Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team
Community and Economic Development
- Lee County Intern Connect is a summer-long program designed to immerse participants in the intrinsic benefits of Lee County and the tri-state region. Interns can network with other young people who are engaged in the area. The program promotes the vibrancy of the community and the benefits of choosing to live, work, and play in Lee County. Sponsors include ISU Extension and Outreach, the Keokuk Area Chamber of Commerce, the Fort Madison Chamber of Commerce, and the Lee County Economic Development Group.
- “The Five Steps of Excellent Customer Service” train-the-trainer workshop is for county extension staff who want to deliver customer service training locally. The program can be customized to meet local presenters’ teaching styles and community needs and can be tailored to accommodate a lunch-and-learn format or expanded with local information and interactive learning exercises. The audience includes front line employees and managers who interact with the public, including retail, service and hospitality business employees, and volunteers and employees who work at community attractions. Presenting the program locally provides extension county staff with an opportunity to build additional connections with the business community and help revive their local economy. During June CED specialists will be offering the workshop at Atlantic, Spencer, Nashua, and Oskaloosa.
- CED provides goal setting, strategic planning, and action planning services to help local governments and nonprofits address critical issues, identify priorities, and develop plans to accomplish those priorities. In June CED specialists will facilitate strategic planning for the Toledo Community Theater Board and the Cedar Falls Racial Equity Task Force.
- Stay Independent: A Healthy Aging Series is a nutrition and wellness program for adults age 60+. The lessons were converted to interactive online lessons via Zoom for delivery during the pandemic. It was recently offered from mid-February to mid-March. On average, 42 participants attended each session, with 21 participants attending all six sessions and 81% attending at least half of the sessions. A follow-up survey indicated these outcomes for participants: eating more foods recommended through the MIND diet, fruits, and vegetables; eating meals that have three or more food groups; being more physically active; and participating in brain-stimulating activities. Afterward, participants sought additional resources.
- Nine participants in Delaware County took part in Writing Your Retirement Paycheck. Most indicated engagement in or completion of the following activities after attending: identifying sources for retirement income; determining the Social Security benefit at a planned retirement age; estimating life expectancy; estimating the amount of income needed to save for retirement; and reflecting on how to spend time in retirement and the costs associated with those activities. All agreed they now have the knowledge and resources necessary to effectively plan for and manage income during retirement. All also indicated they will likely adjust current plans for retirement.
- EFNEP and SNAP-Ed resumed in-person instruction in June. A sub-set of educators are teaching the initial in-person lessons to test protocols, followed by the option of opening to all later this summer. EFNEP previously required that participants be eligible based on income and caregiving responsibility for a minor child. Guidance now allows serving participants who are income-eligible and may have caregiving responsibility in the future. We are interpreting this change inclusively, as people in all stages of life have the potential to become caregivers. This opens EFNEP to more Iowans.
4-H Youth Development
- Camera Corps 2021 currently has 291 youth participants, who represent 82 counties. The program has been hosting virtual county-based photography workshops and is looking forward to holding in-person workshops in late June. Their exhibit “Exploring Texture” is at the Green Hills Art Gallery in Ames through July 15. Iowa 4-H also worked with the New Jersey 4-H Program to help them create a 4-H Camera Corps Program.
- Iowa is one of 10 states piloting the Soccer for Success program in partnership with National 4-H Council and the U.S. Soccer Foundation. The program helps youth establish important life skills and health behaviors through recreational soccer instruction. Iowa’s goal is to reach 100 youth this spring/summer and then grow into more counties next year. At this point 4-H will exceed this goal, as there are summer and fall programs lined up in Dallas, Louisa, and Wapello counties.
- The 4-H LGBTQ+ Champion Group was a sponsor for the Iowa Safe Schools Governor’s Conference in April, and with that sponsorship the group had representatives at a virtual “table” to share their message and answer questions. This team, along with members from other champion groups, are also planning a retreat at the Boone YMCA in July for roughly 20 youth who have expressed interest in the Teen Equity and Inclusion Influencer role.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Marsh Madness is the new Conservation Station developed and operated by Iowa Learning Farms and Water Rocks! The new trailer combines sight, sound, and science to engage Iowans about the values of the state’s wetland ecosystems. Marsh Madness will travel across the state to schools, county fairs, and other events. Reservations are free and include educational programming and materials for all ages and backgrounds, The Conservation Station trailers have appeared at 769 events since 2010, engaging with some 103,600 Iowans. They log an estimated 18,000 to 24,000 miles each year.
- Most farmers in Iowa are seeing a significant increase in what they pay for land rents this year. According to the Cash Rental Rates for Iowa 2021 Survey, rates have increased an average of 4.5%, an increase of about $10 per acre, for a total per-acre rent of $232. Extension economist Alejandro Plastina says this is the first substantial increase in cash rents since 2013, when rents peaked, followed by four years of declining rents and three years of relatively stable rents.
- The “Soil Judging in Iowa” handbook and the “Iowa Soil Judging Scorecard” have been updated. Both are used by youth soil judging teams and were produced in cooperation with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and FFA. Both publications help contestants look at soil properties and potential problems or opportunities with different soils. The publications are updated from time to time to ensure that terms and explanations are consistent with the soil industry, NRCS, and university education. Both publications provide useful information, regardless of whether the user is planning to go to college, return to the farm, or do something else.