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Something to talk about: The 100-year anniversary of MSU Extension

One hundred years ago this May, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Lever Act into law. The act established a system of cooperative extension services connected to land-grant universities. The idea was to take all the wisdom and knowledge from the land-grant institutions and make that available to people in their everyday lives – out on the farm, in their homes, in their businesses and in their communities. That was 100 years ago and here we are – we’re still at it.

From its beginning, Michigan State University Extension’s emphasis has been on agriculture. Well over half of our federal and state funds go into agricultural programming. Our network of Extension educators makes faculty expertise and university research available to communities.

We’re still involved in the same areas today but we’ve also evolved. We’ve looked for new ways to reach people where they are. We now have a presence at Detroit Eastern Market and the Grand Rapids Downtown Market where we educate the public on nutrition, gardening and food safety. We will soon have a footprint in the Flint Farmers Market. Our Michigan Fresh campaign further educates on fruits, vegetables, flowers and ornamentals as well as food safety, food storage and preservation, and gardening.

We’ve found new ways to reach out to youth. Michigan 4-H Youth Development has grown in one year from 175,000 to 200,000 youth. We are over halfway to our goal of reaching 20 percent of Michigan youth by 2020. We’re getting kids interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) outside the classroom. We’re also helping kids ‒ through a multitude of project areas ‒ develop life skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and decision making. These skills will help them become the leaders and successful, resilient adults of tomorrow.

Our placemaking team and community food systems team help communities discover how to attract people.

Any challenges we do have, we turn to opportunities. You may want to listen to my conversation with Kirk Heinze that took place March 21 on Greening of the Great Lakes on News/Talk 760 WJR. I talk about how our Michigan State University Extension programs are still life changing and relevant after 100 years. You can read the MLive article here: http://www.mlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2014/03/as_msu_extension_celebrates_it.html. At the end of the article, you’ll find a link to the broadcast.

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News segments raise awareness of Extension and the work we do

As I mentioned in several articles in this Spotlight, the MSU Extension website continues to be an effective medium to get the word out to folks about our great programs. Another avenue excels at communicating about our organization and the fantastic work we do. ANR Communications is producing two-minute news segments focusing on our programs, research and major initiatives. Marketed under a series titled “Did You Know?” the segments began airing last month, directly before Tim Skubick’s public affairs program “Off the Record” on WKAR Channel 23.

The video segments were developed to raise the public’s awareness of Extension and all it does. In addition to appearing along with “Off the Record,” they are also posted online, providing us with additional exposure and opportunities for sharing.

ANR Communications multimedia production team leader Steve Evans said, “We’ve strategically placed these videos ahead of ‘Off the Record’ because we believe key decision makers and those in major agencies in multiple areas of government watch the show.”

The videos have focused on Firewise, which offers resources in home and community fire protection, and Stepping Stones, a program that provides urban youngsters with outdoor education experiences. Another video featured Extension educator Marilyn Thelen discussing the 2012 drought. Future videos will spotlight 4-H Discovery Camp and 4-H Great Lakes & Natural Resources Camp. Another will highlight senior Extension educator Dennis Pennington discussing the feasibility of using marginal lands for energy crop production.

Steve co-produces the videos with video producer and director Kraig Ehm. If you have a story you’d like to submit for consideration, send your ideas to Steve at evansst@msu.edu or Kraig at ehm@msu.edu.

View the videos here.

Another venue that features work of MSUE colleagues is the Greening of the Great Lakes, a website and radio feature hosted by retired MSU Professor Kirk Heinze. Kirk recently hosted Rick Foster, W.K. Kellogg Chair in Food, Society and Sustainability and former director of MSUE’s Greening Michigan Institute. You can read and hear the interview with Rick on the MSU initiative to foster development of the metropolitan food system and related industries in Detroit.

Kirk’s radio productions are broadcast on Sunday nights from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on News/Talk 760 WJR. He often highlights innovations underway by MSUE scientists and educators.

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Extension educator gives tips on holiday food safety on WJR

Thanksgiving is a week away. Wait, is that right?  Oh my, I am SO far behind in preparing for that! Anyway, it is a great time to focus on the things we are thankful for, and let’s face it, it’s a great time to eat! Have you ever wondered if those turkey pop-up timers are really accurate? Heck, I have two meat thermometers because I don’t believe them and I’m afraid I’ll get one of them too close to a hot bone. And after a delicious and sometimes sleep-inducing holiday meal, how long can you safely leave the food sitting out until someone musters enough energy or wakes up enough to start putting it away? Learn those answers and more when you listen to Michigan State University Extension educator Jeannie Nichols’ conversation with Kirk Heinze on “Greening of the Great Lakes” on WJR 760 AM.

 Jeannie will share her holiday food safety expertise at 2:08 p.m. this Sunday, Nov. 20. The second part of the conversation will air the following Sunday, Nov. 27, at 7:08 p.m. when she’ll discuss what to do with your food in the freezer in case of a power outage and other food safety issues. If you don’t want to wait till then, you can listen online to both segments combined at MLive.com at http://goo.gl/MDFVe, or visit the “Greening of the Great Lakes” Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/GOTGL. It’s great to have this kind of visibility for our expertise, and Jeannie does a great job of making it clear that food safety isn’t something to take lightly.

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