Tag Archives: shari spoelman

ESP receives Chapter of Merit – Platinum Award

Congratulations to our Epsilon Sigma Phi (ESP) Michigan Alpha Psi Chapter who received the highest award – Chapter of Merit – Platinum Award – at the ESP National Conference in Wilmington, North Carolina, which took place October 9–12.

The Chapter of Merit recognition program was developed by the National Board to provide recognition for those chapters who have put forth an exemplary effort to forward the cause of the Extension system and to provide professional development opportunities for their members. Award efforts are scored on several criteria and each chapter receives an award category, Platinum being the highest. The Michigan Chapter received the highest award in the North Central region and nationally.

“There was a variety of criteria in which we were scored,” Shari Spoelman, Michigan State University Extension District 6 coordinator and ESP president-elect, said. “The ones that stand out for our chapter include Organization/Leadership, Awards and Recognition, Member Recruitment and Retention, and Professional Development.”

Shari stopped by yesterday and brought the award so that we can display it proudly in our office.

ESP Award Plaque Sits next to a poinsetta on a shelf in the Director's Office.

Please join me in congratulating the ESP board members on the recognition of their outstanding efforts:

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Focus on Forages and the Future: The 2nd annual Ag Innovation Day

The second annual Michigan State University (MSU) Agriculture Innovation Day that took place at the MSU Lake City Research Center welcomed 230 guests. This year, the theme was Focus on Forages and the Future. The educational field day delivered a cutting-edge, in-depth look at critical topics such as forages, livestock and the future to help farmers meet growing producer demands. People came from across the state, the Midwest and Canada.

Shari Spoelman, MSU Extension District 6 coordinator, helped shuttle people back and forth from their cars, giving her the opportunity to interact with visitors.

“I talked with folks from Ohio, Indiana, Ontario and southern Michigan,” Shari said. “Some wanted to just explore the research center property. Others said they wanted to go to all the sessions. Some had certain things they were especially interested in like soil health or double-cropping. One man arrived with his grandkids – they said they came for something fun to do in the area.”

Throughout the afternoon, farmers had the opportunity to participate in nine sessions focused on topics such as alfalfa genetics, silage, double-cropping, dairy cattle monitoring, soil health, baleage, beef operations management and land regeneration.

MSU senior Extension educator Marilyn Thelen shared that producers from across the state attended her session “Expand Your Land Use With Double-Cropping.”

“The session generated a lot of discussion on how cover crops could be incorporated into various systems for feed or simply for cover,” Marilyn said.

You can find session handouts on the Speakers page.

In the evening, participants attended a reception and were able to hear from President Lou Anna K. Simon and Dean Ron Hendrick and connect with other leaders in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“Attendees and staff got a chance to mingle with stakeholders and talk about emerging and trending topics in agriculture, including the grass-fed beef and sustainability research Dr. Jason Rowntree is involved with, and matters as important as how we talk about ‘climate change,’” Shari said.

MSU Agriculture Innovation Day rotates to various locations throughout the state to give farmers access to experts who can help them improve their businesses while maintaining environmentally sound practices on their farms. MSU hosted the first Ag Innovation Day on Aug. 24, 2016. The event is the vision brought about after Ag Expo was re-envisioned.

“Ag Innovation Day is the opportunity for farmers to get the most up-to-date information from MSU,” said John Mossner, farmer and MSU Extension and AgBioResearch State Council member. “It is focusing on sound research and science relating to the type of agriculture conducted at each research station. Having attended both events in the last two years, I am impressed with the effort that MSU Extension is doing to make it a meaningful day.”

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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

Extension staff member selected as CANR SAC Support Staffer of the Month

The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Staff Advisory Committee (SAC) selected Lori Trailer as the May 2016 Support Staffer of the Month. Lori has been with Michigan State University (MSU) Extension for 13 years. She provides administrative and clerical support for MSU Extension’s District 6, serving Clare, Gladwin, Isabella, Mecosta, Missaukee, Osceola and Wexford counties.

Headshot of Lori Trailer.

Lori Trailer, photo courtesy of MSU Extension Communications Team.

Shari Spoelman, MSU Extension educator, nominated Lori for the award.

Lori assists with the planning and scheduling of the District Extension Council meetings, carries a heavy workload related to the employment of district staff and helps keep all the county support staff appraised of information to help them do their job well.

She provides excellent service to the employees and stakeholders of the district and is flexible with her time, often changing her schedule to accommodate other people’s schedules. She is always kind and professional and represents the organization well.

Lori also works behind the scenes in important Extension initiatives. Recently, Lori has been an immense asset during our statewide Issues Identification (ID) process in which we solicited input from community stakeholders throughout the state. In District 6, Lori helped organize three Issues ID sessions and contacted hundreds of community members to solidify their participation. As the backbone of organizing these events, her tireless work on behalf of the mission of the organization are very much appreciated.

Lori said that her favorite part of her role with Extension is the dedicated people she works with.

“It’s great to belong to an organization that helps so many people in so many ways,” she said.

Congratulations, Lori! We appreciate you and all the work that you do for MSU Extension.

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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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Kudos and suggestions from the civil rights auditors

As you know, Michigan State University Extension recently took part in a U. S. Department of Agriculture civil rights audit. They occur once every four or five years. I’ve been involved in four of these – twice as a regional director and now twice as director of Extension – the last time was in 2004.

I’m very proud of the work we are doing to demographically reach target audiences. We are reaching the audiences in close demographic comparison in categories of race and gender. You may be surprised by some of the data. For example, of youth participants in the Children and Youth Institute, only 9 percent live on farms. This differs from the popular perception that 4-H only serves farm youth. The data shows that we meet people where the need is great with health and nutrition information as well as financial and money management.

The auditors were thrilled with the way we presented the data. I’d like to thank the many staff involved in helping to gather the data and put it into an understandable format. They include Nancy Axtell, Jessica Nakfour, Jean Schueller, Bruce Haas, Cheryl Peters, Olga Santiago, Kathy Raphael, Mary Wilson, Gloria Ellerhorst, Emily Proctor, Christi Sovis, Doug Brinklow, Michelle Lavra, Marian Reiter, Beth Stuever, Julie Chapin, Dave Ivan, Dawn Contreras, Paul Putnam, Jim Lucas, Pat Cudney, Kelley Hiemstra, Michael Krauch, Shari Spoelman, Don Lehman, Betty Blase, Deanna East, Joe Bixler, Marie Ruemenapp, Matt Shane and Ginger Hentz. Without your hard work for months in advance of this review, we could not have done it.

The auditors took all of that data and examined it. They also went out into the field to get more information from you. They were pleased with everyone’s availability to meet with the reviewers and with the helpfulness of the staff in giving them access to our information – as I am!

They combined the data and the information to give us feedback on a few things we can work on.

In working with people, we need to diversify our overall employment makeup throughout the organization as well as work to integrate and diversify membership within 4-H clubs and broaden the programming we’re doing with female farm operators. We need to expand our nutrition programming to include demonstrated outreach with other agencies.

Consistency is something that came up in several areas. We need to be consistent in demonstrating the work we do in each county through data, and train staff in the method for collecting that data. We need to update our race/ethnicity/gender data collection forms to include the recommended way to collect race and ethnicity data. We need to use the statement concerning accommodations consistently and ensure consistency with regard to civil rights training.

We need to ensure that brochures and other promotional pieces have pictorial displays of diverse populations. I know this is something that we’ve strived to do and we will continue to focus on it.

In addition, we need to revise our Civil Rights Plan and education to include the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act as amended.

The auditors had many good things to say about our accomplishments. They praised our work with Tribal Communities as well as the work we’re doing with prisons. They believe that our work translating program documents and brochures and making them available in Spanish, Arabic and Braille is outstanding. They haven’t seen as much of that in other states. They believe we have great outreach through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-ED) and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). They believe we have strong nutrition programming at the grass roots level.

Please be sure to review the August 4 MSU Extension webinar to view the charts and graphs that we put together for the audit. Viewing them will help you get a better picture of where we stand in our efforts. We’ve worked hard to pull together a lot of information for the audit. This information is not just something that was used for the audits; we can also use this information in many other ways. View the webinar here: https://connect.msu.edu/p4bz0fut3rj/

Also, please keep checking back to the MSU Extension Civil Rights site for additional materials that will be added: http://od.msue.msu.edu/civil_rights_diversity_multiculturalism.

Once again, thank you, everyone, for all of your hard work in making the USDA audit a powerful learning experience for all of us!

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OrganWise Guys are a hit in Wexford County

Kids in Wexford County are becoming wise about nutrition and having fun at the same time with the help of Michigan State University Extension and the OrganWise Guys.

 Deb Dyer, MSUE Wexford County Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) program assistant was surprised to see an Internet posting from a Cadillac kindergarten teacher, Kelly Baas, who thought so much of the OrganWise Guys curriculum being taught in her class that she posted a lengthy testimonial, including some letters from her students. You can find it on the OrganWise Guys website here.

 The OrganWise Guys is an interactive, science-based curriculum that uses fun characters based on the organs of the body to teach children about nutrition and physical activity.

 The SNAP-Ed program provides nutrition education to persons who qualify for food assistance. These are generally people living in low-income situations who are eligible for the SNAP (what used to be called food stamps) or Bridge Cards (in Michigan). Schools with 50 percent or greater students receiving free or reduced lunches also qualify.

 MSUE campaigned with local schools to offer to come into the classroom and provide the nutrition education that they would need to meet curriculum standards. The SNAP-Ed personnel teach the curriculum but also train the teachers to implement this comprehensive nutrition program.

 According to Shari Spoelman, District 6 coordinator, referring to the posting by Kelly Baas, “This is great feedback following our first year of teaching OrganWise Guys in all qualifying classrooms in kindergarten through 2nd grade in Cadillac Area Public Schools. That’s 25 classrooms, each visited for 11 to 12 lessons.”

 MSUE staff members in counties throughout the state teach Organ WiseGuys. I mentioned Isabella County’s program in a previous blog. If you’d like to tell us more about how OrganWise Guys is being implemented in your area, please leave a comment on this blog.

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