Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team
Community and Economic Development
- Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Community Visioning Program canceled the focus-group workshops in five communities. In May, program meetings resumed in a virtual format, and program staff are currently working to develop meeting and design workshop protocols that follow ISU’s guidelines for reopening. In June, the following virtual meetings will take place: review of assessment meetings in Mingo, Fairfax, and Polk City; goal setting meetings in Elkader and Wellsburg; and a transportation meeting in Fairfax.
- CED specialists have developed a way to deliver the Rural Housing Readiness Assessment program virtually, and Abbie Gaffey, Eric Christianson, Omar Padilla, and Jon Wolseth will conduct Workshop 1 for Ida Grove in June.
- During June CED and FFED specialists will be interviewing food businesses in central and eastern Iowa for the AgMRC research project, Food Processing and Independent Grocers: Assessing Current Supply Chain.
- EFNEP and SNAP-Ed staff have partnered with three Iowa food banks to distribute educational information and resources with food boxes. The Food Bank for Siouxland (Northwest Iowa), Food Bank for the Heartland (Southwest Iowa), and Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (Eastern Iowa) have all distributed recipes, “Spend Smart. Eat Smart.” resources, and more. (The Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website has had 27,000 users – an increase of 9% – since March 15.) DMARC in Des Moines has distributed promotional materials for virtual lessons. Some have also distributed the new Finding Answers Now publication and promotional pieces for the Family Finance consultation opportunities. In addition to these food bank partnerships, some local pantry partnerships are happening as well.
- “Don’t Let Surprises Spoil Your Retirement” is currently available for viewing in Learn@ISU. During this Council Seminar Series Event in May, Barb Wollan, human sciences specialist in family finance, discussed costs employees will experience in retirement related to issues their employer takes care of while they are working, what current low inflation rates may mean, and more.
- During May, the ISU Well-being team hosted a Well-being Wednesday Conversation. Each week information is shared on staying well and connecting with other ISU employees during these challenging times. Cindy Fletcher and Suzanne Bartholomae, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, presented “Finding Resources to Navigate Your Personal Finances” on May 13.
- Parenting during COVID-19, a valuable new webinar series designed especially for parents, was available for the ISU community during May. During the May 8 webinar, the Science of Parenting team of Lori Hayungs, Mackenzie Johnson, Mackenzie DeJong, and Barb Dunn Swanson presented the “The Science of Parenting: Balancing Research and Reality.” The team shared how current research on parenting – plus a dose of reality – can help parents find their own parenting success. They also talked about resources available through the Science of Parenting website and using the “Stop. Breathe. Talk.” technique in challenging moments.
4-H Youth Development
- Iowa 4-H Youth Development has launched Gardening to Give — a hands-on educational gardening program designed for all ages and abilities. Gardening to Give is a six-month, immersive learning experience in gardening with educational resources shared weekly with registered participants. Participants received the first weekly lesson on May 15 and will receive a new lesson each Friday for 25 weeks. Current registrations include 97 households with 237 individuals, 49 counties with registrants, and one family from Minnesota. Registrations can continue throughout the entire 25-week program. Fun challenges, volunteer opportunities, and tracking efforts also will be included.
- The Iowa 4-H At Home Learning webpage has received approximately 13,000 views since it launched in March. The page provides online educational opportunities for youth created by Iowa 4-H professionals.
- 4-H State Council member registration has moved to 4HOnline beginning with the incoming 2020-21 group. This will help to streamline and simplify the registration process for members and their parent/guardian by eliminating mailing, papers, scanning, storing file folders, etc. The advisory team will host a Zoom onboarding session with the new State Council in June.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Despite another difficult year in agriculture, cash rental rates still posted an increase of about 1.4%, according to the Cash Rental Rates for Iowa 2020 Survey. Rates across the state averaged $222 per acre, compared to $219 per acre in 2019. Survey author Alejandro Plastina cautioned that most cash rents for 2020 were determined by September 2019, and that the current challenges of 2020 such as economic losses from coronavirus, delays in the Phase 1 trade deal with China, and decreased demand for biofuels were not included in the survey.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on businesses from large to small, and there are many questions surrounding what business owners and entrepreneurs should do as the state begins to re-open. To help answer some of these questions, a new series of podcasts and webinars called Back to Business Iowa have been created by the Community and Economic Development program and the Farm, Food and Enterprise Development program with ISU Extension and Outreach, in partnership with the Iowa Small Business Development Centers.
- Dairy producers across Iowa have a new way of receiving information, thanks to a podcast launched by dairy specialists with ISU Extension and Outreach. Dairy News and Views began recording in April and features timely topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic and dairy production in general. Podcasts are recorded every two weeks and are available through the Dairy Team website.