February 2021 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Community and Economic Development

  • A new, blended version of the Municipal Professionals Institute is launching in 2021, consisting of winter (February) and fall virtual sessions and a summer, in-person workshop in Ames. The virtual sessions will be held in a live and interactive format. Courses will not be recorded, and participants will be required to be online and interacting as a part of the certification process.
  • In cooperation with the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s Community Development Block Grant technical assistance fund, CED specialists will be conducting virtual Rural Housing Readiness Assessment workshops in February for Mapleton, Keokuk, Harrison County, and Estherville, and with Ohio State University for Noble County, Ohio.
  • The township clerk and township trustees are the locally elected officials who are responsible for seeing that services are delivered effectively and economically. Yet many trustees and clerks assume their jobs with little or no training and experience. CED’s Office of State and Local Government Programs offers township trustee and clerk training upon request. CED specialists will be conducting the training virtually for a statewide audience on February 23 and 25.

Human Sciences and Agriculture and Natural Resources

Growing Together Iowa mini-grants have been awarded to 32 projects for 2021. The Growing Together Iowa 2020 data collection has been completed and analysis is underway. Here are some highlights:

  • Despite the pandemic, drought, and derecho, Growing Together Iowa projects donated more than 81,328 pounds of fruits and vegetables to Iowa’s food pantries this growing season. This equates to 243,984 servings.
  • 69,386 Iowans visited pantries where Growing Together Iowa produce was available.
  • 239 Master Gardener volunteers contributed to Growing Together Iowa this growing season.
  • 430 community volunteers who are not Master Gardeners contributed to Growing Together Iowa projects.
  • 1,016 people with low income engaged in food gardening education through Growing Together Iowa this year.

More Human Sciences

  • A new manager at a casino requested general food safety training for all food and beverage staff. Human Sciences offered two ServSafe Food Handlers courses and reached 50 casino employees. The staff applied concepts learned and made changes to reduce the risk of foodborne illness for casino guests. Six weeks after the class, managers reported practices including increased incidence of staff taking food temperatures, increased cleaning and sanitizing of thermometers after use, and increased handwashing.
  • In January, approximately 30 county partners and all human sciences specialists in family life participated in training for new Science of Parenting workshops. The workshops are a response to the Structured for Success initiative and feature team delivery. Specialists in family life deliver the first session, Understanding Research and Reality, a foundational class. County partners teach a second session, Positive Discipline. While this is the preferred format, either workshop can be delivered on its own. They also may be delivered virtually. The plan is to add additional workshops for county partners to deliver in the months ahead.

More Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • While many specialty crop growers saw increased demand in 2020, they also faced significant changes to their marketing plans and customer base. To help growers prepare for the year ahead, the Small Farm Sustainability program with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is offering a Specialty Crops Risk Management Webinar Series that runs through March 10. The goal is to help growers mitigate risk, so they can prevent loss and prepare for changes in the marketplace.
  • Pork producers can learn more about building ventilation from the inside out through a series of workshops in mid-March. The Iowa Pork Industry Center is joining ISU Extension and Outreach in offering Managing Your Unseen Employee: The Ventilation System at five different Iowa locations at no cost. The daylong program provides a two-pronged approach to understanding issues and consequences of decisions by combining classroom instruction with hands-on trials and application of knowledge gained in a real-world setting.

4-H Youth Development

  • STEM Sparks is a new program designed to “spark” youth interest in STEM while also showcasing STEM professions for youth in grades 4-12. Each STEM Sparks lesson includes a hands-on STEM activity that uses the experiential learning model, a short overview of STEM content, a defined STEM vocabulary, and an introduction to a STEM profession. These STEM Sparks lessons will be low cost and delivered in a small kit that contains a one-page lesson guide and any needed materials for individual youth or small teams of youth. This program is being designed by the Iowa 4-H STEM Team and is scheduled to be released in April.
  • State 4-H Council is planning the 2021 Iowa 4-H Youth Conference, “Quest to be your best,” taking place June 29-July 1 in Ames at the ISU campus. This event will take place face to face and follow COVID regulations with limited participant numbers and will not include overnights. We hope to maintain some of the key components and goals of the traditional youth conference through our alternative plan, such as networking with youth from across the state, experiencing a college campus, and ensuring leadership and service-learning components are a part of the event. State 4-H Council members are in the planning process and registration will open in March.
  • SWITCH Resource Kits were mailed out to 37 SWITCH schools in early January. SWITCH Facebook LIVE events are reaching families in a virtual setting once per month. 4-H staff and campus partners have developed several new resources that are available on the SWITCH website for schools and 4-H staff to access virtually.

January 2021 goodbye … and welcome

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

  • Megan Anderson, Guthrie County office assistant
  • Maria Valdez, Wapello County program assistant
  • Denise Wolf, Adams County office assistant
  • Linda Adkins, West Pottawattamie County program assistant
  • Michaela O’Grady, Union County youth coordinator
  • Steven Johnson, farm management specialist, Agriculture and Natural Resources (retirement)
  • Bobbi Minard, program specialist I, 4-H Americorps
  • Casey Codner, education extension specialist I (family finance), Human Sciences
  • John Sawyer, professor of agronomy and state soil fertility specialist, Agriculture and Natural Resources (retirement)

We welcome the following new staff:

  • Mackenzie Keller, Clarke County office assistant
  • Stefanie Daniels, Story County specialist
  • Jackie Cooper, Winneshiek County office assistant
  • Jodi Hitz, Union County program coordinator
  • April Kauffman, Louisa County program assistant
  • Adelyda Ebersole, Union County youth coordinator
  • Kimberly Cavalier, education extension specialist I (family life), Human Sciences
  • Cathy Drost, education extension specialist I (nutrition and wellness), Human Sciences

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