MSUE to celebrate 100 years in Alcona County

HARRISVILLE — Members of the Alcona County Michigan State University Extension are geared up to begin celebrating 100 years of the service being in Alcona County.

MSUE educator Tracy D’Augustino said Alcona’s service is not the only one that will be celebrating 100 years. She said many different counties got their services at the same time. She said the goal always has been to lend the expertise of the university to areas that were not close to Lansing.

According to D’Augustino there was a wide effort and encouragement by the government during World War I to plant food plots known as “Victory Gardens” to help with the war effort in 1917.

The Federal War Preparations Board sought means of increasing food production and funded 38 emergency agricultural agents in 1917 to serve 49 Michigan counties,” wrote D’Augustino. “R.E. Prescott served Alcona and Iosco counties while in neighboring counties, additional Extension agents were also hired. The Extension agents worked with farmers and homeowners to grow and raise the food for a nation at war.”

Eventually there was long-term partnership with the counties and the extention, she said.

Early topics included farming, but D’Augustino said anything that is handled at the university is available through the extension offices to the public.

“The role of an extention is to bring, to make current research available beyond the university to every person in Michigan, and being an extention person in the county is really rewarding being able to help people find answers when they come into the office, or if they bring in whatever,” she said.

According to D’Augustino part of the agency’s job has been to help people out with questions. She said there have been many times when people will bring in a plant or insect they need help identifying and educators will help the person.

She said MSU has branched out from agriculture over the century since it became involved with the counties.

The university has an engineering college and is branching out to STEM education for many students across the state.

“They’re so much more than agriculture and our role in the field is to help bring those opportunities to our communities,” she said. “So in Alcona County that has been increasing access to STEM. We have the student stewards, which is a STEM and stewardship club. They’re working on different things with biologists, and just supporting the whole variety of opportunities.”

There also are clubs like sewing, archery and traditional animal raising clubs through the 4-H program.

“They are things that are not offered in schools anymore,” she said.

Alcona County Board of Commissioners Chairman Craig Johnston said the extention helped many in the farming community over the years. He said there used to be regular agricultural personnel stationed at the extention but that has changed in years past.

“They can’t have one in every county any more,” he said.

That said, Johnston said 4-H Coordinator Les Thomas does a wonderful job with that program in the county.

“Thomas is a great resource to put you in the right direction,” Johnston said.

On Dec. 13 the extention will celebrate its century of being in the county with a reception at the Harrisville office from 2:30-6:30 p.m. The reception will give the public a chance to meet the staff and enjoy refreshments.

Jason Ogden can be reached via email at jogden@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Jason on Twitter @jo_alpenanews.