Sustainability on Michigan farms: Part 2

Satisfying human food and fiber needs.

In this six part series, we are discovering what sustainability on Michigan Farms means, looking at examples of how farms are demonstrating that sustainability, and how Michigan State University Extension is working with producers to become even more sustainable.

As a reminder, the definition that is used by the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program for sustainable agriculture is:

“Sustainable agriculture is defined as an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will, over the long term: satisfy human food and fiber needs, enhance environmental quality and the natural resources base upon which the agricultural economy depends, make the most efficient use of non-renewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls, sustain the economic viability of farm operations, enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.”

This article’s sustainability topic is “Satisfying human food and fiber needs.” Farms don’t just exist for our viewing pleasure, nor would they be economically viable if they need not meet our basic human needs for food and fiber.

In Michigan, we are truly blessed with an agriculture system that is second in diversity, only to California. With over 300 different commodities, Michigan farmers are providing an abundance of food and fiber. According to the U.S. Census of Agriculture, Michigan is the top producing state in the nation for dry black and cranberry beans, begonias, blueberries, tart cherries, pickling cucumbers, Easter lilies, geraniums, low-fat ice cream mix, impatiens, petunias and squash.

In addition to these first place rankings, Michigan is second in apple production, third in asparagus, tenth in cabbage, second in carrots, second in celery, third in Christmas trees, fifth in dairy, third in floriculture, fifth in grapes, seventh in honey, sixth in maple syrup, fifth in nursery, and ninth in egg production. And that’s just the top ten rankings. What does it all mean?

Agriculture in Michigan is truly producing the food and fiber to satisfy human food and fiber needs.

So, what does Michigan State University Extension do to help support sustainability in this “food and fiber” production area of sustainability?

MSU Extension Educators share the latest research based production information with farmers across the state. This information and education seeks to help Michigan farmers in their efficient production of high quality food and fiber for consumers. One such example of this type of research based programming is the 2017 Focus on the First 24 hours’ program held in January and February.

This program was designed for dairy farm owners, herd managers and agribusiness professionals to learn about the latest research and strategies to improve long-term health and growth of dairy replacements from the first day.

Newborn calves must consume ample quantities of high quality colostrum shortly after birth to ensure successful passive transfer of immunity. In fact, calves unlike human babies, are born with no immunity to diseases. These meetings focused on the dam’s (mother’s) ability to produce high quality colostrum based on vaccination protocols and nutritional management during the dry period.

Managing the maternity pen to minimize stress for the cow and to provide a clean environment for the calf and the dam was also reviewed, and producers learned ways to reduce stillbirths, including genetic selection through breeding and appropriate intervention during calving. Techniques for handling the newborn calf to minimize any additional stress following birth was discussed, including special considerations for handling calves during the winter.

Through programs like the Focus on the First 24 Hours, MSU Extension continues to help Michigan producers sustainably produce Food and Fiber for consumers.

Additional articles in this series:

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