Apr 3, 2023
MSU names Hart center farm manager

Ashley Fleser has been named farm manager at Michigan State University’s West Central Michigan Research and Extension Center in Hart, Michigan.

The appointment makes Fleser the center’s first full-time farm manager. He assumed the new role March 13.

Ashley Fleser

Fleser is from Montague, Michigan, in west Michigan, and lives in Whitehall, Michigan. As center farm manager, Fleser is tasked with fostering an environment that supports scientists and MSU Extension educators, according to a news release.

“I’m honored to step into what I feel is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Fleser said in the release. “This is a new center built through collaboration and community engagement, and I am excited to continue that collaboration to grow this station into a world-class facility.”

Part of a network of 15 MSU AgBioResearch centers across the state, the center originated through a partnership of MSU, West Central Michigan Horticultural Research Inc., Michigan Asparagus Research Inc., Peterson Farms, and the Michigan Tree Fruit Commission. The center began operations in 2021 to support tree fruit and vegetable agriculture.

“Ashley’s wealth of knowledge in agriculture and land management, and his passion for this region of Michigan, are what led us to naming him the center’s first full-time farm manager,” James Kells, assistant director of MSU AgBioResearch’s assistant director, said in the release. “Using our established connections in the area and long history of partnership with the tree fruit and vegetable industries, as well as the connections he will continue to make, I’m confident Ashley can help build the center into a truly useful resource for growers and the community.”

As farm manager, Fleser said his goals are to support MSU’s tree fruit and vegetable research programs, partner and build relationships with local growers and stakeholders, and establish the center as a place for the community to learn and connect.

“We have so many well-respected centers across the state already, so it will be critical to get the ball rolling quickly to support west Michigan growers and the industries as a whole,” Fleser said in the release. “It’s an incredible opportunity to be part of shaping the mission and vision for a relatively new center. My background is not in tree fruit or some of the vegetables grown in this area, but I am well-versed in other cropping systems, so it will be a fun challenge.”

While earning a bachelor’s degree from MSU in public resource management, Fleser developed a love of working with the land. He also earned a certificate in sports turf management from Ohio State University and is in the process of completing a master’s degree in biology from Grand Valley State University.

For more than two decades, Fleser has been involved with land management in a variety of capacities. Fleser was a greenskeeper for Michigan golf course before eight years in the Cayman Islands, where he held positions in landscape and irrigation management and farm infrastructure management.

After returning to Michigan, Fleser has broadened his knowledge. He’s worked in seed and fertilizer sales, as a crew leader on dune restoration at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, as executive director of Muskegon County Habitat for Humanity, and as a sports turf manager for Grand Valley State University.

Prior to his new role as farm manager, Fleser also served as a health program instructor for MSU Extension.


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