Michigan farmers prepare crops for winter

by Courtney Culey and Kaitlynn Knopp For Michigan farmers, the next few months determine everything. They determine profits for this year, next year and, more importantly, they determine farmers’ livelihood. And after More »

Capitol Lawn Farmers’ Market

by Lauren Hansard This wasn’t an ordinary day in downtown Lansing. The lawn of the capitol attracted quite a crowd from vendors selling their products to people stopping by on their lunch More »

Coops in the city: owners talk about benefits and possibilites

by Holly Johnson and Natalie Kolb Lansing residents are taking advantage of the 2010 ordinance allowing them to raise chickens in the city. The ordinance, passed by Ingham County’s Board of Commissioners More »

Featured: Andy T’s sweet corn farm in St. Johns, MI

by Lauren Hansard   More »

Hoop houses expand local food supply at low cost

By Patrick Howard Consumer demand for locally grown fruits and vegetables appears to have no end in sight.  But experts say the economically viable “hoop house” could assist in meeting those demands. More »

MSU prepares playing fields for winter

by Joe Shermetaro and Lauren Kroll

With the weather playing such a big factor on the sport’s fields on Michigan State University’s campus, grounds crews are constantly trying to keep the fields in good shape.


McLane Baseball Stadium, MSU Home Field

When the winter months approach, and the fields begin to freeze over as snow covers them, there are extensive repairs and replacements that need to be made.

“Reviewing your field maintenance plan with your team before the cold weather hits is a major thing to take care of,” John Martinez of the MSU grounds crew said.

Leaving the fields untouched before the winter rolls around, could lead to rough playing fields come spring and summer.

“As of August 8, three-month precipitation deficits (since May 9) across the state range from 1 to 3 inches from central sections of Lower Michigan to more than 6 inches in southwestern Lower Michigan,” Professor John Anderson of the Geography department said.

Especially, in baseball and soccer, having a smooth playing surface could be a huge factor in a game.  Keeping the soccer or baseball on the ground to roll smoothly is major to the sport.

“Playing third base becomes a mind game,” MSU baseball player Martinez said.  “If the dirt is taken care of properly, it affects how I handle each situation.”

Martinez can remember many times when the fields weren’t treated correctly.

Michigan State soccer field

“First spring game of the year, last year I took a ball right off my shoulder that took a weird hop,” the 21-year-old senior explained.   “If the field would have been right, that wouldn’t have happened I don’t think.”

When the plan to treating the field is thought out,   Professor John Rogers of the Crop and Soil Sciences department believes being persistent is the next important issue.

“Aerating and fertilizing along with other practices are used in a persistent manner, almost like training an athlete, Rogers said. “This preparation allows the grass and athletic fields to get through stressful periods such as fall or winter.”

With the recent drought in the Lansing area, grounds crews also have to account for the lack of rain the fields got received  this year.

“”Plant available soil moisture levels in the top 5 feet of the soil profile of this area are currently estimated by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center to remain from 1 to 5 inches below normal for this time of year,” Professor Anderson said.

Areas in Michigan lack access to heathly foods

by Pat Howard

The number of farmers markets across Michigan has more than tripled – from 90 to 280 – since 2001, according to the Michigan Association of Farmers Markets.  However, fresh food access in several rural and urban communities remain limited, leading critics to label the areas “food deserts.”

Food deserts are defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as low-income regions where a third of the resident population lives more than one mile from a grocery store or supermarket.

And according to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study, just 73 percent of Michigan counties have access to healthy foods.  The national average is 92 percent, it said.

Ann Simonelli, communications director with the Virginia-based Conservation Fund, said Michigan’s nearly 250 farmers markets is something the state should be proud of.  “But those in poorer, rural communities often lack the facilities required to provide and sell a variety of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy,” she said.

Map courtesy of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

The Fund, which assists communities nationwide with both conservation and sustainability efforts, is focusing its efforts in Michigan on providing healthy food to the state’s rural communities, Simonelli said.

She said thanks to a recent $400,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Fund is helping communities with small- and mid-size farms increase crop output and get the food to local farmers’ markets.

“Many farmers in Michigan do not have the resources they need to grow more produce and improve their profitability,” said Peg Kohring, the Fund’s Midwest director.  “This project will better equip farmers and farmers’ markets to become a vibrant part of the local infrastructure and provide an adequate selection of healthy food options.”

According to a Conservation Fund statement, the Kellogg grant money was used to assist Michigan communities in Allegan, Berrien, Monroe, Bay, Lenawee, Van Buren, Cass, Oceana, Kalamazoo, Muskegon and Washtenaw counties.

Jennifer Holton, public information officer at the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), said the food desert designation is mostly associated with the densely populated eastern regions of the state.

She said there are entire neighborhoods in Detroit that lack grocery stores with fresh and healthy food options.

“Yes, there are more farmer markets than ever before,” Holton said.  “But access is difficult when the local food environment is concentrated in suburban areas.”

Holton said one of MDARD’s top priorities to combat food deserts is the statewide implementation of food hubs.

Aside from providing food to local businesses, schools and hospitals, she said food hubs assist smaller farms with storage and food processing.  The farms “have sales potential but do not have the resources to create facilities on their own,” Holton added.

Tunde Wey, a contributor to the Detroit Urban Innovation Exchange blog, recently wrote that initiatives taken up by the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN) are looking to move “beyond mere access to empowerment.

Wey recently wrote that west Detroit’s D-Town Farm – started by DBCFSN in 2006 – looks to educate young people about healthy eating and exercise while eliminating food deserts.

“DBCFSN, however, is dubious of this designation, as it defines food access entirely by proximity without considering other factors like quality and pricing of food options and availability of transportation,” Wey said.

He said what is occurring in D-Town and elsewhere is a “movement – one that by all indications will continue to grow.

International students face difficulty in the job market

by Anthony Harvey

Many international students like, MSU senior Osiobughie Aigbokhadode (Osi), are fearful of the job market upon graduation. Aigbokhadode studies economics and media arts and technology on a student visa.

Osi is a citizen of Nigeria. His father owns a company back in Nigeria, and he plans to assist his father running the business. First, he has to face the obstacles of pre-graduation for him next December.

Osiobughie Aigbokhadode (Osi), of Nigeria, has future hopes for better treatment of international students in the US job market.

“MSU tries to work with students,” Osi said. “Most of the time, international students depend heavily on their family for financial support. If tuition is not met, MSU will issue a short term loan. But the time expected to pay it back is unreasonable.”

Initiatives like President Obama’s administrative order similar to the DREAM Act and Gov. Snyder’s alliances geared toward helping international students. But Osi had some concerns about the current treatment of international student, especially those who fight for legalization.

“Snyder and Obama are both business savvy,” Osi said. “They are trying to appeal to a larger voter base by reaching out to internationals.”

Snyder has proven to do just that. However, this still leaves many students like Osi out in the cold. Osi is fearful about his plans after he obtains his first degree in economics.

“It is a system in place for students who have to apply for student visas,” he said. “MSU applies to Consulate asking permission for students. I already applied for an extension on my visa. Hopefully, they will extend it a little long so I can complete my second degree.”

That is only the tip of the iceberg. After graduation, students are forced to enter the workforce. Osi said employers frown upon international graduates. There are many fee associated with legalizing graduates to work in the U.S.

“My friend applied for a position with Bank of America. After passing the interview portion, he had to pass a written exam,” he said. “He did so well on the interview; they gave him a start date, but later, told him he didn’t pass the written exam.”

With the written exam and the interview material being so closely related, Osi knew something fishy occurred. This is the same story many graduates encounter when applying for positions; employers are not willing to pay for top tier applicants to legally work Osi said.

It is unknown about other states, but Michigan is making strides to help Osi and other students like him.

“I am probably the most pro-immigration governor in the United States,” Snyder said. “I think we need to go back to what made us a great country, which is encouraging people to stay in the U.S.”

In addition, organizations have made equivalent progress to monitor economic growth among foreign student.

Michigan’s University Research Corridor (URC) established the program to speed up economic welfare of the state through Michigan universities. Its unemployment rate has been on a continuous drop since 2009. At its current rate of 8.6 percent, Snyder has proved to think of innovative solutions to the nationwide economic struggle.

Osi might not see immediate change, but Snyder implies help is definitely on the way.

Refusing to join a better working environment?

The CIW protest against Chipotle for better rights of the farmworkers

by Hajr Muhammad

The Coalition of Imoklee Workers better known as the CIW strikes again, but this time the protestors pointed blame at the Mexican Grill Chipotle.

The protestors of the CIW expanded on their campaign to eliminate human rights abuses in Florida’s tomato fields by protesting “Chipotle to live up to its claims of sustainability and to recognize farmworkers as partners in its success, and to join the CIW’s Fair Food Program.”

Chipotle’s location in Southfield, Mich.

Read more here: http://www.ciw-online.org/

“Under their plan, the company says it will review its own code of conduct and decide if any changes are needed, Chipotle will check its own payments for accuracy under its penny per pound plan, and Chipotle will verify its own compliance with the changes it is proposing,” said Gerardo Reyes of the CIW in an official press release. “That’s just not credible. Transparency, verification, and participation are essential elements of the agreements we have reached with other fast-food leaders, and they are essential elements in any defensible definition of social responsibility.”

Official Press Release: http://www.ciw-online.org/images/PR_ChipotleNatlDayofAction.pdf

“It baffles us because Chipotle is talking the talking the talk without actually walking the walk,” Joe Parker, CIW spokeperson. “They way to take credit for selling products from fair labor farms, without having a soild commitment.”

According to Chipotle their refusal to sign on with the CIW Fair Food campaign is not a justification of not caring for farmworkers and their rights.

“Farm workers life is something Chipotle cares deeply about,” said Chipotle spokesperson Amber Gallihar. “Chipotle hasn’t signed the agreement because they don’t believe they need to sign a contract to do the right thing.”

Chipotle’s long standing support for sustainable and small farms has been a major factor in their business since their opening in 1993.

Chipotle prides themselves on fresh ingredients from sustainable farms.

But some customers believe that this is not enough.

“Yes Chipotle gushes over their support for sustainable farms but what about the workers?,” said East Lansing, Mich. Chipotle customer Ashley Wright. “If the CIW’s Fair Food campaign is a way to give the workers a better pay then why not join?”

According to the official Fair Food website, the Fair Food Program has a detailed Penny per Pound program that includes paying migrant farm workers on Florida fields a penny more per pound for the tomatoes they harvested.

Over $4 million in FFP Premiums have been paid out since January 2011. These payments are ongoing, and as more buyers join the program as a result of the Campaign for Fair Food, the bonuses workers receive will grow commensurately. The FFP Premium payment mechanism for buyers varies. Some have elected to fold the FFP Premiums into the final price they pay for their produce, akin to fair trade premiums, while other buyers issue separate checks directly to participating Florida tomato growers that reflect the amount and variety of tomatoes purchased.”

Read more here: http://fairfoodstandards.org/faq.html

And although Chipotle is not involved with the Fair Food Program’s Penny per Pound payment plan they have implanted their own.

Chiptole serves approximately 750,000 customers daily.

“Chipotle has reached an agreement with Florida’s East Coast Brokers and Packers Inc. to pay an extra penny per pound,” said Gallihar, “which wages for a program for fair food.”

While some customers believe Chipotle has a long way to go, other customers feel Chipotle is on the right path.

“Chipotle has done more than many companies across the world by working with sustainable farms,” said Detroit Mich. Chipotle customer Anthony Brown. “Yes they have their flaws, but don’t we all? They can’t be perfect.”

The CIW has also protested against Kroger in the past 2 months for refusing to join the CIW fair food program.

Read more here: http://news.jrn.msu.edu/jrn400farmworkers/2012/08/07/looking-for-fairness-in-the-produce-aisle-krogers-refusal-to-join-the-fair-food-program/


Michigan farmers prepare crops for winter

by Courtney Culey and Kaitlynn Knopp

For Michigan farmers, the next few months determine everything. They determine profits for this year, next year and, more importantly, they determine farmers’ livelihood. And after farmers’ assess their harvests, the impact of the harsh Michigan weather will be discovered.

“The damage is yet to be seen,” Nan Jasinowski, owner of Sweet Seasons Orchard in Concord, Mich., said.

During the summer months, Jasinowski said the trees buds get set for next year. If it’s too hot, the buds get damaged. If it doesn’t rain, some buds won’t form. The amount of buds will determine next year’s production. “We worry about it, but there’s nothing we can do,” she said. “We’re hoping for the best.”

While Jasinowski prays for healthy buds on her 30-acre farm, Randy Dragt, owner of Dragt Farms in Howard City, Mich., prays for a healthy harvest.  During the fall months, Dragt harvests his 1,000-acre farm. He stores some of the crop to feed his animals and sells others for profit. If the weather destroys his fields, his cattle, which makes him thousands of dollars, could go hungry. If the rain dries up his crops, profits decrease and his family could go hungry.

“At this point, there’s not a whole lot farmers can do,” Jim Hilker, a professor of agriculture resource in the economics department at Michigan State University, said. “All that’s left for them to do is to harvest what they get and hope it’s enough.”

So, while Michigan farmers can’t control the weather, they can hope not only for success as the current season finishes, but for changes in the next year.

For the consumers’ sake, Dragt said he hopes next year’s weather is drastically different.

If the weather stays this way, he said crop prices will increase, stores will be forced to raise prices and the consumer will inadvertently suffer.

Jasinowski said she can’t do anything but wait and see how much damage was done.

During the winter months, she will prune her 30-acre farm and package fruits up for cold storage to be sold. Most of her profits are made from July to Thanksgiving, and adding the profits from the cold storage, she should make it through the winter.“Then you get into spring and you hope it doesn’t warm up again like it did this year,” she said.

With the high heat would come damage to crop yields and a decrease in profit. “The hotter it is, the quicker the evaporation and then it all comes back to needing rain again,” Hilker said.




Capitol Lawn Farmers’ Market

by Lauren Hansard

Hundreds of people descended upon the front of the Capitol to support Michigan agriculture on July 19th
Lauren Hansard/ Michigan State University

This wasn’t an ordinary day in downtown Lansing. The lawn of the capitol attracted quite a crowd from vendors selling their products to people stopping by on their lunch break.

This event on the capitol lawn happens twice a year and Governor Rick Snyder was there to show his support.

Governor Rick Snyder said during a press conference, “This Farmer’s Market is a win for all of us and we should be proud of that. Why do I say that it’s a win for all of us?

Governor Rick Snyder during the press conference
Lauren Hansard/ Michigan State University

Because it’s an opportunity to show off how great our state is.”

One of the continuing themes of the day is what a difficult year this has been for farmers.

Phil Hadley, a farmer at Maria’s Garden said, “This year one of the biggest struggles is the heat and making sure all of the plants stay watered. Also making sure the irrigation is working properly because of the immense heat we are starting to lose the plants because of the drought.”

Fresh produce were among the items sold at the market
Lauren Hansard/ Michigan State University

The good news is there was a nice rainfall that morning that put everyone’s mind at ease, at least for a few hours.

The next Farmer’s Market at the Capitol will take place on September 13th.

Michigan weather negatively affects farming

by Courtney Culey and Kaitlynn Knopp 

Hot weather and a lack of rain cause potato plants on Dragt Farms, 17190 Deaner Road, to dry up.
Courtney Culey/Michigan State University

Nan Jasinowski isn’t praying for colder weather; she’s praying for rain.

Jasinowski and her husband, Ed, own a “mom and pop” farm in Concord, Mich. called Sweet Seasons Orchard. The farm totals 30 acres and brings the couple yearly profits. This year, those profits may be less than what they’re used to.

Jim Hilker, a professor of agriculture resource in the economics department at Michigan State University, said that in Michigan, the lack of rain has caused more damage to crop yields this summer than the heat.

“The hotter it is, the quicker the evaporation and then it all comes back to needing rain again,” Hilker said. “However, this combination of both heat and the lack of rain is worse than either one by itself.”

Jasinowski agreed and said she feels the lack of rain is dangerous. The trees on her property are drying up and fruit sizes are smaller. She expects some of the buds will be destroyed all together because of the weather.

Profits and business could decrease, Hilker said.

Jim Hilker, a professor of agriculture resource in the economics department at Michigan State University, is an expert on agriculture.
Courtesy Photo

A lot of crops in the country are already ruined, so farmers have less to harvest and therefore less to sell. Hilker said basic supply and demand tells us that if a farmer has only a small supply of a certain crop, consumers will demand more of it. Thus, the price will go up, which could make up for some losses, but not all.

Jasinowski said the harsh weather has decreased her profits, but she can’t pinpoint by exactly how much.

“It’s not easy,” Jasinowski said. “If I don’t have anything to sell, I don’t make a profit.”

Hilker said he expects a big range in revenue for different farmers. Because of the high demand for crops with a low supply, some farmers may do better since the price will be higher.

“My guess is that more farmers will earn lower revenue than higher revenue, Hilker said. “They’ll be hurting by the yield loss.”

Unfortunately, this weather is affecting regions all across the country. Hilker said everywhere is short of moisture, but big parts of Michigan are in bad shape.

Randy Dragt, a farm owner 150 miles northwest of the Jasinowski’s, can testify that the recent Michigan weather is causing havoc.

“There’s just no moisture,” Dragt said.

Dragt owns a large cattle farm called Dragt Farms in Howard City, Mich. and harvests more than 1,000 acres.

So far, Dragt has been able to maintain a profit from the cattle, but as fall approaches, his concerns increase.

Randy Dragt stands in front of a corn field on his property in Howard City, Mich.
Courtesy Photo

In the fall, Dragt harvests his fields, stores crop and sells them. If the corn is dried up, he fears he won’t have enough. If the rye fields go bad, his animals could go hungry. Both outcomes could severely decrease his yearly profit.

Knowing there are negative outcomes at risk for farmers, the weather this year has been under public scrutiny.

Jasinowski said people don’t understand the true damage.

“People don’t realize how much the weather affects a 30-acre farm in Concord, Mich.,” she said. “Most people go to the grocery store and buy their apples. They don’t realize what’s going on.”

However, the farmers’ who have their livelihood on the line see the harm.

“It’s severe, it’s real and we can just hope for the best,” Hilker said.

For more information about the Michigan farms, click here.

Spartan Youth Program

by Teri Wilcox

In the summer parents are looking for activities that will keep their children busy until school resumes.

The Spartan Youth Program, SYP, website is the perfect place for parents to explore and find something that fit their child.

The Spartan Youth Program website is a source parent’s can use to find activities for their children, said Carla Hills, Communications Manager for the Michigan State University unit. Almost none of the programs, activities, or camps are generated by SYP, Hills said.

The chief mission of the Spartan Youth Program is to link work from different faculty members at MSU on to the website, Hills said.

Building collaborations and partnerships with the community is also a part of their mission, Hills said. 

SYP have programs listed that are offered for children in the pre-kindergarten stage to 12th grade.

One of the SYP topics is on agriculture. With in that topic one the of the programs that is offered is called breakfast on the farm.

Bssically families are given the opportunity to see how farmers work and live first hand.

Under the same topic you will find the College Assistance Migrant Program and the High School Equivalency Program.

The High School Equivalency Program helps migrants get their General Education Development certifacte.

The College Assistance Program helps students with different resources that they will need. For example, tutors.


Coops in the city: owners talk about benefits and possibilites

by Holly Johnson and Natalie Kolb

Lansing residents are taking advantage of the 2010 ordinance allowing them to raise chickens in the city. The ordinance, passed by Ingham County’s Board of Commissioners Animal Control Unit, enables nonagricultural properties in urban areas to keep up to five hens.

Horton Street residents Marilyn Crowley and Bradley Baughman began raising chickens in their backyard shortly after the ordinance was passed because, “it’s extremely important and self-gratifying to raise the food you are putting into your body,” said Baughman. They built their coop out of scrap wood, recycled chain-linked fence and leftover shingles from their house.

“Having chickens is like having any other pet, except they provide us with a delicious protein treat,” Crowley said. “They require a lot of attention, more than a cat or dog, but they are every easy to get used to and caring for them is nearly therapeutic.”

Their chickens, complete with names such as Beyoncé and Roadrunner, roam around their backyard and provide about one to two eggs per day, depending on how good they feel, Crowley said.

Knowing how to care for the chickens has also been a learning process for both Crowley and Baughman. Baughman said that surrounding community members with chickens share insight, such as ways to nurture the chickens, techniques to check their feathers for ticks and fleas, and ways to ensure that their vent, or area where the eggs comes out, is clear for laying.

Lauren Olsen, a Vine Street resident and coop owner, said that although raising hens is far from being more economical than buying a carton of eggs from the store, their absence of growth hormones and pesticides is more than enough reason to raise her own. She also said the difference of taste between yolks is incomparable.

The amount of chicken coops in Lansing has been steadily increasing with Lansing’s Backyard Poultry Group estimating that more than 50 residents have coops of their own.

Local events geared specifically towards chickens, such as a bicycle tour of chicken coops called “Tour de Coop” and monthly poultry swaps, have also emerged in response to the coop’s budding popularity.

“People are starting to care again about what they eat and the quality of their food,” Olsen said. “Just because I don’t live on a farm doesn’t mean I don’t want to know where my food comes from. Having a chicken coop is one step closer to becoming self-sufficient, even in the city.”

Featured: Andy T’s sweet corn farm in St. Johns, MI

by Lauren Hansard

Andy Todosciuk and his father have a word with each other during a break.
Lauren Hansard/ Michigan State University


The younger boys from the crew sitting on the wagon while it turns. They are enjoying a few minutes of rest.
Lauren Hansard/ Michigan State University

The sack filled with sweet corn on the back of the wagon.
Lauren Hansard/ Michigan State University

The sun rising over Andy T’s farm at the start of the picking.
Lauren Hansard/ Michigan State University