Guiding tourism for success

John Lawrence’s message from May 20, 2019

With a trained tour guide, a community tourism attraction has a better chance for success. That’s why some of our Community and Economic Development staff used Excellence in Extension funding to develop a new curriculum. With their Herb Howell Creative and Innovative Program Grant, Diane Van Wyngarden, Himar Hernández, Jane Goeken, Abigail Gaffey, Steve Adams and Victor Oyervides created Professional Guide Training and Certification. The new program is the first of its kind in Iowa: It is designed for staff and volunteers who lead guided programs at community tourism attractions, such as museums, parks, conservation areas, historic sites, nature centers and agritourism venues. Did you know?

  • The one-day Guide Training workshop features interactive methods and techniques for creating and delivering dynamic guided programs, with a focus on guiding adult visitors.
  • Everyone who completes the workshop has the option to receive Professional Guide Certification from Iowa State University for an additional fee. Certification is completed at the individual’s workplace or tourism location.
  • In April, 85 people attended the first Guide Training workshop. The next statewide workshop is June 13 in Mason City and is open to the public. The fee is $10 per person and includes the course workbook, workshop activities, lunch and refreshments. This low fee is made possible through the team’s additional funding partnership with Iowa Economic Development Authority/Iowa Tourism Office and the Central Iowa Tourism Region.
  • This month Diane has conducted certification sessions with the Iowa Arboretum near Madrid, the Iowa Railroad History Museum in Boone, the Octagon Center for the Arts in Ames, the Ames Chamber of Commerce, the Mahanay Bell Tower and Thomas Jefferson Gardens of Greene County in Jefferson, the State Theatre in Washington, the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge near Prairie City, and the Botanical Center and Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines.

Tourism guidance is one of the ways our CED unit strengthens communities and their local economies. All Iowans benefit when local people join together to make their communities better places to live and work. For more information or to pre-register (by June 5) for the June workshop, contact Diane Van Wyngarden at

Tuition Assistance Program

ISU Extension and Outreach is a knowledge-based organization and our people are our greatest asset. The Vice President for Extension and Outreach Tuition Assistance Program is designed to help our people move forward with their extension careers. The program will reimburse tuition costs up to one-half of 4 credits per term, once each term (Fall, Spring and Summer) – up to one-half of 12 credits per year. County-paid and ISU-paid extension employees may apply for the program, whether taking credit courses from Iowa State, a community college, a private institution or other accredited public institution. Check the Professional Development website for eligibility and participation requirements, and other information.

Internal Communications: Update

During our leadership team retreat on May 31, we will focus on prioritizing the recommendations from the Internal Communications Task Force. I counted 25 recommendations in the executive summary. We need to set priorities so we can begin taking action.

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

A wonder league for Iowa’s future

John Lawrence’s message from May 14, 2019

Teach kids to code today – and make it fun – and before you know it, they’ll be the computer programmers, scientists and engineers of tomorrow. That’s the premise supporting Wonder League, a global robotics program that 4-H Youth Development offers for youth in grades K-3. The youth develop problem-solving and creativity skills while they build meaningful relationships with their peers. Did you know?

  • Over the past year, 21 Iowa Clover Kids teams participated in Wonder League. The theme was oceanography, leading teams through five, story-based missions under the sea.
  • In April, 17 Clover Kids from four counties participated in the Iowa 4-H Wonder League Robotics Exposition on campus. Teams programmed robots to return a sea creature to its natural habitat and launch sea turtle eggs into a nest.
  • Mahaska County has nine Wonder League teams and held its own expo last week. Additional expos will be held throughout the state.
  • Youth teams also may participate in a Clover Kids robotics experience Sunday, Aug. 11, at the Iowa State Fair.

Providing 4-H STEM activities for K-3 youth builds their school and career readiness skills, such as collaboration, communication and critical thinking. 4-H is creating a wonder league of learners and leaders for Iowa’s future.

Goodbye … and welcome

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

  • Brianne Johnson, Clinton County youth coordinator.
  • Margaret Murphy, Lyon County horticulture educator/regional food coordinator.
  • Sherry McGill, Region 5 director.

We welcome the following new staff:

  • Hilary Lanman, Wapello County program coordinator.
  • Kyler Waddle, Louisa County office manager.
  • Ashtyn Danker, East Pottawattamie County office assistant.
  • Kelli Anders, Wapello County local foods program coordinator.
  • Emily Belvel, Keokuk County program coordinator.
  • Jenna Koenigsfeld, Hardin County office assistant.
  • Erin Parker, Johnson County program coordinator.
  • Abby Boysen, Louisa County program assistant.
  • Alycne Boban, Mills County youth coordinator.
  • Chris Kick, communications specialist II, Agriculture and Natural Resources.
  • Jill Goldsmith, clerk III, Extension Information Technology.
  • Prashant Jha, associate professor, Agriculture and Natural Resources/Agronomy.

Award recipients

Congratulations to the following ISU Extension and Outreach faculty and staff who will be honored during the university’s annual awards ceremony in September:

  • Regents Award for Staff Excellence: Malisa Rader, human sciences specialist, family life.
  • Inclusive Excellence: Angela Shaw, associate professor of food science and human nutrition.
  • Inclusive Excellence: Barbara Woods, special projects manager, Human Sciences Extension and Outreach.
  • Achievement in Economic Development in Iowa: Mark Edelman, professor of economics.
  • Professional and Scientific Outstanding New Professional Award: Mackenzie Johnson, human sciences specialist, family life.
  • Distinguished Service in Extension and Outreach: Kim Brantner, human sciences specialist, family life.
  • Outstanding Achievement in Extension or Professional Practice: Anna Johnson, professor of animal science.
  • Early Achievement in Extension or Professional Practice: Shelley Oltmans, community development specialist.
  • R.K. Bliss Extension Award: Gene Mohling, Region 15 director.

One more note: The Office Professionals Conference is set for Oct. 8 on campus. Save the date!

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

Community Council develops leaders

John Lawrence’s message from May 6, 2019

If it’s 10 a.m. on the first Friday of the month, then Human Sciences Extension and Outreach faculty and staff from across the state are gathering virtually for their Community Council meeting. During the first hour, the council members, who represent field staff, hotline staff and campus, discuss complex issues that affect everyone in Human Sciences Extension and Outreach. After they listen to the council’s conversation, other Human Sciences folks add their voices – asking questions, sharing perspectives and suggesting issues for future agendas. Did you know?

  • The Community Council has been contributing to shared decision-making in Human Sciences ever since it was founded in February 2014. Meetings include honest dialogue, which enhances communication and offers opportunities for self-determined results.
  • During these open meetings, everyone is welcome to listen in during the first hour and contribute during the last 30 minutes. However, sometimes these rules are suspended and the entire meeting is a joint discussion.
  • The council has helped revise Human Science’s staff supervisory model; developed guiding principles for revenue generation and resource stewardship; compiled a 70, 20, 10 guide for allocating time and resources; and wrote a process for developing, implementing and evaluating educational offerings.

Human Sciences Extension and Outreach empowers people and grows lives. Community Council applies these same ideals through leadership development of extension faculty and staff.

More notes

  • Please review the plans for our area-wide, all-staff quarterly meetings. As I mentioned during Annual Conference, we are dividing the state into five areas for quarterly meeting purposes only. This is not a reorganization, and it is not another administrative layer. The goals for these meetings are to improve internal communication, enhance interdisciplinary and multi-county programming, strengthen relationships with colleagues, and more closely align vision and mission throughout our organization.
  • We are finalizing the Vice President for Extension and Outreach Tuition Assistance Program requirements, guidelines, and application and reimbursement forms. I will let you know when the materials will be available.
  • Read the May 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

May 2019 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

4-H Youth Development

  • Once a month, Cerro Gordo County 4-H news and photos are featured in one full page in the Globe Gazette. Ads from area businesses, arranged by the Globe Gazette, pay for the page. This innovative, new partnership has begun thanks to Kelsey Spotts, Cerro Gordo County youth coordinator, and it is working. For the first time in many years, spring break camps were full.
  • Norma Dorado-Robles, youth program specialist, developed a new partnership with the Marshalltown High School Mathematics’ Department. She engaged 50 freshman youth throughout the school day in sampling a 4-H STEM Lit-to-Go activity at the Math Center. At least 80% of the youth that day had little to no prior knowledge about 4-H. Many of these students were very interested in a follow-up session that will be part of the 4-H youth needs assessment facilitated by Norma and Ani Das, 4-H youth stakeholder and partnership coordinator.
  • 4-H Healthy Living and the SWITCH program were featured at the Iowa Department of Education’s School Wellness Conference on March 28. School staff in attendance learned about “Engaging Youth to Enhance School Wellness Initiatives.” 4-H SWITCH Ambassadors from Earlham Middle School co-presented about their involvement in boosting wellness opportunities for their peers. They taught the audience a brain break and led a taste test to demonstrate the Cafeteria Coaching program. Many schools were intrigued by SWITCH and the ISU Extension and Outreach partnership with schools; 4-H hopes this will help grow recruitment for the upcoming year.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • The ISU Extension and Outreach Master Conservationist program will be offered in four locations across Iowa in 2019. The program will take place in Region 7 (Humboldt, Wright, Webster and Hamilton counties), Region 14 (Jasper, Poweshiek, Marion and Mahaska counties), Story County and West Pottawattamie County. The program is designed to create a community of passionate conservationists and is led by local conservation professionals, state specialists and Iowa State experts.
  • The inaugural Iowa Equine Day will be held May 4 at the Hansen Agriculture Student Learning Center in Ames. The event will feature presentations related to horse and rider care, safety and horse nutrition. A ranch riding and showmanship clinic presented by Doug Bogart also will be held.

Community and Economic Development

  • The 2019 Community Visioning Program completed community assessment work on April 6 and local steering committees are reviewing the assessment data provided by the ISU research team. In May, assessment reviews will be conducted in Walcott, Coggon and Durant. Following the assessment reviews, steering committees will conduct performance objectives meetings in Walcott (May 15) and Durant (May 22).
  • CED is working with Human Sciences on Early Childhood Iowa, a federal grant that focuses on identifying challenges and issues regarding childcare in Iowa for children ranging from infant to preschool age. During May, CED specialists will be conducting focus groups with parents, preschool providers, and daycare providers in Storm Lake, Creston, Marshalltown, Waterloo, Mount Pleasant, West Des Moines and Fort Dodge.
  • 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. In May, workshops will be conducted in Dubuque, Fairfield and Davenport.
  • CED is now offering data literacy workshops to help Iowans learn the skills needed to understand, visualize, interpret and practice with data relevant to communities, organizations and counties. The data literacy workshops can include a wide variety of topics, reviews of the data included in the Data for Decision Makers profiles, or an in-depth look at selected measures, indicators and trends. The workshops also can provide participants with knowledge and skills to discuss data and bridge to applications and decision making with the data. Sandra Burke will be conducting health data literacy workshops in Boone, Davenport and Adel during May.

Human Sciences

  • Boone County will become the first Kids in the Kitchen rural site with a current staff member trained to deliver Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) curricula for youth as a regular aspect of programming. Boone County will begin service this summer. This approach should help expand youth EFNEP programming to rural areas in a way that is cost-effective and sustainable.
  • Nine human sciences specialists are trained to deliver “Growing Up Wild.” The four-hour workshop requires two facilitators – an outdoor educator and an early childhood specialist. Human sciences specialists have worked with 38 naturalists in the last five years at 35 training locations, reaching 560 participants representing 58 counties. Barb Gigar, Project WILD state coordinator from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, is the lead state partner for this effort. Human Sciences Extension and Outreach also is sharing the program beyond Iowa. On April 10, Kim Brantner, Cindy Thompson and Joy Rouse presented a national webinar for the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, reaching 22 participants representing 21 states. Their presentation helped participants understand the benefits of nature in early education, learn about Growing Up Wild and explore collaboration options for outdoor education.

Joining forces for farm, food and enterprise development

John Lawrence’s message from April 29, 2019

ISU Extension and Outreach’s programs in Local Foods and Value Added Agriculture recently joined forces. Although the resulting program has a new name – Farm, Food and Enterprise Development – the combined program team offers the same, great technical assistance and resources for Iowa farmers, food systems advocates and business owners. Did you know?

  • Topics in the Farm, Food and Enterprise Development wheelhouse 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.
  • Christa Hartsook leads the small farms area, serving farmers, acreage owners and service providers.
  • Courtney Long leads food systems, serving community coalitions, city planners, nonprofits and county extension staff.
  • Brian Tapp leads enterprise development, serving small business owners, entrepreneurs and start-ups.

Program Manager Craig Chase says focusing on small farms, food systems and enterprise development will allow the 20-member team to develop stronger educational programs and collaborative partnerships. You can contact the team at, 515-294-3086.

One more note: Mark your calendars and save the date for our next Annual Conference, April 1, 2020.

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

Communication recommendations

John Lawrence’s message from April 22, 2019

About a year ago, I appointed and charged a task force with figuring out how to improve communication within ISU Extension and Outreach so we could do a better job of delivering on our mission. More than 1,000 hours of staff time later, at our 2019 Annual Conference, these hardworking colleagues delivered their report – all 215 pages of it – to me and to the leadership team. Did you know?

  • Deb Sellers and Ross Wilburn co-chaired the task force, which included staff members Alex Merk, Andrea Nelson, Ben Pullen, Ann Torbert and Terry Torneten; and Marshall County Extension Council member Mary Giese. (And they are very grateful for Patti Lewis, secretary in Human Sciences Extension and Outreach, who provided administrative support.) We appreciate all their work and thank all of them for their dedication to this effort.
  • As the task force members gathered information in various ways, they were encouraged by the positive response in both numbers of participants and thoughtfulness of the comments. The amount of data generated was wide-ranging and represented many perspectives.
  • With everything they discussed, contemplated and decided, their collective desire was to increase the effectiveness of ISU Extension and Outreach.

Over the past few weeks, the leadership team and I have been reviewing the full report, and we’re pleased to share this Internal Communications Task Force Report Executive Summary, which includes a summary of the findings and all of the task force’s recommendations. Overall, the data indicate that significant challenges exist within ISU Extension and Outreach. However, the data also show that our people believe our organization can address these challenges and improve our situation.

The leadership team accepted the full report, and during our retreat on May 31, we will focus on prioritizing the task force’s recommendations and decide how to move forward. However, we all have a role in improving communication within our organization. As the leadership team develops an implementation plan, we promise to gather your input and communicate with you regularly.

I will include updates in my weekly email messages at least once per month to keep you informed on progress. These “Internal Communications: Updates” also will be compiled on my “Did You Know” blog, so you can refer to them at any time, all in one place. In addition, we’ll add a link to this updates page within MyExtension and on the Structured for Success webpage so that everyone has more than one way to find the latest updates.

Together we’ll move ISU Extension and Outreach forward – to provide transparency, boost morale, increase the effectiveness of our organization and improve our service to all Iowans.

One more note: Sometimes ISU Extension and Outreach also faces external communication challenges, but that is a fact of life for a large, varied and complex organization. When a news story or a social media post or an offhand comment gives you pause, remember our vision, our mission and our goals. Iowa State University and ISU Extension and Outreach are committed to diversity and inclusion on campus in Ames and in every corner of the state. (And it’s the third goal in our 2017-2022 Extension and Outreach Strategic Plan.) We want our faculty, staff, students, and all of the people we serve through Extension and the 4-H Youth Development program to know they are welcomed, supported, and valued. We are dedicated to serving all Iowans.

We focus on feeding people, keeping them healthy, helping their communities prosper and thrive, and turning the world over to the next generation better than we found it. We will keep striving to make ISU Extension and Outreach more diverse and our programs more inclusive, and overall to make our organization, and the part of the world we influence, a place of justice for all.

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

Following our lead

John Lawrence’s message from April 15, 2019

When we lead, others will follow. In mid-March, our e-Accessibility Initiative team began sharing our online, self-guided courses for creating accessible materials far beyond ISU Extension and Outreach. Did you know? So far, 12 universities have downloaded our free accessibility training curricula and toolkit for creating accessible documents. That’s great, because when more of us design for all, we increase our chances of justice for all – even more.

By the way, you still can participate in a Creating Accessible Digital Documents Workshop this spring, April 30 or May 1 in Independence. Another round of workshops begins in August.

Goodbye … and welcome

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

  • Yvonne McCormick, Hamilton County extension horticulturist.
  • Sarah Lenz, Keokuk County program coordinator.
  • Anne Pierce, East Pottawattamie County office assistant.
  • Rita Schoeneman, Hardin County office assistant.
  • Theresa Voss, Lucas County office assistant.
  • Amy Lewman, Greene County office assistant.
  • Kristi Cooper, field specialist III, Human Sciences.

We welcome the following new staff:

  • Kali Downs, Dallas County office assistant.
  • Nancy Henry, Story County office assistant.
  • Yenibeth Lopez, extension program assistant I, Human Sciences.

More notes

  • Year-end computer purchases: Extension Information Technology says if you are planning to spend year-end money for new computers, you need to place your order by April 30. Check the EIT website for more information and the order form. If you have questions, contact Mike Mauton,
  • Next week’s message will focus on the Internal Communications Task Force Report Executive Summary.

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

A galaxy for extension’s future

John Lawrence’s message from April 8, 2019

With enough Rising Stars, you can build a galaxy – and a bright future for ISU Extension and Outreach. That’s the plan behind our Rising Star Galaxy Club, our continuing relationship with our former Rising Star Interns as they move on from our internship program. If they’d like to begin an extension career, the Galaxy Club connects them to job openings in the counties, on campus and in other states. If an extension career isn’t their path, the Galaxy Club is a way to stay connected and become an advocate for ISU Extension and Outreach. Either way, we hope these young people will remain engaged with our land-grant mission. Did you know?

  • Our Rising Star Internship program began in 2014. Frankie Torbor served during the first year. He says the experience “lived up to the expectation listed in the job description,” providing professional responsibility with both scheduled tasks and self-directed work so he could tailor the internship to his interests. Frankie’s experience is currently featured on the Rising Star Galaxy Club webpage.
  • Evan Fritz also was in the first group of interns. He went on to serve as a member of the Winnebago County Extension Council, gaining experience that helped prepare him for the next phase of his career.
  • Some former Rising Stars have joined ISU Extension and Outreach. Mackenzie DeJong is a human sciences program coordinator in northwest Iowa. Cassie Odland is a family life and nutrition educator in Polk County. Breanna Miller is a program assistant with our Community Food Systems program. In addition, Emily Bormann is a 4-H youth program assistant with Nebraska Extension.

These are only a few of our many Rising Star success stories. And by the time you read this message, we either will have or be close to having all 12 interns hired for this summer. Orientation for our 2019 Rising Star Interns is April 12-13. In mid to late May they will begin their work in Regions 1, 3, 5 and 20, continuing until August. During their internships, our Rising Stars raise awareness of local foods and healthy living as they assist communities, schools, farmers markets and economic development entities across the state. Through the Galaxy Club, we want to help them continue their relationship with ISU Extension and Outreach for the rest of their lives.

More notes

  • Happy ISU Extension and Outreach Week, April 8-13. It’s a good time to thank the many volunteers, community leaders, organizations, agencies and other partners who support our work. It’s also Forever True Week, April 8-12, celebrating the impact that Iowa State’s generous alumni and friends have made on the university.
  • We just turned in our federal report to USDA NIFA on April 1. Thank you for all your good work. Every data point you provide is used in at least one report and often several, as well as staff success stories, research journal articles and grant applications. Reporting helps us tell our story to make sure our stakeholders, partners, funders and all Iowans will continue to support our work for a strong Iowa.
  • Read the April program update from the leadership team for current examples of what is happening across our programs.
  • Mental Health First Aid training 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. This evidence-based, 8-hour course will be offered April 25, May 23, Sept. 26 and Nov. 7. You can register through the Professional Development website.
  • “Building Awareness: The Military Community and ISU Extension and Outreach” is May 8 at Iowa State. Register for the symposium, which is open to anyone interested, including the military community at Iowa State, local Veterans groups, agencies and individuals who support the military community, county Veterans service officers, and extension faculty, specialists and county staff.

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

April 2019 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Human Sciences

  • The Financial Literacy Lesson Plans (Grades K-5) curriculum is available for free download from the ISU Extension Store, either by grade level or as an entire K-5 curriculum. The user guide includes the scope and sequence of four lessons for each grade. Each lesson provides an overview of the agenda, purpose, objectives, needed preparation, vocabulary and standard(s) being addressed. There are directions for the lesson warm-up, main activity, wrap-up and reflection; ideas for extending the lesson; and home talk with parents or guardians. Worksheets and graphics are included, and most lessons feature reading and discussion of a storybook as the main activity. Support from the Iowa Insurance Division made the project possible.
  • In “A Journey Through Parkinson’s Disease,” participants learn how to recognize the symptoms of PD; how to seek medical care and what to expect; the causes of PD; how treatments work; alternative therapies, such as singing and exercise; and simple at-home activities and tools to help with symptoms. Sessions are held once a week for three weeks with each session lasting 45 minutes. Program authors Elizabeth Stegemӧller and David Brown trained facilitators in August 2018. After some time spent developing partnerships, planning and marketing, the facilitators are now implementing the program. Sessions have been held in Keosauqua, Cherokee and Sioux City, and with extension county partners, Siouxland Aging Coalition members, Dickinson County with the local YMCA and in Chickasaw County with Mercy Hospital in New Hampton.
  • The Sioux County PROSPER Team, in conjunction with West Sioux Schools and Hawarden community leaders, created Hawarden Table Talks to increase engagement of community businesses and citizens with the issue of youth risk-taking behaviors. Conversations focused on supporting youth and encouraging their families to engage in the community. Over the last several months, more community leaders have joined the conversation, increasing the capacity of the group and resulting in an investigation of transitioning to a community coalition. Leaders of the Table Talks recognize that creating opportunities that encourage building relationships with youth and adults from all cultures will benefit the overall workforce development of Hawarden.
  • Plan, Shop, Save, and Cook is a four-lesson series on basic nutrition, meal planning, saving money and cooking skills. It takes roughly four hours to deliver and is appropriate for a wide variety of participants. The SNAP-Ed funded staff are learning and practicing the lessons with anticipated implementation in late April or May.

4-H Youth Development

  • Maya Hayslett, 4-H crop science specialist, has been training teen leaders for the Native Bee Challenge. This statewide program includes hands-on activities facilitated by teen leaders in many locations across the state. In March, 18 youth and 10 adult staff and volunteers attended the state training at Reiman Gardens to learn about the program’s educational activities and how to lead the challenge. Each youth will share the program with 50 youth in grades 4-8 in their home communities.
  • H2Oh! Is a new program on well water safety being piloted in Story, Tama and Jefferson counties. The feedback from the pilots will be used to revise the program, which will then be available for all counties to use. Results also will be presented at the Iowa Governors Conference on Public Health in April.
  • Thirty-nine SWITCH schools have wrapped up nine weeks of program implementation focusing on how their students can “switch what they do, view and chew.” Students are tracking their health behaviors each week in their web-based accounts. Middle school students are challenged to establish a goal that they actively work toward and document the following week. 4-H has been seeing great outcomes from schools’ special projects to enhance wellness in their school, activating their lessons and incorporating more movement while learning. Schools are now helping to design a sensory walkway that can be incorporated in school hallways to encourage sensory-based movement to release energy, boost brain function and create focus upon entry to the classroom. As SWITCH wraps up for this year, 4-H is preparing to recruit for the 2019-2020 school year.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • Prices for performing custom work are expected to jump in 2019, according to the 2019 Custom Rate Survey. The survey showed a 7% price increase across all surveyed categories. Changes from 2018 to 2019 varied across categories, with complete harvesting and hauling for corn and soybeans increasing by 6% and hired labor going up 7%. The full survey is available through Ag Decision Maker or the ISU Extension Store and was conducted by Alejandro Plastina, assistant professor and extension economist.
  • Registration for the ISU Extension and Outreach Master Gardener program is now available online. Classes will be held across the state this fall; contact your ISU Extension and Outreach county office for training locations and start dates. After completing the course, Master Gardener trainees volunteer within the community, volunteering 40 hours. To maintain Master Gardener volunteer status, they volunteer 20 hours per year and build their gardening know-how by participating in 10 hours of continuing education.
  • Adam Janke’s Woodworking for Wildlife publications highlight simple projects that can enhance habitat for animals in a backyard. Three publications provide detailed instructions and a materials list for creating a backyard bat box, blue bird box, and wood duck box. Janke, assistant professor and extension wildlife specialist, also includes basic information about the animals each project is designed to attract. A fourth publication provides instructions and a materials list to build the iconic Aldo Leopold bench.

Community and Economic Development

  • Iowa Retail Initiative provides the foundation for local retail decision makers to assess and work to address their community’s existing and future retail districts. IRI has recently gone through an update or “reboot” into a comprehensive approach that includes a three-part, nested program — consisting of IRI Champions, IRI Coaching and IRI Snapshot — to enhance and strengthen local retail. The first step in the program is the IRI Champions workshop, which provides training and resources to community decision makers and retail supporters, such as chambers of commerce and economic development organizations. During the day-long workshop, participants will learn how they can assess existing and future retail needs, evaluate their retail district amenities, identify funding opportunities, maximize the use of social media, and explore retail niches. CED specialists Steve Adams, Lisa Bates, Susan Erickson, and Victor Oyervides piloted IRI Champions in Wright County on April 2.
  • CED is now offering data literacy workshops to help Iowans learn the skills needed to understand, visualize, interpret and practice with data relevant to communities, organizations and counties. The data literacy workshops can include a wide variety of topics, reviews of the data included in the Data for Decision Makers profiles, or an in-depth look at selected measures, indicators, and trends. The workshops also can provide participants with knowledge and skills to discuss data and bridge to applications and decision making with the data. Sandra Burke will be conducting two health data literacy workshops in Muscatine on April 26.
  • Diane Van Wyngarden, Himar Hernández, Jane Goeken, Abigail Gaffey, Steve Adams and Victor Oyervides received a Herb Howell Creative and Innovative Program Grant to develop a new Iowa tourism guide program curriculum. A statewide guide training workshop will be held at the Central Iowa Expo in Boone April 11. The workshop is designed specifically for staff and volunteers who lead guided programs at Iowa’s community tourism attractions, including but not limited to museums, parks and conservation areas, historic sites, science centers and agritourism.
  • 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 April, workshops will be conducted in Fort Dodge, Waterloo, Johnston and Council Bluffs.
  • The 2019 Community Visioning Program continues with community assessment work in April, including the final transportation assets and barriers focus group workshop in Coggon; a bioregional assessment in Durant; transportation inventory and analyses in Sumner, Durant and Walcott; and a review of all community assessments in Sumner.

Learn about the opioid issue in Iowa

John Lawrence’s message from April 1, 2019

Iowa doesn’t have an opioid crisis – at least not yet. However, opioid misuse is an emerging drug issue that state agencies and local communities will need to manage, and that we all need to learn more about. Extension rural sociologist David J. Peters, undergraduate research assistant Peter A. Miller and criminology professor Andrew Hochstetler have explained research on this issue in a new publication, Understanding the Opioid Crisis in Rural and Urban Iowa (SOC 3088). Did you know?

  • The report provides background information on the current status and trends related to opioid-use deaths in Iowa. It also compares rural and urban counties, and describes the socioeconomic conditions of places that have high and low opioid-use death rates.
  • Four factors appear to be driving opioid addiction and overdoses in rural Iowa: poverty and low employment rates, work in injury-prone jobs, lack of adequate law enforcement, and few civic and social organizations to deal with the drug problem.
  • Although urban areas have economic and law enforcement advantages that rural areas do not have, these advantages don’t seem to stop opioid abuse, the researchers say. We need more research to understand the mechanisms driving addiction and death in Iowa’s urban communities.

Peters, Miller and Hochstetler’s publication also compares death rates from prescription vs. synthetic opioids and heroin use, as well as how Iowa’s opioid-use death rates compare to surrounding states and the U.S. Their work is part of the Rural Opioids Project, a collaboration of Iowa State, Syracuse University and University of Iowa.

Project STOMP

ISU Extension and Outreach staff from all program areas are invited to learn about Project STOMP – Steps Toward Opioid Misuse Prevention. The PROSPER Rx Team is kicking off this new initiative with free regional workshops; the first one is today in Orange City and four more will be offered throughout the state in April, May and June. This is an opportunity to get free educational materials, as well as ongoing support for planning and implementing community-based, substance-misuse prevention strategies for your county. You can be part of prevention partnerships that benefit youth, families and communities. For more information, contact Kathy Clancy,

Dealing with flooding
I had the opportunity to tour the flooded regions of Fremont, Mills and West Pottawattamie counties on Friday with Senator Grassley, USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey and Iowa Secretary of Ag Mike Naig. I grew up in these counties, and while my family was not impacted, I know people who were. The damage to communities, homes, farmsteads, stored grain, land, and road and levy infrastructure is sobering. It will take months and in some cases years to recover, and the sad truth is that some will not recover from this disaster.

Our extension colleagues in the region are having an impact during the evacuation and recovery. They stepped up to assist where needed, and other agencies and partners turned to ISU Extension and Outreach because we have been there before and we are a trusted resource. Thank your colleagues when you see them and ask how you can help. Like the rest of us, they will continue to have regularly scheduled programming at the same time they assist those recovering from the floods.

We continue to update our resources for dealing with flooding on our Disaster Recovery website. These resources always are available on the ISU Extension and Outreach website (from the “Learn More About …” tab). As you help Iowans deal with flooding issues this spring, please take care of yourselves, too.

One more note: You can find the 2018 Listening Sessions Summary at the top of the resource list on my Did You Know Blog. (You’ll also find an archive of all my weekly messages.) Here’s another quick way to get to the summary. Go to the ISU Extension and Outreach homepage and type “listening sessions summary” in the search box.

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

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