. Online applications need to do more than just present information in a static way. They need to engage users to analyze information and help to make decisions. A team of folks from Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) and the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) has released an online tool that does all of that and more. The purpose of their new “app” is to help farmers in Michigan and the Midwest region decide which cover crops are best for them. MSUE developers aim to increase Michigan (and regional) cover crop adoption by providing information and decision-making help necessary for farmers to successfully use cover crops. The tool, developed by MSUE for each MCCC member state and province, provides farmers with information and choices specific to their states or provinces. Michigan, Ohio and Indiana are available in the current version, while Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ontario will be added as their development is completed.

 The cover crop selector tool allows the user to input a variety of information including his or her state, county, cash crop information, field information and desired cover crop benefits. Designed to be user friendly, it has a dynamic interface that allows users to immediately see how their input changes their cover crop options. A user can generate an information sheet for a selected cover crop that provides additional information and references relevant to application within the state or province.

 The tool development drew on state-specific knowledge from cover crop experts and stakeholders including farmers, researchers, Extension educators, agribusiness representatives and government agencies, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and state departments of agriculture. Dale Mutch, Dean Baas and Victoria Ackroyd are leading the MCCC decision tool project through MSUE. On the Michigan development team from MSU and MSUE were Christina Curell, Tim Dietz, Paul Gross, Tim Harrigan, Rich Leep, Todd Martin, Vicki Morrone, Mathieu Ngouajio, Dan Rajzer, Karen Renner, Dan Rossman, Sieg Snapp, Erin Taylor and Kurt Thelen.

 For Michigan, the next phase is to develop the cover crop decision tool for vegetable producers. This regional project received funding from a NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant in partnership with the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), MSU Project GREEEN and Great Lakes Regional Water Program grants. For more information, contact Dean Baas at baasdean@msu.edu or 269-671-2412, ext. 260.

 Download the cover crop selector tool at http://mccc.msu.edu/SelectorTool/2011CCSelectorTool.pdf. Or you can go to it directly at http://mcccdev.anr.msu.edu/. Even if you don’t have anything to do with crops or agriculture, I think it’s useful to explore applications like this and think of ways you and your work team can develop decision tools for clients you serve.

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Response team discovers fruit pest, takes action

Sometimes the discovery of something very small has a very big impact. That’s what happened when a tiny vinegar fly called the Spotted Wing Drosophila or SWD was first detected this September in traps put out this year by Michigan State University entomologists. Originally from Asia, the insect established a base in the western United States and Canada. The MSU discovery marks the first time that the insect has been found in the Midwest. This miniature pest loves tasty, soft treats damaging most berry crops, grapes, cherries and other tree fruits.

 A Michigan SWD response team chaired by Rufus Isaacs, MSU entomologist, developed a pre-emptive Early Detection-Rapid Response (ED-RR) Plan, part of an integrated pest management (IPM) strategy for SWD. Entomologists and horticulturists from the MSU departments of Entomology and Horticulture, MSU Extension field staff members, Michigan Department of Agriculture staff members and fruit commodity representatives make up the team. I’d like to congratulate this group. Team members were on top of the issue, first discovering the pesky critter, then taking action. The team is doing further monitoring and is getting the word out to fruit growers to encourage them to plan for early detection through trapping, monitoring and taking crop-specific control measures.

 Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications staff members helped in spreading the word with a news release and fact sheet. Rufus Isaacs and Noel Hahn, from the Department of Entomology, and Bob Tritten and Carlos Garcia, MSU Extension, wrote the fact sheet, MSU Extension Bulletin E-3140. Even though he is on assignment in Chile, Dr. Isaacs is still on the job keeping track of SWD and the media coverage of it.

 Our staff members are actively researching and monitoring the bug to minimize its impact on fruit growers. The Spotted Wind Drosophila website gives up-to-date information, and our MSU Extension educators are in contact with fruit growers, giving out information and advice.

Project GREEEN and the Michigan Department of Agriculture provide funding for the SWD response team.

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