The value of land

John Lawrence’s message from Dec. 18, 2017

What’s the real value of an acre of Iowa farmland? It depends on who you ask and what you mean by value. My ag economist training will look at the net present value of future earnings from the farm. The Iowa farm boy in me knows that there are intangibles that are difficult to put a price on. The farm I grew up on in Mills County sold the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. We were tenants and never owned it, but it shaped me from an early age. My sister tried to convince me to buy it when it sold in the early 1990s. She said the place had a lot of memories. I pointed out it also had a lot of ditch and it wasn’t that good of a farm. This time the farm sold for approximately three times the price from 25 years earlier. I guess I missed out on both counts.

Iowa State University has been analyzing the monetary value of Iowa’s farm land annually since 1941, and we were the first in the nation to do so. The ISU Land Value Survey provides information on general land value trends, geographical land price relationships and factors that influence the Iowa land market. The survey doesn’t provide a direct estimate for any particular piece of property. Did you know?

  • After three years of decline, the average estimated value of an acre of Iowa farmland increased to $7,326 in 2017. (See the news release to learn more.)
  • The survey is based on reports by licensed real estate brokers, farm managers, appraisers, ag lenders and others who know land market conditions, as well as actual land sales. The 2017 survey is based on estimates from 710 agricultural professionals.
  • Wendong Zhang has led the survey since 2015. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Economics and extension economist, and is affiliated with the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development. Previously, extension economist Mike Duffy led the survey, from 1983 to 2014.
  • CARD has developed a portal where you can dig deeper into the 2017 survey results, find more land value data and examine land value trends and expectations.

A few more notes

  • U-TuRN, Iowa State’s new transdisciplinary, translational research network, would like ISU Extension and Outreach staff, faculty and council members to take part in a survey. U-TuRN is seeking our help in better understanding the community health challenges facing Iowans, as well as the resources available to address these issues. We’re not health professionals, but the work we do in ISU Extension and Outreach is vital to Iowans’ health and wellbeing. Please participate in the U-TuRN survey by Jan. 15.
  • Whether you plan to be out for a day, a week or longer during the holidays, also plan for how your clients can get their needs met while you’re gone. Two easy steps are to 1) set up an automated email response with information about who to contact for immediate assistance, and 2) update your voice mail messages with the same information.
  • Please join me in thanking all the folks who recited the Extension Professional’s Creed for our special holiday video. They represented us well. Also, please share the video with people in your network. It may not explain to your brother-in-law what you do, but it is a fun and effective way to explain why we do it.

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

Shrinking smart … and thriving

John Lawrence’s message from Dec. 11, 2017

Some small Iowa communities are losing population, but that doesn’t mean they are withering away. Some of them are thriving. You might say they are shrinking smart. That’s the terminology used by an NSF-funded multidisciplinary team (from architecture, computer science, planning and sociology) in their new publication, “Shrink-Smart Small Towns.” (You can download the complete report from the Extension Store.) Authored by David Peters, associate professor and extension rural sociologist, and Kimberly Zarecor, associate professor of architecture, the report discusses the reasons some communities are still thriving as they lose population. Did you know?

  • This study looked at one randomly selected Iowa community per county with a population of at least 500 but under 10,000, not adjacent to a major city.
  • Towns were classified as growing or shrinking and as smart or poor by comparing change in population with change in quality of life. The study identified 12 shrink-smart towns.
  • Peters found that shrink-smart towns are tied to agriculture and have grown their industrial employment base. However, shrink-smart towns also have diverse and inclusive social linkages. Residents participate more in local projects and belong to more organizations. Overall, these communities foster a culture of openness to new ideas and support of others.

The first thing shrinking towns can do to improve their quality of life is focus on their social infrastructure, Peters says. Bridge the divides across economic class, race and ethnicity, gender, and even between newcomers and long-time residents. Encourage folks to join organizations and get involved in local projects. These actions involve leadership and human capital rather than brick, mortar and smokestacks. They don’t cost much to implement, but the pay back is significant. And, leadership and capacity building is something that ISU Extension and Outreach does very well. The research team, lead by Zarecor, is in the process of interviewing residents and leaders in select shrink-smart towns to identify best practices that can be used by other communities across Iowa. Visit the project website for details.

A few more notes

  • Make sure to review the December program update from the leadership team.
  • The county fair partnership agreement materials are available online. The template will assist counties in having discussions between Extension, Fair Boards and FFA as they develop their own agreement tailored to their county fair needs.
  • The Faces of Iowa State exhibit has begun touring the state, and the first stop is the Maquoketa Art Experience. If you haven’t seen the exhibit yet (or even if you have), check it out while it’s on the road during the next year.

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

December 2017 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Human Sciences

  • For every $1 invested in the “Buy. Eat. Live Healthy” program, $2.48 is saved in future health care costs, based on a recent evaluation by Helen Jensen in the ISU Center for Agriculture and Rural Development. “Buy. Eat. Live Healthy” is a free program that helps parents learn how to provide nutritious food for their families, leading to healthy children and strong families. Of participants who graduated from the program in 2017: 41 percent improved their whole grain consumption, 45 percent improved their fruit consumption, 46 percent improved their vegetable consumption, and 49 percent improved their dairy consumption. In addition, 58 percent reduced their intake of solid fats and added sugars, 47 percent increased their physical activity, and 68 percent improved their practice of food safety behaviors. Also, 86 percent improved their food resource management skills, including food budgeting and being less likely to run out of food by the end of the month.
  • Ellen McKinney, an assistant professor in apparel, events and hospitality management, and her students shared examples of wearable technology during the 4-H National Youth Science Day event at Franklin Middle School in Cedar Rapids. She also discussed her research on the solar powered jacket, which involved the engineering field as well as textiles. This is an example of our land-grant mission at work and shows how ISU Extension and Outreach plays a part in not only bridging university research/scholarship activities with communities, but also providing Iowa State students with opportunities to engage beyond their classrooms.

4-H Youth Development

  • Photography is one of Iowa 4-H’s fastest growing project areas, with 11,000 Iowa youth participating. Camera Corps alone saw a 49 percent year-over-year increase in 2017 with youth from 85 Iowa counties participating in the program. Iowans can vote for their favorite pictures by liking the Iowa 4-H Facebook page or searching #‎iowa4hcameracorps.‬‬‬
  • 4-H works with schools to promote healthy living. Twenty-five schools from across Iowa are participating in the 2017-2018 SWITCH program, a school wellness program that challenges youth to switch what they do, view and chew. Participating schools attended the SWITCH kickoff conference on the ISU campus in November. The SWITCH program is a partnership between Iowa 4-H and the ISU Department of Kinesiology.
  • All K-12 youth in extension programs are 4-H’ers. According to the federal definition, any youth taking part in programs that are provided as a result of action by extension personnel (professional, paraprofessional and volunteer) are involved in 4-H. This includes youth participating in culturally based youth accelerators, EFNEP, urban gardening and many other programs that might not use the 4-H name and emblem with participants.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • ISU Extension and Outreach has hosted the November Iowa Egg Industry Symposium for more than a decade. This year 165 participants attended the one-day conference, which attracts producers and industry professionals from Iowa and across the country. The event provides practical information and discussion on hot topics pertaining to egg production and layer management. Iowa’s egg farmers produce more than 15 billion eggs per year, placing Iowa as the nation’s leader in egg production.
  • More than 200 producers, industry representatives and academics attended the 17th Annual Iowa Organic Conference on Nov. 20. The event was held in Iowa City near the state’s largest concentration of organic farmers and processors. Participants attended sessions on transitioning into organic farming, weed management, organic livestock production, organic no-till for grain and vegetable crops, and new small grain crops. The conference also included information on soil and water quality research, economic and financial assistance for organic producers and local food system initiatives. The joint effort between Iowa State University and the University of Iowa is the largest university-sponsored organic conference in the country.

Community and Economic Development

  • In December Himar Hernandez will be delivering “Abriendo Caminos: Clearing the Path to Hispanic Health” training in Ottumwa. Jon Wolseth will be in Ames participating in the Abriendo Caminos training session for implementation of Round 2 of the pilot project, in conjunction with Human Sciences.
  • Diane Van Wyngarden is conducting group travel itinerary training in Pella and group travel business practices training in Winneshiek County. This work is part of CED’s local economies knowledge team.
  • Abbie Gaffey and Jon Wolseth will be conducting meetings on housing needs assessment in Ogden and Waukee. This work is part of CED’s local economies team.
  • Mary Beth Sprouse will be in Altoona (Zigler CAT) for teaching a session on city finance. She also will conduct a customer service presentation for the staff of Windsor Heights. This work is part of CED’s local governments and nonprofits team.

All in a day’s work

John Lawrence’s message from Dec. 4, 2017

An “unplanned” electrical outage left the Extension 4-H Building and a few other places on the north side of campus in the dark for a few hours one morning last week. Yet our extension folks persevered, until their computer batteries started getting low on juice and the WIFI went down as well. Then they packed up and headed for other parts of campus or home that had electricity and internet access and got back to business. Because dealing with changes in technology, of any kind, is all part of a day’s work for extension personnel.

So we shouldn’t be surprised that the university soon will roll out a new application to help protect our data. Keeping our data safe is all in a day’s work for our tech people. Did you know?

  • This new application, called Okta, will provide “single sign-on,” which means you will log in once to access all your work-related web applications – Office 365, Cybox, Qualtrics, Access Plus, etc.
  • Okta provides multi-factor authentication. This is stronger protection than your password alone. To log in to Okta, you will type in your Net-ID and password. You also will verify your identity using a second method, such as an application on your cell phone or a code sent via text message.
  • Multi-factor authentication relies on something you know (your password) and something you have (application, text message code, etc.). If your credentials (your Net-ID and password) were to be stolen, the thieves still would not have access to your data, because they would not have your phone or the text-message code.
  • The university plans to implement Okta early in 2018. Extension IT will keep us posted as we get closer to the implementation date.

We also have a responsibility to keep our data safe, and a best practice is to change our NET-ID passwords every six months. (I just changed mine on my computer and phone.) Follow the instructions from Extension IT or call the Computer Support Hotline at 515-294-1725. For regular IT updates, visit the Extension IT website and subscribe to Tech News.

A couple more notes

  • The Partnership Agreement (formerly known as the MOU) template/checklist to facilitate discussions among ISU Extension and Outreach, fair boards, and school boards locally is nearing completion. A brief video from the three state partners, the editable template and supporting materials soon will be available online. Check my update on Monday, Dec. 11, for details.
  • About that power outage – Facilities Planning and Management blamed it on a failed cable. The Extension 4-H Building was back online by noon.

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

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