MSU Extension hosts field day to share new research

CHATHAM – The Michigan State University Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center in Chatham is hosting a Field Day from 1-4 p.m. Saturday.

This “open farm” event welcomes anyone to come and go throughout the afternoon to view research that is on-going at the station.

The event, which will feature hay rides to and from the crop varieties, is free, and ice cream sundaes by DeBacker Family Dairy will be offered throughout the afternoon. Kim Cassida and Russ Freed, researchers from MSU, will discuss varieties and answer questions from producers.

Extension Educator Ashley McFarland said the open house is especially beneficial for local farmers, who can find out which crop varieties are doing well in the U.P. this season, based on the stringent research conducted at the extension center.

But everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend, McFarland said.

“I would love for folks to come out,” she said. “Even if they are not a producer and would like the opportunity to come out to the farm, get a hay ride, look at the cattle and walk in the crops, it should be a beautiful day to do that.”

The farm’s Red Angus beef cattle will be on display. Their 70 mother cows have given birth to about 60 yearlings in the last year, so children might enjoy the chance to see the baby calves, McFarland said.

This past year, MSU was awarded $100,000 by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to expand the variety trial program, and the results of this will be showcased.

“A lot of folks are hesitant to come to the Upper Peninsula, because people don’t think anything grows up here,” McFarland said. “So MDARD really wanted us to showcase all the different crop options that we do have up here, both small grains and forages.”

Some of the trials featured will be 23 varieties of malting barley and a number of forages, specifically alfalfa.

With the state-wide boom in craft breweries, many brewers are interested in serving beer sourced 100 percent from Michigan, but that’s currently impossible, McFarland said. Few Michigan farmers produce malting barley, because downstate, corn and soybeans are more profitable.

“But up here, we can’t grow corn and soybeans, so we don’t have that same competition,” she said. “So we’re a good area that grows barley really well, and so we’ve been trying to create that as a niche market up here, as potentially an area where we can expand barley production and source that local Michigan-grown barley for our craft brewers in the state.”

Other crop trials on display include spring wheat, winter wheat, oats, field peas, BMR forage sorghum and eight species of cover crops.

McFarland said due to the low temperatures, it’s been a challenging summer for crop production.

“This (event) allows producers to actually come out and see which (varieties) did well in the climate this year before we harvest,” she said. “Then next year…they know which seeds to buy just based on the success that we’ve had with it here at the farm.”

Further questions can be directed to Ashley McFarland through email at or by phone at 439-5176.

Mary Wardell can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.