Dec 7, 2012
Vegetable council hands out awards during Great Lakes EXPO

The Michigan Vegetable Council (MVC) handed out two awards during the annual banquet of the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable & Farm Market EXPO.

Master Farmer Award

The Master Farmer Award is given in recognition of outstanding farming practices, as well as cooperation with Michigan State University (MSU) researchers and Extension educators and leadership roles in the vegetable industry and local community. MVC presented the 2012 Master Farmer Award to G. L. Malburg Farms of Hart, Mich.

Malburg Farms got its start in 1974, when Jerry Malburg, while working as a full-time mechanic, bought 80 acres in Mason County to grow vegetables. It was the same year he married his wife, Lois. The farm expanded over the years to more than 1,600 acres, along with two hog finishing operations. The farm also receives asparagus and cherries from other growers for shipment to processors. Jerry’s son, Ryan, and his wife, Kris, are now operating the farm. Jerry planted his last crops this spring and lost a valiant battle with cancer on July 20. This special recognition for Malburg Farms is dedicated to Jerry’s memory.

Jerry Malburg had many hobbies and interests. He was an avid deer hunter, shot billiards competitively, enjoyed college sports and NASCAR, and was a mechanic for snowmobile teams. But first and foremost, Jerry was a farmer and liked to see things grow. Asparagus and carrots, along with asparagus crowns, are now the mainstay vegetable crops, but the farm has also grown summer and winter squash, red beets, parsnips, turnips, broccoli, cauliflower and spinach, as well as cherries and sugar beets. The farm was the first in the area to grow Dickinson squash for processing. The farm also pioneered in developing a storage system for carrots held for the fresh-cut market. With his mechanical abilities, Jerry could fix and build almost anything. He fabricated the first butternut squash harvester, which did the work of 12 to 14 people.

Jerry also understood the “big picture,” serving the industry in leadership roles with the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, the MACMA Asparagus Division, the Michigan Asparagus Research Committee and the cherry marketing order board. He worked with other industry leaders to secure compensation in the last farm bill for asparagus growers impacted by Peruvian imports that were facilitated by a U.S. trade agreement. Jerry’s enduring interest in learning how to grow things better made him a natural as a cooperator with MSU researchers, including having a number of research trials on his farm.

Master Farmer Associate Award

The Master Farmer Associate Award is given to an individual who, while not directly involved in farming, has had a significant impact on the well-being of the vegetable industry in Michigan. MVC presented its 2012 Master Farmer Associate Award to Hannah Stevens.

Hannah Stevens joined MSU Extension in 1981 as an Extension horticultural agent in Macomb County. In 1992, she became an Extension Agricultural and Natural Resources agent, and in 2010 achieved senior Extension educator status. Over this time, she worked closely with muck vegetable growers in the Imlay City area, and with vegetable growers on mineral soil in Macomb, St. Clair and Lapeer counties.

Throughout her career, Hannah developed and implemented meaningful educational programs to meet the diverse needs of both commercial growers and homeowners. She was also well respected for her effective collaboration and technical assistance in statewide and multi-state efforts involving research, scholarship, programming and leadership skills. She co-authored the grant proposal that funded the Great Lakes Vegetable Working Group, which connects researchers and educators from many states and Canada.

She conducted research trials on sweet corn and cooperated on many research trials with MSU specialists. She organized tours and meetings each year to keep growers educated, especially on new pest threats and new technology, along with other issues such as labor and environmental concerns. Hannah was well known to all the growers in her area and was the face of MSU Extension to many of them.

Hannah retired this past March. She looks forward to assisting her husband Larry with his business and spending more time with her adult children, Nate and Lena, and her twin sister, Ruth.

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