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Karl's Column - Mouth Shut, Ears Open

by Carolyn Binder

It has been observed, by more than one philosopher, that one learns best by keeping the mouth shut and the ears open.  I attended the Michigan Farm Bureau annual meeting the first week in December as a voting delegate. I had not planned to keep my mouth shut, although I try always to keep my ears open, but that two-pronged approach to learning by listening served to tell me quite a lot about things in general, and about how Michigan farmers feel about their prospects in the near future, and later on down the road.

One of my more memorable listening experiences that week, came on the delegate floor, when proceedings were interrupted to make way for Dr Fred Poston, the new/old Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University.  He was exceptionally well received.  These folks regard him very highly - - not so much for what he’s done recently, as he’s only been back here a little over a year.  He’s highly regarded in the Michigan farm community because of his service formerly at the College, before his most recent tenure as vice-president for Finance and operations.

You may recall from a couple of years ago in my report on the Farm Bureau Annual Meeting that there was unbridled disgust and thinly-veiled outright hostility directed at the University and specifically and by name, its departure from its “land grant mission.”

There’s little doubt in my mind that Dr Poston was recruited out of the vice-presidency and back into CANR Dean’s office, specifically to right that ship.  He told the  delegation on Wednesday that the project is well underway, and has a way to go.

Dean Poston presents himself as, and seems to be a thoughtful, understanding no-nonsense kind of an administrator who knows his task and how to accomplish it.  To that end, he touched briefly on some moves at the top.  Doug Buhler, who has been interim dean since Jeffrey Armstong left, would have made a fine Dean, but his expertise and perhaps his preference lies in research, and that’s what he’s doing.  Steve Pueppke, Director of AgBioResearch also was mentioned with high regard.  The other side of that organization, with which most of us are more familiar, is Michigan State University Extension, headed by Dr Tom Coon.  As you must know, MSU Extension underwent the most obvious, most controversial, and for some of us the most difficult to accept  - - - - - changes.  Dr Coon will retain his current position - -  for now, as the Dean said in his closing commentary.

The closing paragraph in the 2013 Michigan Farm Bureau Policy Resolution begins with, “Under Dr Fred Poston’s leadership over this past year, the CANR has resumed a positive, cooperative relationship with the agriculture industry.”  ‘Nuff said, Dr Fred - keep on keeping on.