Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team
Agriculture and Natural Resources
- The COVID 19 pandemic prevented Iowa State University from holding in-person field days at research and demonstration farms during summer 2020. However, the research continued. A series of virtual tours, August 31 through September 4, provided an update on this year’s results.
- Responding to weather: ANR specialists are compiling helpful resources in response to the derecho that moved through the state on August 10. Although this storm came and went within a day, the impact is being felt in the weeks after and will continue into the coming months. New resources continue to be developed and added to the list. In addition, drought is still a major concern for Iowa farmers. ANR specialists are keeping a close eye on the Iowa Drought Monitor and the crops team has compiled resources to help producers make decisions related to drought.
- The Back to Business podcast from Farm, Food and Enterprise Development has been a great success. The podcast launched its first episode in April and continues to provide great information to business owners.
Community and Economic Development
- Master Business Bootcamp helps small business owners to improve their business outcomes through business workshops and one-on-one membership. Participants work on how to increase small business profit margins and sharpen their business practices. CED specialist Kameron Middlebrooks will be facilitating the first half of a virtual bootcamp for small business owners in the Des Moines metro area in September.
- Communities can use the Rural Housing Readiness Assessment to self-assess their housing needs and make decisions for addressing those needs. The assessment checklists aid in the creation of local housing policy that is appropriate for the needs and desires of a community. In September, CED specialists will be conducting RHRA workshops with Manning and Creston.
- The Iowa State University Local Food Leader (LFL) certification program is intended for beginning local food practitioners, although it is open for anyone who is interested in food systems development and collaboration. The program teaches several foundational competencies critical to a successful involvement in community food systems development. The Community Food Systems (CFS) certification is intended for intermediate levels of food system practitioners. It is a process-based certification that increases capacity for food system practitioners to work within community and develop food systems. Courtney Long, Kaley Hohenshell, and Bre Miller will deliver the two programs in September.
- Recent work related to stress and mental health includes the following: David Brown and Anthony Santiago, family life state specialists, taught a free Mental Health First Aid training in Jones County on August 21 for extension staff from surrounding counties as well as community partners. Ten “Stress on the Farm: Strategies that Help” virtual programs are scheduled from August 28 to September 30. Marketing is being done via traditional outlets, Facebook, all agriculture partners, and the Iowa Corn Growers Association. In collaboration with COVID Recovery Iowa, ISU Extension and Outreach is offering “I Worry All the Time: Resources for Life in a Pandemic.” The virtual program will be held on four dates during August and September.
- Iowa Concern Hotline is prepared to help families navigate the complexities of child care. Since mid-August, the staff has been equipped to talk with callers about child care needs, sharing Human Sciences’ new COVID-19 Child Care Considerations publication series, In addition, three family life specialists – Cheryl Clark, Malisa Rader, and Cindy Thompson – are available to take child care related calls. The hotline staff continue to provide 24/7, 365-day access to stress counseling.
- Katie Sorrell has joined the Family Nutrition Program (SNAP-Ed) team. She is an ISU grad and registered dietitian with more than 10 years of experience in SNAP-Ed in Iowa and California. She will coordinate initiatives meant to create more health-promoting policies, systems, and environments for Iowans with low income. She also will coordinate Growing Together Iowa and existing healthy food access work in food pantries, as well as the scale-up of SNAP-Ed work to new sectors and audiences.
- Home visiting will no longer be allowed in SNAP-Ed and EFNEP (Expanding Food and Nutrition Education Program). All participants will be served in a public location. This significant policy change is meant to support a productive and safe teaching environment for staff and participants.
4-H Youth Development
- SWITCH is transitioning to virtual for schools, and resources related to the Do, View, and Chew themes will be shared with schools on the SWITCH dashboard this fall. Module enhancements to SWITCH include new PE warm-ups, social emotional learning skill building, and two new heart health lessons created in partnership with the Iowa Heart Center Foundation. 4-H is exploring ways for 4-H professionals to connect with schools virtually during SWITCH implementation including hosting statewide (or local) brain breaks, taste tests, kick-off events, and family engagement events. School registration for SWITCH opened in late August 24. SWITCH training for 4-H professionals will be held virtually on September 22 and 30. The SWITCH conference will be held virtually on October 22. Virtual “coffee chats” between 4-H staff and the SWITCH schools they support will occur in November.
- The Wildlife Habitat Education Program is a hands-on, 4-H and FFA youth natural resource program dedicated to teaching wildlife and fisheries habitat management to junior and senior level (ages 8-19) youth. This program opportunity is made possible through a partnership with Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension and Outreach and Iowa 4-H. Today’s youth are our future land stewards. Youth in WHEP will have a greater understanding of the value of land and how it can be managed to benefit many wildlife and fish species. When they join the work force, former WHEP participants can apply their WHEP skills and knowledge to create better habitat for wildlife and fish, no matter what professional field they have chosen. Volunteer training for WHEP is scheduled to debut this fall, with a program kick-off this winter.
- The Leadership and Civic Engagement priority team has begun work on a civic engagement program for 7th-12th grade 4-H’ers in partnership with the Secretary of State’s office. The program, which will debut in January 2021, will include teams of five to seven youth from counties and one adult mentor per team. Each month a new civic engagement related topic will be released for all teams to engage in. Each month’s topic will consist of team activities, challenges, quiz questions, educational content, and report back options. Topics will cover voting, taxes, service organizations, local government, public education, and more.