Still growing together

John Lawrence’s message from Dec. 10, 2018

If all Iowans are going to eat healthfully, they need access to healthy food. That’s why our Growing Together Iowa project combines the efforts of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Human Sciences and Agriculture and Natural Resources programs for a common goal – feeding people. For the third year in a row, SNAP-Ed nutrition education and Master Gardeners partnered with local food pantries to reduce food insecurity in Iowa. The ISU research farm gardens and the county Master Gardener mini grant projects grew fresh produce for donation. Did you know?

  • Growing Together Iowa donated more than 90,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables to Iowa’s food pantries this growing season. This equals 270,000 servings.
  • 95,721 Iowans visited pantries where Growing Together Iowa produce was donated.
  • 339 Master Gardener volunteers contributed to Growing Together Iowa this growing season.
  • 1,477 people with low income engaged in food gardening education through Growing Together Iowa this year.
  • 100 percent of counties with mini grants agree that the project increased their community’s capacity to work on issues of healthy food access.

This good work will continue. Virginia, Illinois and Michigan are in their first year of replicating the Growing Together project. Wisconsin, Nebraska and Indiana are in their second year. Here in Iowa we’re looking forward to Year 4, and applications for Growing Together Mini Grants are due on Jan. 11, 2019.

More notes

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

December 2018 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Human Sciences

  • Human Sciences Extension and Outreach staff are organized into two-region “blocks” throughout the state, although regions that are more populous stand alone. County staff partners who focus on human sciences work are also part of the block teams. Staff within Block 1/5 (comprised of regions 1 and 5) prepare an annual educational offerings report and map. The document highlights efforts via face-to-face contacts, including the numbers reached in terms of educational offerings, sessions and participants for each county, and a listing of the various educational offerings delivered. The report also features highlights of other work accomplished throughout the year, including newsletters, blogs, community meetings and more. This fiscal year, the staff in Blocks 1 and 5 hosted 142 educational offerings with 205 sessions and reached 3,037 participants throughout the nine counties. On average, they impacted 21 Iowans with each offering.
  • Cindy Thompson, Kim Brantner, Joy Rouse and Mackenzie Johnson, all human sciences specialists in family life, have been accepted to present a national webinar for the National Extension Association of Family & Consumer Sciences titled, “Birds, Bugs and the Benefits of Collaboration in Supporting Children’s Sense of Wonder through Nature.” The specialists will explore with participants the benefits of children’s exposure to nature. They will discuss the role early education professionals play in creating these experiences and the importance of collaboration in enhancing early education trainings. They will share information about Growing Up WILD, a Project WILD resource, and how it can be used locally.

4-H Youth Development

  • State 4-H staff partnered with Region 4 staff to pilot “Youth Voice in Action” in Fayette at Upper Iowa University. Nine schools from six counties brought a team of four to six students, chaperoned by a teacher, to participate in this civic engagement experience for sixth through eighth grade students. Students participated in an educational workshop of their choice related to 4-H priority areas. Local professionals in those fields led these workshops. Students also learned about their leadership style and how it can help them communicate and work closely with others in a variety of settings. Finally, the nearly 55 youth and their adult mentors participated in a service project, heard from a police officer about why he chose a career in service, and then worked as school teams to create an action plan for implementing a service project in their communities or schools.
  • In November, 42 school core teams and extension staff who support those counties attended the annual SWITCH Conference trainings. Attendees learned how to implement the SWITCH program to help students monitor their health habits and establish goals to make better choices to impact health. The schools piloting the new middle school program participated. Three schools brought a team of youth to be trained as SWITCH ambassadors. These youth learned how to switch what they do, view and chew. The youth ambassador teams strategized how to make a healthy change in their school related to these behaviors. Then they shared it with their adult school team and discussed how to collaborate on these initiatives to improve school wellness.
  • In October, Sioux, O’Brien, Lyon, Osceola, Plymouth and Chereokee counties held their annual STEMfest at Northwest Iowa Community College in Sheldon. The event is a partnership between the community college, ISU Extension and Outreach, and other local entities. Area youth participate in a day-long STEM experience, including sessions on Robot Olympics, Drones, Fossil Discovery, Maker Space, Water Quality and heart monitors. Afterward, the event received positive feedback. For example, a parent posted a review on the Sioux County Facebook page, saying their child enjoyed STEMfest greatly and that it was worth the 320 mile round trip they made to attend.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • Designing an effective weed management plan to combat troublesome weeds and delay the development of herbicide resistance requires careful planning. An online course, “Herbicide Resistance and Weed Management,” provides farmers and agribusinesses the necessary tools and resources to create an effective long-term weed management plan. The interactive and self-paced course contains presentations narrated by ISU Extension and Outreach faculty and specialists, along with lesson activities that can be completed according to the user’s timeline.
  • The third Soil Health Conference will be held in Ames on Feb. 4-5, 2019. The event will consist of two full days of presentations on a wide variety of topics related to “Science Meets Practice for Advancing Soil Health.” Topics covered include economics of soil health, agronomic and economic benefits of soil health, integration of perennials in row cropping systems, and landowner and manager roles in building soil health.
  • ISU Extension and Outreach economists are offering valuable insights on key factors impacting 2019 operating decisions at 12 Pro-Ag Outlook and Management Seminars across the state in November and December. Each three-hour seminar includes information on grain price outlook and global factors to watch, livestock prices and margins, and farmland operating margins, outlook and trends. A full list of dates and locations can be found on the Ag Decision Maker website.

Community and Economic Development

  • ISU Extension and Outreach’s Community and Economic Development program will be facilitating goal setting and strategic planning for local governments and nonprofits, a role previously provided by the Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Iowa. In April 2018, UI announced it was closing the institute, along with several other programs. The institute’s mission was to provide information and services that assist in maintaining and strengthening the effectiveness of Iowa’s state and local governments. CED staff have had a long history of working with the institute to provide services and educational programming. In December, CED specialists will be presenting goal-setting workshops in Carroll and Manchester, and conducting strategic planning with Ringgold County Support Services in Mt. Ayr. During these sessions, leadership teams address critical issues, identify priorities, and develop action plans to accomplish those priorities.
  • Other CED programming for local governments in December includes the following: Data analyst Erin Mullenix will present the advanced session of the Iowa League of Cities Budget Workshop in Fairfield and Johnston. CED specialist Eric Christianson will conduct an Introduction to Planning and Zoning workshop in Warren County.

Leadership based on place

John Lawrence’s message from Dec. 3, 2018

Iowans care about the places where they live and work, whether small towns, big cities or somewhere in between. Our state’s communities are diverse and have varying needs. That’s why our Community and Economic Development program offers “Leading Communities: A Place-Based Leadership Program.” ISU Extension and Outreach and University of Wisconsin-Extension developed the program based on cutting-edge community leadership research. Our CED specialists are rolling it out across Iowa to revive community engagement and participation. Did you know?

  • Our specialists teach a specific curriculum, but clients organize the program at the local level – bringing together a steering committee, identifying participants and handling local logistics.
  • The program typically takes place over six months, with one three-hour training session each month. Educational materials are learner-centered and structured to create a collaborative learning environment.
  • Participants learn about the importance of community leadership. They build skills and core competencies so they can address local issues and opportunities.
  • Some places opt to include a community project or a local networking opportunity during the process. In these cases, an approved ISU educator delivers the program and works with a local partner to offer the additional components.

Leading Communities helps Iowans develop social relationships, social capital, shared understandings and collaborative efforts. Iowa State research has shown that these community characteristics are critical for economic development and quality of life in our state. CED specialists are currently delivering the program in Henry and Lee counties. They’ve also taught it in Buena Vista and Kossuth counties. To learn more, contact Deborah Tootle,, or Brian Perry,

More notes

  • Congratulations to Julie Weeks, who has been named the Ames Chamber of Commerce Business Person of the Year. Julie serves as president and CEO of Ames Convention & Visitors Bureau and ISU Extension and Outreach Conference Planning and Management. Julie and her team build relationships and provide quality service as they promote Ames and Iowa State as “the destination” for group tours, conferences, meetings and events. Their efforts result in many thousands of people visiting Ames and Iowa State each year.
  • I will be visiting with campus-based extension staff and faculty on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 3-4:30 p.m. in 3228 Memorial Union. The purpose is to listen and learn, and gather input to inform our needs assessment and help us carry out our strategic plan.
  • The next “Creating Accessible Digital Documents” workshop is Dec. 10 on campus. Registration is open.
  • The ISU Extension and Outreach Awards nomination deadline is noon, Jan. 4, 2019. Check the awards website for the list of awards, eligibility and criteria, and nomination forms. All ISU Extension and Outreach employees (campus, field and county) are eligible, as are volunteers and extension councils. The awards will be presented during annual conference.
  • The Excellence in Extension grants submissions deadline is noon, Jan. 4, 2019. All ISU Extension and Outreach employees (campus, field and county) are eligible. Individual grant information and application instructions are online. If you have questions about the grants or application, contact Alison Boelman,
  • Interactive training sessions for extension council members will be hosted at several sites across Iowa beginning Dec. 8, with additional dates in December and January. All dates and locations feature the same training. All newly elected council members, current council members and county extension staff are invited to attend. Registration is open.

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

Integrated Crop Management … times 30

John Lawrence’s message from Nov. 26, 2018

2018 has been a challenging year for Iowa crop production, given difficult growing conditions, tight margins and uncertainty on trade issues. That is all the more reason for farm operators to make informed, research-based decisions to increase the likelihood for success. It’s no surprise that 900 farmers, agribusiness professionals, industry representatives and educators are coming to Ames Nov. 28-29 for the Integrated Crop Management Conference. It’s the 30th annual meeting of inquiring ag minds to network and learn about research findings and technology from across the Midwest. Did you know?

  • This year guest speakers will discuss in-field variability and effects on yield, digital technology in U.S. crop production, nitrogen needs and recommendations, tar spot in corn, and crop rotation and environmental stresses limiting corn and soybean yields.
  • The 2018 program also will include weather and crop market outlooks, selling cover crop seed, the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, insect resistance to Bt crops, soybean gall midge, and weed and crop disease management updates.
  • New this year is the Women in Ag Breakfast, offering women attending the conference an opportunity to network, discuss common goals and challenges, and explore potential mentoring or programming ideas.
  • Last year attendees reported they had direct impact on 1.8 million acres of corn and soybeans, and estimated a profit increase of $5-10 per acre because of knowledge they gained from the conference.

ISU Extension and Outreach and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences host the ICM conference, and every year bring together a diverse range of topics, a slate of expert presenters, and results of the latest university research to help Iowa agriculture thrive, no matter the challenges.

More notes

  • Our Women in Ag program’s conference, “The Conversations of Leadership,” is already in progress and continues tomorrow. Speakers and panelists are covering a variety of leadership topics from conflict resolution to farm transition decisions, career conversations and organizational leadership. All sessions are designed to build skills that enhance women’s leadership on and off the farm.
  • I will be visiting with campus-based extension staff and faculty today and again on Tuesday, Dec. 4. Both sessions are 3-4:30 p.m. in 3228 Memorial Union. Like my visits to all 20 regions, the primary purpose of these visits is to listen and learn, and gather input to inform our needs assessment and help us carry out our strategic plan.
  • The 2019 Annual Conference planning team needs your help. Please send your selfie to Rachel Tendall,, by noon, Dec. 3. She’ll be compiling all the photos she receives into an ISU Extension and Outreach team portrait that will be revealed when the conference registration opens. Close-up photos are preferred, and feel free to show your personality.
  • The next “Creating Accessible Digital Documents” workshops are Dec. 4 and 5 in the Humboldt County office in Humboldt. Registration is open.
  • For an update on the Internal Communications Task Force Nov. 16 meeting, read the executive summary on Cybox.
  • The Structured for Success committee met Nov. 19. Check the website for a video report and related documents from the meeting.

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

Turkey feathers … and other thoughts

John Lawrence’s message from Nov. 19, 2018

Some people see turkey feathers and imagine Thanksgiving dinner. However, Abby Steen sees turkey feathers and imagines art. The Iowa State student and former Plymouth County 4-H’er decided to try this new medium, and her efforts netted her a blue ribbon and Outstanding Junior Award at the 2018 Iowa State Fair. Her three art pieces feature turkeys, pheasants and an elk painted on turkey feathers, and are now on display in my office in Beardshear Hall. Did you know?

  • Abby had been inspired by the painted turkey feathers of artist Chancy Walters, whom she met at the Iowa Deer Classic. She got his permission and encouragement to try her hand at his type of painting.
  • Once you see the fine detail of her turkey feather painting, you won’t be at all surprised that she’s majoring in biological/pre-medical illustration here at Iowa State.
  • As a Grant Clever Clover, Abby completed many static projects and also showed chickens, goats and Holstein calves. 4-H offered her many opportunities to try something new – such as this turkey feather project – and that’s important to her. She says she always wants to keep pushing herself to try new things and to take what she learns and use it in other work.

Abby is only one example of the many young Iowans who are empowered to reach their full potential through our 4-H Youth Development program. Next time you’re on campus, be sure to stop by 2150 Beardshear to see Abby’s turkey feather art. You may be inspired to try something new.

More notes

  • Review the new State of Iowa 4-H Data for Decision Makers for updates on 4-H related trends. The report covers 2017-2018.
  • The next “Creating Accessible Digital Documents” workshop is Nov. 29 in the Extension 4-H Building on campus in Ames. Registration is open.
  • Whether or not turkey is on your menu this Thursday, have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

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

Small changes for financial security

John Lawrence’s message from Nov. 12, 2018

Small change can mean a lot more than nickels and dimes. In terms of financial security, making even a small change can have a big impact over time. That’s the point of “Small Change: Building Financial Security.” Human Sciences extension faculty and specialists in family finance teach this new game-based, personal financial management course for educators and other school personnel, and city and county employees. Did you know?

  • The blended course includes one in-person class followed by self-paced online learning. Participants choose from lessons covering finance fundamentals, insurance, investing and retirement planning. The course uses game-based learning principles so people can tailor their learning to their own interests and needs.
  • Participants who complete the course can improve personal knowledge and skills. Educators also can prepare themselves to teach financial literacy, a key component of the Iowa Core 21st Century Skills and Social Studies for grades K-12. The course connects them with vetted curricula, resources and school-based programs for elementary, middle and high school levels.
  • Human Sciences is offering the course with a two-year grant from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. Key partners include the State Library of Iowa, Iowa State Education Association and Iowa Public Employee Retirement System.

Cynthia Needles Fletcher, professor and extension resource management specialist, leads the project. In the grant’s first year, her team conducted focus group interviews and developed the curriculum. They piloted the course this summer with a group of teachers, and this fall and winter are offering it throughout the state.

Goodbye … and welcome

In October, we said goodbye to the following individuals:

  • Katie Diemer, Bremer County youth coordinator
  • Marisol Virgen-Axtell, Buena Vista County food and nutrition program assistant
  • Holly Frerk, Pocahontas County program coordinator
  • Kyle McClure, Davis County office assistant
  • Loralye Wibben, Lyon County office assistant
  • Stephanie Knox, Davis County program and NEST coordinator
  • Raquel Juarez, extension program assistant II, Human Sciences
  • Maria Regalado, extension program assistant I, Human Sciences
  • Cynthia Kendall, program coordinator III, Community and Economic Development

We welcome the following new staff:

  • Theresa Goode, Monroe County Family Matters coach/coordinator
  • Tammy James, Union County CACFP program coordinator
  • Linda Severson, Winnebago County office assistant
  • Ronda Morrett, Lucas County youth outreach educator
  • Mari Melvin, Davis County program coordinator
  • Lynn Bruess, Chickasaw County office assistant
  • Katlyn Fell, Winnebago County youth coordinator
  • Brenda Streeter, Clarke County program coordinator
  • Katie Goodell, Dickinson County ag program coordinator and office assistant
  • Rebecca Heckert, Story County office assistant
  • Billie Koester, communications manager I, Advancement
  • Bobbi Minard, program coordinator I, 4-H Youth Development
  • Doug Gass, extension program specialist II, Agriculture and Natural Resources

More notes

  • On Nov. 6, Kossuth County voters passed the Extension Referendum, making Kossuth the 100th Iowa extension district to do so. Passing the measure will increase resources available to the local council for extension work in the county.
  • The next “Creating Accessible Digital Documents” workshop is Nov. 16 in the Extension 4-H Building on campus in Ames. Registration is open.
  • Please consider making a gift to Excellence in Extension. Your contributions help to improve and enrich the quality of ISU Extension and Outreach education as you support your extension colleagues. For more information, contact Alison Boelman,
  • The deadline to complete Structured for Success Survey 1 is noon, Nov. 19. Your responses will be confidential and your identity will be anonymous. The Structured for Success Committee will use the aggregated survey results to better address the committee’s primary objectives.

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

WOW: Our building, councils, awards and EIE grants

John Lawrence’s message from Nov. 5, 2018

It’s always a good idea to remember your anniversary. So I want to make sure you’re all aware that Nov. 8 is the 15th anniversary of the Extension 4-H Building, home of the WOW Center. Did you know?

  • WOW stands for “Why Opportunity Works.” The WOW Center was designed as an interactive area to interest youth in STEM and other fields in higher education.
  • In the WOW Center you’ll find two additions to Iowa State’s Art on Campus program: terrazzo floors by artists Carolyn Braaksma and Brad Kaspari, and a bronze casting of Christian Petersen’s “4-H Calf.” (Depending on the day, you also might find a “STEM Lit to Go!” or other 4-H materials assembly line or a meeting, workshop or other activity taking place.)
  • ISU Extension and Outreach broke ground for the building on June 27, 2002. 4-H youth, ISU and extension administrators, and representatives from the Iowa 4-H Foundation and Iowa Farm Bureau Federation participated.
  • The building was completely funded by $4.7 million in private contributions from individuals, businesses and organizations. Iowa Farm Bureau Federation provided $1 million to help build the new facility. Pioneer Hi-Bred International also contributed to the project.
  • When the building was dedicated Nov. 8, 2003, it was heralded as a gateway to Iowa State University and a welcoming place for Iowa youth and their families.

Also remember to thank our extension council members, who “wow” us with their support for ISU Extension and Outreach every day. They bring their understanding of local issues to important decisions about extension educational opportunities. They must be good stewards of taxpayer dollars as they bring significant programs to their county to help people solve critical issues affecting their lives.

On Tuesday, Nov. 6, Iowa voters in every county have the opportunity to elect five members to their county council. Depending on the county, candidates on this year’s ballot include Iowans who are running for the first time as well as incumbents seeking another term. Beginning in December, we’ll be providing orientation training for these new and returning council members.

Here are two more “wows” to acknowledge the great work you all do.

  • It’s time to submit nominations for ISU Extension and Outreach Awards. Check the awards website for the list of awards, eligibility and criteria, and nomination forms. The awards nomination deadline is noon, Jan. 4, 2019. The deadline is earlier this year because our annual conference is Feb. 28, earlier than in previous years. The awards will be presented during annual conference. All ISU Extension and Outreach employees (campus, field and county) are eligible, as are volunteers and extension councils.
  • Apply now for Excellence in Extension grants to improve and enrich the quality of ISU Extension and Outreach educational programs. All ISU Extension and Outreach employees (campus, field and county) are eligible. Up to $17,000 will be awarded in 2019 for professional development and continuing education, program innovation and program improvement. Individual grant information and application instructions are online. The grants submissions deadline is noon, Jan. 4, 2019. If you have questions about the grants or application, contact Alison Boelman,

More notes

  • The Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute, Human Sciences Extension and Outreach, and ISU Extension and Outreach will award three $80,000 grants ($40,000 per year for two years) to eligible ISU Extension and Outreach county offices to participate in “PROSPERing Step-by-Step, State-by-State” (P2S). The primary goal of the P2S project is to address opioid misuse in rural counties through the delivery of programs that are evidence-based or reviewed and endorsed by the National Extension Opioid Crisis Response Workgroup. The funding is provided for an educator’s time on the project and to implement required activities. Nov. 30 is the deadline for completing a P2S Readiness/Capacity Assessment form, an initial step in the county grant selection process. For more information about this opportunity check the website,
  • Check the November program update from the leadership team.
  • Structured for Success – Please provide the committee your input through Structured for Success Survey 1 on two important questions: 1) What are the essential functions for ISU Extension and Outreach to successfully educate and serve Iowans and 2) What questions would you ask of other states to better understand how their extension system is organized. You may also leave other feedback for the committee through this anonymous survey. If you have an extension colleague in another state and would like to help us collect information on how that state is organized, please let me know.
  • The next “Creating Accessible Digital Documents” workshops are Nov. 13 and 14 at the Mills County office in Malvern. Registration is open.
  • Please do not have clients send soil samples to the Soil and Plant Analysis Lab in Agronomy. The lab is closed and no longer is processing samples. Discussions are underway about modernizing and reopening the lab, but if and when it happens will be well into the future. Check with your field agronomist or horticulture specialists for the name and addresses of private labs that will process soil samples.

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

November 2018 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Community and Economic Development

  • Iowa’s Living Roadways 22nd annual celebration is Nov. 16. Extension Community and Economic Development is the administering unit for the ILR Community Visioning Program. During the event, the 2018 visioning communities will showcase the design projects proposed through the process. In addition, representatives from the 2018 visioning communities will be in attendance to kick off the 2019 program. CED specialist Scott Timm is attending the event as part of the Decorah visioning steering committee.
  • CED specialist Jane Goeken developed a Grant Writing 101 workshop because communities had indicated an interest in and a need for grant-writing skills to find financing for community projects. In November, she will present Grant Writing 101 in Ida Grove and Jefferson. She also will meet with foundation officials in Sioux City and Fort Dodge to discuss the workshop.
  • Tourism efforts from CED specialist Diane Van Wyngarden in November include conducting onsite agritourism consultations with business owners in Johnson County; facilitating an Iowa group travel session with motor coach operators from across the United States; conducting an Iowa tourism needs assessment session with group travel business owners; and meeting with central Iowa tourism leaders.
  • CED specialists Himar Hernández and Brian Perry will be presenting the CED leadership program, Leading Communities, in Henry County on Nov. 20. This program is made possible in part by an ISU Vice President for Extension and Outreach initiative.

Human Sciences

  • Family life extension state specialist Lesia Oesterreich has received the 2018 Excellence in Extension Award given by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Cooperative Extension, and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. The award is given each year to one Cooperative Extension professional “who excels at programming, provides visionary leadership and makes a positive impact on constituents served.” The Essentials Child Care Preservice Online program is an example of Lesia’s work and impacts. Since the 12-hour educational offering was implemented in September 2016, the total number of participants is 28,505. The monthly average number of participants enrolling is 874. The monthly average number of modules completed during the last quarter is 7,473. The total number of modules completed and certificates earned since the inception of the program is 260,720.
  • In Northeast Iowa, Cindy Thompson, a human sciences specialist in family life, is leading Nature Explore, an educational program of the Dimensions Educational Research Foundation. This effort focuses on providing research-based workshops, design consultations and resources to connect children and families to nature. Two all-day workshops, Learning with Nature and Using Your Outdoor Classroom, reached 33 participants from Allamakee, Clayton, Chickasaw, Delaware, Dubuque, Fayette, Howard, Wayne and Winneshiek counties.
  • The Growing Together Iowa donation garden total is 75,618 pounds harvested during the 2018 growing season. In addition, the Donation Gardening Toolkit, which supports the Growing Together Iowa mini-grant projects, is live. It provides background on poverty, healthy food access, and guidance on planting, harvesting, food safety, and volunteers.

4-H Youth Development

  • In October, nearly 80 Des Moines multicultural youth and school staff members participated in the first Polk County 4-H RISE College Access Conference held at Grand View University in Des Moines. The event introduced 4-H to youth who have been underrepresented in 4-H programs. ISU Extension and Outreach in Polk County sponsored the event, which included several sessions focused on leadership development, team-building and college and career exploration.
  • Nearly 60 youth participated in the Ujima/AAPI Culturally Based Youth Leadership Accelerator held in September. This retreat provided youth in grades 8-12 the opportunity to explore the Iowa 4-H Youth Development Program through an African, African-American, Pacific Islander, and Asian-American perspective. Youth experienced the Iowa State University campus through college tours and workshops before spending the rest of the retreat at Clover Woods. Youth immersed themselves in learning, culture, new friends and fun throughout the weekend.
  • Iowa Schools and Extension staff participating in SWITCH for 2018-19 will be gathering on ISU campus Nov. 8-9 for the Annual SWITCH Conference. A new feature with the middle school pilot is to invite schools to bring a team of youth who will be trained to be SWITCH ambassadors at their school. 4-H will be leading the coordination of the youth portion of the training at the SWITCH Conference.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • European Corn Borer – Ecology and Management and Association with other Corn Pests (NCR 0327) is available in the ISU Extension Store. It’s an extensive update of the popular 1996 version published by the North Central Region. The European corn borer originated in Eurasia and was accidentally introduced into North America, readily adopting corn as a host and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in crop loss.
  • Twelve Pro-Ag Outlook and Management Seminars will be held across Iowa in November and December. ISU Extension and Outreach economists will offer insights on key factors impacting 2019 operating decisions. Each three-hour seminar includes information on grain price outlook and global factors to watch, livestock prices and margins, and farmland operating margins, outlook and trends. A full list of dates and locations can be found on the Ag Decision Maker website.
  • The 2019 Garden Calendar is still available through the ISU Extension Store. Developed by Richard Jauron, horticulture specialist, the calendar showcases the beauty that can be found in backyards and public spaces throughout the year. The calendar 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.

Making educated ag decisions

John Lawrence’s message from Oct. 29, 2018

Making educated decisions is a whole lot easier when you have the information you need. In our Agriculture and Natural Resources programs, one of the ways we help Iowans make decisions is through Ag Decision Maker. It’s a decision-oriented agricultural business website designed for farmers, lenders, farm managers, agriculture instructors and others. From July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, the website averaged 7,451 visitors per day. Did you know?

  • Since October 1996 when the “premier” newsletter was launched, Ag Decision Maker has been providing analysis and insight into many of the issues facing modern agriculture. Today more than 15,000 users receive monthly updates highlighting the materials on the Ag Decision Maker site.
  • Economists (including yours truly) and farm management specialists at Iowa State and other Midwest universities and institutions provide the content. (In fact, a check of the archives – thank you, Ann Johanns – shows that I wrote the lead article for the “official” volume 1, issue 1 newsletter published in November 1996, addressing the new CME Lean Hog Contract.)
  • Overall, downloads of Ag Decision Maker information sheets and decision tools reached 1.26 million for FY2018, while more than 240 information files, decision tools, voiced media and teaching activity files were added or updated on the site.
  • The AgDM Twitter feed promotes materials and events throughout the month to more than 1,900 followers.

Given the uncertainty in the farm economy, we need to do all we can to help Iowans with their decision-making, and foster profitable and resilient farms and thriving rural communities. Here are two more resources to keep in mind:

  • Farm Financial Planning is ISU Extension and Outreach’s farm financial analysis program. The confidential, free service consists of one-on-one financial counseling, a computerized analysis of the farm business and referral to other extension programs or outside services that may be useful. Five farm financial management associates are available to help Iowans understand a complete picture of their farm’s financial situation.
  • On the Human Sciences side, Iowa Concern provides access to stress counselors and an attorney for legal education, as well as information and referral services for a wide variety of topics. With a toll-free phone number, live chat capabilities and a website, Iowa Concern services are available 24 hours a day, seven days per week at no charge.

More notes

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

Design thinking for place-based issues

John Lawrence’s message from Oct. 22, 2018

What do Audubon, Bedford, Coggon, Durant, Mount Pleasant, Royal, Sumner, Treynor, Van Meter and Walcott have in common? They all will participate in the Iowa’s Living Roadways Community Visioning Program over the next year. This is one of the ways our Community and Economic Development unit harnesses the power of design thinking to address place-based issues facing Iowa communities. Did you know?

  • The Iowa Department of Transportation sponsors the program in partnership with ISU Landscape Architecture Extension and Trees Forever.
  • To be considered for the program, communities must have a population of fewer than 10,000 residents, existing transportation-related issues, and a committee of volunteers willing to dedicate time and talent to the visioning process.
  • More than 230 communities have participated in Community Visioning since Iowa’s Living Roadways was created in 1996.

Each community will form a local steering committee representing a cross-section of local demographics, including youth. Beginning in November, these committees will work with extension specialists and other technical experts and participate in facilitated meetings, on-site assessments, technical design assistance, and public workshops – about 100 hours-worth over the next year. Each committee’s work will result in a transportation enhancement plan reflecting the community’s identity and values.

More notes

  • Our 2019 ISU Extension and Outreach Annual Conference is set for Feb. 28. Please save the date. Details will be available in the coming months.
  • You can still register for the next “Creating Accessible Digital Documents workshop, Oct. 30 in the Extension 4-H Building on campus in Ames.
  • More than 80 office professionals from throughout the state will be on campus Oct. 23-24 for the Office Professionals Conference. Office professionals are valued members of our extension family, and we’re pleased to provide this opportunity for professional development.
  • You can still share your ideas with our Internal Communications Task Force. Two new Community Conversations are being added: Nov. 5 in Ames and Nov. 9 in Garner. (To participate, register online at You can send comments to until Oct. 29. Some task force members still have dates available for individual discussions. Anyone in our system may anonymously complete an electronic survey, which is open through Oct. 29. For an update on the task force’s Oct. 18 meeting, read the executive summary on Cybox.
  • The Structured for Success committee held meeting #2 on Thursday, Oct. 18. The agenda, summary notes and video are on the County Services website. Structured for Success now has a menu button on the navigation bar to make it easier to find.
  • Congratulations to Jennifer Bentley, Himar Hernandez and Courtney Long. They will represent ISU Extension and Outreach in the 2019 National Extension Leadership Development program. NELD participants are selected because of their proven track record of programmatic or administrative success.

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

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 13 other subscribers