Tag Archives: randy beaudry

An apple a day, brought to you by strategic connections

With fall in full swing, hopefully you’ve had a chance to pick up some Michigan apples from your local farmers market, orchard or grocery store. Did you know that Michigan is our country’s third largest producer of apples with more than 11.3 million apple trees on over 35,000 acres (according to the Michigan Apple Committee)? That’s 825 family-run farms that produce our juicy and delicious Pure Michigan apples. Who can bring the apple industry groups and families to the table with the university to problem-solve specific needs? Michigan State University (MSU) Extension agriculture and agribusiness educators Amy Irish-Brown and Phil Schwallier.

Through their strategic connections, Amy and Phil facilitated the creation of the lab on the Ridge near Sparta to measure apple maturity indices. The Ridge is Michigan’s major apple-producing region that is located in Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties. This region has the topography, soil, elevation and microclimate that are perfect for growing apples. The idea for a lab grew from a conversation Amy and Phil had on the way to a meeting about the need to closely monitor Honeycrisp and Fuji apples that had been experiencing some serious quality issues. When they pitched the idea to the Michigan Tree Fruit Commission, they received an outstanding response from the entire apple industry.

The Michigan Tree Fruit Commission responded with $50,000 in funding for the project, the Michigan Apple Committee with $15,000, and the Michigan State Horticulture Society with $20,000. Storage Control Systems responded by donating space for the lab at a value of $5,000. AgroFresh donated an automatic firmness tester (valued at $5,000) and Riveridge Produce Marketing donated the use of a quality database ($2,000). Dr. Randy Beaudry, from the MSU Department of Horticulture, donated use of a gas chromatograph ($3,000) and served as MSU specialist for this effort. When local apple growers donated fruit for testing, the lab was ready for action.

Why was there such an overwhelming response? Because Amy and Phil had formed strategic connections and relationships with the people involved in the apple industry from growers, to businesses, to campus connections.

“It’s really been a lifetime of connections that have developed and continue to develop.” Amy said. “We work with a great group of producers – they are supportive and fun. We treat everyone with respect and listen to their issues. The one-on-one connections lead to an insight into the bigger issues facing the apple industry as a whole, which best helps us help growers. Growers often just want to be growers, so sometimes, we have to make connections with media, state and federal agencies and services, commodity groups, and others to represent the interests of the apple industry for them.”

The lab has been up and running since 2015, and it provides critical real-time information to Michigan apple producers from pre-harvest through the harvest season and in post-harvest storage. Amy and Phil are able to integrate, summarize and deliver information to Michigan apple growers in concise weekly reports on apple pruning indices, nutritional impact, maturity indices for appropriate harvest, and storage indices. These reports help growers make the best real-time decisions and grow high-quality apples at a profit. Using this technology, they identify what is working well for the current year apple crop and where growers can make decisions to improve this year’s harvest outcomes.

“We have the fruit industry’s issues at heart; it is our passion.” Phil said. “To be valued, successful and admired requires knowing the people, performing tasks that address their most pressing issues, and the persistence to complete the work the growers and industry define as important. This means that ‘people skills’ is the most important characteristic an Extension person needs to have; but fruit knowledge, hard work, self-motivation and job dedication are also important. We work for the fruit industry and thus the fruit industry works for us, MSU and Michigan.”

Check out this great video created by the Michigan Apple Committee that describes growers’ relationship with MSU Extension.

Amy and Phil are a great example of strategic connections and building relationships. Have you thought about connecting with committees in your area or faculty specialists on campus? What needs to do you see in your communities that could be met by a collaboration with local businesses, companies and governmental groups?

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MSU Extension staff members receive IFTA awards

The International Fruit Tree Association (IFTA) presented awards to Dr. Randy Beaudry and Amy Irish-Brown at its 59th Annual Conference and Tours in Grand Rapids. Each year during its awards dinner banquet, the IFTA recognizes five categories of outstanding industry professionals. This year, more than 400 orchardists, nursery professionals and plant scientists from nine countries gathered and honored the award recipients.

Photo of Dr. Randy Beaudry professor and researcher in the MSU Deparment of Horticulture and MSU Extension.

Dr. Randy Beaudry, professor and researcher in the MSU Deparment of Horticulture and MSU Extension. Photo courtesy of MSU.

Dr. Randy Beaudry received the 2016 Outstanding Researcher Award. Randy has been a professor and researcher for over 25 years and is part of the MSU Department of Horticulture and MSU Extension. Randy’s recent research focuses on pre-harvest maturity and postharvest apple storage, specifically in the Honeycrisp variety. He has worked to reduce storage disorders and to improve controlled-atmosphere storage of Honeycrisp apples. His work proved that Honeycrisp apples need pre-conditioning after harvest before they are stored to eliminate storage breakdown. Also, his research shows that post-harvest treatments also increase fruit quality.

Dr. Vance Baird, Department of Horticulture chair, shared his thoughts on Randy’s award.

“Randy Beaudry continues to define excellence and balance in effective research and impactful outreach. His program at Michigan State University operates at the cutting edge of post-harvest science while remaining relevant to the tree-fruit industry in Michigan, across the U.S. and around the world,” Vance said. “This award from the IFTA recognizes the contributions and positive influence Randy’s research career has had and will continue to have, for the success and sustainability of the fruit tree industry.”

Photo of Amy Irish-Brown, senior MSU Extension educator.

Amy Irish-Brown, senior MSU Extension educator. Photo courtesy of MSU.

Amy Irish-Brown is a senior Extension educator who has worked with tree fruit orchardists for almost 25 years. She specializes in tree fruit integrated pest management serving west central Michigan, but acts as a resource for the entire state. Growers respect Amy for her abilities, dedication and knowledge, and they are drawn to her friendly personality.

Dr. Ron Bates, Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute director, shared his thoughts about Amy’s award.

“Amy Irish-Brown is a consummate Extension professional and works diligently to deliver to the tree fruit industry, science-based, cutting-edge information they need to be successful,” Ron said. “Amy is well deserving of this award and is to be congratulated for the recognition that her extension programming deserves.”

Congratulations, Randy and Amy!

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Fruit growers name Beaudry ‘Fruit Man of the Year’

Yesterday, I had my second opportunity to see Dr. Randy Beaudry, Michigan State University professor of horticulture, honored by the industry he serves in his research and Extension program. I described his recognition with the 2010 Distinguished Service Award from the Michigan State Horticultural Society in a previous posting. And yesterday, the Michigan Apple Pomesters recognized him with the “Fruit Man of the Year” award, one that has been awarded to educators Phil Schwallier and Amy Irish-Brown as well. The presentation recognized the impact of Dr. Beaudry’s research on postharvest physiology that I described in the previous blog entry.

 What was different yesterday was that the presentation was made by current and former students who worked in Dr. Beaudry’s lab. To hear praise from students like I heard yesterday is remarkable. They genuinely know that Dr. Beaudry was much more concerned with their education and development than with the work that he needed to have them complete in his laboratory.

 Adam Dietrich summed it up by saying that he was “…very accommodating, friendly, and one of the best resources we had due to his wealth of knowledge on scientific but also life subjects. He was never unwilling to help when college homework became a struggle, always made sure there was some order in his lab, but made sure it was a friendly atmosphere and was moving forward. He had high expectations of everyone and we were sure to meet them because of the respect we had for him but also because he had always treated us with respect.”

Congratulations to Dr. Beaudry, and thanks for his contributions to the Michigan apple industry AND MSU’s students.

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MSU professor receives Michigan State Horticultural Society Distinguished Service Award

The next time you bite into a fresh and delicious Michigan apple, you might want to thank Dr. Randy Beaudry.

 The Michigan State Horticultural Society (MSHS) recently recognized Dr. Beaudry’s contributions to the Michigan fruit industries when it presented him with the Distinguished Service Award. First granted in 1970 during the MSHS’ centennial, the award is given in recognition of dedicated service toward improvement of the Michigan fruit industry.

 Dr. Beaudry, Michigan State University professor, joined the Department of Horticulture in 1989 and served for two years as acting chair. He has keeping produce fresh down to a science. His research activities focus on preserving the postharvest quality of fruits and vegetables. His specific areas of expertise include modified atmosphere packaging, controlled atmosphere storage, non-destructive quality assessment, apple postharvest disorder physiology, the molecular and biochemical control of aroma biosynthesis and use of volatiles to inhibit decay. His research has led to the development of a number of patented practical devices and methods.

 Dr. Beaudry works closely with the apple and sugarbeet industries with current emphasis on developing controlled atmosphere storage protocols for the Honeycrisp apple. His MSU Extension assignment with the Michigan Apple Maturity Program is designed to improve the quality of Michigan apples. He shares information on a weekly basis with Michigan shippers, packing houses, storage operators and growers.

 Dr. Beaudry is also responsible for organizing and conducting the bi-annual Controlled Atmosphere (CA) Storage Clinics. He keeps operators up-to-date on recent changes in CA and packinghouse regulations, and methods for increasing efficiency of CA operations and techniques for improving their ability to maintain high fruit quality.

 Organized in 1870, the MSHS is a 1,250-member education organization that supports the Michigan fruit industry and fosters greater interest and awareness in Michigan horticulture. It supports the MSU Extension regional educational meetings and co-hosts the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo along with the Michigan Vegetable Council each December.

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