Michigan State University leaders visit Marquette to discuss sustainable agriculture

A group led by MSU Provost Teresa Woodruff spoke to over 30 attendees, some of which were leaders from across the UP.
From left to right: MSU Extension Director Quentin Tyler, MSU College of Agriculture and...
From left to right: MSU Extension Director Quentin Tyler, MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Interim Dean Kelly Millenbah, MSU Provost Teresa Woodruff and MSU AgBioResearch Director George Smith.(WLUC)
Published: Jul. 19, 2022 at 8:39 PM EDT
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Michigan State University is looking to bolster future food production, especially in the Upper Peninsula.

Tuesday, four senior leaders from MSU made their fourth of twelve stops on the Meet Michigan: Stakeholder Conversations tour. The group was led by MSU Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Teresa Woodruff. Woodruff was joined by MSU AgBioResearch (ABR) Director George Smith, MSU Extension Director Quentin Tyler and MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Interim Dean Kelly Millenbah.

This group spoke with over thirty leaders from across the U.P. at the Presque Isle Pavilion in Marquette. The group’s goal with the Meet Michigan tour is to share MSU’s research initiatives and discuss sustainable agriculture in the state.

George Smith believes Michigan can reach sustainable food production if it can work together to solve some key issues.

“If we work together we can identify what the challenges and opportunities are,” Smith said. “There is tremendous potential. Agriculture is already the number two contributor to the state’s economy. I think the future is bright but we have some problems to solve.”

One of these problems is getting future generations interested in farming. Ishpeming Middle School Principal Seth Hoopingarner is hoping to do just that. The school has partnered with Partridge Creek Farm to create an intergenerational farm.

“There are about five acres adjacent to the school and we are actually planning to have a full CTE agriculture program,” Hoopingarner said.

Hoopingarner added that more schools could benefit from programs such as this, encouraging MSU to consider funding them.

“I think part of this is that students need a career path and a different alternative,” Hoopingarner emphasized. “I think that the more investment that comes in and the more connections from universities the better these programs could be.”

Kelly Millenbah, interim dean of MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, noted it is important for universities to further engage college students.

“How we package things for those students based on the things that they are most interested in pursuing is important,” Millenbah said. “I think that is what is so critical about these partnerships because we are not going to be able to do them alone.”

MSU’s leaders at Tuesday’s meeting affirmed that creating an agriculturally sustainable state involves cooperation from lawmakers, educational institutions, farmers and more. Smith added that Michigan will need to become more sustainable. Especially as climate change continues to hamper other states’ ability to farm crops and export them to Michigan.

“Agriculture in California is in trouble,” Smith exclaimed. “California produces over 400 commodities and for over 100 of those, they are responsible for over 95% of the production for the entire country. That is not a resilient food system and I think here in Michigan and the greater midwest region we have an opportunity to improve our agriculture to adjust.”

MSU’s next stop on the Meet Michigan: Stakeholder Conversations tour is July 28 in Petoskey, Mich.

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