Kathleen Lavey, email@example.com
This weekend, students will pour out of East Lansing, headed off for spring break destinations.
But campus won’t be empty, not by a long shot.
Farmers, environmentalists, outdoor enthusiasts and others — many others — will take their places in the century-old tradition known as Agriculture and Natural Resources Week, ANR Week for short.
ANR Week started as an event for farmers, and if you want to learn how to administer a blood test to poultry or manage a herd of hoofed beasts, there are workshops for you.
But if you think that big tractors and bovine health are the beginning and the end of the discussion, you are sorely mistaken.
ANR Week has just about everything that’s important to our state packed into one place: farmers markets, the quality of our Great Lakes, canoeing, kayaking and other “quiet” water activities, wildflowers, herbs, the battle against invasive species and much, much more.
Here’s a sampling of eight important topics that are of much wider interest than those poultry blood tests.
Hot trend: farmers markets
As many as 200 people are expected at the Michigan Farmers Market Conference on March 10 and 11, which features workshops for market managers and market vendors, breakout sessions and a talk by Richard McCarthy, executive director of Slow Food USA.
You can learn to start your own farmers market or refine what you’re doing at an existing market, said Amanda Shreve, manager of programs and partnerships for the Michigan Farmers Market Association.
In case you don’t know this already, farmers markets are a bona-fide thing; there were about 150 markets statewide when the association started in 2006; now there are 320.
A couple of trends you’re likely to see at farmers markets going forward: wine (a new law allows wine sales and samples) and cooking demonstrations to help market customers learn to select, store and use the produce available.
You can still register for the conference if you’re fast; Thursday’s the deadline; go to mifma.org.
Volunteer opportunity: Teach a kid to fish
Fact: If future generations of Michiganders are going to learn to fish, somebody has to teach them how.
Project FISH — an acronym that means “Friends Involved in Sportfishing Heritage” — will train volunteers who want to become fishing instructors on March 10 and 11.
The event will offer activities in aquatic ecology, how to make lures, how to fish and how to help people learn to fish. Participants will get curriculum activities, equipment, a fishing rod and reel and access to supplies they need to start a fishing program or club for children.
Learn about the good: Native plants
Native plants are the focus of the Michigan Wildflower Conference on March 8 and 9 at the Kellogg Center.
Keynote speaker is Darrel Morrison, landscape architect, who will be looking at ways to use natural landscapes to inspire garden designs. Other workshops focus on basic landscape design using native plants, improving soil, designing landscapes that will be in harmony with inland lake shores, and creating landscapes that are comfortable for reptiles and amphibians.
Registration for one day is $75; for both days $140; walk-in registrations will be accepted. Print out a registration form or peruse the entire conference schedule at http://www.wildflowersmich.org.
Talk about the bad: Invasive plant species
Garlic mustard, purple loosestrife, the tiny white-flowered baby’s breath that fills the gaps in bridal bouquets — all are the bad guys when it comes to Michigan landscapes.
Invasive plant species — often brought in as landscape specimens for gardens — crowd out native plants that provide suitable cover and food for wildlife in forests, grasslands, wetlands and dunes.
The changes they inflict on the ecosystem can be dramatic and undesirable.
Coping with invasive species is the topic of the first-ever Michigan Invasive Plant Collaborative Exchange, an invitation-only event taking place Friday. It’s sponsored by the Michigan Invasive Plant Council.
To learn more about invasive plant species both on land and in water, check out the DNR’s invasive plants page at http://1.usa.gov/1zm2E7g.
Explore opportunities to enjoy the outdoors
Camping, kayaking, canoes and much more are the focus of the one-day Quiet Water Symposium, which takes place Saturday at the MSU Pavilion.
The 20th annual event “celebrates non-motorized outdoor recreation and a shared concern for our Great Lakes environment,” organizers say.
There’ll be exhibits of handcrafted and historic watercraft, displays from clubs and nature centers; info on biking, hiking and water trails.
Outfitters and liveries, conservation and watershed groups and outdoor retailers also will be on hand.
Hours are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; cost is $10 for adults, $5 for student with ID, free for kids younger than 12.
Learn more about herbs and how to use them
You can register onsite March 13 and 14 for “Sensational Savory,” the 28th annual Michigan Herb Associates conference.
Get beyond that pot of basil on your kitchen windowsill and learn the basics of growing and using herbs. You can learn to make herbal cocktails, how to landscape with herbs, how to grow heirloom herbs, vegetables and flowers or how to use herbs in remedies for the cold and flu season.
Learn more about the event and download a registration form or register online at miherb.org. Late registration is $75 for one day, $110 for both days.
Focus: Keeping the Great Lakes (and inland lakes) great
The 25th annual Great Lakes Conference is scheduled for March 10 and will bring together more than 200 people interested in the health and restoration of Michigan’s crown jewels.
Among the topics: the troubling algae blooms on Lake Erie (which fouled Toledo’s water supply last year); the cleanup and recovery of the Detroit River, invasive aquatic plants and the restoration of amphibians and reptiles in the Great Lakes.
The separate Shoreline and Shallows conference on Wednesday will look at issues related to the loss of native shoreline vegetation, which is a key threat to lake ecosystems, water quality and tourism.
Registration for the conference is $45; register at www.mishorelinepartnership.org. Walk-in registrations will be accepted.
Learn to shoot something
Test your hand at shooting an air rifle, air pistol or using a bow-and-arrow at MSU’s Demmer Center.
The center is a shooting sports training facility with indoor and outdoor archery ranges (including a 3D walking course) as well as indoor firearm ranges.
During ANR Week, the Demmer Center will offer the three-discipline training noon to 4 p.m. March 11. The fee is $22; register in advance at http://bit.ly/1EkWULw.
The Demmer Center is at 4830 E. Jolly Road in Lansing; learn more online at demmercenter.msu.edu.
What can you learn?
See the sessions scheduled for ANR Week at anrweek.canr.msu.edu/sessions