December 2019 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Human Sciences and Agriculture and Natural Resources

Master Gardener volunteers with ISU Extension and Outreach continue to improve the lives and communities of Iowa, using more than $50,000 awarded this year in Growing Together Iowa Mini-Grants and growing approximately 115,000 pounds of produce to be donated to local food pantries. Twenty-two counties in Iowa received the grants, which are funded by federal SNAP-Education and are focused on increasing food security and promoting healthy food access.

  • The produce that was harvested equals nearly 345,000 servings of fruits and vegetables. This is the largest donation to date, which is particularly impressive given the weather challenges this growing season.
  • 100,579 Iowans visited pantries where Growing Together Iowa produce was donated.
  • 277 Master Gardener volunteers contributed to Growing Together Iowa this growing season.
  • 662 community volunteers who are not Master Gardeners contributed to Growing Together Iowa projects.
  • 1,012 people with low income engaged in food gardening education through Growing Together Iowa this year.
  • 100% of counties with mini grants agree that the project built their community’s capacity to work on issues of healthy food access.

More from Human Sciences

On Nov. 2, Sara Sprouse and Kelsey Salow, human sciences specialists in nutrition and wellness, hosted a booth at the Iowa Nurses Association – Southeast Region’s Health Fair in Iowa City. Sara Sprouse also delivered a “Spend Smart. Eat Smart.” presentation to 28 attendees during the health fair, which included resources to be used personally or in the clinical work setting. Several individuals downloaded the “Spend Smart. Eat Smart.” app that day. The specialists used their iPads in navigating one-on-one when questions were asked at the booth. They also promoted Words on Wellness and more than 30% of attendees signed up for the monthly newsletter.

Most attendees were faculty and students from the University of Iowa, Mount Mercy University and Kirkwood Community College. Known counties represented were Benton, Linn, Johnson and Clinton. A faculty member indicated that the “Spend Smart. Eat Smart.” resources now will be used during a practicum she teaches, where students work with recently incarcerated individuals on meal planning and other nutrition topics.

More from Agriculture and Natural Resources

ISU Extension and Outreach and Iowa State University’s Research and Demonstration Farms partnered once again this year to host field days across the state this summer. Over 15,000 people attended the field days, where they had an opportunity to hear from ISU Extension and Outreach faculty and specialists regarding topics tailored to the current conditions and issues facing farmers in their areas.

4-H Youth Development

  • Eighty-three middle school students from 14 schools in 8 counties participated in Youth Voice in Action, a regional youth summit hosted by Regions 4 and 9 in northeast Iowa this fall. This summit provided youth the opportunity to gain skills in communication and leadership so that they feel empowered to take action and use their voices to create positive change in their communities. Professionals in the areas of STEM, healthy living, leadership and civic engagement, and communication and the arts presented breakout sessions where youth learned about their importance within communities as well as possible careers and education. Youth learned about their leadership style through an interactive workshop and created an action plan with their school team with the guidance of their team’s adult mentor. The summit wrapped up with a large group service project in which youth decorated 450 kindness rocks to place around their communities.
  • Members of the newly formed Drake University Collegiate 4-H club met up with some members of the ISU Collegiate 4-H club at Clover Woods in late October to learn about their clubs. Both clubs are examples of student-run organizations on a college campus and both clubs focus on service projects and leadership development. This Collegiate 4-H meet up consisted of networking, creative idea sharing and a service project.
  • Plans are underway to strengthen Iowa 4-H’s partnership with Iowa Public Television. This collaboration will focus on how we can come together to support STEM education in ways that utilize IPTV’s STEM resources.

Community and Economic Development

  • CED provides goal setting and strategic planning services to help local governments and nonprofits address critical issues, identify priorities, and develop action plans to accomplish those priorities. In December, Aimee Viniard-Weideman will facilitate strategic planning for the Keokuk Economic Development Corporation, and she and Scott Timm will facilitate strategic planning for Oneota Co-op in Decorah. Viniard-Weideman and Eric Christianson will facilitate goal setting the Cedar Falls City Council.
  • The Municipal Leadership Academy provides elected municipal officials with a curriculum to assist them in effectively meeting the requirements of their office. The program offers a comprehensive overview of Iowa municipal government and is presented by the Iowa League of Cities and CED’s Office of State and Local Government Programs. During December Sara Shonrock will be conducting MLA training in Griswold, Algona and Van Meter.
  • During December CED specialists Lynn Adams and Jon Wolseth will be presenting the CED place-based leadership program, Leading Communities, in Cass County (Atlantic). CED specialist Jane Goeken will be in Orange City to speak to Sioux, O’Brien, Lyon and Osceola county extension council members about the program. CED specialists Aimee Viniard-Weideman and Himar Hernández will be teaching Leading Communities in Mount Pleasant, and CED specialists Jane Goeken and Jill Sokness will facilitate the program in Sac City. Himar Hernández and Shelley Oltmans will teach the program in Centerville. Scott Timm will teach the program in Cresco and with Aimee Viniard-Weideman in Protivin.

eAccessibility update

John Lawrence’s message from Nov. 25, 2019

Iowa State University graduate Lauren Berglund, who is legally blind, feels strongly about the importance of accessibility to electronic materials. She’s encouraged that we are working to make our extension educational materials accessible. You can watch the video of Lauren’s story – with closed captioning so you can read what is being said, as well as with audio descriptions so you can hear what is being seen. This is another aspect of accessibility for all, and our eAccessibility team offers this update on our eAccessibility Initiative. Did you know?

  • ISU Extension and Outreach is part of the eAccessibility Advisory Council of Iowa, which began meeting in May. The council also includes representatives from Drake University, Iowa Workforce Development, Easter Seals, Iowa Department for the Blind, and Tech4Impact, a private sector company.
  • We have a new partnership with the Iowa Department for the Blind. A department employee who uses a screen reader will be helping to inform and guide our eAccessibility actions for creating and revising documents.
  • Our eAccessiblity team shares best practices with those who work on ISU Extension and Outreach publications. This helps staff move beyond simply passing the accessibility checker to providing a good reading experience.
  • Four members of the team – Kristi Elmore, Robin Ertz, Chris Johnsen and Rachel Tendall – have dedicated over 3,000 hours to the initiative since December 2017.
  • Check MyExtension for more eAccessibility information.

In addition, five team members just returned from attending and presenting at Accessing Higher Ground 2019 in Denver, Colorado, which focuses on accessibility in higher education. As a result, the curriculum the team has put together has now been shared with 31 institutions. Our work continues to lead the way in document accessibility across the nation, and our team now has many new tools and techniques to aid in accessibility.

ANR director search

On Nov. 21 CALS Dean Daniel Robison and I announced that the candidate will interview for the position of Associate Dean for Extension and Outreach and ISU Extension Program Director for Agriculture and Natural Resources on Dec. 3. You can learn about the candidate’s strategy for leading our ANR program during a public seminar at 1 p.m. in 0013 Curtiss Hall. Those interested may attend in person or access the seminar via Zoom, at The seminar will be recorded and available for viewing beginning Dec. 4. The question and answer session will not be recorded.

More notes

  • You can begin nominating your colleagues for ISU Extension and Outreach awards. Nominations are due Feb.10 by 12 p.m. and nomination guidelines for each award are available online.
  • On Nov. 22 we announced Structured for Success: The Plan for Our Future. Please review the video message and document with details (These materials are archived on the Structured for Success feedback webpage and in MyExtension.) You’ll find specific information about timelines, the role of the regional director, expectations for county staff, cost estimates, and the added value for counties. Also FYI: In our online survey, which concluded Nov. 8, we asked county councils and staff to provide a nonbinding, general indication of which model they were interested in. Here are the results from that question.

On behalf of council: 36 responses; 13 for Model 1, 1 for Model 2, 22 for Model 3
Individual council member: 129 responses; 37 for Model 1, 11 for Model 2, 78 for Model 3
On behalf of county office staff: 33 responses; 12 for Model 1, 3 for Model 2, 18 for Model 3
Individual county staff member: 168 responses; 59 for Model 1, 13 for Model 2, 93 for Model 3
The number of respondents may not equal the votes for models, as some responded to the insurance question without indicating a preference for a model.

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

Social media policy and best practices

John Lawrence’s message from Nov. 18, 2019

I changed my personal Twitter username a few weeks back. Now you can follow me at @John_D_Lawrence. My old username had included ISU, which I discovered was violating Iowa State policy. (And this was only one of the ways I had been breaking the rules!)

Over the past year, Iowa State’s Office of Internal Audit reviewed ISU Extension and Outreach operations in several areas, including information technology processes and social media protocols. The auditors recommended we set social media policy and best practices related to personal use. The leadership team followed the auditors’ advice and developed a policy and best practices with one goal in mind: to protect the integrity and reputation of our organization and programs.

Did you know? Our new Social Media Personal Usage Policy covers prohibited uses and political activity. Our new Social Media Personal Usage Best Practices includes the purpose, scope and definitions, and a list of best practices for tagging and posting information. (You can download the documents from the links in this message. Staff and faculty also can log in to MyExtension for access to the documents.) I encourage you to read both documents. I also want to call your attention to a few key points.

  • Your social media accounts are personal accounts. This is true for me and for every one of you. If you are posting extension-related content to your personal account, then follow a best practice and add this disclaimer in your bio: The views expressed on this site are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iowa State University (or Iowa 4-H).
  • Don’t use ISU Extension and Outreach or Iowa State University’s trademarks, logos, symbols, names, graphics or service marks in your account name or avatar. This includes using Iowa State University, ISU, Cy, Cyclones, 4-H, the clover or any of the institution’s trademarks.
  • Don’t use your official Iowa State email address for social media purposes unless specifically authorized to do so by ISU Extension and Outreach.
  • The best social media best practice for all of us to follow is to think before we post.

It’s likely our best practices will continue to evolve, just like social media evolves. We will revisit these best practices often and provide updates as needed.

Goodbye … and welcome

In October, we said goodbye to the following individuals who left ISU Extension and Outreach:

  • Alexandria Merk, Boone County executive director.
  • Erin Pedersen, Humboldt County office manager.
  • Courtni Siela, Benton County youth coordinator.

We welcome the following new staff:

  • Lexy Davies, Page County youth coordinator.
  • Evelyn Ganfield, Adams County youth coordinator.
  • Brigham Hoegh, Cass County wellness coordinator.
  • Stephanie Kosman-Baker, Monroe County, AmeriCorps.
  • Denise Lupkes, Lyon County office assistant.
  • Jamie Neff, Palo Alto County program coordinator.
  • Eva Woods, Montgomery County youth coordinator.
  • Alona Zermeno-Lechleidner, Woodbury County, AmeriCorps.
  • Dawn Krause, accountant II, Community and Economic Development.
  • Jonni Lenzini, program assistant II, Conference Planning and Management.
  • Malissa Tritsch, 4-H office manager, 4-H Youth Development.

More notes

  • Resources from County Services are available to councils as they make decisions regarding Structured for Success. County Paid Staffing Structure (June 2018) lists duties, responsibilities, and recommended qualifications for certain job categories. County MOU Shared Services Support has links to FY2020 maximum tax computations and FY2013-2019 annual reports of expenses for centralized services.
  • All extension staff are invited to participate in Epsilon Sigma Phi Alpha Mu Chapter’s book study this winter on “Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight,” by Des Moines psychiatrist Dr. Loren OIson. The book was selected as a way to build inclusivity by learning more about the needs of the LGBTQ community. The cost for extension staff who aren’t ESP members is $20, which includes the book. Participants are encouraged to form small groups to discuss the book during January-March. The study will culminate with a face-to-face discussion with the author on March 31. (This is the day before Annual Conference.) To participate, register online by Dec. 18. For more information, contact Barbara Dunn Swanson, ESP Alpha Mu Chapter president,

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

Alternative agriculture in Iowa

John Lawrence’s message from Nov. 11, 2019

People who think Iowa agriculture is all about commodity corn and soybeans might be surprised that organic producers and experts from across the country will be getting together Nov. 24-25 for the annual Iowa Organic Conference. Iowa State partners with the University of Iowa in this joint effort, which is the largest university-sponsored organic conference in the country. Organic production is one part of our broader educational efforts for alternative agriculture in Iowa. Did you know?

  • Kathleen Delate is ISU Extension and Outreach’s point person for the conference and leads research to improve organic farming systems. Current Organic Agriculture Program projects include examining crop rotations, organic no-till, varietal response, and integrated crop-livestock systems to improve soil quality and economic returns.
  • Ajay Nair leads the Sustainable Vegetable Production Lab, which focuses on developing strategies that enhance crop production, soil health and profitability in commercial vegetable cropping systems. The lab conducts experiments on cover crops, conservation tillage, cultivar trials, integrated pest management, soil fertility, weed management, and high tunnel vegetable crop production.
  • Farm, Food and Enterprise Development efforts include small farm profitability, agritourism, community food systems planning and development, farm to school and farm to early childhood education, and business feasibility and financing. Craig Chase leads the program team that provides technical assistance and resources for farmers, food systems advocates and business owners.

These programs and additional alternative agriculture efforts aim to help producers, processers, marketers, business owners and others become more diversified, profitable and environmentally responsible.

Internal Communications: Connecting with the Leadership Team

One of the recommendations from the Internal Communications Task Force was to implement listening sessions or virtual “office hours” with the leadership team. This recommendation relates to developing two-way, field to campus feedback for improved relationships and effectiveness. We held five virtual listening sessions in October about Structured for Success. We are evaluating the technical platforms for virtual office hours in the future. A separate step that we will begin in January is a brief monthly digital update from the leadership team about program and professional development opportunities. Watch for details in the coming weeks.

One more note: Please review the November program update from the leadership team for current examples of what is happening across our programs.

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

November 2019 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Community and Economic Development

  • Iowa’s Living Roadways 23rd annual celebration is Nov. 7. Extension CED is the administering unit for the ILR Community Visioning Program. During the event, the 2019 visioning communities will showcase the design projects proposed through the process. In addition, representatives from the 2020 visioning communities will be in attendance to kick off the 2020 program.
  • CED is a sponsor of the Western Iowa Advantage Housing Summit to be held in Carroll on Nov. 13. CED specialist Abbie Gaffey will be speaking; coordinating all the speakers; preparing the agenda, program, marketing materials and press releases; and running all the committee meetings. Jon Wolseth will present the Rural Housing Readiness Assessment. CED staff Julie Robison, Sara Shonrock and Gary Taylor also will be attending the summit.
  • CED provides goal setting and strategic planning services to help local governments and nonprofits address critical issues, identify priorities and develop action plans to accomplish those priorities. In November CED specialists are facilitating strategic planning for the Keokuk Economic Development Corporation and for 4-H in Ames, and goal setting for the Cedar Falls City Council.
  • In November, CED specialists Lynn Adams and Jon Wolseth will be presenting the place-based leadership program, Leading Communities, in Cass County (Atlantic). Brian Perry will be meeting with the Chickasaw County Leading Communities planning team. Aimee Viniard-Weideman and Himar Hernández will be teaching Leading Communities in Mount Pleasant. CED specialists also will be teaching the program in Howard County (Lime Springs) and Sac City.

Human Sciences

  • Dawn Dunnegan, family life, and Mary Weinand, family finance, delivered various educational offerings at Halcyon House. The wellness director has shared the successes with other WesleyLife colleagues and informed the board of directors that the partnership is one of their most successful. Information about the Powerful Tools for Caregivers series was then shared with community wellness/lifestyle directors during a regularly scheduled meeting. As a result, this educational offering will be offered in partnership with eight communities across the state in 2020.
  • Jill Weber, nutrition and wellness, and Fayette County office manager Deb Kahler and youth coordinator Michele Kelly partnered with Gundersen Palmer Lutheran Community Health to launch the Gundersen Palmer Community Teaching Kitchen in January 2019. An exciting opportunity was the ability to engage people across the geographic area. Educational offerings included Healthy and Homemade, Make Ahead Meals, Growing Herbs, Cooking with Herbs, Preservation 101, Stay Independent, All about Apples, and others. Anticipated reach in the first year alone is more than 400 individuals.
  • ¡Salir Adelante! Caminos a Nuestro Futuro (Pathways for our Future) is a six-session series designed to affirm the strengths of Latinx youth and families to pave the way to post-secondary success. The curriculum assists youth and their families in gaining information and access to resources, developing skills and exploring strategies to create paths for successful futures. The curriculum is currently in the pilot stage at three locations: two in Polk County and one in Muscatine. Feedback from the pilots will inform changes to the draft curriculum with the goal of rolling out the curriculum next fall. The team working on this series includes Kim Greder, Judy Levings, Maria Alcivar, Brenda Allen, Rosa Gonzales, Michelle Schott, Katie Bruna, Norma Dorado-Robles and Aracely Martinez.

4-H Youth Development

  • The 2019 Iowa State Fair 4-H livestock shows set records. More than 4,200 animals were exhibited, with 1,900 4-H exhibitors. Multiple show records were broken in the following species: dairy goats – 37 exhibitors, 115 head (previously, 30 exhibitors, 72 head); meat goats – 146 exhibitors, 288 head (previously, 129 exhibitors, 264 head); and swine – 440 exhibitors, 1,151 head (previously, 422 exhibitors, 1,101 head).
  • Youth across the state have been participating in 4-H National Youth Science Day. Emily Damro shared this example from Black Hawk County. Five 4-H members and two potential future members participated in the NYSD Game Changers Workshop at the Black Hawk County Extension Office Oct. 1. The youth experienced “Hack Your Harvest” and “Pitch Your Passion,” working on challenges of writing efficient programming code for agriculture, as well as developing animation for something they were passionate about. The NYSD kit that was used for this program opportunity was one of 35 donated by the Donaldson Foundation. The remaining 34 kits were distributed through county 4-H staff efforts to Waterloo Schools, La Porte City Elementary, Hudson Elementary, Dunkerton Elementary, four Boys and Girls Club of the Cedar Valley locations, and several home school connections.
  • Sixty-eight schools have enrolled in SWITCH! School core team staff and extension partners gathered for a conference Oct. 30-31 in Ames to learn how to implement SWITCH and take new skills to improve wellness in their districts. Youth are also invited and will be trained to be 4-H SWITCH Ambassadors.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • The Integrated Crop Management Conference will be held Dec. 4-5 in Ames, helping farmers prepare for 2020 and beyond by providing information on reducing risk and managing returns. The conference will feature 39 workshops, along with additional presentations. Registration can be completed online, and pre-registration is required.
  • The 2020 Garden Calendar is available through the ISU Extension Store. Developed by Richard Jauron, horticulture specialist, the calendar showcases the beauty of butterflies as they float almost musically through the air. The calendar also provides space to record the progress of a garden, along with monthly tips that provide timely information for fruits and vegetables, lawn care, trees, shrubs and much more.
  • Farmers and landowners who want to increase pollinator habitat while also improving water quality should consider the benefits of saturated riparian buffers enhanced with native wildflowers. Establishing pollinator habitat within riparian zones, where the agricultural value is lower and where the conservation and wildlife benefits are likely high, can be a win-win. “Establishing and Managing Pollinator Habitat on Saturated Riparian Buffers” is now available through the ISU Extension Store. The publication also outlines anticipated costs for establishing pollinator habitat over a buffer.

Produce with a Purpose

John Lawrence’s message from Nov. 4, 2019

Wapello County believes in Produce with a Purpose. The extension council and county staff support this project that focuses on increasing the number of fruit and vegetable producers in a six-county region, increasing the number of consumers who purchase local foods in Wapello County, and providing high quality, relevant educational opportunities to producers and consumers. Did you know?

  • Produce with a Purpose works like a CSA – community supported agriculture. Participating consumers pick up their box of locally grown produce twice a month either at the ISU Extension and Outreach Wapello County office or at 13 worksites in the area.
  • The nonprofit sources local food from producers in Mahaska, Keokuk, Wapello, Jefferson, Davis and Van Buren counties. For $15 per box, consumers get to enjoy a variety of produce throughout the season as they support multiple farming families.
  • The produce arrives at the Wapello County office and is stored in commercial refrigerators. Volunteers and employees pack food boxes on delivery days, and boxes are transported in coolers with ice packs to maintain appropriate temperatures, as needed. Each delivery site has a coordinator and a designated spot for deliveries.
  • Newsletters and publications are provided with each delivery, with information about local producers, farmers markets, local food events, produce selection and purchasing tips, and recipes that highlight locally available items.
  • Producers are surveyed and educational programs are scheduled to meet their needs. This year producers could attend “Are You Ready for FSMA Compliance?” and a “Market Ready” workshop.

Produce with a Purpose makes it easier for consumers to purchase local produce, especially in areas of Wapello County that have been identified as food deserts. The number of boxes ordered has increased each year – from 52 in 2017 to 121 in 2019. Oct. 29 and 30 were the final pickup dates for this year. For more information, contact Hilary Lanman, Produce with a Purpose coordinator,

More notes

  • Reminder: County staff and council members are invited and encouraged to complete the Structured for Success online survey. We want to better understand county extension councils’ interest in Models 1, 2, or 3 and county staff interest in ISU medical and/or dental benefits. (If you choose, you may read this review copy of the survey before completing the survey online.) Please complete the survey by 5 p.m., Friday, Nov. 8.
  • We’ve provided information about ISU insurance plans being offered to county paid staff in this new Structured for Success common themes document. It also will be available on the Structured for Success feedback page and in MyExtension.
  • Congratulations to Angela Shaw, associate professor and food safety specialist, and Cynthia Fletcher, professor and resource management extension state specialist, who will be featured on the 2020 Women Impacting ISU calendar. They were nominated and selected because of their outstanding accomplishments and positive impact at Iowa State. The Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics will include the names of all 12 women selected for the calendar in the center’s Nov. 12 Voices newsletter. They will be recognized at a reception Jan. 15, at 3:30 p.m. in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union.
  • Over the past three years the State Historical Society of Iowa partnered with ISU Extension and Outreach and local organizations as the Iowa History 101 Mobile Museum shared the story of Iowa across the state. During a brief ceremony in Osceola on Oct. 31, the museum received its final sticker – for Clarke County – ending its tour of all 99 counties. In March the historical society will announce plans for the museum’s next tour, partnering with educational institutions. Our Clover Kids network will work with the museum on curriculum that satisfies education standards. Nicole Hanson and Cayla Taylor are leading the effort for 4-H Youth Development.

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

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