Dr. Dean G. Baas, Educator – Sustainable Agriculture, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension (MSUE), is the State Coordinator for Michigan. In 2016, Sarah Hanks joined the Michigan SARE leadership team as Program Assistant. Sarah comes to Michigan SARE with previous Southern SARE experience at the University of Kentucky. The Michigan SARE State Sustainable Agriculture PDP program is coordinated through MSUE. . Dean has office locations in the St. Joseph County MSUE office in Centreville, MI and at the MSU W.K. Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) in Hickory Corners, MI. Sarah is located at KBS. Their positions are both partially funded by SARE. Together they provide overall SARE leadership and coordination with MSU, MSUE, MSU BioAgResearch and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Previous POWs have been jointly developed with a voluntary advisory board including consensus on professional development initiatives to be supported through travel scholarships and mini-grants. While this has served Michigan well in the past, engagement with SARE has been waning as agricultural educators face funding challenges and less voluntary time. Often, their view of sustainable agriculture is limited to their commodity, sector or area of expertise and many are including sustainability in their on-going programs. For this planning period we are endeavoring to step back and identify the larger sustainable issues that cut across a greater number of agricultural commodities and sectors by interviewing a large number of a stakeholders across the diversity of agriculture and geography in Michigan.
Michigan is home to more than 300 commodities: with national rankings in the top 5 in production in over 35 different crops ranging from hay to carrots to dry kidney beans. 7th in the nation for maple syrup and milk and 8th in egg production and potatoes. This diversity is only second to California. Michigan agriculture takes place on 9.9million acres across the state, averaging 193 acres per farm, with approximately 52,000 farms. In the North Central region of SARE Michigan stands out as the most diverse.
We believe the impact of the SARE PDP program will increase by changing our strategy from the past plans of work by proposing larger programs with broader audiences that address issues that are common across sectors therefore having a larger impact than being specific with specific commodities/sectors. This plan addresses our concern that agriculture in Michigan is so diverse, that we were not reaching as many educators as we could under our previous plans.
The state initiatives for 2017-18 are:
1. Sustainable integrated pest management
2. Sustainability of beginning/small farms and local foods
3. New emerging issue, follow-up to initiatives 1 and/or 2 and/or support to
4. Other sustainable agriculture requests
Our strategies for this plan on work is to identify the leading and cross cutting issues for sustainable agriculture in Michigan. To inform this plan of work, 30 agricultural leaders from throughout Michigan across commodities, sectors, organizations and geography were interviewed to identify the top sustainable agriculture issues in Michigan. Through this process we were able to obtain insight from a level of leaders that would not typically be available to serve on a traditional advisory board and have a bigger picture perspective. These leaders provided a broader base that reflects sustainable agriculture issues across the diversity ofagriculture in Michigan.
Each interviewee was asked the same question, “What do you feel are the top one or two issues related to the economic, environmental or social sustainability of agriculture in Michigan?” The discussion following their response to the above question provided additional context for developing this plan of work. These interviews lasted from 10 to 30 minutes as many readily expanded on their views of what worries them about the future of agriculture in Michigan.
The two major sustainable issues that emerged from the interviews became the number one and two initiatives for the plan of work. 1.) Sustainable Integrated Pest Management and 2.) Sustainability of beginning/small farms and local foods. It was our intent to have a training for number 2 in 2017 and number 1 in 2018. After some thought we decided it would be best to do some further investigation about the second initiative but in deciding to subcontract this work to experts in this area, MIFFS (Michigan Food and Farming Systems) this work got started in December 2017 and is not expected to be completed until the end of February.
After we have more information back from interviews they are conducting with regional extension agents and farmers throughout the state we will have a better idea of how to get started in developing the training’s needed to assist in solving these issues. Our plan of action for developing these training’s are as follows:
- A SARE advisory committee of eight stakeholders focused on planning, development, promotion and implementation of that initiative with SARE leadership. One face-to-face meeting and multiple teleconferences will facilitate this planning committee.
- A one and a half day event with a target participation of 30 educators from Universities, Extension, NGO’s, non-profits, agencies, commodity groups, lead farmers and other stakeholders. While events will be developed for
agricultural educators, interested and influential farmers will be included.
- Expenses to participate will be fully covered by the program. Resources to bring in two subject matter experts from outside of Michigan to supplement and enhance contributions from in-state experts.
- The event will consist of one or more sustainable agriculture components: education, demonstration, facilitated discussion, issue identification, network development and/or production of publications/extension bulletins as
determined by the initiative planning committee.
- For each of the three initiatives, approximately $1500 has been budgeted to
support advisory committee planning activities and $12,000 to hold the event.
Due to the late start in infinitive number 2 we will be taking on both 1 & 2 in 2018.
We did want to include some flexibility in our plan of work and created Initiative 3, for emerging, regional training’s and/or other sustainable issues. This allows us to continue our mini grant program and budget for travel scholarships for educators to learn more about issues most relevant to there areas of work.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Assess sustainable agriculture professional development training needs, and lead the development/implementation of a program to address sustainable IpM issues
Audience: Educators from universities, Extension, NGO’s, non-profits, agencies, commodity groups, lead farmers and other stakeholders engaged in IPM research, education and consultation in fruits, vegetables and row crops from across Michigan.
Background: Agricultural leaders identified sustainable integrated pest management as a leading issue related to the economic, environmental and social sustainability of agriculture in Michigan (see Stakeholder Involvement). This issue is universal as a top one or two issue across all commodities. Examples of pest problems associated
with current IPM practices include increases herbicide resistant marestail and palmer amaranth; spotted wing Drosophila, western bean cutworm, spider mites, aphids and soybean cyst, sugarbeet cyst and root knot nematodes; and soybean sudden death syndrome, fusarium and Goss’s wilt. Leaders have expressed renewed interest in sustainable IPM practices to fight these increases.
Facilitate discussions, assist issue identification and definition, strengthen networks and support the development of collaborative programs to increase the sustainability of small/beginning farms and local foods in Michigan.
Audience: Educators from universities, Extension, NGO’s, non-profits, agencies, local food groups, urban agriculture, lead small/beginning farmers and other stakeholders engaged in research, education and consultation for beginning/small farms and local foods from across Michigan.
Background: Agricultural leaders identified the sustainability of beginning/small farms and local foods as a leading issue related to the economic, environmental and social sustainability of agriculture in Michigan (see Stakeholder Involvement). This
issue was a top one or two issue for many agricultural leaders inside and outside the local foods leadership. Within this issue area there were many contributing factors and a number of established organizations to collaborate with on identifying the best 5 use of SARE PDP resources to support sustaining this critical segment of agriculture in Michigan. SARE can make its greatest contribution through collaboration/facilitation with existing groups.
To be determined
Audience: Educators from universities, Extension, NGO’s, non-profits, agencies, lead farmers, NRCS, NGOs, MDA and CDs and other stakeholders engaged in research, education and consultation for a new emerging issue, follow-up to initiatives 1or 2, soil health regional training or other requests.
Background: A clearly defined third sustainable agriculture issue did not emerge from the leadership interviews (see Stakeholder Involvement). The sustainable agricultural issue(s) supported by funding for this initiative will be develop with additional input from agricultural leaders, initiative advisory groups and SARE leadership. Funding could range from one large program to a number of small
programs, but has been budgeted as on large program. Soil health and support at different scales for the regional training is an obvious choice for this initiative. Michigan will participate in the NCR-SARE 2017-18 regional initiative on soil health and water by supporting the involvement of selected agriculture educators in one or more soil health-related professional development events during the two year time frame.
We sent four educators to the National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health (November 2017 in Indianapolis)
We sent four educators to the Midwest Cover Crops Council meeting in Grand Rapids, MI (March 2017).
We supported three educators from our state participate in the Soil Health Nexus extension program held prior to the National Cover Crop and Soil Health Conference and being developed by the NCR Water Network and the NCR-SARE program through this initiative or remaining funds from the previous period.
In addition, mini-grants and travel scholarships were awarded for:
- Attending the Community Food Systems Conference
- Developing a New Educator Workshop
- Supporting the MOFFA Organic Intensives program
- Supporting the MSU Vegetable Team Summer In-service
- Supporting WISEWOMEN participants at the Family Farm Conference
- Supporting the Great Lakes Forage and Grazing Conference
- Supporting the Organic Reporting Session
Community Food Systems Conference
- attendees representing various organizations had the opportunity to discuss issue
- making contact with new resources working similar objectives as ours and continuing dialogue to share info
National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health:
- Increased knowledge of cover crops and soil health
- Improve knowledge/skills concerning CC management practices
- Networking with farmers and agency personal
- increased ability to answer client questions
- increased knowledge to give individual consultations
- develop new contacts and partners for work
- new materials for newsletters/blogs/radio
- new materials to deliver new programming on topic area
Organic Reporting Session
- 42 participants, 25 of which were farmers
- Research priorities for organic farming were identified by farmers
- Cover crops of various scales and types of farmers in MI was identified as largest need.
Great Lakes Forage and Grazing Conference
- 100 participants, mainly farmers
- participants developed new understanding of how small grain and alternative forage crop haylage can be incorporated into northern corn silage rotations to serve dual purpose as cover crops and dairy feed.
- they learned new methods for making hay-in-a-day, offering opportunities to save money by improving forage quality and reduce weather losses in high rainfall areas like Michigan
WISEWOMEN participants at the Family Farms Conference
- 12 women participated in this conference
- Increased knowledge of farming concepts to then be put to use by improving their own small farms
MSU Vegetable Team Summer In-service
- 15 individuals attended this in-service
- Toured organic and conventional vegetable production operations.
- Toured ag supplier and produce brokers
- exposed to challenges and problems facing entire scope of the vegetable production and marketing chain
- looking at from a holistic perspective gave them an idea at how, who and where in the chain they can provide help to the industry
MOFFA Organic Intensives 2017
- 32 attended, over half were farmers
- participants left with a significantly deeper knowledge and understanding of the topic area
- participants left with specific ideas for how to implement this new knowledge in their operations
Educational & Outreach Activities
Face of SARE
The Michigan SARE web site (www.misare.msu.edu) contains information about
the Michigan PDP program, application forms for mini-grants and travel scholarships,
and links to other SARE grant programs on the NCR-SARE site.
Michigan will continue promote SARE at a variety of events, field days,
conferences and meetings in 2017 and 2018 such as the Northern Michigan Small
Farms Conference, Michigan Family Farms Conference, Michigan Grazing
Conference, Michigan Good Food Summit, County Fairs, etc. where sustainable
agriculture audiences can be reached.
We will continue to provide support and advice to applicants for
Farmer/Rancher, R & E, PDP, Partnership, Graduate Student, and Youth Educator
Grants including individual consultation and grant writing workshops. The response
to SARE grant programs and the exposure provided by the Michigan PDP program
are evidence of expanding commitment to sustainable agriculture in Michigan. These
efforts are producing a viable network of agricultural professionals, knowledgeable in
sustainable agriculture, working to make Michigan more successful in adopting
sustainable agriculture’s practices and principles.