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Conference offers education on viticulture, winemaking

Michigan Bits: Michigan Sugar Co. names leader; state’s seniors rank 20th in U.S. in technology uptake; dairy cooperative elects leaders.

April 5, 2023

5 Min Read

Presenting the highest international standards of viticulture and winemaking, a two-day conference Aug. 24-25 in Traverse City, Mich., will feature world-class experts.

Michigan State University AgBioResearch, in collaboration with Michigan State University Extension and Intentional Agriculture, a Michigan-based nonprofit organization, announces Dirt to Glass 2023, designed for grape growers and wine producers across Michigan and neighboring states.

Dirt to Glass 2023 will offer advanced, practical information and tools to cultivate a new and innovative community of growers and producers.

Speakers from across the globe will share their knowledge on various topics including sustainability, soil health, vineyard management and winemaking practices.

The guided wine tasting is a highly technical experience designed to deepen participants' understanding of the sensory aspects of wine affected by environmental and cultivation factors. Led by a panel of expert tasters with broad market experience, attendees will learn to identify the impact of soil and climate on wine and gain insight into winemaking decisions driven by the condition of the grapes at harvest.

The event will feature educational sessions suitable for industry newcomers and veterans alike, including a field day showcasing vineyard management practices and the resulting wine quality. Along with informative sessions and curated tastings, attendees will have multiple opportunities to network with peers and experts from all facets of the industry.

For more information and to register, visit the Dirt to Glass website.

Juhnke tapped to lead Michigan Sugar Co.

Michigan Sugar Co. this week named Neil C. Juhnke of Lake Park, Minn., its next president and CEO. A native of North Dakota, Juhnke comes to Michigan Sugar to continue a career in the agribusiness sector that stretches back to 1990. He replaces retiring president and CEO Mark S. Flegenheimer who led Michigan Sugar the past two and a half decades. 

“My family and I are incredibly excited for the opportunity that lies ahead,” said Juhnke, who began his career at American Crystal Sugar Co. in Moorhead, Minn., and spent 15 years there working his way up to become ag operations manager. “I am very much looking forward to returning to my roots and working alongside Michigan Sugar Co.’s world-class grower-owners and its talented workforce.”

Juhnke most recently served as vice president of manufacturing and operations for Fargo, N.D.-based Red River Commodities Inc. 

Seniors becoming more tech savvy

Historically known for being technologically challenged, America is seeing an unprecedented surge in tech adoption among seniors in 2023. This includes wearable devices to monitor vital signs, smart home technology to make aging in place easier, and computer literacy for online banking, shopping and video calls with grandchildren. Despite these advances, seniors in certain states are further ahead than others. 

Seniorly recently released a study on the States with the Most Tech-Savvy Seniors using the latest data from the Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the Department of Health & Human Services.

Key findings in Michigan show 10.7% of seniors do not own a computer, 82.3% have an internet subscription, 16.5% work remotely, 43% use telehealth, and an average of $500 is spent annually on technology.

The five most tech-savvy places are Washington, D.C., California, Utah, Arizona and Washington. The five least tech-savvy are West Virginia, Mississippi, North Dakota, Louisiana and Arkansas.

Nationally, a record percentage of seniors are texting (82%), using smartphones (65%), shopping (63%), banking (62%), using wearable technology (11%), taking classes (9%) and working remotely (9%).

Brock re-elected as VP of FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative

John Rettler of Neosho, Wis. was re-elected president of the FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative’s board of directors Feb. 11 following the cooperative’s 11th annual meeting.

Steve Brock of Daggett, Mich., was re-elected vice president, Stephanie Hughes of Pittsville, Wis. was elected secretary, and Bob Dietzel of East Dubuque, Ill., was re-elected treasurer.

Newly elected to serve as the District 7 director is Michelle Popp of Unity, Wis., and Jackie Holub of Boyd, Wis., to serve as District 8 director.

Re-elected to a three-year term on the 10-member board of directors was Dietzel, representing District 6.

Tony Schmitz of Fond du Lac, Wis., was elected by the Young Cooperators Steering Committee to serve as chair, and Nathan Wiese as vice chair, who will represent the Young Cooperators on the Board of Directors.  

Other board members include Dan Vandertie of Brussels, Wis., in District 2, Wayne Gajewski of Athens, Wis., in District 4, and Kathy Bauer of Faribault, Minn.

Trap installed for invasive sea lamprey

A $1.67 million permanent sea lamprey trap on the East Branch Au Gres River in Iosco County, Mich., was recently completed. The project represents a long-standing partnership between The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District and Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) to control invasive sea lampreys and protect the $7 billion Great Lakes fishery.

Sea lampreys, parasitic fish that suck blood from other fish (e.g., lake trout and Pacific salmon), invaded the Great Lakes through shipping canals and devastated Great Lakes fisheries in the mid-1900s. Each sea lamprey can kill up to 40 pounds of fish per year.

An estimated 4,500 sea lampreys enter Lake Huron from the East Branch Au Gres River each year. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission coordinates the sea lamprey control program that has reduced populations in the Great Lakes by about 90% since they first invaded, saving nearly 100 million pounds of fish each year.

Specialty crops get $2.1 million boost from USDA

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service recently awarded more than $2.1 million in fiscal 2022 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program funding to Michigan.

This grant will help the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development fund projects to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops in the state and support specialty crop growers through marketing, education and research.

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