Marketing Hometown America

John Lawrence’s message from April 30, 2018

Sometimes a close look in the mirror can be good for the soul: not so close that you over analyze every pore, but close enough that you acknowledge the negative while also recognizing the positive that was there all along. That’s how you end up with a new perspective. It’s true for people and it’s also true for communities. Some have lost population and businesses, but if they take a closer look, they can recognize the qualities they have to attract new people and jobs. Our Community and Economic Development unit is offering a new program to help our rural small towns gain this new perspective. Did you know?

  • CED is offering “Marketing Hometown America,” a program to help communities home in on what people are looking for when they choose a place to live and do business.
  • Communities in two counties are participating in the first round: Mapleton in Monona County and Mondamin, Modale and Pisgah in Harrison County.
  • Our CED specialists train local facilitators to lead study circles in these communities. For four weeks, small groups within each community study community connections and develop ideas for marketing and action plans. Mapleton’s 18 participants finished their study circles April 24. Harrison County’s 30 participants represent the school district, a 4-H group, an ag leaders group and a local business group. They have one more week of study circles.
  • After the study circles are completed, our CED specialists bring all the participants from the groups together for an action planning forum. The groups present their ideas, and our specialists help them write their marketing plan and form groups to implement their goals.
  • By discussing community issues in a relaxed, civil and welcoming space, participants are building social capital as they plan for their shared future.

Cooperative Extension services in Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota already have had success with the program. CED is working in partnership with the other universities to track impacts in expanded leadership, amenity improvements, increased networking, expanded civic awareness, marketing actions, and increasing adult and youth engagement in these communities.

One more thing: This summer 12 Rising Star interns from three colleges (three from Human Sciences, three from Design and six from Agriculture and Life Sciences) will be serving in four regions. This is the first year Region 2 is participating and these interns will focus on community and economic development. The interns in regions 1, 5 and 20 will focus on local foods and youth outreach. The interns participated in orientation April 21, learning about payroll requirements, advancement, social media and other topics they’ll need to know about as temporary extension employees. In mid May they’ll each begin their 480 hours collaborating as regional teams to make an impact in Iowa communities. We wish them all an educational and satisfying experience.

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

Being well

John Lawrence’s message from April 23, 2018

Back in March when I was recovering from surgery, I received some “get well” cards. People sent their best wishes for my speedy recovery and encouraged me to feel better. As the saying goes, it’s the thought that counts, and I did appreciate their sentiments. But I also knew that to get well, I had to do something. So I followed my doctor’s advice, got up and moved, and made sure to get enough rest.

We have to take steps to get well before we can be well, and that is the point of “What About Me? My Wellbeing,” a workshop series that our human sciences specialists teach throughout the state. The research-based program covers taking time for yourself, relationships, finances and physical health. You could call it a get well card with an action plan. Did you know?

  • Human Sciences Extension and Outreach Director Deb Sellers and a team of human sciences specialists and other extension staff developed the series, using a framework that includes a comprehensive and integrated approach to being well. This approach is a good fit with human sciences education in family life, family finance, and nutrition and wellness.
  • Human Sciences piloted the workshop series with about a dozen counties in 2016, taking it statewide last year. They offer the series for work groups, community organizations, child care professionals, faith-based organizations – basically, any group of adults interested in improving their quality of life.
  • The specialists aren’t telling people what they should be doing; rather they’re providing research-based information. Participants then take time to reflect on their lifestyle choices and make plans to meet their own individual goals.

As Iowans have been contemplating their relationships, finances and physical health through this workshop series, they’ve come to understand that being well isn’t something to achieve and check off a bucket list. Instead, it’s an ongoing journey and is different for each person.

More notes

  • ISU Extension and Outreach was not asked to share in the forth-quarter reversion this fiscal year. President Wintersteen has made it a priority to minimize the impact of any cut on students and Iowa State’s core missions. (See the story in Inside Iowa State.)
  • The proposed draft 4-H policy on LGBTQ youth is no longer posted and is going through the ISU review process. Any final guidance issued will consider the comments received, as well as Iowa State University policy, State and Federal law, USDA guidance on these issues, and input from our campus, state, and local community partners. ISU Extension and Outreach is dedicated to creating a safe and inclusive atmosphere for all Iowa youth participating in 4-H programs and activities.

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

Understanding farm and rural life

John Lawrence’s message from April 16, 2018

When Extension Sociologist Paul Lasley sent the first Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll to Iowa farm operators in 1982, I already had quit farming to become a student at Iowa State, so I was ineligible to participate. But it’s just as well. Things have worked out fine for me and for the Farm Poll, which has become the longest-running survey of its kind in the nation. The overall objective is to understand how ongoing changes in Iowa’s agriculture and rural areas affect farmers and rural society as a whole. The Farm Poll provides a collective voice for farmers and reflects the diversity of Iowa agriculture. It also provides a method to track issues over time. Did you know?

  • Each year the poll surveys about 2,000 Iowa farmers on issues that are important to agricultural stakeholders. In 1982, those issues included agricultural price policy, quality of life, changes in farming, the future of agriculture and rural living.
  • The 2017 poll contained questions about weed and herbicide resistance management, soil health, use of small grains in extended rotations, the influence of agricultural stakeholders on farmers’ decisions, and decision making among multiple farm operators.
  • The Farm Poll is a panel survey, meaning the same farmers participate in multiple years before rotating off the list, so participants are somewhat older on average (66) than the general farmer population. New questions are asked each year, but many are repeated year after year to track change.
  • Paul Lasley and Extension Sociologist J. Arbuckle, current director of the Farm Poll, discuss the poll’s impact in this video.

ISU Extension and Outreach, the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and the Iowa Agricultural Statistics Service are all partners in the Farm Poll. Information from the poll helps stakeholders and decision makers at every level who are invested in the vitality of agriculture and rural society. To find out more about what we’ve learned from the poll over the years, you can check out the summary reports all the way back to 1982.

The Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll is another example of how we carry out our land-grant mission — not only taking research to farmers, but collecting information from them to help identify high priority needs facing farm families, and to help direct our research and extension programming across the state.

More notes

  • Have a great Extension and Outreach Week! Please share stories and photos of your celebrations and service projects. Remember to tag Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and any partners you may be working with on the event on your social media accounts. Reach out to your advancement specialist for assistance.
  • Now’s the time to get in on the next Extension and Outreach apparel group order from the Extension Store. Sign in to the store to see what is available and place your order by close of business on April 27.

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

51 county centennials

John Lawrence’s message from April 9, 2018

ISU Extension and Outreach will be celebrating 100 years of organized extension work in 51 counties this year. Last time I checked, I was scheduled to attend at least half of them. (Some counties are still getting their plans together and haven’t scheduled their celebrations yet.) The events started in February with Cherokee County, and West Pottawattamie in March, and continue throughout the spring, summer and fall, to early December. Did you know?

  • On April 10, 1906, the Iowa Agricultural Extension Act became law, making Iowa the first state in the nation to formalize extension at a land-grant university. The appropriation the first year was $15,000. (Yes, I’ve been reading my R.K. Bliss extension history book again.)
  • Clinton County was the first to organize for extension work, raise money locally and hire a county agent. M.L. Mosher signed a contract July 6, 1912, to become the county agent Sept. 1.
  • Over the next few years, the rest of our counties began organizing for extension work.
  • The rest of the nation caught up in 1914, when the Smith-Lever Act formally established the Cooperative Extension Service and the partnership between the Federal government and the states. Iowa State became the first land-grant institution to accept the terms.
  • We began celebrating our county 100-year anniversaries in 2012. We’ll have our final three county centennials in 2019 – Page, Dallas, and Jefferson counties.

We all can be proud of our heritage as we engage citizens with university resources in partnership with federal, state and county governments. However, as we celebrate our history, we are focused on Iowa’s future.

More notes

  • Make sure to review the April program update from the leadership team.
  • Extension Information Technology says April 30 is the LAST day to order new computers and have them billed for the 2018 fiscal year. Current computer quotes and an order form are online. Any computers ordered on or after May 1 may not arrive in time to be setup and billed by the end of the fiscal year. If you have questions, please email Michael Mauton, systems analyst,
  • Take a moment to watch this short video of “20,000 Meals from the Heartland,” our meal-packaging experience during Annual Conference. You might even see yours truly, sporting a hairnet and beardnet.

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

April 2018 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Human Sciences

Brenda Schmitt, a human sciences specialist in family finance, works with the Family Alliance of Veterans of America. Human Sciences Extension and Outreach supports Brenda’s efforts to teach finance classes, help veterans with personal finances, and provide materials. Staff are taught financial coaching so they can assist veterans with budgeting. Brenda typically works one-on-one with about a dozen families and individuals in the program. The training for staff usually reaches another dozen people. The impact is significant. Here are two examples:

  • After several meetings with one veteran and building trust, the individual revealed current efforts to earn money via a specific website and that he had sent several checks to this website. Brenda was able to steer him to reliable, vetted local resources to assist him and ensure he was safe from fraud.
  • Another veteran was the victim of a scam, sending thousands of dollars to a fraudulent entity. This individual searched for assistance to recoup the lost funds, eventually finding Brenda, who assisted with the needed process. While in Brenda’s office, the individual received a call from a creditor. Brenda was able to provide coaching related to information that should and should not be provided over the phone and helped the individual create a budget for paying the creditor.

Renee Sweers, a human sciences specialist in Nutrition and Wellness, completed a Stay Independent series at an independent living center for approximately 12–14 people. These residents, along with a center staff member, engaged in discussions throughout the series regarding needed changes at the center. A few examples include removing donuts from the breakfast menu and replacing them with hard boiled eggs, replacing desserts with yogurt parfaits or fruit smoothies, and implementing a new exercise program.

4-H Youth Development

  • 4-H in the news: The Des Moines Register recognized Iowa 4-H for efforts in civility (Leadership and Civic Engagement, a 2018 priority area). USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture bulletin featured Iowa’s culturally based leadership accelerators as a national success story.
  • The SWITCH program is reaching fourth and fifth grade classrooms in 25 Iowa schools, totaling more than 1,000 youth. Schools are half way through the program and have been sharing their success with integrating wellness — including youth-led initiatives, activity breaks in the classroom, more physical activity and outdoor lessons incorporated throughout school day, taste tests in the cafeteria, and new lessons incorporated in physical education classes. During “Try Day Friday,” youth at Sacred Heart School in Boone taste tested mushrooms, figs and dates and then voted on if they tried it, liked it or loved it.
  • 4-H is halfway through the Healthy Living Club Challenge, with 125 clubs submitting monthly trackers to earn miles as they Race Across Iowa. The goal is to reach 1,400 miles by the end of June, when top earning clubs will be recognized at Healthy Living Day at the Iowa State Fair. 4-H youth are practicing healthy habits at club meetings: offering water, fruits and vegetables as meeting snacks, and coordinating time for physical activity. In January and February, clubs completed a team building activity to earn bonus miles. In March and April, the bonus challenge focuses on activities that improve brain health.
  • In 2018-19, Iowa 4-H will be expanding work with underserved, underrepresented and vulnerable youth as part of the ongoing “from inclusion to belonging” initiative. Iowa 4-H is currently forming teams of “champions” to help to move our work forward with children with disabilities, disconnected youth, immigrant and refugee youth, incarcerated youth, LGBTQ youth, youth affected by mental illness, youth of color, youth experiencing homelessness, youth in foster care and youth with limited English proficiency.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • The 2017 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll addressed dealing with herbicide-resistant weeds. The poll surveyed farmers to learn about their perspectives on the potential effectiveness of several hypothetical approaches to addressing herbicide-resistant weeds. The two highest rated options were “quick fix” approaches using new technology. Private company discovery and development of new herbicides, and private company discovery and development of new herbicide-tolerant crops, received 69 and 68 percent likely or very likely responses, respectively. Land grant university discovery and development was close behind with 62 percent.
  • An overall decrease of 5.6 percent for custom work can be expected in 2018, according to a study conducted by Alejandro Plastina. While labor costs rose by 4.6 percent from a year ago, all other categories saw declines. The cost for harvesting and hauling grain dropped 9.4 percent, while preharvest operations, harvesting forages, and bin and machinery rental fell by more than 4 percent. The reported rates are expected to be charged or paid in 2018, including fuel and labor. The average price of diesel fuel was assumed to be $2.95 per gallon.
  • The Master Gardener program is seeking volunteers – people who are passionate about volunteering and gardening. Registration is now open at ISU Extension and Outreach county offices. No previous garden knowledge is required, as the program equips participants to grow in knowledge about gardening best practices. New to the training program this year is the flipped classroom, in which participants can view the course information online and then attend classes for hands-on instruction. Nearly 2,000 Master Gardeners were active across Iowa in 2017.
  • An Iowa State University study shows that return on investment may be the biggest hurdle to overcome for widespread adoption of cover crops, despite farmers’ positive perceptions about cover crops and the availability of cost-share programs to incentivize their use. Through focus groups and survey methods, researchers compared each farmer’s costs and revenues from fields where they used cover crops and from fields without cover crops. Overall, the researchers found substantial variability in net returns, driven by the costs of planting and terminating cover crops, feed cost savings from grazing cover crops, cost-share program payments, and the difference in yields obtained in fields with and without cover crops.

Community and Economic Development

  • Community and Economic Development is now able to offer the Marketing Hometown America program that has been successfully used by Cooperative Extension programs in Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota to help communities home in on what people are looking for when they choose a place to live and do business. Abbie Gaffey will be in Mapleton on Tuesdays during April to facilitate Marketing Hometown America study circles for Monona County.
  • The 2018 Community Visioning Program will be conducting a series of transportation assets and barriers focus-group workshops in 10 communities. The transportation assets and barriers workshop is part of the assessment process that the program conducts in client communities to provide local decision makers a framework within which to make informed choices. During April, workshops will be conducted in Decorah, Forest City, Graettinger, Moville, Plymouth and Wapello. CED specialists Abbie Gaffey, Eric Christianson and Scott Timm will assist in facilitating the focus groups.
  • CED specialists Jill Sokness, Brian Perry and Jon Wolseth will be presenting Leading Communities in Storm Lake on Thursdays in April. This leadership program is made possible in part by a Vice President for Extension and Outreach initiative and will feature the creation of an additional module addressing immigrant social capital. Himar Hernández and Shelley Oltmans will be presenting session six of Leading Communities in Henry County on April 11.
  • In April, Introduction to Planning and Zoning workshops will be conducted in Ankeny, Clear Lake, Creston, Decorah and Oskaloosa.

We are part of something bigger

John Lawrence’s message from April 2, 2018

packaging meal kits for Meals from the Heartland during annual conference 2018.
ISU Extension and Outreach packages meal kits for Meals from the Heartland during 2018 Annual Conference.

Nothing brings people together quite like working shoulder to shoulder in hairnets and packaging 20,000 meals in an hour. Our Meals from the Heartland service project at Annual Conference was a specific example of networking with a purpose to fight food insecurity. But it also serves as a metaphor for all our work in ISU Extension and Outreach. No matter what we do, we are part of something bigger than ourselves.

A year ago I told you our organization was in a strong position for what was ahead of us. As I said at Annual Conference last week, that’s still true now, even though we are facing another difficult budget year. We are talented people working together – campus and county; faculty, staff and councils. I am confident we will find ways to address any issues that we may face. Did you know?

  • President Wintersteen is working with leaders from across campus to develop a plan to implement the midyear reversion for the FY18 budget. We will soon know what the final dollar impact will be for Extension and Outreach. The Leadership Team has planned for it and will be able to cover it centrally.
  • We don’t yet know the FY19 budget status and potential for salary increases. We are well positioned, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be adjustments of some kind. Stay tuned.
  • I truly believe that ISU Extension and Outreach is an investment to nurture. I hope you all believe it, too. But it isn’t enough to believe it; we must show it. Continue to do the important work, but also measure and report the impact. Report the return on investment of public funds. ROI is a major theme from President Wintersteen. She understands ISU Extension and Outreach and knows we have an important role in delivering that ROI.

I am honored and humbled to serve as Vice President for Extension and Outreach. This is an opportunity to give back to Iowa State, ISU Extension and Outreach, and all of you who have helped make me successful. Over the past year I have learned a lot more about our organization, our programs and our people. Thanks to you and our land-grant heritage, we do amazing things for Iowans. The more I learn, the prouder I am of our organization. We have established a great track record over more than 100 years of extension work in Iowa, and we get to shape what our future will be.

I believe our future starts with a solid foundation on which to build – a foundation anchored in the land-grant mission of accessibility and research-based information, and made of respect and trust earned by generations of our extension predecessors who educated, informed and served Iowans. They have turned over to us this structure we call home. It is now our turn to build on the next story of ISU Extension and Outreach. So let’s get started – by listening to each other, our partners and stakeholders.

  • I have asked Chad Higgins to lead a comprehensive needs assessment this year and the planning process is underway.
  • As part of this process, I will be holding listening sessions around the state to hear from staff, partners and stakeholders. Watch for more details about the dates and locations.
  • We are also listening internally. Sometimes we have trouble communicating within our complex family. The challenge cuts across all our programs, but is more apparent in 4-H where state and county programming are most closely tied. I have already appointed a task force, chaired by Deb Sellers and Ross Wilburn, to learn about our internal communication or lack thereof. They will gather information from across the system, assess what they learn and share recommendations with the Leadership Team. Please contribute to this process when asked.
  • Finally, I would like to hear from you. I plan to attend many of the 51 centennials this year, county fairs and your events. I will get to as many as I can when invited. Also, my office, phone and email are easy to find, so don’t hesitate to reach out and bend my ear.
  • As I mentioned during my interview, I think the 2009 reorganization broke our system. We are nine years into the reorganization and I believe that we have learned some things that we can improve upon. I will start a discussion for options to repair our system. I will work with the Iowa Extension Council Association and our staff to begin the discussion and work toward solutions in an open and transparent process.

I look forward to building a strong Iowa together. Please continue the great work that you do every day. Continue to go the extra mile to help Iowans help themselves. Continue to make us all proud to be Iowa State University Extension and Outreach!

A couple more notes

  • Here’s something else we can be proud of. Instead of a speaking fee, our Annual Conference keynote speaker Michelle Book asked for a donation to the Food Bank of Iowa. Extension and Outreach donated $5,000. Every $1 provides four meals to Iowa children, families and older adults in need, which means we contributed 20,000 more meals to fight hunger in Iowa.
  • Take another look at our extension job shadowing video. It’s a good reminder that when we take the time to get to know each other, we gain insights and an appreciation for the variety of work we do. We can find new ways to work together for greater impact as we engage Iowans.

— 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.