Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team
- Specialists in family finance continue to support the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. During the 2019 filing season they trained 56 volunteers who served 1,243 Iowa families including older adults, people with low to moderate income, or people who have a disability. These families claimed $1,031,472 in Earned Income Tax Credit on returns filed. More than 2,000 volunteer hours were spent in training, studying, and testing; tax preparation; scheduling and site coordination; program promotion including developing and distributing marketing and mailings; and commute time.
- Specialists in family life have begun presenting Healthy Relationship and Marital Education Training virtually. Evaluations from a February class speak to the effectiveness of the training: 95% of participants understand how cultivating individual wellness and health supports the health of the couple relationship; 90% of participants understand how couples can foster a sense of couple identity; 100% of participants reported as a result of the course they are confident helping individuals and couples to support healthy living choices and become better connected to support systems.
- Healthy food access specialists promoted and facilitated the distribution of USDA Farm to Family boxes to families in nine rural counties. More than 5,300 boxes that included meat, dairy, and fresh produce were distributed. The specialists also established a coalition working toward improving healthy food access in the Council Bluffs area. They coached food pantries through a Nutrition Environment Food Pantry Assessment Tool process and helped them develop action plans to make healthy choices easier for pantry clients.
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. Registered participants receive educational resources monthly during this eight-month, immersive learning experience. In 2020, the program’s first year, Gardening to Give reached over 1,000 individuals across Iowa and the United States.
- Forty-five youth from seven schools are gathering virtually for the SWITCH Youth Ambassador Summit. They are learning how they can be advocates for school wellness and serve as peer influencers to their classmates as they set goals to switch what they do, view, and chew.
- The six 4-H Healthy Living Ambassadors unanimously decided to address food insecurity this year and will be further exploring policy, systems, and environmental change approaches they can advocate for at the individual, regional, state, and federal levels. During their next retreat in late March they will prepare a presentation to propose to the National 4-H Council “Dolphin Tank” competition. Top selections will be invited to semifinal round in April and top winners will be awarded $1,000 to put their project idea into action.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Following a year that included both drought and a derecho, Iowa’s crop producers may face some unique challenges in 2021 related to weed management. The 2021 Herbicide Guide for Iowa Corn and Soybean Production, published by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, offers some timely information and guidance. The guide is updated every year, but this year’s version gives special attention to the issue of volunteer corn, which could be more severe in 2021 following the germination of storm-damaged corn from last year’s derecho.
- This year’s Master Gardener training will be offered 100% online in the fall and participants have through July 1 to apply. Seventeen educational modules will be offered on topics including houseplants, pollinators, vegetables, and perennial flowers. Each course module includes a book chapter, lecture video, online discussion board, and a quiz. Participants can work through the book chapters and online materials at their own pace, on their own time. They will connect in online discussion forums to share ideas about how they plan to volunteer and what they are learning.
- Morel and oyster mushroom workshops will be offered online (March 20 and April 3). To legally sell morel and oyster mushrooms in Iowa, sellers must complete a certification workshop that covers identifying morels and oyster, as well as distinguishing between true and false morels. Participants only need to participate in one of the sessions to be certified. ISU Extension and Outreach has provided morel mushroom certification training for many years; oyster mushrooms were added to the training in 2020.
Community and Economic Development
- The 2021 Community Visioning Program has begun community transportation assets and barriers focus-group workshops. These workshops are part of the assessment process giving local decision makers a framework within which to make informed choices. In March virtual workshops will be conducted in Wheatland, Toledo, Conrad, Shenandoah, Malvern, Tama, Emmetsburg, and Princeton.
- The 2021 Introduction to Planning and Zoning for Local Officials was facilitated virtually for a statewide audience in early March; the virtual workshop will be facilitated for the City of Marion on March 29. The session introduces the basic principles of land use planning and development management to elected officials, planning and zoning officials, and board of adjustment members without formal training in the subjects.
- CED is facilitating the Business Model Canvas strategic management tool in Spanish for Latina entrepreneurs and small business owners for COMUN at MERGE in Iowa City. CED also will be facilitating the training in partnership with Albia Area Chamber of Commerce and ISU Extension and Outreach Monroe County for entrepreneurs and small business owners from Monroe, Appanoose, and Wayne counties.
- CED is offering Grant Writing 101 for representatives of nonprofit organizations, local governments, and schools. CED specialists will be conducting Grant Writing 101 in person for Sutherland and virtually for Webster County and DPS counties.