FORT WAYNE, Ind. - Faculty from Michigan State University, Ohio State University and Purdue University gathered earlier this month in a new effort to strengthen both research and Extension outreach in food safety issues.
"These are all exceptional agriculture institutions in their own right, but when you combine them you suddenly have a phenomenal research and Extension powerhouse," said John Baker, associate director of MSU AgBioResearch. "We're striving to stimulate and develop our regional efforts by honing in on the synergy across these three universities."
The Food Safety Midwest Workshop in Fort Wayne last week was the first such gathering of the new Tri-State Research/Extension Funding Program (TSREFP), aimed at bringing together the strengths of each university to maximize opportunities to secure grants from external agencies. Another benefit is providing important educational and Extension outreach programs to stakeholders. Besides food safety, six other focus areas are part of the new venture: bioenergy and bioproducts, local foods, water quality, nutrient and waste management, animal welfare, and commercial agriculture and farm management.
Jeff LeJeune, microbiologist with Ohio State University Extension and Ohio State's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, attended the Sept. 13 food safety workshop.
"We identified some priorities in areas where we might work together, and one of them was in educational materials for Good Agricultural Practices for producers," LeJeune said. "The day after the meeting, we already shared ideas back and forth from information that was presented at the workshop. We're talking about how we can adopt things here in Ohio that are being done in Indiana and Michigan, and how what we're doing in Ohio can be exported, if you will, to Indiana and Michigan. The collaboration is already moving ahead."
Karen Plaut, director of Agricultural Research Programs at Purdue, said the tri-state initiative is an ideal way to use a broad array of expertise to improve the health and well-being of people in the Midwest.
"By combining the knowledge at these institutions, we can give producers the tools they need to ensure a safe and healthy food supply, which is what consumers deserve and have come to expect," Plaut said. "We can do more together, and that benefits everyone."
The group is soliciting new project proposals from faculty at the three institutions for funding consideration.
"By working together and crossing boundaries, we often have an even greater impact than going it alone," Baker said.