MSU, conservation districts partner for conference

MECOSTA COUNTY — Area residents interested in learning more about the future of agriculture in Michigan are invited to attend a conference hosted by the Michigan State University Extension and the Missaukee, Osceola and Wexford County Conservation districts.

The first Highland Ag and Natural Resources Conference will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 19, at the Wexford-Missaukee Career Tech Center in Cadillac.

This is a valuable opportunity for current and next-generation farmers or land owners to learn about what’s next for Michigan agriculture and land management, according to Erin Lizotte, MSUE educator.

“The idea behind the conference is to talk about what’s new and what’s next in agriculture and resource management in northwest Michigan,” she said.

The conference will offer a number of different concurrent presentations so attendees can choose what subjects are most interesting to them, Lizotte said. Presentations include topics like soil health, livestock, crops and natural resources.

“We will be bringing in people from MSU as well as conservation districts and other groups,” she said. “There will be tons of people there and lots of information to share.”

One of the issues that will be addressed during the conference is diversification. There is a lot of interest from producers in diversifying farms, Lizotte said.

“Diversifying your farm is like an insurance policy,” she said. “Instead of having one crop and depending on prices and the success of that crop, you have a number of different crops and, as a result, more security.”

In terms of natural resources, timber management will be among the topics discussed, Lizotte said.

“Timber management can range from supporting wildlife to maximizing timber sales depending on what the land owner is interested in,” she said.

In preparation for Earth Day on April 22, there also will be several presentations covering environmental issues, Lizotte said.

“We are going to talk about soil health as well as things like promoting pollinator and insect populations,” she said.

The conference also will offer information for young people interested in learning about work in the agriculture and natural resource management fields.

“There is a youth track for high school and college bound kids that will talk about a number of different things, including ag-related careers, so feel free to bring the kids,” Lizotte said.

So far, the conference has received a fair amount of interest – especially considering it is in its first year, Lizotte said.

“This is a unique new program. We are hoping it will be a success and we hope to continue to do it in the future,” she said.

Anyone interested in attending the event can view the complete agenda and register at tinyurl.com/highlandAG. There will be on-site registration on the day of the event, but only those who register ahead of time can be guaranteed lunch, Lizotte said.