From the President's Desk

Celebrating Michigan’s abundance: Agriculture and Natural Resources Week

03-10-2017

This week I had the opportunity to speak to a couple of big gatherings of MSU’s agricultural stakeholders. We’re proud to host them on campus every year to help celebrate our shared deep roots across the state and the many partnerships we have cultivated over the years.

What we now call ANR Week started out as Farmers’ Week in 1914, an outgrowth of Farmers’ Institute “Round Ups” dating back to 1898. It featured short courses in agriculture and home economics, with exhibits in what is today’s Morrill Hall of Agriculture, but has grown in size and scope over the years. Starting now with the Quiet Water Symposium, devoted to outdoor recreation and non-motorized water sports, and concluding with the Michigan Beekeepers’ Association spring conference a week later, it’s a celebration of the variety and popularity of agriculture and natural resources in Michigan.

Two speaking engagement highlights for me are our salute to distinguished teachers, faculty, alumni, and friends at the ANR Week luncheon, while the annual FFA statewide convention is an impressive multi-day event attracting some 2,500 people from more than 100 communities. Young people from around the state converge here to learn, network, compete, and develop skills that will make them tomorrow’s leaders in natural resources occupations and beyond. Many of them will be Spartans.

We should all be proud that Michigan producers offer some 300 commodities and one of the greatest varieties of agricultural products in the nation. The $100 billion-plus state agri-food sector, from farm to fork, still has tremendous room for growth and opportunities for entrepreneurs. We highlight one bubbling sector in a series of fascinating new reports: an MSU Today feature about our work to revive the century-old signature variety of Spartan barley for the state’s craft brewing industry, and a WKAR story on another important Michigan beer ingredient, hops. And demonstrating our interdisciplinary approach to natural resources, MSU is working with a California company to tap brewery wastewater to generate clean energy.

Michigan really is blessed with nature’s bounty, and a study released earlier this month indicates that is something Michiganians value in many cases more than direct appeals to their pocketbooks. Researchers in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences found that 59 percent of surveyed residents call the environment a higher priority than economic growth and jobs, which might surprise a few people. Both are certainly important, however, and often closely connected—as we are pleased to celebrate each March during ANR Week.

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