Tag: Featured

From Hot Sauce to Craft Beer: MSU Agri-Food Leadership Makes Huge Economic Impact

It wasn’t long ago that Scotty and Suzi Owens were typical gardeners who enjoyed sharing some of their harvest with friends. The hot sauce they made with homegrown peppers got rave reviews, and people said they should go into business selling it.

When Scotty got laid off from his work in tool and die during Michigan’s economic downturn, he and his wife did just that.

Fast forward to today and bottles of Scotty O’Hotty hot sauce and salsa are in grocery stores around the country. The couple’s business is operating with seven employees out of a 17,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, and in 2019 they’re on track to go nationwide in Kroger stores and begin exporting their award-winning products to China.

So, how in the world did that happen?

The Michigan State University Product Center recognized Suzi and Scotty Owens as 2018 entrepreneurs of the year.

“We had the dreamiest stars in our eyes, but I was almost at a brick wall at what to do,” Scotty Owens said. “MSU really steered us in the right direction.” The Owens came across the Michigan State University Product Center in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. There they received guidance on the rules and regulations involved in making a food product, took classes on bottling, learned about labeling and in 2012 got licensed to work out of a commercial kitchen.

A year later Scotty O’Hotty was on the shelves in small grocery stores that the Owens connected with through MSU’s Making It In Michigan food show, and the business has been growing ever since. Earlier this year the MSU Product Center named Scotty and Suzi Owens their entrepreneurs of the year.

Scotty O’Hotty is just one of many success stories at the MSU Product Center, which helps start or expand businesses in the agriculture and food sector. Just last year, the Product Center helped launch 87 new Michigan businesses that invested $35 million into the economy and created 350 new jobs.

But the MSU Product Center is just one way that MSU has been helping to grow the state’s food and agriculture system over the past 160 years. As the country’s pioneer land-grant institution, the then-Michigan Agricultural College has been a leader in practical, science-based education from the start, and even though the name has changed agriculture remains an important  area of research, with a big impact on the Michigan economy.

“The idea of us being here to help support and build and grow the agriculture and natural resources industries of the state goes back to the very beginning,” said Douglas Buhler, director of MSU AgBioResearch and assistant vice president of research and graduate studies.

Back in the mid-1800s, MSU was established by federal law as an agricultural school — the first to teach scientific agriculture. It became the prototype for the nation’s land-grant institutions, which were created to promote both the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes. Though MSU now carries out that mission across a wide range of disciplines, the original focus was agriculture.

Before the start of the 20th century, MSU had birthed groundbreaking agricultural advances including the development of hybrid corn to increase yields and the discovery that a swath of Michigan is fertile ground for sugar beets. Pioneering work has continued on everything from the process used in the homogenization of milk to how Michigan farmers can grow hops for the state’s booming craft beer sector.

Nearly 5,000 students are studying in dozens of degree and certificate programs through Michigan State University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

And today MSU is a global leader in agricultural education, using scientific research to address real-world problems and help agri-food businesses implement solutions.

MSU has played no small role in Michigan’s massive food and agriculture economy, which fuels more than 800,000 jobs and makes an annual impact of more than $100 billion, according to a 2018 study. Here are just a few glimpses of the breadth of MSU’s engagement in the industry:

Preparing tomorrow’s agricultural leaders

Today, MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources includes nearly 5,000 students studying in dozens of degree and certificate programs in forestry, animal science, crop and soil science, horticulture and many others.

“Through our educational programs we train the next generation of agri-food leaders both in the public sector and in the private sector,” said Bill Knudson, a professor in MSU’s Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics. “We have a lot of two-year programs as well, geared primarily toward people who will be working on the farm both in the crop area and the livestock area.

Michigan State University student Loren G. King is studying how technology such as drones and autonomous vehicles can make farm operation more efficient.

“Not only do we train our workers, but we also train our regulators. We’d have a much less safe food supply (without MSU’s leadership).”

Among those thousands of students is Loren G. King, who comes from a family farm in southwest Michigan and is learning about agriculture technology. Looking at global population estimates during his lifetime, the 20-year-old knows that the food and agriculture system will have to produce more and, to remain sustainable, do so while using fewer inputs such as fertilizer.

So, he’s studying how farms could deploy autonomous vehicles and drones to become more efficient. He envisions a completely cloud-based farm where managers can use mobile devices to gauge moisture and nutrient levels to see how crops are doing.

“It’s about expanding the efficiency of the farmer right now,” King said. “You’ve got to feed more people while using less.”

Bringing innovation into everyday life

Embedded in the DNA of a land-grant institution like MSU is the drive to use cutting-edge scientific tools to address problems and forge new opportunities. Because of that, food and agriculture study at MSU is definitely “not a science for science’s sake operation,” Buhler said.

A benefit of MSU’s research is that Michigan has developed the country’s second most-diverse agricultural economy. In addition to staples such as corn, milk and eggs, the state’s agriculture sector is full of smaller, specialty crops from asparagus to wine grapes.

Some of Michigan’s fruit varieties, for example, have been developed by MSU on nearly 20,000 acres that are used for agriculture and natural resources research and education throughout the state.

Michigan State University professor Rufus Isaacs is a leading researcher on the invasive spotted wing drosophila insect.But that diversity also breeds new challenges. Fortunately, MSU also is at the forefront of combating new crop diseases and pests. For example, professor Rufus Isaacs this month made a list of the world’s most Highly Cited Researchers for his work on the spotted wing drosophila, an invasive insect that damages fruit crops. Isaacs is just one of many MSU food and agriculture experts on the list.

“The large companies that are there to support major corn, soybean and dairy are not available for a lot of these smaller, more specialized industries,” Buhler said. “If we’re not there to help them with their latest insect, there aren’t a lot of options. If we weren’t here I don’t know who would fill that gap in all these specialty areas.

“Not many years ago there were almost no hops grown in Michigan. Had MSU not been here to help people learn how to manage hops and control diseases I don’t think it would have happened.”

Aside from immediate threats, MSU also is researching long-term challenges from food waste to world hunger through efforts including the Global Center for Food Systems Innovation and the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy. Climate change poses another problem, and MSU’s Plant Resilience Institute is working to improve the ability of crops to handle weather extremes.

“Minor changes in weather could have a real impact on us,” Buhler said.

Helping communities grow

Not only does MSU do research to support Michigan’s food and agriculture system and educate the next generation of industry leaders, the university also takes what it learns and shares it with the broader public. That work takes many forms including the new “Food @ MSU. Our Table” program, which helps people make better-informed choices about food.

In an era where the population is both growing and becoming more urbanized, it’s easy for people to be even more disconnected from the sources of the food they eat. That’s why MSU also is active in urban agriculture around the state, including the new MSU Detroit Partnership for Food, Learning and Innovation.

Michigan State University’s first urban food research center is being established in northwest Detroit through the new MSU Detroit Partnership for Food, Learning and Innovation.

MSU is establishing its first urban food research center on a 2.5-acre former school site in a northwest Detroit neighborhood. The findings on everything from soil remediation to fertilizer and pesticide use will inform urban growers around Michigan and beyond.

“When you’re growing food in an urban setting it’s very different than in an open space,” said Dave Ivan, MSU Extension director of community, food and environmental programming. “This new center really will provide an opportunity for us to plant a flag in an area, working with a lot of the existing leaders in the Detroit urban ag movement in terms of how we can help you address the challenges you’re facing.“

We have a lot of credibility in communities, so people trust the information that we provide. They know that we’re scientific in terms of guiding our recommendations or framing an issue.”

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Car Enthusiast Bucket List: R.E. Olds Transportation Museum

 

Long before Henry Ford’s assembly line produced the first Model T, and before General Motors was even conceived, Pliny Olds moved his family up from Ohio to Michigan’s capital city and started a small machine shop. It was there in the late 1800s that P.F. Olds & Son built steam engines, and young Ransom Eli Olds tinkered with development of a horseless carriage.

When R.E. Olds built a three-wheeled vehicle with a steam engine in 1887, it worked — just barely. His father quipped that “Ranse thinks he can put an engine in a buggy and make the contraption carry him over the roads.”

Said the elder Olds: “If he doesn’t get killed in his fool undertaking, I’ll be satisfied.”

Good thing R.E. Olds was foolish enough to keep trying. A decade later he had built a four-wheeled carriage with a gasoline engine and, at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour, that “contraption” attracted the attention of financiers who helped start the Olds Motor Vehicle Co.

Utilizing a progressive assembly line — a precursor to Ford’s moving assembly line — the inventive Olds was able to build the world’s first mass-produced automobile. Pricing the Curved Dash Oldsmobile at an affordable $650, Olds sold thousands of them before Ford ever built a single Model T. By 1905, Lansing had become the car capital of the world with both Olds Motor Works and the new REO Motor Car Co. making vehicles in the city.

Chosen as the home of state government because of its central location, Lansing was transformed by Olds’ tinkering into the center of an emerging automotive industry that would revolutionize the city and beyond. Automotive production hasn’t stopped since, and to this day Lansing remains a major automotive player by making popular vehicles including the Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave, the Cadillac CTS and the sporty Camaro.

“If it wasn’t for R.E. Olds, Lansing wouldn’t be Lansing,” said Bill Adcock, director of the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum. “He brought industry to this place. It built the middle class.”

The story of R.E. Olds is chronicled at the downtown Lansing museum, where visitors can see his early vehicles like the Curved Dash Oldsmobile and one of the four original gas-powered carriages. More than 60 classic vehicles are on display including the REO Speedwagon, REO Royale and “Baby REO,” the world’s first fully functional miniature car.

Plus, there are exhibits on R.E. Olds’ other exploits like patenting the first power lawn mower, designing yachts and developing Oldsmar, a residential community in Florida. There also are artifacts from the Olds family mansion, which, ironically, was torn down in 1971 to make way for the I-496 Olds Freeway.

Of course, long after R.E. Olds passed away, Lansing continued to make Oldsmobile cars and REO trucks, and many of these models from the last half of the 20th century are on display at the museum, too. Each car has its own story, and a common heritage that goes back to R.E. Olds.

“It’s a wonderful walk down memory lane,” said Lori Lanspeary, museum president.

The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday throughout the year. An especially good time to visit is during the upcoming Car Capital Auto Show on Saturday, July 28. The free event celebrates Lansing’s automotive heritage by showcasing more than 200 classic cars and collectible vehicles on the streets near the Capitol Building. Proceeds benefit the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum.

Another great opportunity to visit the museum is Wednesday, Aug. 22, when the Old US 27 Motor Tour stops in Lansing. This premier event starts in Coldwater with hundreds of classic cars that make stops in DeWitt, St. John’s, Ithaca, Alma, Clare, Grayling, Gaylord and more on the way to Cheboygan as they travel historic Old U.S. 27 over the course of five days.

Any time of year you visit the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum, you can also drive around Lansing to see the city’s historic automotive sites — from the River Street site of the original P.F. Olds & Son machine shop to the GM Grand River Assembly plant where vehicles are still made today. There are signs at seven MotorCities National Heritage sites around the city detailing the development and legacy of the automotive industry.

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.

The Rapid Helps Family Teach Environmental Stewardship

Irene and Ken Kraegel believe actions speak louder than words.

“That’s especially true when it comes to parenting: Children do what we do — not what we say,” said Irene Kraegel, a counselor at Calvin College. “So part of our parenting strategy with our son is modeling for him the qualities that we think are important.”

That’s where The Rapid comes in.

As a way to do their part in reducing carbon emissions and helping the environment, the Kraegels choose to own only one vehicle and instead ride The Rapid whenever possible.

Irene takes the bus several times a week from their home in Grand Rapids to her job at Calvin College. Along with the environmental benefits, public transportation is a great way to feel connected to the community.

“Being in a car is a solitary experience. But when I’m on the bus, it broadens my horizons a little bit and enriches my life by being around other people,” she said.

On The Rapid, she’s discovered a community of like-minded people who value many of the same things she does. And that’s translated into some new friendships.

When she’s not chatting with other riders, Irene likes to read a book or listen to music. And just relax. Walking to and from her bus stop is also a welcome break in her busy day.

In their spare time, the Kraegels love taking their son downtown on the bus to visit the library or a museum. It’s one of the many ways they teach him about being good environmental stewards.

Even when it’s not easy.

“It’s harder to live right than to talk about living right. And living as simply as possible is not something we do perfectly,” Irene said.

“But we notice that our son has started coming up with his own ideas for environmental stewardship. That’s really fun to watch,” she said.

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8 Unique Michigan Experiences for Your Next Date Night

So, axe throwing is a thing. Just pick up a hatchet, stand about 15 feet from a target and let it fly.

How about that for your next date night?

“We’ve actually had a lot of people come in looking for an alternative to dinner and a movie,” said Rich Baker, owner of Bull’s Eye Axe Throwing in Lansing. “It’s one of the only sports where men, women and kids are all on the same playing field.

“It’s not about strength at all. It’s all about technique and consistency. We have as young as 8-year-olds that throw with us and our oldest people that we’ve had throwing with us is 90.”

Axe throwing in the past couple years has emerged as a popular leisure activity that’s growing around the country, although Bull’s Eye is one of only a few places in Michigan where you can do it.

Wanna give it a shot, er, throw? Book a hotel and come hang out at Bull’s Eye for an hour or two. While you’re in town, you can check out other unique Michigan experiences that you can only have in Lansing:

1. There’s yoga, with stretching and breathing exercises. Then there’s goat yoga, with cute little animals climbing over, under and on top of you as you do stretching and breathing exercises. Goat Yoga Michigan in Williamston, just east of Lansing, is one of a handful of centers around the country where yoga turns into animal-assisted therapy with the playful presence of goats. It’s a memorable way to get some exercise while bonding with friendly animals that pine for your attention.

2. The Beatles never performed in Lansing, but the city is home to one of the most impressive collections of Beatles memorabilia. The Spector Beatles Collection includes about 2,000 square-feet of paraphernalia in a private house in Dimondale. Fans can make an appointment to tour the collection for $10. Artifacts include many vintage items from the 1960s, original works of art and hand-signed items that owners Victoria Spector-Walker and Jim Walker have collected over the years.

3. ChrisCross SlaughterSauce and Malice in Plunderland are real characters in the Capital Region, where the Lansing Derby Vixens and East Lansing Mitten Mavens compete in the rough-and-tumble realm of roller derby. The sport is chronicled in the 2009 Michigan-made movie, “Whip It,” and is truly a change of pace from mainstream sports like football and basketball. Check out the team sites for match schedules and see the women make incredible moves on the flat track.

4. If you’d rather participate in an activity than watch it, check out the District 5 Extreme Air Sports trampoline park. The facility in Lansing has 10,000 square-feet of connected trampolines for crazy jumping, slam dunking, extreme dodgeball and even a ninja obstacle course like on TV. And, no, it’s not just for kids. Grown-ups can have a blast here, too.

5. Don’t have tickets to the basketball game? No problem. The Izzo Hall of History at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center is open throughout the year on non-game days. You can relive the glories ofMSU basketball by getting a look at the program’s trophy collection, paying tribute to notable former players and taking a selfie in Sparty heaven. Afterwards, head on over to the MSU Dairy Store and taste what even Michigan fans will tell you is the best ice cream in the state.

6. You can taste the best food in mid-Michigan by visiting any number of Greater Lansing restaurants, and with JoyRide Pedal Tours you can combine the area’s fine cuisine with the happiest biking experience in the world. Get a group of friends together on a bike with 15 seats and go on an extraordinary pub crawl, progressive dinner or exercise expedition.

7. Cross something off your Michigander bucket list by attending the lighting of the official state Christmas tree, a 62-footer from Alpena. The 2018 event in front of the Michigan Capitol building is part of the annual Silver Bells in the City that kicks off the holiday season with a gift market, live concert and arrival of Santa Claus in an incredible Electric Light Parade.

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.