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      A day to learn more about farming and agriculture

      Tuesday's blustery weather didn't stop Upper Peninsula agriculture producers from gathering at an Alger County farm. The Michigan State University Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center held their yearly Field Day at their farm in Chatham. The farm's research was shared so local farmers could take the ideas back to their own land.

      The fifty people in attendance included Dennis Stratton from Tapiola. He just started farming this summer on 21 acres at his Copper Country home.

      "We're mainly trying to do cold weather crops, like lettuce and kale and also garlic, and see what we can do to extend the season so we can provide those kind of greens for a healthy, local diet," said Stratton.

      Season extension was one topic discussed at the farm. The people in attendance ranged from Michigan State professors to local farmers. They learned about the new focus of research efforts for the UPREC, according to coordinator Ashley McFarland.

      "We used to milk cows here, but we've actually kind of changed that; now we have a beef herd. We have about 80 head of red angus, and we are doing integrative crop and livestock research with them," said McFarland.

      The farm is working with crops and livestock to see how soil health can be improved, which is another topic of interest to everyone in the agriculture industry, especially new farmers like Stratton.

      "Soil is foundational to farming," Stratton said. "We're trying to look at our soil as a living organism rather than just dirt."

      Renewable energy was another topic of the day.

      "We have quite a few, five or six different energy crops, that we're growing to see whether or not it's profitable to grow these in the U.P. and then also produce biofuel off from those," McFarland explained.

      The farm is also doing some work that is of interest to the local craft beer industry.

      "We are also doing barley research, and we're looking at whether or not we can produce local barley that could then source our microbrewers," McFarland said.

      McFarland added that the UPREC is working with local food networks to use agriculture production to stimulate the U.P. economy.

      To learn more about the farm, McFarland encouraged people to stop by for a tour or go to their website.