Michigan State University Extension in Missaukee County for 100 years

MSU Extension has been working in Missaukee County for 100 years, beginning in 1917.

Photo credit: MSU Extension
Photo credit: MSU Extension

For the last 100 years, Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) has been helping to educate citizens of Missaukee County in many different ways.

When Missaukee County was first settled, clear cutting of trees had left stumps and low yielding acid soils. In 1917, help from Extension Agricultural Agent, H. L. Barnum was acquired by the County Board of Supervisors. He worked to advance the use of limestone, phosphate, marl and muck as fertilizers for soil improvement. Farmers were urged to plant more grain crops using improved seed; to treat all seed oats with Formaldehyde for smut; treat seed potatoes for yellow dwarf fungus; do soil testing; plant sugar beets, sweet clover and alfalfa; test cattle for tuberculosis (TB); and use purebred bulls and rams to improve their livestock.

Potatoes were a significant cash crop for the county until the 1950s. At District and State potato shows, exhibits by Missaukee growers were surpassed by only one other county.

Home Economics club work began in 1929 and focused on the many tasks that farm women needed to do while furnishing a home. This included making mattresses from cotton, sewing clothing and coats, food preservation and cooking methods for adults, and canning club work for girls.

The agricultural agent helped introduce septic tanks and the idea of school forests. Some of the demonstrations held by Extension included landscaping, kitchen gardens, sheep dipping, apple tree pruning and baiting grasshoppers. Seed and feed loans were written, strawberry plants and yellow-dwarf-free potato seed ordered, and poultry culled while the Extension Agricultural Agent also acted as the Veterans’ Counselor.

In 1950, Missaukee County was rated first as an agricultural county among the 21 northern Lower Peninsula counties with respect to all cattle, milk cows, sheep and poultry. It was one of three counties in the State that showed increases in the number of farms between 1945 and 1950, moving from 1,005 to 1,038.

The Extension Service introduced farmers to the idea of using bulk cooling of milk, irrigation for potatoes was introduced at the Lake City State Potato farm, and the Falmouth Cooperative began selling and spreading lime.

Over the last 100 years Missaukee County has moved, with the involvement of MSU Extension, from poor soil to good crop land, from poultry, potatoes and beef being top crops to dairy and Christmas trees producing most of the county agricultural income. Electricity was introduced and 4-H clubs became an important way for young people to learn skills needed to survive. The Soil Conservation District, Federal Farm Loan Association, Dairy Herd Improvement Association (DHIA), Artificial Breeders Associations (ABA), Veteran’s Administration, County Youth Show and Farm Bureau all received much support from the Extension Agricultural Agent during the time they were established.

Today, as it has for the last 100 years, MSU Extension strives to determine the needs of Missaukee County residents and provides education for them in many ways, including partnering with various other groups.

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