Tag Archives: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Senior educator earns Charles Eastin Award

Yesterday, the Agriculture Council of America awarded our very own Dennis Pennington, Michigan State University Extension senior educator from Barry County, the Charles Eastin Award for involvement in agriculture advocacy. Dennis received the award at the Celebration of Agriculture Dinner held at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., on National Ag Day.

The Charles Eastin Award highlights individuals who advocate for agriculture awareness, as well as accurate communications between rural and urban audiences. It is named after Charles “Charlie” Eastin, whose “passion and dedication will continue to inspire those who work on behalf of promoting a greater understanding between rural and urban folk” according to the National Ag Day website.

Dennis was surprised to learn that he had been nominated for this award, and he is very proud of the work that led him to receive it.

“I have leveraged partnerships between MSU Extension, Farm Bureau, 4-H and FFA in my community to help teach kids and adults about agriculture and food production. I would not have been able to achieve this without the strong support of volunteers and kids in each of these organizations. They are what keeps my passion ignited,” he said.

Rachelle Lehman from the Barry County Farm Bureau nominated him, citing his willingness to communicate with the public about agriculture through educational efforts at the fair, Ag Awareness Day and online informative videos. For example, the videos he produced with the Hastings FFA students reached thousands of viewers, spreading research-based facts about agriculture to new and expanding audiences.

Our work advocating for agriculture awareness is never done, and it’s individuals like Dennis who inspire us to do more. Congratulations, Dennis!

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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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Making connections in Washington, DC

PILD Conference left to right: Phil Durst, Tom Coon, Seaman Knapp (Iowa, Texas, and USDA), Lynnae Jess, Rep. Asbury Lever (South Carolina), Bindu Bhakta, Sen. Hoke Smith (Georgia), Deanna East, Bev Przystas, and Sharon Jeffery.

MSU Extension delegation at the Public Issues Leadership Development (PILD Conference, along with a few retirees – left to right: Phil Durst, Tom Coon, Seaman Knapp (Iowa, Texas, and USDA), Lynnae Jess, Rep. Asbury Lever (South Carolina), Bindu Bhakta, Sen. Hoke Smith (Georgia), Deanna East, Bev Przystas, and Sharon Jeffery. The conference took place April 6-9 in Alexandria, Va. near Washington, D.C.

I had the good fortune of spending some time with colleagues from Michigan State University Extension at the Public Issues Leadership Development (PILD) Conference in the Washington, D.C. area this week. The conference offers workshops and features speakers on the federal side of the partnership that makes up Cooperative Extension. It also provides opportunities to meet with leaders in the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) who support and work with Cooperative Extension programs across the country. The capstone to the conference was visiting Congressional offices to meet with elected members of Congress and their staff members to help them learn about what we do in MSU Extension to help people improve their lives.

This year’s conference had a good dose of history in recognition of the centennial of the Smith-Lever Act, which established the federal partnership with land-grant universities and county government to form our uniquely American institution. We even had life-size cut-out figures representing Seaman Knapp, Congressman Asbury Lever and Senator Hoke Smith. Knapp pioneered the concept of farm demonstration agents, which gave rise to Extension agents, and Lever and Smith were the co-sponsors of the Congressional Act, which carries their names. Lever was from South Carolina and Smith was from Georgia. The seven Spartans at the conference couldn’t pass up a photo opportunity with Knapp, Smith and Lever.

I was joined by Bindu Bhakta, Phil Durst, Deanna East, Sharon Jeffery, Lynnae Jess and Bev Przystas, each representing his or her professional Extension association.

 

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Extension secretary receives recognition from NIFA director

Bonnie Powell, secretary in Michigan State University Extension Tuscola County Health and Nutrition Institute, received a note and certificate of appreciation from Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Bonnie works on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ‒ Education (SNAP-Ed) and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) data entry.

The certificate of appreciation is for taking initiative to improve the functionality of WebNEERS and the accuracy of reports. WebNEERS is the Web-based Nutrition Education Evaluation and Reporting System for NIFA. Bonnie’s contributions greatly improved the WebNEERS system for users across the country.

Stephanie Blake, WebNEERS project coordinator at the USDA, spoke to Kathy Raphael, MSU Extension associate program leader, at the National EFNEP Coordinators Conference in Washington, D.C. at the end of February about how invaluable Bonnie’s contributions were and Kathy asked that I repeat the compliment. In a separate note, Stephanie writes that she can’t thank Bonnie enough for all of her help. She has truly made a huge difference with WebNEERS. Way to go, Bonnie!

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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 to host food security team in May

On Feb. 27, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan held a press conference at South Dakota State University to announce federal grant funding for the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s (AFRI) Food Security project. Teams at 21 universities received more than $75 million in grants for research, education and extension activities to ensure food security in the U.S. and worldwide.

May 29 to 31, Michigan State University Extension educator Becky Henne will take the lead in hosting the six-state team of partners that includes MSU Extension. Extension partners from Purdue, the Ohio State University, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the University of Missouri and South Dakota State will meet in Michigan with MSU Extension colleagues to get started on research focusing on food security particularly regarding food policy councils.

Becky has played a large role in this collaborative, helping to assemble the initial grant and coordinating meetings.

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Extension educator and Extension specialist receive distinguished university awards

Douglas A. Landis, Michigan State University Extension specialist and professor in the Department of Entomology, received the Distinguished Faculty Award, and Jane M. Herbert, senior MSU Extension educator, received the Distinguished Academic Staff award Feb. 12 at the annual Awards Convocation in the Pasant Theatre in the Wharton Center. The awards presentation followed President Lou Ann K. Simon’s State of the University Address.

The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) honored the awardees with a reception in the Agriculture Hall Atrium just prior to the Awards Convocation.

Dr. Landis was one of 10 faculty honored for a comprehensive and sustained record of scholarly excellence in research and/or creative activities, instruction and outreach. Dr. Landis has had joint funding from MSU Extension and MSU AgBioResearch throughout his service at MSU.

Douglas A. Landis, Michigan State University Extension specialist and professor in the Department of Entomology, received the Distinguished Faculty Award Feb. 12, 2013.

Douglas A. Landis, Michigan State University Extension specialist and professor in the Department of Entomology, received the Distinguished Faculty Award Feb. 12, 2013, at the annual Awards Convocation in the Pasant Theatre in the Wharton Center.

Dr. Landis came to MSU as an assistant professor in entomology 25 years ago. Since that time, he has strived to help people work with rather than against nature. He is author or co-author of numerous refereed research publications in wide-ranging journals as well as author or co-author of many book chapters. He is sought after as a keynote speaker on the topics of conservation biology and the redesign of agricultural landscapes. Dr. Landis has an outstanding granting record notable for its wide-ranging collaborations. He provides inter-disciplinary granting leadership at the highest levels of national competition.

As an international authority on the delivery of biocontrol services in agricultural landscapes, his contributions to a fundamental understanding of how landscape patterns structure insect abundance and distributions across entire watersheds has paved the way toward using this knowledge for pest management.

Beginning with his initial assignment of having extension responsibility for entomological aspects of field crops, Doug has done stellar work in outreach. In this work, Doug has always been dedicated to connecting with growers and
understanding their needs. He’s also been innovative in his approach, including the adoption of emerging technologies and helping us to continue improving Extension.

Doug has provided leadership to many collaborations over his career. He shaped the Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education (SARE) program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And he has been a member of the management team for the Long-Term Ecological Research program at the Kellogg Biological Station, a remarkable collaboration that began when Doug first arrived at MSU.

Jane Herbert was one of four people honored for the award that recognizes the outstanding achievements of academic specialists and MSU Extension academic staff members who serve the university in advising, curriculum development, outreach, extension, research and teaching.

Jane M. Herbert, senior Michigan State University Extension educator, received the Distinguished Academic Staff award Feb. 12, 2013

Jane M. Herbert, senior Michigan State University Extension educator, received the Distinguished Academic Staff award Feb. 12, 2013, at the annual Awards Convocation in the Pasant Theatre in the Wharton Center

Jane is a nationally recognized expert on inland lake management with an emphasis on natural shoreline landscaping and bioengineered shoreline erosion control.

She has been a major asset to Extension in the development, delivery and evaluation of regional and statewide water resource Extension programming since joining MSUE in 1996.

As a district water quality educator with the Extension Land and Water Unit at Kellogg Biological Station (KBS), she served the citizens of 17 southwest Michigan counties with innovative water resource programming. Now located at the Kalamazoo County MSU Extension office, she provides statewide leadership for water resource programming within the Greening Michigan Institute and serves as a water resource educator across Michigan.

She assumed a leadership role in the creation of the Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership (MNSP), bringing together academia, industry representatives, regulatory agencies and nonprofits to develop and deliver innovative natural shoreline education. She also provides leadership for the development, delivery and evaluation of required continuing education for MNSP-certified contractors, including the creation of advanced bioengineering field construction experiences and training videos.

In collaboration with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, she led a multi-agency effort to develop a publication (MSUE Bulletin WQ60) to help large quantity water users and others understand the basis for Michigan’s new online Water Withdrawal Assessment Process – the mechanism by which Michigan complies with the Great Lakes Compact.

She has published in a variety of natural erosion control and landscape trade magazines, bringing national attention to the technical and community development model of Certified Natural Shoreline Professional (CNSP). She served as lead author and coordinating editor of the CNSP training curriculum, (MSUE Bulletin E3109), which received the 2012 Gold Award for a Long Publication from the Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals.

She has co-authored successful grants totaling nearly $1 million to develop and deliver water resource management programming.

Congratulations to Doug and to Jane!

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USDA grant allows research of effects of grassland harvest on insect pollinators

Rufus Isaacs and Doug Landis, both Michigan State University entomology professors who have MSU Extension and AgBioResearch appointments, have received a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to study the effects of grassland harvest on pollinator populations.

The research team is seeking landowners and managers to assist with the project this fall. Appropriate sites include those in southern Michigan with at least 10 acres of grassland that will be mown, not mown or mown leaving a 10 percent refuge strip. Landowners can keep the forage. The team will sample the fields for two seasons for bees.

The project will investigate ways to manage grasslands with minimal damage to insect pollinators.

The team will connect with Extension educators and specialists as the results of the research become available.

Read more here.

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Update on the MSU Product Center Food–Ag–Bio

I heard an update recently from Dr. Chris Peterson, professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics, and director of the MSU Product Center Food–Ag–Bio, about the impacts the center has had since it was created in 2004. The center was established to serve the needs of entrepreneurs who are developing and commercializing “high-value, consumer-responsive products and businesses in the agriculture, natural resources, and bioeconomy sectors.” It was created with funding from Michigan State University Extension and MSU AgBioResearch, along with some key grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

 The Product Center combines in-depth analysis of business trends in these three sectors with on-the ground, community-based and individually tailored delivery of educational services to entrepreneurs. Campus-based analysts team with community-based Extension educators who are trained as innovation counselors to provide the business-centered services. Clients are facing complex and dynamic situations in which they have to make potentially business-ending decisions. Sometimes the best decision they make is to proceed no further with their investments of time, talent and money. In other cases, they walk a tightrope of risk, carefully gauging each decision step as they seek to maintain a balance between profit and loss.

 Over the first seven years of the center’s existence, it has provided more than 21,000 counseling sessions and its clients, numbering nearly 1,800, have created 229 new enterprises, creating more than 900 new jobs and helping to retain more than 400 existing jobs. The total amount of capital that has been invested in these enterprises exceeds $310 million. The center’s productivity has accelerated in the past 18 months as the MSUE restructuring allowed greater concentration of effort by innovation counselors on the enterprise development program.

 The center has initiated a new line of programming that is directed towards existing Stage 2 businesses that have sustainable revenue and are looking to make major expansions in sales and production. This takes more detailed analysis of business trends and enterprise operations, but the investment of MSU’s effort is justified by the increased likelihood of success for established enterprises as opposed to startups. This new initiative is named the High Impact Venture Action Team, or HI-VAT, and is supported with investments of funding from MSUE. It will be interesting to track the continued success of the innovation counselor network and the HI-VAT team as they continue to build on the very successful first seven years of the Product Center. We are deeply indebted to Dr. Peterson and the Product Center and innovation counselor teams for their leadership in creating a new model for how Extension can have an impact in communities across the state.

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Extension program instructor receives CNPP recognition

Shari J. Dickson received recognition from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP). Shari is a Michigan State University Extension SNAP ED (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program–Education) and Family Nutrition Program instructor in Roscommon and Missaukee counties. She received a certificate signed by the CNPP’s Deputy Director Robert Post honoring her as a valued Community Partner in the CNPP/USDA Nutrition Communicators Network.

 Shari received a letter from the Nutrition Communicators Network Team thanking her for her continuing support and stating, “We appreciate your efforts in reaching your community and audiences with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines key messages and MyPlate. … In addition to promoting the MyPlate graphic as a reminder to eat healthfully, we appreciate your efforts in creating supporting resources, tools, and how-tos for your audiences.”

 Congratulations, Shari!

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