Building a culture of conservation

John Lawrence’s message from Aug. 19, 2019

It started as a simple idea: helping farmers talk to other farmers about protecting Iowa’s soil and water. Fifteen years later, Iowa Learning Farms has built a strong foundation for a culture of conservation. Their multidisciplinary approach to increase adoption of conservation practices has led to greater natural resource protection throughout our state. Did you know?

  • Farmers, researchers and ILF team members work together to identify and implement best management practices that improve water quality and soil health while remaining profitable.
  • Program director Jacqueline Comito says ILF now has 88 farmers located in 51 Iowa counties. Field days have grown from five to 32 annually (with more than 265 field days over 15 years) and have engaged more than 13,621 attendees. In addition, cover crops were planted on more than 880,000 acres in 2018.
  • ILF partners include the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, ISU Extension and Outreach, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service, Iowa Department of Natural Resources (USEPA section 319) and GROWMARK Inc.
  • ILF also reaches out to all Iowans through community outreach, the Conservation Stations and an online and social media presence. The Conservation Stations have been in all 99 counties at least once, for 1,286 events reaching 185,535 people.

Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar on Aug. 21 at noon about how the program has evolved over the past 15 years and what new goals and challenges the future holds. (If you can’t watch it live, you can watch the archive on the ILF website for watching at any time.) You also can learn more from ILF’s 15-year report, “Building a Culture of Conservation – 2004-2019.

Structured for Success: Link for Aug. 20 Webinar

On Aug. 20 at 3 p.m. the Structured for Success Committee will present a draft proposal and models for a renewed partnership between Iowa State University and county extension councils. The URL for the live webinar will be https://connect.extension.iastate.edu/isueo.

Please plan to participate. The committee is sharing this proposed plan to start a discussion and requests your feedback. During the webinar if time allows, the committee will take questions at the end of the presentation. After the webinar, we will send the link to the white paper and executive summary that describe the committee’s process and findings. Answers to frequently asked questions also will be available. The webinar will be archived for later viewing, and this link will be available on Aug. 21.

There will be multiple ways to provide feedback over the next several weeks. Thank you for your assistance in determining an organizational structure that will help us effectively educate and serve Iowans.

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

What works in rural development … and why

John Lawrence’s message from Aug. 12, 2019

When you think of rural America, do you imagine corn and cattle and farmers working the land? Well, that’s one way to look at it. However, for the complete picture you need to think much more broadly. Rural America includes every place that is not urban – from micropolitan areas with up to 50,000 residents, to the smallest, unincorporated towns and open country. This week at Iowa State’s Rural Development Symposium we will explore the challenges facing these places and discuss how to build capacity and create support for rural development efforts. Did you know?

  • The symposium will cover current research, practices and success for economic development and quality of life in rural America. Conference speakers include representatives from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Iowa State, other Midwestern universities and nonprofit organizations.
  • Presentations and panel discussions will cover community well-being, labor markets, business succession and retention, business location and expansion, and rural capital and innovation.
  • Participants will be able to engage with the researchers who study the issues, as well as the people who put the research into practice.

The challenges facing rural America are complex and vary widely from community to community. Community and Economic Development Director Gary Taylor says the symposium is an opportunity to learn what works in rural development and, perhaps more important, learn why it works.

Register to attend an area-wide meeting

Be sure to register online to attend a first-quarter area-wide meeting:

  • Southwest, Aug. 28, Atlantic.
  • Northeast, Aug. 29, Waverly.
  • Central, Aug 29, Nevada.
  • Southeast, Sept. 10, Washington.
  • Northwest, Sept. 20, Spencer.

The overarching theme for the day is rural resiliency. We’ll learn together, talk together and take time for networking. Leadership team members will provide updates, and we’ll also engage in issue-based and program-based discussions. Our goals for these meetings are to improve internal communication and align vision and mission throughout our organization, to enhance interdisciplinary and multi-county programming, and strengthen relationships with our colleagues.

Counties are strongly encouraged to support all their staff attending these meetings. Field specialists who serve counties in more than one area should plan to attend at least one area meeting per quarter, and coordinate with teammates so there is program representation at all area meetings. Campus-based staff and faculty are encouraged to attend at least one area meeting per year.

More notes

  • Tune in on Aug. 20 at 3 p.m. for a live update from the Structured for Success committee. The presentation also will be archived for later viewing. More information will be provided closer to the date. Stay tuned.
  • Take a moment to review the August program update from the leadership team for current examples of what is happening across our programs.
  • Seven years and 100 anniversaries later, we now have celebrated 100 years of organized extension work all across our 99 county campus! The final event was held Saturday in Dallas County. From banquets and award ceremonies to plaque presentations at county fairs and ag shows, these events have brought Iowans together to honor our land-grant mission. Thank you to everyone who helped make these anniversaries true celebrations of the many ways ISU Extension and Outreach focuses on feeding people, keeping them healthy, helping their communities prosper and thrive, and turning the world over to the next generation better than we found it.

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

August 2019 Program Update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Human Sciences

  • Jill Weber, human sciences specialist in nutrition and wellness, has a successful community partnership in West Union (Fayette County). Public Health and Gundersen Palmer Lutheran Hospital worked jointly to create a mobile community teaching kitchen. Funding from 5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count helped to provide eight participant stations and one instructor station stocked with tools and equipment. Jill pilot tested classes from the Healthy and Homemade series and provided feedback on the mobile kitchen as the classes progressed. She worked with Master Gardeners on a May herb class and then it was on to jam and salsa workshops for youth and Food Preservation 101 during the county fair. In the fall, she will use the mobile teaching kitchen for a Stay Independent series in Oelwein. The community partners recognize Jill’s teaching abilities in delivering high quality programs, and she appreciates the opportunity to deliver programs in Fayette County using the new teaching kitchen.
  • Suzanne Bartholomae and the family finance team have created a successful partnership with the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System (IPERS). Including funding, the partnership involves regional delivery of the Creating a Secure Retirement program to IPERS members. During FY20, the team will deliver the program 20 times, including 12 times at the IPERS headquarters in Des Moines by a combination of human sciences specialists in family finance, with Joyce Lash and Barb Wollan co-leading. The summer and autumn regional pilots have been set for Sioux City, Mason City, Cedar Rapids, Ottumwa and Council Bluffs. In the next few months, focus groups will be conducted with IPERS members who attended the program in the past year. Late this year and/or early next year focus groups will be held to explore program opportunities with younger IPERS members.
  • Small Talk: Big Future is featured on the APLU Board on Human Sciences website. This program helps parents from many backgrounds to consistently provide enriching language interactions to their children, thus creating habits that may benefit their children for many years to come.

4-H Youth Development

  • Sara Nelson has been hired as the new 4-H STEM program specialist for the Iowa 4-H Youth Development Program. She will oversee STEM product development and STEM literacy outreach to enhance access to educational learning opportunities for all K-12 youth.
  • In 4-H, parents, extension staff and volunteers communicate and work together to meet each child’s specific needs. Two Washington County youth show what is possible with good communication and understanding prior to the county fair. See the video and news release to learn about Sophie’s and Blake’s stories.
  • 2019 looks to be a record-breaking year for Iowa State Fair 4-H Livestock entries. This year, 8,750 entries have been pre-entered by over 2,300 Iowa 4-H exhibitors. Growth is expected in the individual livestock areas of dairy and meat goat, dog and swine. Pre-entered dairy and meat goat entries have increased by nearly 40 each, dog entries are up 10 and swine numbers are 235 entries higher than previous years.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • The 2018 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll shows Iowa farmers are seeing a steady shift in who is responsible for what happens on the land they farm. The poll showed an increase in farmers who agreed that conservation practices are their responsibility on land they rent as opposed to the land’s owner, although renters were hesitant to invest their own money on structural conservation practices in land they rent. The Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll also examined perceptions of quality life and farm financial well-being, awareness of and participation in watershed management activities, and the use of precision agriculture practices.
  • A tool developed at Iowa State University to help farmers make decisions, including decisions about nitrogen applications, has expanded to cover Illinois and Indiana. The FACTS project was launched in 2015 in Iowa to provide yield and soil nitrogen predictions at a field scale. Weather data from the Iowa Environmental Mesonet, soil information from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and management information from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service and local experts all feed into a single program that quickly analyzes the information to offer meaningful agronomic information.
  • A preventive controls for animal food standardized course to serve employees and managers of facilities that are processing any type of animal food will be held in Ames, Aug. 13-15. The course is offered by the Iowa Grain Quality Initiative and will help facilities comply with new, good manufacturing practices and implement a written animal food safety plan.

Community and Economic Development

  • Steering committees are reviewing preliminary community design concepts and design teams are presenting final concepts to the public in this stage of the 2019 Community Visioning Program. During August, public presentations will be held in Audubon, Coggon, Durant, Walcott and Van Meter. On Aug. 28, the design team will present the feasibility report to the Durant steering committee.
  • Diane Wyngarden will be conducting Professional Guide Assessment and Certification sessions throughout August for the following organizations: the Washington Chamber of Commerce, the Muscatine Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau in Davenport, and the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau in Bettendorf. Diane, along with Himar Hernández, Jane Goeken, Abigail Gaffey, Steve Adams and Victor Oyervides, received a Herb Howell Creative and Innovative Program Grant to develop the curriculum.
  • Susan Erickson and Lisa Bates will be attending the 2019 Iowa Downtown Conference in Dubuque and providing an ISU Extension and Outreach CED presence as an exhibitor. The Downtown Conference is the premier statewide annual conference for professionals and volunteers involved in preservation-based downtown revitalization in Iowa and neighboring states.

Pitching Iowa State at State Fair

John Lawrence’s message from Aug. 5, 2019

Can you make your pitch for Iowa State entrepreneurship and innovation in five minutes or less? Twenty-plus extension staff, clients, 4-H members and Rising Star Interns are betting they can, as they look forward to influencing fair visitors and winning prize money at the Iowa State Fair. They, along with other ISU students, alumni and partners, will be demonstrating the return on investment that our university delivers to Iowans and our state. Did you know?

  • Iowa State “pitchers” will be pitching their projects at the Iowa State exhibit in the Varied Industries building throughout the fair. ISU Extension and Outreach will be pitching on Aug. 11-12. Our folks will be battling head to head, with two individuals or teams facing off each hour. They simply will make their pitch; no PowerPoint presentations allowed – though sharing a prototype, drawing, handout or product will be accepted.
  • After our pairs of people make their pitches, fair visitors will vote. They will be given soybeans (one fairgoer, one soybean, one vote) that they can place in the jar of their preferred pitcher. Stop by and support your colleagues by listening to their pitches and casting your vote.
  • The winner from each pitch pairing throughout the fair will compete in the semi-finals Aug. 16-17. The semis will bring more head-to-head pitching, this time to invited judges who will grade participants based on their project’s content and business viability. Finalists will be chosen, and they will pitch to a panel of judges, who will determine category winners and “best of show.” President Wintersteen and Provost Wickert will present the awards Aug. 18 at 1 p.m.

Our ISU Extension and Outreach pitching crew represents 4-H, Human Sciences, Community and Economic Development, and Agriculture and Natural Resources. Whether or not they receive an award, their projects are great examples of civic innovation and youth development efforts that build a strong Iowa.

Internal Communications: VP website and suggestion box

Several of the Internal Communications Task Force’s recommendations were related to developing methods for two-way, field-to-campus feedback to improve our relationships and effectiveness. As a result, we’re implementing a new website for providing information and a new means for sharing ideas:

  • The Office of the Vice President website is live, at https://www.extension.iastate.edu/vp/. (You can bookmark the VP homepage for future reference; or, from the ISU Extension and Outreach homepage go to the About Us tab and click on “Office of the Vice President.”) On this new website you’ll find links to special initiatives, area-wide meeting information, my weekly “Did You Know” messages, other updates from my office, our strategic plan and other information about our organization.
  • One prominent feature on the page is our Share with Us virtual suggestion box. We value your thoughts and ideas and encourage you to share your questions, comments and concerns at any time. About every two weeks, I will review these comments with the leadership team and provide responses. Occasionally we will ask for input on specific proposals and upcoming decisions. Your feedback always will be anonymous and confidential.

We are still working through options to update MyExtension to better serve our staff and facilitate sharing information internally.

One more note: Our ISU Extension and Outreach buckets will be back at the Iowa State Fair this year with a “to do” bucket list for fair visitors. Our red, five-gallon buckets, as well as bucket-themed photo frames, will be placed at extension venues around the fairgrounds, including Grandfather’s Barn and the 4-H Exhibits Building.

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

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