MSU facility in Chatham has new coordinator, mission

CHATHAM – A former Idaho extension educator and Iowa native was recently named coordinator for Michigan State University’s Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center in Chatham.

Ashley McFarland is scheduled to start her new job Monday.

“I look forward to working with MSU researchers, the staff at Chatham and stakeholders throughout the U.P. to develop meaningful education, outreach and integrated research programs that will enrich the lives of those engaged in agriculture and local food systems,” McFarland said in a news release.

McFarland received a bachelor’s degree in political science and environmental studies from Central College in Pella and a master’s degree in environmental science and water resources from Iowa State University.

McFarland has spent the last five years with the University of Idaho Extension as a county extension education and natural resource educator.

The coordinator’s position was recently created for the extension facility. A new long-term plan was also created for the center.

A 15 percent cut in state funding in fiscal year 2011-2012 prompted MSU AgBioResearch and Extension to take a close look at all of its facilities and operations.

The center was reviewed in spring 2012 after being identified as one of the most costly of the 13 MSU AgBioResearch research facilities to operate.

As a result of the review, the center formerly called the Upper Peninsula Research Center, was given its new name in January “to acknowledge significant contributions made by MSU Extension to facility operations.” In line with the name change, MSU officials said the center will focus on “collaboration and integration across three programmatic systems: livestock, plants and local food systems.”

MSU AgBioResearch Associate Director John Baker said the committee report was issued last fall and work began soon after to implement the new vision.

“We’re very pleased to have Ashley joining the team and helping with the re-direction of UPREC,” Baker said. “She will be an integral part of a strategic effort to bring forth more valuable research to benefit the agriculture industry in the U.P. and across the state.”

Steve Lovejoy, associate director of MSU Extension, said McFarland will also focus on working with key stakeholders and keeping the industry informed on issues relative to the center.

“Ashley brings a great deal of experience in Extension and outreach that will be very valuable as we move forward and implement our plan for the future of the UPREC,” Lovejoy said.

As the new center coordinator at Chatham, McFarland will provide an important link between campus-based faculty coordinators and the implementation of programs and oversight of operations at the center and throughout the U.P. She will also work to increase visibility of the center and build relationships with stakeholders, MSU officials said.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is