Tag Archives: sara keinath

Making a difference in MSU Extension District 6: Recap of the state council visit

Last week, I had the opportunity to travel north to District 6 along with our Michigan State University (MSU) Extension and AgBioResearch State Council. Shari Spoelman, district coordinator, and the crew in MSU Extension District 6 worked hard to give us a great overview of the programming, research and outreach going on in the district, and arranged for us to spend time with the people they serve.

For those of you who are new to Extension or unfamiliar with the council, we have members from all over the state who serve as a liaison between us and our county councils, field station advisory groups, and state agencies and organizations. The members come from various backgrounds: commodity group leaders, county commissioners, 4-H volunteers and farmers. We even have a meteorologist. The more they know about the work we do and the difference we make around the state, the better they can share the Extension story with our local and state decision-makers.

We began our trip with a chance to see the Kettunen Center, a conference facility owned by the Michigan 4-H Foundation. We heard about how 4-H and Extension use the center to connect with youth and volunteers. Chris Gentry, Kettunen Center director, provided us with a tour. We heard from Sara Keinath, youth development educator, and Jake Stieg, 4-H program coordinator, on the work they do with 4-H such as Mock Interview Day and 4-H Winterfest.

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Next, we traveled to B & B Farms, owned by Dan and Bonnie Blackledge, and heard about how MSU Extension and the MSU Product Center has helped them grow and market their canola seed and oil products. Jerry Lindquist, grazing and field crops educator, met us there to talk more about the relationships that MSU Extension has with specialty crop growers.

Dan and Kathy Blackledge talk about working with MSU Extension and the MSU Product Center to grow and market their canola products. Everyone stands by their house and barn.

Dan and Kathy Blackledge talk about working with MSU Extension and the MSU Product Center to grow and market their canola products.

Afterward, we visited Hidden Hills Dairy with Kathy Lee, senior dairy educator, and saw modern technology and the results of MSU Extension input at work on the farm.

State council members tour below the milking parlor where the machines send the milk.

State council members tour the milk machines below the milking parlor at Hidden Hills Dairy.

We ended the day in downtown Cadillac with Marcus Peccia, the city manager, and Carla Filkins, the mayor, to hear about their partnership with the MSU School of Planning, Design and Construction; MSU Extension and the Michigan Municipal League to create a successful placemaking plan. Marcus gave us a tour to see some of the new efforts to make downtown Cadillac a place for the community to gather as part of the Heritage Plaza PlacePlan. We saw the new amphitheater, the outdoor fireplace, the park and the future location of the Cadillac farmers market.

State Council members and administrators pose for a group photograph in downtown Cadillac.

State Council members and administrators in downtown Cadillac.

On Wednesday, Jill O’Donnell, a senior agriculture and agribusiness educator who has worked with the Michigan Christmas tree industry for over 32 years, joined us as we visited the Dutchman Tree Farm in Manton. We met with Steve VanderWeide, the owner, as he shared about farm operations and his connection with MSU Extension. We learned about the soil, tree growth process and market changes that characterize this area of the state.

Next we met up with Erin Lizotte, integrated pest management educator, at Arlene Hops to learn about hops as a re-emerging specialty crop in Michigan and MSU Extension’s efforts to provide research and support. Brian Tennis from the Michigan Hop Alliance answered questions about growing hops as well as the importance of having Extension as a valuable resource in moving forward.

State Council members stand in a hops field and listen to Erin Lizotte talk about Michigan hops.

State Council members get a chance to hear from Erin Lizotte about hop growing in Michigan.

We ended our tour at the Lake City Research Center with Jason Rowntree, Kable Thurlow and Jerry for a tour of the center and a chance to learn more about their research on forage-based livestock, potato production and bioenergy crop production. Jason is an MSU faculty member and Kable is a beef educator who conduct research and outreach at the center.

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Many council members expressed how important it was to learn more about the work we’re doing in this area of the state. It was an extremely successful trip, and I’d like to send a huge “Thank you!” out to everyone who made our visit possible.

You know, the most meaningful part for me is when we meet community members and hear how MSU Extension made a difference in their lives. Nothing beats that.

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Filed under Agriculture, Agriculture and Agribusiness, Children and Youth, Economic development, Parks, Partnerships

MSU Extension holds successful fundraiser for Nepal earthquake victims

After two back-to-back devastating earthquakes hit Nepal in the past month, the Children and Youth Institute of Michigan State University Extension held a fundraiser for the victims during its Spring Conference, May 11-15. Extension educators Sara Keinath and Jan Brinn spearheaded the effort, which raised $562.36 during the short time the conference took place.

Sara Keinath, Extension Educator, during her stay in Nepal.

Sara Keinath, Extension Educator, during her stay in Nepal.

Sara, who was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal before starting her career with MSU Extension, said, “I lived in the far east of the country for 3 years, working with community forestry user groups. Because of my friends and family in the country, I have become very attuned to the news recently.”

Sara and Jan decided to coordinate a donation through Friends of Nepal. At the Michigan Association of Extension 4-H Youth Staff auction during the conference, Sara donated a few items from Nepal with the added bonus that whatever the final bid was, she would match in a donation to earthquake relief. After the second large earthquake happened on Tuesday, May 12 (during the conference), even more colleagues asked if they could add to that donation, which was an overwhelming support of the cause, and an amount of money that would make a large difference.

Jan also shared information about Nepal 4-H and their earthquake relief efforts, showing that 4-H’ers across the globe are helping with this cause. Such generosity should be commended, and thank you, Sara and Jan, for coordinating the effort!

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Filed under Children and Youth

Snow sculpture packs on fun in Wexford County

Staff members of the Wexford County Michigan State University Extension Office have donated many hours over the past two weeks to design and create a 4-H snow sculpture to enter into the North American Snow Festival Snow Sculpture Contest. Leading the team was Tracy Trautner, 4-H program coordinator in Wexford County, who thought that entering the sculpture into the competition would be a great way to participate in the community, as well as increase awareness of local MSU Extension services. The sculpture took second place out of four entries.

Snow Sculpture in Wexford County “I think the main goal of this project was initially to build a snow sculpture for our first time. As it evolved, it turned out to be much more than that – it is located right outside of one of our larger school buildings, so it gets quite a bit of visibility on a daily basis,” Tracy said, “More than that, the snow festival will bring thousands of people to town and increase visibility for 4-H. In the end, it was a great team-building experience for our office, and I’m impressed with how everyone jumped in and donated a lot of time and effort to make our snow sculpture a success.”

The process took some time and required the dedication of the entire office as well as members of their families, but the team was dedicated to completing their project. In addition to Tracy, staff members who participated included Jill O’Donnell, Shari Spoelman, Erin Lizotte, JoAnne Benthem, Sara Keinath and Carol Blake as well as 4-H leader Dan Valley and family members.

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The North American Snow Festival takes place during the first weekend of February every year in Cadillac, Michigan. In fact, it has been held in the Cadillac area for more than 30 years. This is a great way for the Wexford County staff to collaborate with the larger community, to participate and to give back. Congratulations to all of them for a job well done!

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Filed under Accomplishments

Mentors and mentees have fun and strengthen relationships at 4-H Mentoring Weekend

The 7th Annual 4-H Mentoring Weekend brought together mentors and mentees from throughout the state July 18‒20 at the Kettunen Center in Tustin, Michigan. The event boasted 73 participants representing both one-on-one and small group mentoring.

Staff and volunteers pose for a photo at the 7th Annual 4-H Mentoring Weekend

Staff and volunteers pose for a photo at the 7th Annual 4-H Mentoring Weekend that took place July 18‒20 at the Kettunen Center in Tustin, Michigan. Photo credit: Ronald Wells, 4-H Tech Wizards mentor

The theme of “Backpack to Adventure” allowed attendees to explore cultures throughout the world. Mentees included young people aged 11 to 19. The event provided a chance for mentors and mentees to participate together in various workshops and activities as well as enjoy the opportunities offered on the Kettunen Center grounds such as playing disc golf and exploring hiking trails.

Mentors and mentees chose from a wide variety of workshops including such activities as volleyball, looming, archery, basketball, solar model car building, fishing, swimming and canoeing. Attendees made their own salsa and healthy snacks, tie-dyed T-shirts, made superhero masks, edited their own videos and learned the basics of the Chinese Children’s Ribbon Dance. Some chose to test their skills and strength on “B’Onko’s Boot Camp Obstacle Course.” Some participated in “Messy Games” to develop life skills such as cooperation and problem solving. And of course, it wouldn’t be 4-H Mentoring Weekend without the popular Jell-O Wars.

A highlight of the weekend was Carnival Night, which included Nintendo Wii and board games, karaoke and a photo booth.

Participants also took part in a service project in which they made rubber band “Rainbow Loom” bracelets for military men and women. They also wrote short notes of thanks to them in appreciation for their service to our country.

Michigan State University senior Extension specialist Lisa Bottomley provided leadership for the event on behalf of the Capacity Building work group.

Staff, volunteers, mentors and mentees at the 7th Annual 4-H Mentoring Weekend

Staff, volunteers, mentors and mentees take a break from the fun at the 7th Annual 4-H Mentoring Weekend that took place July 18‒20 at the Kettunen Center in Tustin, Michigan. Photo credit: Lisa Bottomley

“The goal of the workshop is for mentees and mentors to have a fun weekend and strengthen their relationship while trying new things and learning together. We provide a mix of recreational and learning activities,” said Lisa.

Other members of the leadership team included program coordinator Susan Fenton (co-chair for the event), Extension educator Frank Cox (co-chair for the event), Extension educator Scott Lakin (past chair), program coordinator Dequindre Bell (past chair), and student worker Scott Victor, who worked on registration and other preparation for the event.

Extension educators Jan Brinn and Sara Keinath from the Leadership and Civic Engagement work group joined the Capacity Building work group to incorporate the world culture theme throughout the weekend and to lead small and large group sessions.

Other staff involved in planning and staffing the event included Extension educator Tom Long, and program coordinators Barb Brow, Lisa Kelley, Anetria Rhodes and Will Shemer as well as program worker Barb Steele and associate program leader B’Onko Sadler.

AmeriCorps members involved included Kerry Hochradel, LaTonya Terry, Joe Barczyk and MavaMarie Cooper.

Congratulations to all on a successful event!

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Filed under 4-H

Sometimes the lesson learned is not in the lesson plan

In our roles at Michigan State University Extension, we might spend many hours preparing a presentation or workshop with specific objectives in mind expecting that participants will grasp the intended educational concept or skill. Sometimes, we have the unexpected pleasure of participants gaining even more than what we’ve planned for. That’s what happened at the 4-H Visual Arts and Crafts Workshop that took place at the Kettunen Center in Tustin, Mich., Oct. 12-13. Surprisingly, it happened because of what most of us would consider an unfortunate situation.

 The hands-on aspect of visual arts makes it a good vehicle to teach life skills. The workshop participants (4-H volunteers aged 12 and up) learn to serve as role models when they’ll teach and help process these same activities, connecting the 4-H members they work with to life skills used in science, entrepreneurship and leadership.

Roma Fuller, 4-H Visual Arts and Crafts Workshop .

Roma Fuller, 4-H Visual Arts and Crafts Workshop participant, uses battery-operated light to work on her glass etching project when the power went out during the workshop that took place at the Kettunen Center in Tustin, Mich., Oct. 12-13, 2014. Photo credit: Connie Lange

 However, when a transformer blew and the power went out for almost five hours, participants practiced some life skills not in the lesson plan that day. As participants continued to work on their projects in the dark, both staff and participants practiced resiliency, teamwork and patience. Kettunen Center staff members brought in candles and lanterns, and participants used their flashlights to finish their projects.  The planned hot meal was no longer possible, so Kettunen Center staff rose to the challenge, serving a cold-cut buffet with trimmings.

 Extension educator Connie Lange remarked, “Everyone worked together to make it successful so a challenging time is now a memory that makes us smile and proves the resourcefulness of 4-H people! The workshop is a true example of how 4-H people can work through just about anything!”

 Three work groups collaborated to plan this workshop including Leadership and Civic Engagement, Career Exploration/Workforce Preparation and Academic Success. Senior Extension educator Nancy Victorson chaired the workshop while Jan Brinn, Sara Keinath, Rebecca Krans, Connie Lange, Bev Przystas, Dave Radloff and Laurie Rivetto served on the committee. All committee members facilitated portions of the workshop and pitched in to make things work when the lights went out. Other staff members who taught were Catarina Edison and Cheryl Powell.

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Filed under 4-H

Extension educator chosen to speak at alternative high graduation

Sara Keinath, Michigan State University Extension educator in Wexford County, was the keynote speaker at Cooley High’s graduation. Cooley is Cadillac’s alternative high school and a place where Sara has taught “Going Solo” youth entrepreneur training for two years in partnership with the Cadillac Area Chamber of Commerce.

 Given the chance to choose the person to speak at their graduation, the students chose Sara. In addition to teaching the youth important life skills, she developed a meaningful and special relationship with them. Honored to accept the invitation, she provided graduates with a short but motivational message on the importance of setting goals for themselves.

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Filed under Entrepreneurial