Dale Mutch: NCR-SARE Hero

June 16, 2014

Dale Mutch

Coordinated by the NCR-SARE Alumni Organization, the term "NCR-SARE Hero" recognizes the leadership, vision, contributions, and impact that certain people have made in the field of sustainable agriculture in the region.

Dr. Dale Robert Mutch is a retired Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) Senior Extension Educator and Adjunct Professor in the Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences Department—applying practical, research-based information to meet the needs of Michigan residents. He spent more than three decades as an IPM vegetable scout, agricultural agent, district and state field crop integrated pest management coordinator, senior district Extension educator specialist, and coordinator, consultant, and professor for the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. As a founding member of the Midwest Cover Crops Council, Dale championed the promotion and demonstration of cover crops to improve soil health and create more sustainable agricultural practices throughout the region and nationally.

Dale has been an avid and enthusiastic leader in the NCR-SARE organization since 1997 when he received his first Research and Education grant. He served on the Administrative Council from 2000- 2004, as the Michigan SARE state coordinator from 2007– 2013,. During his tenure as the Michigan State Coordinator, Michigan was awarded 75 SARE grants, and he distributed over 130 travel/mini grants to advance educator training in sustainable farming practices. He provided leadership for a number of important regional SARE initiatives. 

Many leaders in sustainable agriculture offered tributes as Mutch was nominated and selected to receive this recognition:

  • “It’s been my pleasure to work with Dale the last seven years.  Technically he was my boss, but it never felt that way.  He made it a partnership and a collaboration. He readily shared responsibility, visibility and credit. He leveraged individual strengths to make the outcome greater than the sum of the parts.  This was also true with his amazing network of farmer, educator, researcher, agribusiness, and agency contacts. Dale not only had great ideas, he knew others to work with to make them happen.  Rarely was Dale turned down when asking others to partner with him on grants, projects, programs and events.  A testament to their mutual respect, shared goals and trust derived often through friendship. Dale’s impact on agriculture in Michigan and the NCR will continue to be felt for years to come.  He had a broad vision working across the spectrum of crops grown in Michigan, the second most agriculturally diverse state.  Whether for field crops, horticulture, vegetables or tree fruits; whether using sustainable, conventional or organic agriculture; whether about cover crops, IPM or cropping systems; whether through research, publications, field days or workshops; Dale was and will always be an educator that makes a difference where it counts, in the mind and in the field.” – Dean Baas, Michigan SARE State Coordinator
  • "My colleagues and I greatly admire what Dale has accomplished during his career and are thrilled to hear that he is being honored by SARE.  Dale’s contribution to establishing the legitimacy of alternative sustainable practices and production systems is legendary at MSU and beyond. He provided growers with science-based information and proven methodology that he developed in his research program and translated into readily adoptable management practices. His commitment to research and outreach has helped our ag industries make huge strides towards more sustainable production and will continue to benefit growers for many years to come.” – Erin Lizotte, IPM Educator, MSUE
  • “Dale Mutch is a positive person who was always ready to search out a different solution when plans needed to change. I greatly admire how he could form work groups of farmers from diverse perspectives. Organic, sustainable, low-input, traditional, whatever label people placed on them, Dale just saw farmers with an important contribution to make. He knew bringing diverse people together to look for new farming solutions would create the best result. It was a pleasure to be Dale’s colleague.” – Joy Neumann Landis, MSU Integrated Pest Management Program
  • “Throughout the years, Dr. Dale Mutch has provided truly outstanding local, state and national leadership.  In the late 1970s, approximately one year after Dale was injured fighting a farm fire, that nearly cost him his life, I hired him as Coordinator for the Michigan Agronomic Crop Integrated Pest Management Program. He did an excellent job in this position. With full-time employment and a young family, Dale had the ambition and ability to enroll in and complete a Ph.D. program in Weed Science. As a member of Dale’s Graduate Program Committee, it was a privilege to observe him grow into a world-class science educator and leader. While Dale is probably unaware of this, many of his ideas in regards to sustainability were used in the transition of the 1985 Farm Bill mandate of Low Input Sustainable Agriculture (LISA) into the 1990 Farm Bill authorization of Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE). Throughout the years, Dale’s applied agriculture research and education program specialized in the role of cover crops in mid-west agriculture. He is widely recognized for his leadership role in regards to this current cutting-edge imperative.   Today, Dr. Mutch, therefore, is not only a NCR-SARE Hero, but a true SARE Pioneer.” – George Bird, MSU Professor and Former SARE Director 

The NCR-SARE Hero Recognition acknowledges individuals who 1) have provided service to NCR-SARE, sustainability, and/or national SARE, 2) have shown leadership in sustainable agriculture locally and regionally, and 3) have made lasting impacts to sustainability in the North Central region. 

NCR-SARE is one of four regional offices that run the SARE program, a nationwide grants and education program to advance sustainable innovation to American agriculture. Since 1988, NCR-SARE has helped advance farming systems that are profitable, environmentally sound and good for communities through a nationwide research and education grants program. The program, part of USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture, funds projects and conducts outreach designed to improve agricultural systems.