Michigan 2019-20 SARE State Plan of Work

Project Overview

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2019: $130,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2020
Grant Recipient: Michigan State University
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
State Coordinators:
Dr. Dean Baas
Michigan State University Extension
Dr. Adam Ingrao
Michigan State University Extension


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, feed management, grazing management, manure management
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops, cropping systems, no-till, nutrient cycling, nutrient management, silvopasture
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, networking, technical assistance, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: grant making, risk management, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, carbon sequestration, soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: allelopathy, biological control, chemical control, integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: dryland farming, holistic management, integrated crop and livestock systems, organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, soil microbiology, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, local and regional food systems, urban agriculture


    Dr. Dean G. Baas, Educator – Sustainable Agriculture, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension (MSUE), is the State Co-coordinator for Michigan. Sarah Hanks served the Michigan SARE leadership team as Program Assistant from 2016 through 2018, leaving MSU for a job with University of Kentucky Extension. In February 2019, Dr. Adam Ingrao - Veterans Liaison and Agricultural Entomologist with MSUE, was appointed Michigan SARE State Co-coordinator. The Michigan SARE State Sustainable Agriculture PDP program is jointly coordinated by Drs. Baas and Ingrao 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. Adam's office is in the Luce County MSUE office in Newberry, MI in the Upper Peninsula. Adam's position is partially funded by SARE. Dean and Adam provide 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 are:

    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 under-served 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 its stakeholders.

    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:

    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)
      1. 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 co-coordinator time. The program co-coordinator will provide coordination and support to project teams planning and implementing programming 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 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 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 initiative.

    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.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.