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

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.