Dr. Dean G. Baas, Educator – Sustainable Agriculture, Michigan State University
(MSU) Extension (MSUE), is the State Coordinator for Michigan. Sarah Hanks has
served the Michigan SARE leadership team as Program Assistant since 2016. Sarah will
be leaving MSU fall of 2018 for a job opportunity at the University of Kentucky. We
anticipate replacing her position with another program assistant or state co-coordinator to
support the MI SARE PDP. 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. Dean’s position is partially funded by SARE. He
provides overall SARE leadership and coordination with MSU, MSUE, MSU
BioAgResearch and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
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 9.9 million
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 believed the impact of the SARE PDP program could be increased by changing
our strategy from the past plans of work by identifying a few cross-cutting sustainable
agriculture initiatives that would serve more sectors and commodities. To this end, during
the previous planning period we identified and interviewed a large number of
stakeholders across the diversity of agriculture and geography in Michigan. Two major
sustainable issues emerged from the interviews and they were of equal importance. They
1. Increasing pressure from insects, diseases and weeds. This was either the first
or second issue identified by over 50% of the respondents. This issue crossed
commodities including fruits, vegetables and row-crops. There is a general
consensus that resistance to chemical controls is developing across the spectrum
of agricultural pests and that current integrated pest management (IPM) practices
are not incorporating natural and sustainable methods to combat this threat to
sustaining economic productivity. There are environmental sustainability
concerns due to overuse of insecticides, fungicides and herbicides. Pollinator
protection is also cited as an on-going concern. Social sustainability of synthetic
control, perception of farms and future loss or limits on these methods due to
regulation were also cited. There is an opportunity to bridge the gap between
organic and conventional IPM. Sustainable practices including cover crops,
diversity, habitat for natural predators/pollinators and soil health are viewed as
tools that need to be re-introduced as part of the solution.
2. Sustainability of small/beginning farmers and the local food system. This
was also the first or second issue identified by over 50% of the respondents.
While this was an overarching issue, many facets were identified as contributing
to this concern. Some of these include equitable access to programs, land access,
limited financing options, declining CSA memberships, slowing growth in
farmer markets, changing consumer choices (locally produced food in large
stores), barriers to the wholesale market, resources for beginning farmers (in
particular underserved audiences), food/community sovereignty and the need for
small scale mechanization. There are many organizations working in this arena
in Michigan including Michigan Food and Farming Systems (MIFFS), Michigan
Organic Food and Farm Alliance (MOFFA), MSU Department of Community
Sustainability, MSU Student Organic Farm and local foods networks in major
cities such as Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint and Lansing. We believe the SARE
PDP program should have a role both as a facilitator in the discussions and a
supplier/supporter of educational programs in collaboration with the partners and
organizations that are currently working closely with the local food system and
We and the Michigan SARE Advisory Council believe the SARE PDP program in
Michigan can be a major driver for increasing the sustainability of agriculture by
continuing to focus our resources in these two areas. We propose to continue this work
with partners and stakeholders to identify strategies and programs whereby the Michigan
SARE PDP can address these issues. These issues are broad-based and not limited to
certain geographic areas or locales. Addressing these issues also supports our efforts to
have a greater impact and elevate the presence of SARE in Michigan.
Project objectives from proposal:
Professional Development Initiatives
The 2019 – 2020 Michigan professional development initiatives will be focused in three
areas, two as identified through the process detailed in the background and stakeholder
involvement sections and one to provide a modest level of support for other sustainable
agriculture requests that have merit. The initiatives are:
1. Sustainable integrated pest management (40% of resources)
2. Sustainability of beginning/small farms and local foods (40% of resources)
a. Including support for the NCR-SARE regional training 2019-20. We will plan
to send several representatives of our state to a regional professional
development event organized by NCR-SARE on beginning farmers and ranchers,
to be offered during calendar year 2019. Educators who are given support from
our state SARE funds to travel to this regional training will be asked to come back
to our state and serve on the planning team for our state training for beginning
farmers and ranchers. During the two-year plan of work period, we will also offer
additional SARE-funded travel scholarships, and where appropriate, mini-grant
support to further educational programming than increases the sustainability and
success of beginning farmers and ranchers.
3. Other sustainable agriculture requests (20% of resources)
A similar approach and similar resources are proposed for the first two major initiatives listed
above one. Consisting of the following:
• Establish initiative training planning committees made up of educators and stakeholders.
• One workshop/conference per year to train educators about sustainable approaches to
address the issue.
• Mini-grant support for event planning, promotion and implementation.
• Speaker and participant travel support for the events.
• The events will consist of one or more sustainable agriculture components: education,
demonstration, facilitated discussion, issue identification and/or network development as
determined by the initiative planning committee.
Estimated PDP budget below includes each initiative’s percentage for mini-grant funds, travel
scholarship funds and program assistant/co-coordinator time. The program assistant/co-coordinator will provide coordination and support to project teams planning and implementing programing for the initiatives.
Initiative 1: Sustainable integrated pest management (40%)
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. MSU AgBioResearch and Extension surveys support the priority in this area. 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. The MSUE Agricultural and Agribusiness Institute Field Crops Team has established a working group on Pest Resistance Issues. Dean is amember and chair of this workgroup. He will leverage this group in support of the SARE sustainable IPM issue.
Activities: Assess sustainable agriculture professional development training needs and lead the
development/implementation programs to address issues through the sustainable IPM initiative.
Initiative 2: Sustainability of beginning/small farms and local foods (40%)
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
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 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. Following up on the interview input from the
MIFFS report, partner organizations such as MIFFS, MOFFA, MSU Community Sustainability,
etc. will be utilized to support the sustainability of beginning/small farms and local foods
Activities: 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.
Initiative 3: Other sustainable agriculture requests (20%)
Audience: Extension educators and specialists, NRCS, NGOs, MDA and CDs.
Background: Mini-grants and travel scholarships can help educators, NRCS, governmental and
non-governmental organizations develop and deliver professional development programs or
demonstrations that promote sustainability of rural and urban communities. Additional issues
identified through the processes above include soil health, climate change/resiliency, labor
issues, health of farm families, public/regulatory perception of farmers, educating the public
about farming and concerns over the next generation of farmers. To receive these funds,
applicants must submit a professional development proposal that addresses agriculture or
community sustainability. This initiative addresses support for those deserving proposals outside of the two major initiatives
Activities: Promote mini-grants and travel scholarships for educator programs.