Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team
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.