New Center Now On Livestock, Plants And Local Food Systems

Center in Chatham has new facility coordinator and new mission that includes key agricultural stakeholders.

Published on: May 17, 2013

A review of the Michigan State University Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center (UPREC) in Chatham in the spring of 2012 has been the basis for a new direction and long-term vision for the center.

After being identified as one of the most costly of the 13 MSU AgBioResearch research facilities to operate, the center is undergoing some changes, including its new name in January to acknowledge the significant contributions made by MSU Extension to facility operations. In line with the name change, the center will focus on collaboration and integration across three programmatic systems: livestock, plants and local food systems.

To help facilitate the changes, Ashley McFarland has been named center coordinator, which is a new position created as the research and Extension facility begins to take shape.

MSU Focus At Upper Peninsula Center Is Now On Livestock, Plants And Local Food Systems.
MSU Focus At Upper Peninsula Center Is Now On Livestock, Plants And Local Food Systems.

MSU AgBioResearch Associate Director John Baker says, "We're very pleased to have Ashley joining the team and helping with the re-direction of UPREC. She will be an integral part of a strategic effort to bring forth more valuable research to benefit the agriculture industry in the U.P. and across the state."

McFarland hails from Iowa and has earned degrees from Central College in Pella (B.A. in Political Science and Environmental Studies) and Iowa State University (M.S. in Environmental Science/Water Resources). She has spent the last five years with the University of Idaho Extension as a county Extension education and area natural resource educator.

Steve Lovejoy, associate director of MSU Extension, says McFarland will also focus on working with key stakeholders and keeping the industry informed on issues relative to UPREC.

"Ashley brings a great deal of experience in Extension and outreach that will be very valuable as we move forward and implement our plan for the future of the UPREC," Lovejoy says.

As the new center coordinator at Chatham, McFarland will provide an important link between campus-based faculty coordinators and the implementation of programs and oversight of operations at the center and throughout the U.P. She will also work to increase visibility of the center and build relationships with stakeholders. 

McFarland, scheduled to start the position on May 20, says she is excited about the new opportunities.

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"I look forward to working with MSU researchers, the staff at Chatham and stakeholders throughout the U.P. to developing meaningful education, outreach and integrated research programs that will enrich the lives of those engaged in agriculture and local food systems," she says. 

Baker said three long-term objectives were identified by the review committee:

•Improvement of soil quality in a way that emphasizes health linkages between soil, crops, livestock and people.

•Development of a close collaboration between UPREC and the MSU Lake City Research Center (LCRC) in Lake City to foster complementary research between integrated crop livestock systems at UPREC and grass-based livestock production at LCRC.

•Development of regional food systems that builds community sustainability while linking to objectives 1 and 2.

Additionally, three MSU faculty coordinators, have also been named and will work with McFarland to oversee both research and extension activities at the center:

•Jason Rowntree, assistant professor in the Department of Animal Science, will provide expertise on livestock systems

•Kim Cassida, forage extension specialist in the Department of Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences, will work with plant systems

•Matt Raven, professor in the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies, will work with the food systems

As part of an effort to harmonize cattle genetics with LCRC and improve research opportunities, a portion of the herd at Chatham were sold in March and replaced by cattle relocated from LCRC.

A 15% cut in state funding FY 2011-2012 prompted MSU AgBioResearch and Extension to take a close look at all of its facilities and operations. 

"It's been a challenging couple of years, but I'm confident the agriculture industry in the U.P. is going to see the benefits from these changes at UPREC," says Baker. "It is my hope that we will soon start to see some of the findings applied directly to nearby farms."

For more information on UPREC, visit online.