Cheboygan County Program Highlights 2018

For the program highlights: MSU Extension made a difference in the lives of Cheboygan County residents through educational programs and resources.

Children touching a rabbit
“Bouncing Bunnies” was a day camp theme for youth ages 5 to 8 years old. Five 4-H Cloverbuds had a wonderful time handling fuzzy bunnies.

Encouraging Cheboygan Youth

Capture22The Cheboygan County 4-H Program focus for this past year has been 1) continued improvement in animal projects through six local educational trainings and two state level trainings; 2) specific focus on recruitment of younger youth into the small animal (rabbits & chicken) project areas through the launch of a new club and day camp; and 3) two local professional development opportunities for 4-H adult volunteers/club leaders.

One new initiative 4-H launched was a “behind-the -scenes” day camp during the Cheboygan County Fair for youth ages 5 to 8. The camp theme was “Bouncing Bunnies”. The games, arts & crafts, education and all activities focused on introducing the campers to the 4-H rabbit project. Five youth attended camp and three teens assisted. The campers loved being able to handle real rabbits. For the final day of camp, the campers showed rabbits and also tried the rabbit agility course. At the end of camp, three families expressed interest in joining 4-H in the rabbit project. This past year we had 416 youth and 64 adult volunteers participate in the Cheboygan County 4-H Program.

Camp Rein or Shine, an approximately 30 year proud tradition, is one of the longest running programs in Cheboygan County 4-H. This four day camp provide youth with disabilities the opportunity to participate in therapeutic horseback riding, as well as other camp activities like games, planting a garden, arts and crafts and eating a delicious meal each day while building relationships with fellow campers and adult volunteers.

Capture23Volunteers are at the heart of this camp. Each rider requires three volunteers. One serves as the leader for the horse, the other two serve as side walkers and help keep the rider stable in the saddle and safe on the horse. (see picture)

Camp Rein or Shine is planned and implemented by the Cheboygan County 4-H Proud Equestrian Program (PEP) Committee. A key element to this camp’s success is the certified therapeutic riding instructor. This is also a major expense. The PEP Committee, through the support of the Cheboygan community, fundraises as much as possible to keep costs low for the campers/riders.


Forestry Update

MSU Extension in Cheboygan County frequently works with both the MSU Extension Natural Resources Educator in Roscommon County as well as Cheboygan County’s Conservation District Forestry Assistance Program (FAP) forester to effectively serve the community. The partnership allows both the educator and forester to remain up to date on issues related to tree and forest health while providing accurate information to our clientele.

In 2018, more than a dozen people were provided this service, addressing issues that ranged from wind and drought stressed trees to suspected infectious red pine root rot in a neighborhood. In one instance, pictures provided by the client led the educator and forester to suspect a “watch list” forest pest species, prompting a report to Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). The report resulted in MDARD inspectors visiting the site to take samples that were analyzed by Michigan experts as well as experts from Cornell University. The pest was not a “watch list” species, however the example illustrates the importance of expert collaboration. Together, we work together to ensure that Cheboygan County maintains its “up north” forested appeal that contributes to our resident’s qualify of life. (Julie Crick, Natural Resources Educator MSU Extension, Roscommon)


  • Gardening Hotline: Have a gardening problem? Call 1-888-678-3464. 
  • Ask an Expert , Michigan State University helps people improve their lives by bringing the vast knowledge resources of MSU directly to individuals, communities, and businesses.
  • Don’t guess, soil test

MSU Soil and Plant Nutrient Laboratory (SPNL) operates as an integral part of Michigan State University providing a variety of analytical services on samples of soil, composts, plant tissue, and other materials related to the growing of plants (crops).

Cost is $10 for acreage, $25 for lawn and garden Soil Tests are available for purchase at the MSU Extension office.

Brittany Vanderwall, Forester Presque Isle Conservation Office

Capture24A graduate of Michigan Tech University with a BS in forestry and an ecology minor, Brittany is part of a statewide landowner assistance program called the "Forestry Assistance Program" which was created to help Michigan landowners navigate a wide array of land management options. FAP is free technical forestry assistance for all Cheboygan county residents. The target audience are those with 10 acres or more of trees.

She spends her days teaching landowners about their woods, hosting public workshops and presentations, conferring with policymakers. and being visible in the community as a readily available resource. Brittany also helps landowners identify and monitor their risk for invasive forest pests and diseases. In addition, Brittany designed and manages her conservation district websites and the Michigan Society of American Foresters website.

Brittany has been particularly active in Tree Farm where she was elected to serve as the State Chair of the Michigan Tree Farm Committee in January of 2016. She was recently elected to serve as the state Vice Chair for Michigan SAF in December of 2017 and is a Candidate Certified Forester.

(Brittany Vanderwall, Forester Conservation District)

Government and Community Vitality Educator

For the first time, MSU Extension has hired an educator from the Greening Michigan Institute to be based in Cheboygan. Lindsey Gardner will be providing educational resources, technical support, and training to local officials and residents about government and community vitality. New programs will be offered in the area on topics such as land use and civic engagement.

Lindsey has a broad range of experience in community development and holds a certificate in facilitation from the National Charrette Institute. The majority of her career has been in the nonprofit sector, leading organizations for youth development, affordable housing, entrepreneurship for individuals with special needs, and public education reform. As a former community organizer, Lindsey has a unique perspective on public engagement. Lindsey has a Bachelor of Science in Human and Organizational Development and a Master of Education in Community Development and Action from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

So far this year, Lindsey has presented to the Northeast Michigan Council of Governments, the Rotary Club of Cheboygan, Cheboygan Main Street Committee, Bring It! Cheboygan, and the county and city Planning Commissioners and Zoning Board of Appeals members. She looks forward to expanding her network in the county and providing new educational programming to meet emerging needs in the community.

Training Local Officials

Capture25In fall 2018, we hosted our Citizen Planner program here in Cheboygan County. For 6 weeks in October and November, local elected and appointed officials from northeast Michigan met for three hours at the Tuscarora Township Hall to learn about techniques in planning and zoning. We brought in experts from around the state to present including Dean Solomon, Ryan Coffey, Dave Rowley, Brad Neumann, and Lindsey Gardner from MSU Extension and Denise Cline from the Northeast Michigan Council of Governments. Participants learned about their role as a planning and zoning official, ethical decisionmaking, the master planning process, zoning ordinances, placemaking, and more. There were 23 participants in the program, seven from Cheboygan County, four from the City of Cheboygan, and two from the Village of Mackinaw City.

Planning Commissioners and ZBA members from Cheboygan County and the City of Cheboygan

Graduates of the Citizen Planner program will have the opportunity to apply to become a Master Citizen Planner (MCP) with MSU Extension. This credential requires passage of our online exam, a capstone presentation, and meeting annual continuing education requirements. The MCP designation is an achievement recognized as the standard of excellence among planning officials and community leaders in Michigan. Prior to this program offering, there were no active Master Citizen Planners in Cheboygan County. We plan to work with the graduates of this course to have more representatives from Cheboygan County hold this credential.








Supporting Family Health & Nutrition 

Children and teens learn the benefits of being active and SAYPA student are taught how to check ingredients when shopping and how to cook healthy foods

MSU Extension’s SNAP Education (SNAP-Ed) programs include Cooking Matters, Project Fresh, Jump Into Foods and Fitness, Healthy Harvest and Show Me Nutrition. Bridge Card eligible adults and children:

  • Learn how to make the most of their food dollars
  • Develop skills such as menu planning
  • Understanding recipes
  • Practice food preparation and keeping food safe

In 2017, MSU Extension SNAP-Ed programs reached 160 adults and youth in Cheboygan

  • 24 adults and 148 youth participated in a multiple session series of nutrition lessons.
  • 186 adults and 8 youth participated in a one-time lesson on healthy lifestyle choices.

The MSU Extension team was honored at our statewide conference in October for their efforts in partnering, programming and outreach within their communities and region.

Senior Market Fresh

5,370 coupons were distributed to eligible seniors (determined by income) in partnership with the Cheboygan Council on Aging, Cheboygan County, and United Way. This program allows seniors access to fresh, local produce, and benefits farmers in the area directly, as the State of Michigan reimburses the coupons.

Wolverine Community Schools K-6 Building Healthy Community grant

Capture28MSU Extension provided six monthly food tastings and nutrition lessons for all k-6 students along with coaching and support for the school’s staff and administration, in partnership with Wayne State University and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.


Through the generous support of Judge Butts, MSU Extension partnered with Straits Area Youth for six weeks of nutrition and cooking classes including a shopping tour to put what they learned into action. Students purchased items from each food group to create a meal for four, costing less than $10.


Early Childhood

The most critical time in a person’s life is the formative years between the ages of birth and five. MSU supports early childhood development through programs that help prepare Michigan’s children from birth to eight years old for school and life success.

“As an Early Childhood Instructor, I value the importance of preparing children for the future. The skills we teach them not only effect their lives today, in the present moment of childhood, but build the foundation for future life skills and shape their independence as youth and adults.”

Danielle Melching, MSU Extension Instructor.


“Inquiring minds want to know: Science for Young Children” workshop. Participants practiced observing as a part of the scientific process. They used an egg to demonstrate brushing teeth with either toothpaste or Sprite.

During the 2018 year, ten programs were facilitated throughout Cheboygan County from March to September including: The Purpose of Play, Positive Discipline, Setting the Stage: Promoting Social and Emotional Health in Young Children, Understanding A Toddler’s World, Mindfulness for Young Children, Inquiring Minds Want to Know: Science for Young Children and Nurturing Parenting. These programs reached 48 participants, 26 from Cheboygan County.


At the Cloverbud Bouncing Bunny Camp at the Cheboygan County Fair this August, children learned about bunnies and how to care for them.

During the Purpose of Play workshop, we created Glitter Word Work Bags to help children practice pre-writing skills, such as shapes, letters and words. Glitter Word Work Bags is a great multisensory activity that helps learners retain the information they are practicing. They also offer a great therapeutic/calming effect for children. Parent comments:

  • “My kids really liked those bags, I pull them out and use them all the time. It’s not just a one time thing like I thought.” Purpose of Play
  • After a Positive Discipline Class, a parent said “I really like this class- it’s better than what I thought it would be! I thought you were going to stand here and tell me everything I’m doing wrong.”
  • A Parent walked into a Positive Discipline class saying “I’m here for parenting, I don’t want to be- but I have to be.” After class was over the parent came up to me saying “that didn’t take long- I thought it was going to be boring, I was like I am going to fall asleep, but I am learning!”
  • During our lesson on building self-worth (half-way through the Nurturing Parenting Series), a parent said “my son wanted me to say thank you, I’ve been more nurturing the past few weeks!” At the following class the next week the parent said “you are making a difference here, especially in the young ones.”

Supporting Food and Agriculture

Michigan agriculture continues to be a diverse and resilient segment of the state’s economy. When you support MSU Extension, you help producers develop efficient farming practices that optimize the use of inputs to enhance productivity while protecting soil and water resources. This education leads to better use of time, money and human capital, which helps retain and create agricultural jobs. Together, these measures strengthen Michigan’s economy, encouraging growth of a sustainable and prosperous Michigan food and agriculture system.

Field Crop Variety Evaluation

Capture31Better than 50% of the upward trend in crop yields over the last several decades can be attributed to genetic improvements achieved through breeding and selection. Selecting the right crop variety for each field is a critical management decision that can make or break a farmer’s season. Unfortunately, variety performance information applicable to Northern Michigan can be hard to come by due to the limited number of farms and unique growing conditions in our region. To fill this gap, MSU Extension has invested in variety evaluation for several crops, conducting four on-farm variety trials in corn, soybeans, potatoes and malting barley during 2018.

Three field day events were held in 2018 to highlight variety performance evaluation projects in corn, soybeans and potatoes, attracting a total of 75 participants.

Our soybean variety trial in Hillman, MI evaluated 42 early maturing varieties, finding a 28 bu/a difference between the lowest and highest yielding varieties. These yield differences translate into $239/a of gross revenue for local farmers simply by selecting the best soybean variety.


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