starting “new” job, but has same duties
For the first time in 23 years, Ned M. Birkey
is no longer employed by Michigan State University Extension
But thanks to the County of Monroe and the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee
, the Ida resident is still available for consulting, advising and educating Monroe County farmers.
"I'm not old enough to retire," the 59-year-old Birkey
said last week.
said all he
knows is that the decision was based on budget constraints.
leaving means for the first time in decades, there are no extension agricultural educators working in Southeast Michigan from an area bounded by I-75 on the east, I-96 on the north, US-127 on the west and the Ohio line east of Jackson County on the south.
Today, he is working on a contractual basis with Monroe County, which will continue to pay half of the annual salary like it did for about 20 years.
The other half of his
time and salary is paid for by the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee
to do soybean research plots, educational meetings and other work for soybean producers outside the county.
current salary is about $60,000.
stresses that he
is not an employee of the county nor the committee.
However, agriculture is a $150-million industry for the county.
That's why it's important that his
services be retained, he
own company - Spartan Agricultural Consulting LLC
- to help grain, vegetable, dairy, greenhouse and other producers.
expertise is in field work, weed control and pesticides.
still works out of the extension office in Monroe, but that will end soon because the building may be sold.
"I'll have to move shortly, but I don't know yet where," he
"I'm not going to Lansing or Cincinnati.
I intend to offer the same free services I have for the past 20 years - working with farmers on agronomic and other problems, needs and issues important to agriculture."
is contracted with the county and the committee to do certain agreed-upon tasks.
One of the most pressing tasks this week is organizing the 50th annual Agriculture Banquet scheduled Wednesday at the 4-H Activity Center along with the county agriculture advisory council.
After that, he
will continue working with the council in the new year.
also will oversee:
n Cooperating with area agri-businesses, MSU, Ohio State University and other farm organizations
regarding educational meetings.
n Scheduling seed variety plots and documenting needs and issues for area grain growers.
n Documenting local karst sinkholes and also perform committee work, education and on-farm remediation tasks.
There are still some unknowns in his
new job that he
is still working on.
"Like how to get information out to farmers," he
"I can't use the extension newsletter since I don't work for them any more.
We have some winter meetings coming up in January that I'd like to" publicize.
said one of the goals for the agriculture council in 2012 is to print a newsletter similar to what Lenawee County does for growers.
Each month, Lenawee sends a newsletter to 2,500 recipients, including Mr. Birkey
field work on soybeans may take him outside the county into adjoining counties from time to time.
can get health insurance through his
In two years, he
can get his
full benefits back from MSU
, but isn't ready to draw on those benefits just yet.
not working in agriculture, he
reads three daily newspapers and also has umpired baseball games for high school and college for the past 35 years.
encourages younger athletes to consider umpiring when their playing careers are over.
Mr. Birkey grew up on a dairy and livestock farm and started his extension career with the University of Illinois Extension Service in 1980.
He began working for MSU in 1989.
"I've been fortunate to work for two Big Ten networks for 32 years," he