Ag innovation … and monarchs

John Lawrence’s message from Jan. 16, 2018

Over 100 years ago, ISU Extension and Outreach engaged 4-H youth in growing better varieties of corn as a way to get the innovation to their farmer parents. When your son or daughter has higher yields than you do, you pay attention. That proven method of technology transfer is being rolled out again.

Here in Iowa we care about agricultural innovation and we care about Monarch butterflies. So it’s no surprise that Iowa is leading the five-state implementation of the National 4-H Ag Innovators Experience featuring “Monarchs On the Move!” Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and Illinois are aiming to reach 5,000 youth from urban, suburban and rural backgrounds: getting them interested in agriculture innovation and careers, and giving them the opportunity to develop workforce skills to feed the planet. Did you know?

  • Iowa was chosen to be the lead state through a competitive grant process, and we received $20,000 to develop the curriculum. Lynne Campbell, professional development specialist, leads the development team that includes Maya Hayslett (Crop Sciences), Amy Powell (Animal Science), Brandon Kleinke (Integrated Pest Management), Cayla Taylor (4-H Youth Development), and ISU Extension and Outreach Senior Director Chad Higgins from Iowa State; and Richard Hellmich and Keith Bidne from USDA.
  • Three teen leaders and one adult leader from each state will attend the national training on the curriculum at Reiman Gardens Feb. 2-4. Later, each state’s teen leaders will train 20 additional youth to lead local and regional events.
  • Maya Hayslett and Cayla Taylor will lead the program in Iowa. Programming will be delivered in a variety of 4-H formats including day camps, summer camps, school collaboration, afterschool programming and clubs.
  • The 2018 experience focuses on the importance of biodiversity to agriculture, specifically relating to monarch butterfly habitat. Youth get to experience the life of a Monarch caterpillar and the factors that impact whether it survives and becomes a butterfly. They also look at the land from a butterfly’s perspective, as they learn to identify locations where milkweed and nectar plant can be grown – the Monarch idea of a nutritious meal.

Educating youth through the 4-H Ag innovators Experience benefits the butterflies as well as our state overall. We’re also fortunate to have the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium, a community-led organization focused on enhancing monarch butterfly reproduction and survival in Iowa. Iowa State is a member of the consortium in partnership with farmer and conservation organizations, state agencies and companies.

A couple more notes

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

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