Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach program directors
Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Agronomy in the Field is a series of workshops for women designed to improve agronomic skills and increase knowledge for decision-making. The program is in its third year bringing together women landowners, farmers and ag retailers to learn about Iowa crop production. The goals of this series are to strengthen agronomic skills for women that allow for better decision-making; provide a better understanding of inputs for crop production; see and understand different conservation practices; and increase confidence in communication with their spouse, farming partner, ag retailer or tenant. Meetings are held in central Iowa, west central Iowa, east central Iowa, southeast Iowa and south central Iowa. During the spring program, more than 40 women attended the hands-on sessions.
- Transitioning to Organic Agriculture, a 16-week course taught by Kathleen Delate in the spring semester, had 44 participants, including Iowa State graduate and undergraduate students and interested farmers. The course, focusing on the transition to organic farming, included online and classroom sessions. With Iowa ranking 10th in the nation in total organic sales and the state’s 800 farms producing $103 million toward the farm economy, interest in organic farming is on the rise. A regional conference is scheduled for the fall.
- Field days and workshops have been scheduled for this summer at Iowa State University Research and Demonstration Farms. Topics include crops and soils, nitrogen and water, Forecast and Assessment of Cropping sysTemS (FACTS) and demonstration gardens. Most events are free and open to the public. A complete schedule of events is online.
Community and Economic Development
- In his new publication “What Drives Quality of Life in Iowa Small Towns?” David Peters, associate professor and extension rural sociologist, discusses what towns can do to attract new residents, as well as what pushes people away. The data on quality of life and social conditions are from the Sigma Study, a long-term USDA-funded research effort in Iowa. Residents of 99 small towns (population between 500 and 6,000) were surveyed in 1994, 2004 and 2014 and were asked to subjectively rank their community on things like overall quality of life, jobs, medical services, schools, housing, child and senior services, retail and entertainment. Peters found that the strongest drivers of quality of life were social capital and civic measures – whether residents participate in the community and whether the community provides social supports. These factors are within a community’s control and don’t cost a lot of money. The degree to which people participate in the community and feel safe, supported and trusted, is something a community can take action on.
- 2017 retail trade analysis reports are available from the Iowa Community Indicators Program. The reports provide taxable sales trends and related data. County and city reports are available for free download.
- This spring through SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education), Human Sciences Extension and Outreach has partnered with the Healthiest State Initiative to encourage Iowans shopping with SNAP (food assistance dollars) to visit farmers markets. Double Up Food Bucks is an incentive program available at select markets around the state. Through the program, shoppers using SNAP benefits can double the value of their SNAP dollars when shopping for locally grown fruits and vegetables at these markets. Human Sciences Extension and Outreach has collaborated with the Community Design Lab to create and distribute promotional materials for producers and consumers.
- Spring time means AnswerLine gets calls about rhubarb safety. AnswerLine serves callers in Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota, and this spring, all three states dealt with a frost or freeze after the rhubarb began growing. Some media outlets advised consumers not to use rhubarb that had frozen, claiming the poison in the leaves would migrate down into the stalks. Some outlets incorrectly claimed that the entire planting should be destroyed. Beth Marrs from AnswerLine consulted with extension horiculturist Richard Jauron and shared an accurate horticulture article on AnswerLine’s Facebook page. In total, 11,412 people viewed and 85 people shared the post. AnswerLine also answered 68 calls on this same topic during May 2017.
- On May 10, people gathered at the Fort Dodge Middle School to celebrate 15 years of supporting Fort Dodge families with the Strengthening Families Program for Parents and Youth 10-14 (SFP 10-14) through PROSPER (PROmoting School-community-university Partnerships to Enhance Resilience). This evidence-based delivery system features tested and proven programs with a successful track record for preventing risky behaviors in youth, promoting positive youth development and strengthening families. Former participants in the program provided testimonials, including young adults who attended the program as youth, couples who participated multiple times (with each child), and youth who are now in high school.
4-H Youth Development
- Almost a thousand teens from across the state will participate in the Iowa 4-H Youth Conference, June 27-29. They’ll converge on the Iowa State campus for three days of speakers, workshops (including Animal Science ROUND-UP), mixers, dances, a banquet, and community service activities. Youth do not have to be 4-H members to participate.
- Iowa 4-H is part of the solution for closing the achievement gap (also called opportunity gap) – the differences between test scores and other performance indicators for distinct demographic groups. Iowa has identified three major and persistent gaps: low income, youth of color (especially Latino and African American) and English language learners. With more than 100,000 members, Iowa 4-H is the only non-school organization that works directly in partnership with youth and has the size, skill and resources to support Iowa schools in this effort. Studies suggest that youth in 4-H do better in school than their peers. Our “Do, Reflect, Apply” model is a community-based resource for today’s test-driven classrooms. It also is sustainable – the creation of local youth/adult learning communities and clubs has worked for more than 100 years. See the data by county.