« Agriculture

The history of the Michigan State Ag Expo

by Dan Cash

I am going out on a limb here, and suggest that not everybody who reads this has graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in one or more of the ag sciences, and therefore might not be fully versed in the glorious history of the “Pioneer Land Grant College (now University)”  The fact is, some of the stories and anecdotes in the just-published catalog about AG EXPO, 2013 on campus July 16,17,& 18, may come as surprises to some of those generally quite knowledgeable.

At the front of the catalog, there’s a letter, signed by CANR Dean Fred Poston, MSU Extension Director Tom Coon, and Doug Buhler, Director of the MSU AgBioResearch division. That letter lists a number of the major accomplishments that are among the biggest discoveries in the history of food science and agricultural production, such as Malcolm Trout’s process of homogenizing milk, the hybridization of corn by William Beal, and the pioneering horticultural work of Liberty Hyde Bailey and early consumer advocate Robert C. Kedzie’s work organizing the forerunner of MSU Extension in 1876.

Not so far back as that, in the mid-1970s as I recall, what is now Ag Expo got its start with a County Extension Director on the eastern side of Michigan, who put together a Corn/Soybean Expo.  Within a few years, he was summoned to campus to put together what we now know as Ag Expo.

This year, as always, there will be elements of production agriculture that have been with us forever, as well demonstrations and representations of the absolutely newest, most far-ranging, most sophisticated of new ways of doing things, old and new.  For example, one that I plan to hit, just because I’ve always had a warm spot in my heart for horses, is one of the daily tours of  the MSU Horse Teaching & Research Center.  There’ll be demonstrations and discussions on general horse care. MSU, by the way, maintains the third-longest continuing Arabian breeding herd in the United States.

There’s a jam-packed two-page listing of learning possibilities for the single-crop backyard gardener and for the contract producer, and for those in between.  Unique and amazing wheelchairs will be demonstrated for wheelchair-bound farmers; another demo will cover tools for farming in spite of injury, illness, or pain; tomato gardening can be rewarding, or frustrating, or a combination--you can find out how to deal with it.  How about backyard bee-keeping?  Want to try it - - or just explore it?  It’s at Ag Expo.

We hear from time to time about farming running head-on into urbanization - - or maybe it’s the other way around.  Anyway, Ag Expo exposes the Michigan Agricultural Mediation program.  It’s all about resolving issues on agreeable terms.

Maybe we ought to talk to the folks in Extension about extending  that mediation concept to our legislators in Washington. They’ve not shown us much by way of resolving issues.

Karl Guenther is a retired Kalamazoo farm broadcaster and can be reached at khguenther@att.net. He is a member of Michigan Farm Bureau and an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting.