Alternative agriculture in Iowa

John Lawrence’s message from Nov. 11, 2019

People who think Iowa agriculture is all about commodity corn and soybeans might be surprised that organic producers and experts from across the country will be getting together Nov. 24-25 for the annual Iowa Organic Conference. Iowa State partners with the University of Iowa in this joint effort, which is the largest university-sponsored organic conference in the country. Organic production is one part of our broader educational efforts for alternative agriculture in Iowa. Did you know?

  • Kathleen Delate is ISU Extension and Outreach’s point person for the conference and leads research to improve organic farming systems. Current Organic Agriculture Program projects include examining crop rotations, organic no-till, varietal response, and integrated crop-livestock systems to improve soil quality and economic returns.
  • Ajay Nair leads the Sustainable Vegetable Production Lab, which focuses on developing strategies that enhance crop production, soil health and profitability in commercial vegetable cropping systems. The lab conducts experiments on cover crops, conservation tillage, cultivar trials, integrated pest management, soil fertility, weed management, and high tunnel vegetable crop production.
  • Farm, Food and Enterprise Development efforts include small farm profitability, agritourism, community food systems planning and development, farm to school and farm to early childhood education, and business feasibility and financing. Craig Chase leads the program team that provides technical assistance and resources for farmers, food systems advocates and business owners.

These programs and additional alternative agriculture efforts aim to help producers, processers, marketers, business owners and others become more diversified, profitable and environmentally responsible.

Internal Communications: Connecting with the Leadership Team

One of the recommendations from the Internal Communications Task Force was to implement listening sessions or virtual “office hours” with the leadership team. This recommendation relates to developing two-way, field to campus feedback for improved relationships and effectiveness. We held five virtual listening sessions in October about Structured for Success. We are evaluating the technical platforms for virtual office hours in the future. A separate step that we will begin in January is a brief monthly digital update from the leadership team about program and professional development opportunities. Watch for details in the coming weeks.

One more note: Please review the November program update from the leadership team for current examples of what is happening across our programs.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

November 2019 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Community and Economic Development

  • Iowa’s Living Roadways 23rd annual celebration is Nov. 7. Extension CED is the administering unit for the ILR Community Visioning Program. During the event, the 2019 visioning communities will showcase the design projects proposed through the process. In addition, representatives from the 2020 visioning communities will be in attendance to kick off the 2020 program.
  • CED is a sponsor of the Western Iowa Advantage Housing Summit to be held in Carroll on Nov. 13. CED specialist Abbie Gaffey will be speaking; coordinating all the speakers; preparing the agenda, program, marketing materials and press releases; and running all the committee meetings. Jon Wolseth will present the Rural Housing Readiness Assessment. CED staff Julie Robison, Sara Shonrock and Gary Taylor also will be attending the summit.
  • CED provides goal setting and strategic planning services to help local governments and nonprofits address critical issues, identify priorities and develop action plans to accomplish those priorities. In November CED specialists are facilitating strategic planning for the Keokuk Economic Development Corporation and for 4-H in Ames, and goal setting for the Cedar Falls City Council.
  • In November, CED specialists Lynn Adams and Jon Wolseth will be presenting the place-based leadership program, Leading Communities, in Cass County (Atlantic). Brian Perry will be meeting with the Chickasaw County Leading Communities planning team. Aimee Viniard-Weideman and Himar Hernández will be teaching Leading Communities in Mount Pleasant. CED specialists also will be teaching the program in Howard County (Lime Springs) and Sac City.

Human Sciences

  • Dawn Dunnegan, family life, and Mary Weinand, family finance, delivered various educational offerings at Halcyon House. The wellness director has shared the successes with other WesleyLife colleagues and informed the board of directors that the partnership is one of their most successful. Information about the Powerful Tools for Caregivers series was then shared with community wellness/lifestyle directors during a regularly scheduled meeting. As a result, this educational offering will be offered in partnership with eight communities across the state in 2020.
  • Jill Weber, nutrition and wellness, and Fayette County office manager Deb Kahler and youth coordinator Michele Kelly partnered with Gundersen Palmer Lutheran Community Health to launch the Gundersen Palmer Community Teaching Kitchen in January 2019. An exciting opportunity was the ability to engage people across the geographic area. Educational offerings included Healthy and Homemade, Make Ahead Meals, Growing Herbs, Cooking with Herbs, Preservation 101, Stay Independent, All about Apples, and others. Anticipated reach in the first year alone is more than 400 individuals.
  • ¡Salir Adelante! Caminos a Nuestro Futuro (Pathways for our Future) is a six-session series designed to affirm the strengths of Latinx youth and families to pave the way to post-secondary success. The curriculum assists youth and their families in gaining information and access to resources, developing skills and exploring strategies to create paths for successful futures. The curriculum is currently in the pilot stage at three locations: two in Polk County and one in Muscatine. Feedback from the pilots will inform changes to the draft curriculum with the goal of rolling out the curriculum next fall. The team working on this series includes Kim Greder, Judy Levings, Maria Alcivar, Brenda Allen, Rosa Gonzales, Michelle Schott, Katie Bruna, Norma Dorado-Robles and Aracely Martinez.

4-H Youth Development

  • The 2019 Iowa State Fair 4-H livestock shows set records. More than 4,200 animals were exhibited, with 1,900 4-H exhibitors. Multiple show records were broken in the following species: dairy goats – 37 exhibitors, 115 head (previously, 30 exhibitors, 72 head); meat goats – 146 exhibitors, 288 head (previously, 129 exhibitors, 264 head); and swine – 440 exhibitors, 1,151 head (previously, 422 exhibitors, 1,101 head).
  • Youth across the state have been participating in 4-H National Youth Science Day. Emily Damro shared this example from Black Hawk County. Five 4-H members and two potential future members participated in the NYSD Game Changers Workshop at the Black Hawk County Extension Office Oct. 1. The youth experienced “Hack Your Harvest” and “Pitch Your Passion,” working on challenges of writing efficient programming code for agriculture, as well as developing animation for something they were passionate about. The NYSD kit that was used for this program opportunity was one of 35 donated by the Donaldson Foundation. The remaining 34 kits were distributed through county 4-H staff efforts to Waterloo Schools, La Porte City Elementary, Hudson Elementary, Dunkerton Elementary, four Boys and Girls Club of the Cedar Valley locations, and several home school connections.
  • Sixty-eight schools have enrolled in SWITCH! School core team staff and extension partners gathered for a conference Oct. 30-31 in Ames to learn how to implement SWITCH and take new skills to improve wellness in their districts. Youth are also invited and will be trained to be 4-H SWITCH Ambassadors.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • The Integrated Crop Management Conference will be held Dec. 4-5 in Ames, helping farmers prepare for 2020 and beyond by providing information on reducing risk and managing returns. The conference will feature 39 workshops, along with additional presentations. Registration can be completed online, and pre-registration is required.
  • The 2020 Garden Calendar is available through the ISU Extension Store. Developed by Richard Jauron, horticulture specialist, the calendar showcases the beauty of butterflies as they float almost musically through the air. The calendar also provides space to record the progress of a garden, along with monthly tips that provide timely information for fruits and vegetables, lawn care, trees, shrubs and much more.
  • Farmers and landowners who want to increase pollinator habitat while also improving water quality should consider the benefits of saturated riparian buffers enhanced with native wildflowers. Establishing pollinator habitat within riparian zones, where the agricultural value is lower and where the conservation and wildlife benefits are likely high, can be a win-win. “Establishing and Managing Pollinator Habitat on Saturated Riparian Buffers” is now available through the ISU Extension Store. The publication also outlines anticipated costs for establishing pollinator habitat over a buffer.

Produce with a Purpose

John Lawrence’s message from Nov. 4, 2019

Wapello County believes in Produce with a Purpose. The extension council and county staff support this project that focuses on increasing the number of fruit and vegetable producers in a six-county region, increasing the number of consumers who purchase local foods in Wapello County, and providing high quality, relevant educational opportunities to producers and consumers. Did you know?

  • Produce with a Purpose works like a CSA – community supported agriculture. Participating consumers pick up their box of locally grown produce twice a month either at the ISU Extension and Outreach Wapello County office or at 13 worksites in the area.
  • The nonprofit sources local food from producers in Mahaska, Keokuk, Wapello, Jefferson, Davis and Van Buren counties. For $15 per box, consumers get to enjoy a variety of produce throughout the season as they support multiple farming families.
  • The produce arrives at the Wapello County office and is stored in commercial refrigerators. Volunteers and employees pack food boxes on delivery days, and boxes are transported in coolers with ice packs to maintain appropriate temperatures, as needed. Each delivery site has a coordinator and a designated spot for deliveries.
  • Newsletters and publications are provided with each delivery, with information about local producers, farmers markets, local food events, produce selection and purchasing tips, and recipes that highlight locally available items.
  • Producers are surveyed and educational programs are scheduled to meet their needs. This year producers could attend “Are You Ready for FSMA Compliance?” and a “Market Ready” workshop.

Produce with a Purpose makes it easier for consumers to purchase local produce, especially in areas of Wapello County that have been identified as food deserts. The number of boxes ordered has increased each year – from 52 in 2017 to 121 in 2019. Oct. 29 and 30 were the final pickup dates for this year. For more information, contact Hilary Lanman, Produce with a Purpose coordinator, hilaryl@iastate.edu.

More notes

  • Reminder: County staff and council members are invited and encouraged to complete the Structured for Success online survey. We want to better understand county extension councils’ interest in Models 1, 2, or 3 and county staff interest in ISU medical and/or dental benefits. (If you choose, you may read this review copy of the survey before completing the survey online.) Please complete the survey by 5 p.m., Friday, Nov. 8.
  • We’ve provided information about ISU insurance plans being offered to county paid staff in this new Structured for Success common themes document. It also will be available on the Structured for Success feedback page and in MyExtension.
  • Congratulations to Angela Shaw, associate professor and food safety specialist, and Cynthia Fletcher, professor and resource management extension state specialist, who will be featured on the 2020 Women Impacting ISU calendar. They were nominated and selected because of their outstanding accomplishments and positive impact at Iowa State. The Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics will include the names of all 12 women selected for the calendar in the center’s Nov. 12 Voices newsletter. They will be recognized at a reception Jan. 15, at 3:30 p.m. in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union.
  • Over the past three years the State Historical Society of Iowa partnered with ISU Extension and Outreach and local organizations as the Iowa History 101 Mobile Museum shared the story of Iowa across the state. During a brief ceremony in Osceola on Oct. 31, the museum received its final sticker – for Clarke County – ending its tour of all 99 counties. In March the historical society will announce plans for the museum’s next tour, partnering with educational institutions. Our Clover Kids network will work with the museum on curriculum that satisfies education standards. Nicole Hanson and Cayla Taylor are leading the effort for 4-H Youth Development.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

Challenging youth through AgOvation

John Lawrence’s message from Oct. 28, 2019

There’s nothing quite like a “Shark Tank” experience to test innovation. Like the popular TV program, AgOvation provides an opportunity for innovators to present their work to industry professionals. However, in this 4-H version, youth pitch their science-based solutions for local agricultural problems. Did you know?

  • AgOvation is a new, research-based competition for youth in grades 7-12. They work in teams of two to five members to identify an ag-based issue in their community and develop a project to address it.
  • Youth work with a team coach and mentor from the agricultural field that most closely relates to their project. They also are encouraged to connect with representatives from Iowa State and the agribusiness community.
  • Topics youth are addressing this year include technology for timed feeding of individual swine and easier snow removal on the farm. The teams have been developing prototypes and designs.
  • Youth participated in regional events in September. Teams from Cherokee, Dallas, Linn, and Sac counties will be participating in the final competition, Nov. 16 at the Field Extension Education Laboratory. There they will present their solutions to industry professionals and receive feedback. The top three teams will receive scholarships for post-secondary education. Support for the program this year has been provided by Cargill and Channel Seed.

Iowa 4-H already is planning for next year’s competition, because AgOvation helps develop our future workforce of agricultural scientists, engineers and technologists. County youth coordinators and other staff are encouraged to help recruit participants, adult mentors and supporters. The more counties and teams that get involved, the greater the learning opportunity and program impact. For more information, contact Maya Hayslett, crop sciences youth education specialist, hayslett@iastate.edu.

In other 4-H news, the numbers are in for the 2018-2019 4-H program year. Here are a few highlights.

  • More than 160,000 youth participated in 4-H last year, an 18.7 percent increase from 2017-2018. This includes youth who were enrolled in Clover Kids (for K-3 youth) or as 4-H members (grades 4-12), as well as youth who participated in either six or more hours of 4-H programming, and those who participated in six or fewer hours of programming.
  • The number of enrolled youth was slightly lower than the previous year. However, over 28,000 additional youth participated in six or fewer hours of programming, compared with the previous year. Our 4-H program continues to focus on moving these youth to longer-term involvement.
  • Community club membership is down, but after-school club enrollment is growing.
  • 4-H also has seen an increase in the number of youth participating in school enrichment programs for more than 6 hours: 38,370 youth, which is 781 more than in 2017-2018. This may be our best area for recruitment and growth, reaching families who might have other barriers to participation in community clubs, such as transportation.

More notes

  • Congratulations to David Brown, ISU Extension and Outreach colleagues, and partners in seven north central states working on Farm and Ranch Wellness: The Next Steps. The regional project has received a $480,000 grant from USDA NIFA as part of the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network. It is one of four regional projects funded by the FRSAN program, which was authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill. For more information, contact David at dnbrown@iastate.edu.
  • Learn about the Iowa Agricultural Extension Association during a Zoom informational meeting at 9 a.m., Oct. 30, or noon, Oct. 31. You’ll get a quick, general overview of IAEA and answers to questions you may have about the organization. The Zoom URL is https://iastate.zoom.us/j/2720995534; to join the meeting from a dial-in phone line, call +1 646 876 9923 or +1 669 900 6833, with meeting ID 272 099 5534. If you are unable to join LIVE, you can watch a recorded version afterward. You also are invited to attend the fall meeting Nov. 14 at the Boone County Extension Office. For more information, contact Alan Ladd, aladd@iastate.edu.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

National awards for Human Sciences

John Lawrence’s message from Oct. 22, 2019

Congratulations to Kim Greder and the ISU Extension and Outreach work teams who provide the “Juntos Para Una Mejor Educación” and “Abriendo Caminos” programs in Iowa. They will receive the 2019 National Extension Diversity Award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Cooperative Extension, and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. The award recognizes significant contributions and accomplishments in achieving and sustaining diversity and pluralism and will be presented Nov. 10 during APLU’s 132nd Annual Meeting in San Diego.

Did you know? Kim is a professor in human development and family studies and a family life extension state specialist. She was a principal investigator for the grants supporting both programs and brought extension staff together with their community partners for planning and implementation. She’s quick to note that collaboration of extension staff, faculty, students and community partners was key to both programs’ success. Read the news release to learn more about the program and everyone involved in this award-winning work to meet the needs of Latino families in Iowa.

We also congratulate several human sciences specialists and faculty who recently were recognized by the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences.

  • Distinguished Service Award: Vera Stokes, nutrition and wellness.
  • Continued Excellence Award: Brenda Schmitt, family finance.
  • Greenwood Frysinger Award (professional growth opportunity): Sara Sprouse, nutrition and wellness.
  • Excellence in Multi State Collaboration Award (national first place winner): Shannon Coleman, assistant professor and food safety state specialist, co-lead of seven-state team.
  • Communications Award, Internet Education Technology (national third place winner, regional first place winner): Lori Hayungs, Mackenzie Johnson, Mackenzie DeJong and Barb Dunn Swanson, family life.
  • Barbara Wollan and Brenda Schmitt, family finance, presented “Finances of Caregiving: Workshop Series for Families” at the NEAFCS national meeting.

Goodbye … and welcome

In September, we said goodbye to the following individuals who left ISU Extension and Outreach:

  • Cindy Brunholtz, Monroe County, AmeriCorps.
  • Andrea Irlbeck, Carroll County youth coordinator.
  • Kelly Phillips, Lucas County youth coordinator.
  • Deborah Coates, manager information technology II, Extension IT.
  • Michael White, field specialist III, Agriculture and Natural Resources.
  • Janet Martin, field specialist III, 4-H Youth Development.

We welcome the following new staff:

  • Sara Gillum, Wayne County youth coordinator.
  • Addi Knapp, Wapello County, AmeriCorps/4-H.
  • Haley Mostaert, Cedar County 4-H program coordinator.
  • Lucy Hough, West Pottawattamie County Ready Set Know program coordinator.
  • Kristen Bieret, Shelby County office assistant.
  • Andy Kraber, Marion County director.
  • Alesha Roll, Woodbury County INN grant director/4-H program assistant.
  • Misty Sanderson, Buena Vista County office assistant.
  • Samuel Genson, Clinton County director.
  • Sarah Debour, Cerro Gordo County director/ANR coordinator.
  • Kendall Fate, Johnson County after school mentoring coordinator.

More notes

  • Agriculture continues to be the deadliest industry in the United States and when harvest is behind schedule, the potential for danger increases. Professor and extension safety specialist Chuck Schwab and our Safe Farm program help make Iowa farms a safer place to work and live, not only during harvest, but all year long. Check the website for research, training materials, publications and other resources you can use to expand farm safety knowledge and awareness.
  • The Natural Resources Team is launching a new internal newsletter for extension educators in all program areas. Natural Resources News will help you learn about and promote resources and programs about soil, water, wildlife, and forest conservation and education. If you’re interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up at this link. For more information, contact Adam Janke (ajanke@iastate.edu) or Jamie Benning (benning@iastate.edu).
  • Internal applicants are invited for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences position of Associate Dean for Extension and Outreach and ISU Extension Program Director for Agriculture and Natural Resources. The announcement has been posted to Iowa State’s jobs for internal applicants site.
  • Dr. Lindsey Shirley, associate director of extension service and associate provost for university outreach and engagement at Oregon State University, is guest speaker for a Human Sciences Extension and Outreach special First Thursday Webinar, Oct. 24 at 1 p.m. Join the presentation in person at 2622 Lagomarcino or by Zoom when Shirley speaks of innovative strategies for land grant universities that lead to new connections, partnerships, and career advancement.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

20 Artists, 20 Parks

John Lawrence’s message from Oct. 14, 2019

Jennifer Drinkwater and Clark Colby are artists, extension specialists and faculty members in art and visual culture in Iowa State’s College of Design. They also are participants in 20 Artists, 20 Parks. Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa Arts Council and Iowa State developed this project to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Iowa state parks in 2020. Did you know?

  • Twenty Iowa State faculty and graduate students have been matched with 20 state parks. Their assignment is to create artwork that reflects their particular park and share a program about their park experience. Jennifer has created paintings that connect current images of Pine Lake State Park with stories from its past – showing her view of the park’s assets. Clark has used 360-degree and traditional photography to capture the essence of Stephens State Forest.
  • Jennifer is an extension community arts specialist whose background is in painting and anthropology. She brings an artist’s perspective to her extension work, helping communities see possibilities through art for community and economic development.
  • Clark is the first arts, communication and design specialist for our Iowa 4-H program and may be one of the first in the nation. His background is in architecture, photography and ceramics. He helps 4-H youth realize that when they take time to look deeply and observe details, they can see the wonder and beauty of a place or an event, which they can communicate through art and design.

Watch the video and read the news release about Jennifer and Clark’s experience. Their art will be on display with the 20 Artists, 20 Parks exhibit that will travel to at least three Iowa venues in 2020. The yearlong celebration will highlight the impact our state parks have on Iowa’s quality of life.

More notes

  • The Structured for Success Model 3 video overview and white paper are available for review. Council members may access these materials from the Structured for Success feedback page. Extension staff and faculty may access these materials from MyExtension (use your net ID and password to log in). The deadline for feedback on all three models is Nov. 8.
  • “Spend Smart. Eat Smart.” will be featured during today’s Iowa Hunger Summit, part of the annual World Food Prize celebration in Des Moines. All the recipes that will be served at the luncheon are from the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website. Approximately 400 to 500 people are expected to attend. Christine Hradek, nutrition education program manager with Human Sciences Extension and Outreach, will introduce Spend Smart. Eat Smart. in a 1-minute video that will be shown at the beginning of the luncheon.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

Addressing rural mental health and the farm economy

John Lawrence’s message from Oct. 7, 2019

Rural mental health and the farm economy are often intertwined in an agricultural state like Iowa, particularly when farmers are experiencing another year with tight margins and decreasing value of total farm assets and net farm worth. During our 2018 listening sessions, we identified both as critical statewide issues impacting the ability of Iowa communities to thrive over the next five years. We also examined what ISU Extension and Outreach could do to appropriately address how these issues intersect. We knew it was important to positively impact farm families with research-based information and education. Did you know?

  • Since May 1, David Brown has been serving as ISU Extension and Outreach’s behavioral health state specialist. He provides subject matter support and leadership to programs dealing with farm stress, stress management, mental health literacy, disasters and other behavioral health related issues.
  • We are expanding Mental Health First Aid. This evidence-based, 8-hour course can help you learn what to do, what to say, and how to offer support and resources to help Iowans who may be experiencing a mental health related problem or crisis. We will continue to provide the training to our staff (and the next scheduled workshop is Nov. 7), but we also are exploring how to offer the training for university, community and agribusiness organizations.
  • In collaboration with our farm management specialists, our family life team will provide scenario-based suicide prevention training at more than 50 Farm Bill meetings in November, December and January. “Stress on the Farm: Strategies to Help Each Other” reviews risk factors, protective factors, and warning signs of suicide, as well as a strategy for how to intervene.
  • Iowa Concern continues to provide confidential access to stress counselors and an attorney for legal education, as well as information and referral services for a wide variety of topics. Iowa Concern services are available 24 hours a day, seven days per week at no charge.

Iowa farm families are facing challenges and we are committed to this work long-term.

More notes

  • Please review the October program update from the leadership team for current examples of what is happening across our programs.
  • We have read and considered all the questions and comments we have received regarding Structured for Success. The common themes FAQ has been updated to reflect questions and comments submitted during the virtual listening sessions, the area-wide meetings and other face-to-face sessions, and via the virtual suggestion box.
  • It’s National 4-H Week. Iowa 4-H Youth Development reaches nearly 100,000 youth each year, preparing them to be successful, contributing members of society – and that deserves celebrating!

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

October 2019 Program Update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • The 2018 Iowa Farm Costs and Returns analysis shows that despite a slight increase in net farm income, farmers saw another year of tight margins and a decrease in total farm assets and net farm worth. The average accrual net farm income increased by 6% in 2018, while the average value of total farm assets declined 6% and farm net worth fell by 7%. The full report is available in the September issue of Ag Decision Maker.
  • Ever wonder about ANR’s impact on social media? Social media continues to be an influential platform for the agricultural industry as a whole; and that trend continues to hold true here in Iowa. Many Iowans are looking for a fast, easy way to collect and share information with the agriculture and natural resources community and ANR specialists and teams have joined the conversation. Here’s how many people are following the 114 ANR accounts collectively: Twitter – 58,450; Facebook – 18,957; Instagram – 3,685; Youtube/Vimeo – 3,689; Pinterest – 114; and Overall total – 84,812 followers.

Community and Economic Development

  • The 2018 Community Visioning Program is transitioning to the implementation planning stage during which design teams are presenting feasibility reports and steering committees are meeting to plan project implementation. In October, design teams are presenting feasibility reports to Durant, Coggon and Sumner, and implementation planning meetings will be conducted in Sumner and Coggon.
  • The Introduction to Planning and Zoning for Local Officials workshop is a three-hour session designed to introduce the basic principles of land use planning and development management to elected officials, planning and zoning officials, and board of adjustment members without formal training in the subjects. During October CED specialist Eric Christianson will be conducting workshops in Waterloo, Iowa City and Storm Lake.
  • During October CED staff will be facilitating Navigating Difference cultural competency training in Cedar Rapids and Mount Pleasant.

Human Sciences

  • Human Sciences Extension and Outreach is transitioning to Raising School Ready Readers for early literacy efforts. It is a contemporary educational offering based in modern-day research with a variety of families. Literacy development starts at home with parents and caregivers serving as a child’s first teacher. Raising School Ready Readers offers parents fun ways to engage their 3- to 6-year-old children in literacy play. It is a five-week series of 90-minute workshops grounded in the Engaging Families in Children’s Literacy Development Workshop Series created by Scholastic. Sessions focus on developing six core literacy areas that give children a head start on school readiness. Facilitator training for educators was held in June and September. Some participants had facilitated the previous Family Storyteller program, but others were newly engaged in literacy work. Several series have been completed with others in the planning stages.
  • Four human sciences staff members received university awards at the ceremony in September: Malisa Rader, human sciences specialist in family life, Regents Award for Staff Excellence; Barbara Woods, special projects manager, Award for Inclusive Excellence; Mackenzie Johnson, human sciences specialist in family life, Professional and Scientific Outstanding New Professional Award; and Kim Brantner, human sciences specialist in family life, Award for Distinguished Service in Extension and Outreach.
  • David Brown and Anthony Santiago presented at the Annual National Association for Rural Mental Health Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico in August. Their presentations included “Responding to Behavioral and Mental Needs among Rural Iowans and Farming Communities” and “Cohesive Promotion and Implementation of Healthy Relationship Education in Rural Iowa to Promote Overall Health and Wellness.” This presentation provided an overview of the Healthy Relationship Education Training program and featured work completed by Mackenzie Johnson, human sciences specialist in family life, and Brenda Schmitt, human sciences specialist in family finance.

4-H Youth Development

  • Iowa hosted the Regional Youth Crop Scouting Competition at the Field Extension Education Lab, in Boone, Iowa. This year’s competition featured nine youth teams representing Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and Kentucky. The competition is designed to educate students through hands-on interaction in crop fields, through scouting for plant injury and identifying pest and situational problems, culminating in designing their own effective solutions and management strategies. When surveyed, students responded that the competition was fun, and they enjoyed engaging with friendly staff. Team coaches reported that the competition helped students learn concepts of IPM, teamwork skills, and communication skills, and prepare for a future career in agriculture.
  • This year 4-H State Council members can sign up to serve on the Finance, Youth Voice, or Service and Outreach committee. Through these committees, the council members will get to share their voice, come up with county and statewide service projects, or learn about the financial process of the 4-H’ers for 4-H Campaign and budgeting for Youth Conference and other initiatives. State Council members will also continue to serve on one of six Youth Conference committees. At their October retreat they will begin planning for this annual event.
  • 4-H youth who participated in regional chili cook-off competitions this summer were invited to participate in ICS Chili Inc.’s World Championships event Sept. 7-8 in Ankeny. Several youth participated and Clara Damman from Story County 4-H placed 5th in the homestyle division. Iowa 4-H was also able to showcase our program and highlight Healthy Living and making healthy choices count.

Valuing Iowa forests

John Lawrence’s message from Sept. 30, 2019

Billy Beck is looking forward to seeing you out in the woods. He’s our new extension forestry specialist and wants to help all Iowans understand the value and potential of our forests. Woodlands provide wildlife habitat and can be a sustainable source of income for a farm enterprise, but that’s not all they do. Did you know?

  • Whether he’s educating landowners in his extension role or teaching ISU students as an assistant professor, Billy combines the hydrology and water quality benefits of trees with the overall benefits of a healthy forest. His research shows that trees play an important role in water quality, whether they’re along streams and rivers acting as riparian buffers, in separate woodlands or in urban locations.
  • He will be out meeting Iowans at six forestry field days in October. These statewide events will cover water quality, wildlife and the aesthetic value of trees, as well as how to manage a forest for profit. Participants will learn about forest establishment, tree protection and invasive species control, herbicide use, forest products, portable sawmills, timber marketing and the legal aspects of forestry.

Extension forestry programs provide Iowans with knowledge and resources to see the value and discover the potential of their trees, woodlands and forests. Learn more from the ISU Extension and Outreach Natural Resource Stewardship website.

More notes

  • Congratulations to the extension professionals honored during the university’s annual awards ceremony.
  • The National Association of County Agricultural Agents will hold their Annual Meeting/Professional Improvement Conference in Des Moines Aug. 13-17, 2023. This will be the first time that Iowa will host the event. For more information contact Kapil Aurora, pbtiger@iastate.edu.
  • All ISU professional and scientific employees will have a new job title structure in place when UHR’s classification and compensation review is completed. The goal is to improve Iowa State’s ability to attract and retain P&S employees. Learn more from a recent Inside Iowa State article, the Classification and Compensation website or Chris Johnsen, johnsen@iastate.edu, a P&S Council extension representative who is part of the advisory team. Chris also can submit anonymous questions or comments to UHR on your behalf.
  • ISU Extension and Outreach’s 5th annual United Way fundraiser picnic is Friday, Oct. 4, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on the Extension 4-H Building’s patio. All are welcome. The event includes a $5 walking taco lunch, silent auction, and games with prizes. United Way pledge envelopes can be returned at the picnic as well.

FYI: Goodbye … and welcome

With our Improved Service Delivery human resources staff on board and as we adjust to HR processes in Workday, we are bringing back our monthly list of people who have left or joined ISU Extension and Outreach. Over the past three months, we said goodbye to the following individuals who left ISU Extension and Outreach:

  • Laura Johnson, Woodbury County, 4-H youth worker and nutrition educator.
  • Nancy Eichmann, Polk County, Master Gardener coordinator.
  • Kelli Steinlage, Howard County, youth coordinator.
  • Meghan Gray, Montgomery County, youth coordinator.
  • Julie Mayhew, Floyd County, food and nutrition program assistant.
  • Jaclyn Tweeten, Chickasaw County, youth coordinator.
  • Heather Miller, Scott County, families program assistant.
  • Angela Strohman, Palo Alto County, program educator.
  • Sophia Coker-Gunnink, Wapello County, Food Corps service member.
  • Pamela Jacobsen, Shelby County, office coordinator.
  • Sean Murphy, Wayne County, youth coordinator.
  • Leann Baumhover, Buena Vista County, office assistant.
  • Melanie McMann, Adams County, office assistant/youth coordinator.
  • Ashley Sherrets, Buchanan County, horticulture program coordinator.
  • Taylor Trudell, Jefferson County, youth coordinator.
  • Mackenzie Wagner, Lyon County, program coordinator/office assistant.
  • Debra Swanson, Page County, youth coordinator.
  • Katharine Beason, Bremer County, program coordinator.
  • Aracely Martinez, Muscatine County, program coordinator.
  • Grant Theesfeld, Sac County, Clover Kids program coordinator.
  • Robin Hoffman, Johnson County, 4-H/BBBS mentoring grant coordinator.

We welcome the following new staff:

  • Diane Rinner, Washington County, youth outreach educator.
  • Tina Gress, Crawford County, program coordinator.
  • Samantha Jamison, Louisa County, program coordinator.
  • Susan Strock, Polk County, office assistant.
  • Wendy Richter, Cass County, P2S project coordinator.
  • Dawn Henderson, Lyon County, program coordinator.
  • Sonya Peck, Lee County, bookkeeper.
  • Dee Dino, Page County, office assistant.
  • Amanda Crow, Clinton County, youth coordinator.
  • Abby Sorensen, Mills County, extension director.
  • Sidney Riemenschneider, Emmett County, youth coordinator.
  • Maddie Mardesen, Dallas County, extension educator.
  • Syerra Niday, Wayne County, office assistant.
  • Kathleen Owens, Polk County, office assistant.
  • Tanner Messerli, Story County, program coordinator.
  • Chris Shepard, Wapello County, Food Corps service member.
  • Jennifer Zamora, Muscatine County, Latino outreach coordinator.
  • Eleni Parsons, Chickasaw County, youth coordinator.
  • Clint Mercer, Jefferson County, youth outreach educator.
  • Sara Nelson, STEM program specialist, 4-H.
  • Danielle Day, field specialist II, Human Sciences.
  • Molly Hewitt, regional director, County Services.
  • Mae McCarty, field specialist II, Human Sciences.
  • Deb Nistler, state program leader, 4-H.
  • Sara Mohr, field specialist III, 4-H.
  • Sarah Larkin, customer relations specialist I, Extension Store.
  • Mica Redenius, administrative specialist III, Office of Vice President for Extension and Outreach.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

Testing MyData

John Lawrence’s message from Sept. 23, 2019

Extension staff in five counties and on campus are busy testing MyData, our centralized system for collecting information about partnerships, client relationships and outcomes. The pilot phase started in April and is a time to test, learn, adjust and improve the system. If something is not working, this phase allows us to solve issues early, resulting in responsive changes for more consistent, robust and useful data collection. Did you know?

  • The current priority for testers is to collect Civil Rights data – gender, race and ethnicity – for both their direct and indirect contacts.
  • Tester Joy Rouse, a human sciences specialist in family life, is busy making MyData part of her regular routine. She appreciates the ability within MyData to report indirect contacts, partners and other staff with one entry.
  • Another tester, Kristin Taylor, Human Sciences creative projects specialist and MyData steering committee member, likes how the new system allows users to enter event details; and then the automated functions send a request for registration services to Conference Planning and Management, populate public calendars and program webpages with upcoming events, and set email reminders to enter post-program information.

We thank our pilot testers for the time they are investing to improve this tool and customize it for our needs. Because of their feedback, demographic fields were expanded to better understand participant reach, overall reporting is being reduced as current reporting systems are streamlined into MyData, and report functionality is being broadened to meet federal, state and local reporting requirements.

We expect a systemwide rollout of phase 1 by the end of 2020 or early 2021. Future phases will focus on developing a customer relations management platform; recording inputs such as volunteer hours, funding support, and educational material development; and collecting outcome data about client changes in learning, actions, and life conditions.

You can keep up-to-date on MyData progress. Please contact our database coordinator, Phil Heckman, pheckman@iastate.edu, with specific questions or ideas. When we roll out MyData, all staff will be asked to use this tool, and ongoing support and training will be offered. By working collectively toward our goal of consistent reporting, we can more accurately reflect our statewide client touchpoints and share how we’re building a strong Iowa through impact-rich programming.

Internal Communications: Area-wide meetings and Structured for Success

Thank you to those who participated in the area-wide meetings and thank you to everyone who has provided feedback on Structured for Success. These efforts directly relate to recommendations from our Internal Communications Task Force for two-way communication and a field-to-campus feedback loop. The Structured for Success committee offered two models for review, and extension staff, faculty and council members provided feedback during the Aug. 20 webinar and via the virtual suggestion box – also a result of a task force recommendation. (You can review the Structured for Success FAQ common themes, as well as the entire archive of FAQs.) We have had engaging discussions during the area-wide meetings and are receiving thoughtful feedback during the virtual meetings. In addition, a group of county directors has proposed a third model. We’re reviewing their draft with Iowa State Human Resources and University Counsel, and I expect to share a third model after the review is complete.

Please continue to provide feedback. Together we will improve communication and accountability across our system as we develop our organizational structure for success.

One more note: Deb Tootle and Gary Taylor’s presentation and handout on rural resilience and community capitals are available on the area-wide meetings webpage.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

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