Following our lead

John Lawrence’s message from April 15, 2019

When we lead, others will follow. In mid-March, our e-Accessibility Initiative team began sharing our online, self-guided courses for creating accessible materials far beyond ISU Extension and Outreach. Did you know? So far, 12 universities have downloaded our free accessibility training curricula and toolkit for creating accessible documents. That’s great, because when more of us design for all, we increase our chances of justice for all – even more.

By the way, you still can participate in a Creating Accessible Digital Documents Workshop this spring, April 30 or May 1 in Independence. Another round of workshops begins in August.

Goodbye … and welcome

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

  • Yvonne McCormick, Hamilton County extension horticulturist.
  • Sarah Lenz, Keokuk County program coordinator.
  • Anne Pierce, East Pottawattamie County office assistant.
  • Rita Schoeneman, Hardin County office assistant.
  • Theresa Voss, Lucas County office assistant.
  • Amy Lewman, Greene County office assistant.
  • Kristi Cooper, field specialist III, Human Sciences.

We welcome the following new staff:

  • Kali Downs, Dallas County office assistant.
  • Nancy Henry, Story County office assistant.
  • Yenibeth Lopez, extension program assistant I, Human Sciences.

More notes

  • Year-end computer purchases: Extension Information Technology says if you are planning to spend year-end money for new computers, you need to place your order by April 30. Check the EIT website for more information and the order form. If you have questions, contact Mike Mauton,
  • Next week’s message will focus on the Internal Communications Task Force Report Executive Summary.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

A galaxy for extension’s future

John Lawrence’s message from April 8, 2019

With enough Rising Stars, you can build a galaxy – and a bright future for ISU Extension and Outreach. That’s the plan behind our Rising Star Galaxy Club, our continuing relationship with our former Rising Star Interns as they move on from our internship program. If they’d like to begin an extension career, the Galaxy Club connects them to job openings in the counties, on campus and in other states. If an extension career isn’t their path, the Galaxy Club is a way to stay connected and become an advocate for ISU Extension and Outreach. Either way, we hope these young people will remain engaged with our land-grant mission. Did you know?

  • Our Rising Star Internship program began in 2014. Frankie Torbor served during the first year. He says the experience “lived up to the expectation listed in the job description,” providing professional responsibility with both scheduled tasks and self-directed work so he could tailor the internship to his interests. Frankie’s experience is currently featured on the Rising Star Galaxy Club webpage.
  • Evan Fritz also was in the first group of interns. He went on to serve as a member of the Winnebago County Extension Council, gaining experience that helped prepare him for the next phase of his career.
  • Some former Rising Stars have joined ISU Extension and Outreach. Mackenzie DeJong is a human sciences program coordinator in northwest Iowa. Cassie Odland is a family life and nutrition educator in Polk County. Breanna Miller is a program assistant with our Community Food Systems program. In addition, Emily Bormann is a 4-H youth program assistant with Nebraska Extension.

These are only a few of our many Rising Star success stories. And by the time you read this message, we either will have or be close to having all 12 interns hired for this summer. Orientation for our 2019 Rising Star Interns is April 12-13. In mid to late May they will begin their work in Regions 1, 3, 5 and 20, continuing until August. During their internships, our Rising Stars raise awareness of local foods and healthy living as they assist communities, schools, farmers markets and economic development entities across the state. Through the Galaxy Club, we want to help them continue their relationship with ISU Extension and Outreach for the rest of their lives.

More notes

  • Happy ISU Extension and Outreach Week, April 8-13. It’s a good time to thank the many volunteers, community leaders, organizations, agencies and other partners who support our work. It’s also Forever True Week, April 8-12, celebrating the impact that Iowa State’s generous alumni and friends have made on the university.
  • We just turned in our federal report to USDA NIFA on April 1. Thank you for all your good work. Every data point you provide is used in at least one report and often several, as well as staff success stories, research journal articles and grant applications. Reporting helps us tell our story to make sure our stakeholders, partners, funders and all Iowans will continue to support our work for a strong Iowa.
  • Read the April program update from the leadership team for current examples of what is happening across our programs.
  • Mental Health First Aid training can help you learn what to do, what to say, and how to offer support and resources to help Iowans who may be experiencing a mental health related problem or crisis. This evidence-based, 8-hour course will be offered April 25, May 23, Sept. 26 and Nov. 7. You can register through the Professional Development website.
  • “Building Awareness: The Military Community and ISU Extension and Outreach” is May 8 at Iowa State. Register for the symposium, which is open to anyone interested, including the military community at Iowa State, local Veterans groups, agencies and individuals who support the military community, county Veterans service officers, and extension faculty, specialists and county staff.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

April 2019 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Human Sciences

  • The Financial Literacy Lesson Plans (Grades K-5) curriculum is available for free download from the ISU Extension Store, either by grade level or as an entire K-5 curriculum. The user guide includes the scope and sequence of four lessons for each grade. Each lesson provides an overview of the agenda, purpose, objectives, needed preparation, vocabulary and standard(s) being addressed. There are directions for the lesson warm-up, main activity, wrap-up and reflection; ideas for extending the lesson; and home talk with parents or guardians. Worksheets and graphics are included, and most lessons feature reading and discussion of a storybook as the main activity. Support from the Iowa Insurance Division made the project possible.
  • In “A Journey Through Parkinson’s Disease,” participants learn how to recognize the symptoms of PD; how to seek medical care and what to expect; the causes of PD; how treatments work; alternative therapies, such as singing and exercise; and simple at-home activities and tools to help with symptoms. Sessions are held once a week for three weeks with each session lasting 45 minutes. Program authors Elizabeth Stegemӧller and David Brown trained facilitators in August 2018. After some time spent developing partnerships, planning and marketing, the facilitators are now implementing the program. Sessions have been held in Keosauqua, Cherokee and Sioux City, and with extension county partners, Siouxland Aging Coalition members, Dickinson County with the local YMCA and in Chickasaw County with Mercy Hospital in New Hampton.
  • The Sioux County PROSPER Team, in conjunction with West Sioux Schools and Hawarden community leaders, created Hawarden Table Talks to increase engagement of community businesses and citizens with the issue of youth risk-taking behaviors. Conversations focused on supporting youth and encouraging their families to engage in the community. Over the last several months, more community leaders have joined the conversation, increasing the capacity of the group and resulting in an investigation of transitioning to a community coalition. Leaders of the Table Talks recognize that creating opportunities that encourage building relationships with youth and adults from all cultures will benefit the overall workforce development of Hawarden.
  • Plan, Shop, Save, and Cook is a four-lesson series on basic nutrition, meal planning, saving money and cooking skills. It takes roughly four hours to deliver and is appropriate for a wide variety of participants. The SNAP-Ed funded staff are learning and practicing the lessons with anticipated implementation in late April or May.

4-H Youth Development

  • Maya Hayslett, 4-H crop science specialist, has been training teen leaders for the Native Bee Challenge. This statewide program includes hands-on activities facilitated by teen leaders in many locations across the state. In March, 18 youth and 10 adult staff and volunteers attended the state training at Reiman Gardens to learn about the program’s educational activities and how to lead the challenge. Each youth will share the program with 50 youth in grades 4-8 in their home communities.
  • H2Oh! Is a new program on well water safety being piloted in Story, Tama and Jefferson counties. The feedback from the pilots will be used to revise the program, which will then be available for all counties to use. Results also will be presented at the Iowa Governors Conference on Public Health in April.
  • Thirty-nine SWITCH schools have wrapped up nine weeks of program implementation focusing on how their students can “switch what they do, view and chew.” Students are tracking their health behaviors each week in their web-based accounts. Middle school students are challenged to establish a goal that they actively work toward and document the following week. 4-H has been seeing great outcomes from schools’ special projects to enhance wellness in their school, activating their lessons and incorporating more movement while learning. Schools are now helping to design a sensory walkway that can be incorporated in school hallways to encourage sensory-based movement to release energy, boost brain function and create focus upon entry to the classroom. As SWITCH wraps up for this year, 4-H is preparing to recruit for the 2019-2020 school year.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • Prices for performing custom work are expected to jump in 2019, according to the 2019 Custom Rate Survey. The survey showed a 7% price increase across all surveyed categories. Changes from 2018 to 2019 varied across categories, with complete harvesting and hauling for corn and soybeans increasing by 6% and hired labor going up 7%. The full survey is available through Ag Decision Maker or the ISU Extension Store and was conducted by Alejandro Plastina, assistant professor and extension economist.
  • Registration for the ISU Extension and Outreach Master Gardener program is now available online. Classes will be held across the state this fall; contact your ISU Extension and Outreach county office for training locations and start dates. After completing the course, Master Gardener trainees volunteer within the community, volunteering 40 hours. To maintain Master Gardener volunteer status, they volunteer 20 hours per year and build their gardening know-how by participating in 10 hours of continuing education.
  • Adam Janke’s Woodworking for Wildlife publications highlight simple projects that can enhance habitat for animals in a backyard. Three publications provide detailed instructions and a materials list for creating a backyard bat box, blue bird box, and wood duck box. Janke, assistant professor and extension wildlife specialist, also includes basic information about the animals each project is designed to attract. A fourth publication provides instructions and a materials list to build the iconic Aldo Leopold bench.

Community and Economic Development

  • Iowa Retail Initiative provides the foundation for local retail decision makers to assess and work to address their community’s existing and future retail districts. IRI has recently gone through an update or “reboot” into a comprehensive approach that includes a three-part, nested program — consisting of IRI Champions, IRI Coaching and IRI Snapshot — to enhance and strengthen local retail. The first step in the program is the IRI Champions workshop, which provides training and resources to community decision makers and retail supporters, such as chambers of commerce and economic development organizations. During the day-long workshop, participants will learn how they can assess existing and future retail needs, evaluate their retail district amenities, identify funding opportunities, maximize the use of social media, and explore retail niches. CED specialists Steve Adams, Lisa Bates, Susan Erickson, and Victor Oyervides piloted IRI Champions in Wright County on April 2.
  • CED is now offering data literacy workshops to help Iowans learn the skills needed to understand, visualize, interpret and practice with data relevant to communities, organizations and counties. The data literacy workshops can include a wide variety of topics, reviews of the data included in the Data for Decision Makers profiles, or an in-depth look at selected measures, indicators, and trends. The workshops also can provide participants with knowledge and skills to discuss data and bridge to applications and decision making with the data. Sandra Burke will be conducting two health data literacy workshops in Muscatine on April 26.
  • Diane Van Wyngarden, Himar Hernández, Jane Goeken, Abigail Gaffey, Steve Adams and Victor Oyervides received a Herb Howell Creative and Innovative Program Grant to develop a new Iowa tourism guide program curriculum. A statewide guide training workshop will be held at the Central Iowa Expo in Boone April 11. The workshop is designed specifically for staff and volunteers who lead guided programs at Iowa’s community tourism attractions, including but not limited to museums, parks and conservation areas, historic sites, science centers and agritourism.
  • The Introduction to Planning and Zoning for Local Officials workshop is a three-hour session designed to introduce 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. During April, workshops will be conducted in Fort Dodge, Waterloo, Johnston and Council Bluffs.
  • The 2019 Community Visioning Program continues with community assessment work in April, including the final transportation assets and barriers focus group workshop in Coggon; a bioregional assessment in Durant; transportation inventory and analyses in Sumner, Durant and Walcott; and a review of all community assessments in Sumner.

Learn about the opioid issue in Iowa

John Lawrence’s message from April 1, 2019

Iowa doesn’t have an opioid crisis – at least not yet. However, opioid misuse is an emerging drug issue that state agencies and local communities will need to manage, and that we all need to learn more about. Extension rural sociologist David J. Peters, undergraduate research assistant Peter A. Miller and criminology professor Andrew Hochstetler have explained research on this issue in a new publication, Understanding the Opioid Crisis in Rural and Urban Iowa (SOC 3088). Did you know?

  • The report provides background information on the current status and trends related to opioid-use deaths in Iowa. It also compares rural and urban counties, and describes the socioeconomic conditions of places that have high and low opioid-use death rates.
  • Four factors appear to be driving opioid addiction and overdoses in rural Iowa: poverty and low employment rates, work in injury-prone jobs, lack of adequate law enforcement, and few civic and social organizations to deal with the drug problem.
  • Although urban areas have economic and law enforcement advantages that rural areas do not have, these advantages don’t seem to stop opioid abuse, the researchers say. We need more research to understand the mechanisms driving addiction and death in Iowa’s urban communities.

Peters, Miller and Hochstetler’s publication also compares death rates from prescription vs. synthetic opioids and heroin use, as well as how Iowa’s opioid-use death rates compare to surrounding states and the U.S. Their work is part of the Rural Opioids Project, a collaboration of Iowa State, Syracuse University and University of Iowa.

Project STOMP

ISU Extension and Outreach staff from all program areas are invited to learn about Project STOMP – Steps Toward Opioid Misuse Prevention. The PROSPER Rx Team is kicking off this new initiative with free regional workshops; the first one is today in Orange City and four more will be offered throughout the state in April, May and June. This is an opportunity to get free educational materials, as well as ongoing support for planning and implementing community-based, substance-misuse prevention strategies for your county. You can be part of prevention partnerships that benefit youth, families and communities. For more information, contact Kathy Clancy,

Dealing with flooding
I had the opportunity to tour the flooded regions of Fremont, Mills and West Pottawattamie counties on Friday with Senator Grassley, USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey and Iowa Secretary of Ag Mike Naig. I grew up in these counties, and while my family was not impacted, I know people who were. The damage to communities, homes, farmsteads, stored grain, land, and road and levy infrastructure is sobering. It will take months and in some cases years to recover, and the sad truth is that some will not recover from this disaster.

Our extension colleagues in the region are having an impact during the evacuation and recovery. They stepped up to assist where needed, and other agencies and partners turned to ISU Extension and Outreach because we have been there before and we are a trusted resource. Thank your colleagues when you see them and ask how you can help. Like the rest of us, they will continue to have regularly scheduled programming at the same time they assist those recovering from the floods.

We continue to update our resources for dealing with flooding on our Disaster Recovery website. These resources always are available on the ISU Extension and Outreach website (from the “Learn More About …” tab). As you help Iowans deal with flooding issues this spring, please take care of yourselves, too.

One more note: You can find the 2018 Listening Sessions Summary at the top of the resource list on my Did You Know Blog. (You’ll also find an archive of all my weekly messages.) Here’s another quick way to get to the summary. Go to the ISU Extension and Outreach homepage and type “listening sessions summary” in the search box.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

Launching youth with 4-H Connect

John Lawrence’s message from March 26, 2019

Annually over the past few years, 4-H Youth Development has been offering two culturally based youth leadership accelerators, Maize and Ujima. However, in the 4-H spirit of making the best better, this year the two accelerators are being combined into one: the 4-H Connect Retreat. The new event, April 26-28 on the Iowa State campus and at the Clover Woods Camping Center, connects youth to 4-H while celebrating Latino, Native American, Asian, African, and Asian/African-American cultures. Many of the keynote speakers, youth leaders and educational programs reflect one or more of these cultures. Did you know?

  • Previously Maize was offered in the spring and Ujima in the fall. However, the fall accelerator timing was hard to arrange, as it competed with the start of the K-12 school year as well as the kickoff for 4-H club recruitment. Having a combined multicultural accelerator in the spring alleviates that issue. (And previous participants helped select the new name.)
  • 4-H Connect is offered at no cost to any young person (grades 8-11) enrolled in 4-H. The participating youth often are enrolling to become 4-H members as they register for the retreat.
  • During the retreat, youth will learn about healthy living, civic engagement and leadership, communication and the arts, and STEM. They also will explore campus life through visits to the ISU colleges, residence halls and dining halls. But perhaps most important, youth get to experience what it means to be a 4-H member and belong to this unique youth organization.

The 4-H Connect Retreat is a launching pad for youth who haven’t been reached by 4-H to begin engaging with their local programs. It also introduces 4-H volunteers and staff to culturally based leadership development best practices. After the youth return home from the statewide retreat, the goal is to help sustain them locally through a 4-H club or learning community, or other long-term experience.

More notes

  • The Internal Communications Task Force had its final meeting on March 14. For an update, read the summary on Cybox. The task force submitted its report to the leadership team during Annual Conference. An executive summary of the 215-page report is being developed and will be available online in the near future.
  • The Iowa Extension Council Association Annual Conference will be March 30. Nearly 100 council and staff members have registered to attend.
  • We continue to update our resources for dealing with flooding on our Disaster Recovery website. These resources always are available on the ISU Extension and Outreach website (from the “Learn More About …” tab). As you help Iowans deal with flooding issues this spring, please take care of yourselves, too.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

Natural resources stewardship for all

John Lawrence’s message from March 18, 2019

In ISU Extension and Outreach, we have a program area focused on Agriculture and Natural Resources. However, taking care of our natural resources is not reserved for ANR alone; this work belongs to all of us. That’s why we all are invited to Natural Resources Stewardship Professional Development Day on Wednesday, May 1, at the ISU Alumni Center in Ames. This training and networking event will bring together extension professionals from across Iowa and a variety of program areas and disciplines to talk and learn about natural resource issues, educational needs and programming opportunities. Did you know?

  • This event is a chance to immerse yourself in natural resource conservation, including water quality, forest stewardship, outdoor recreation, reducing waste and healthy eating, and monarch butterfly conservation.
  • The program will feature speakers from Iowa State, Iowa Department of Natural Resources and local water quality experts.
  • During hands-on field trips you can explore agriculture water quality and research at Bear Creek, forest and wildlife management at Ledges State Park, or water quality and urban conservation at the new City of Ames Water Treatment Plant and Summerbrook Park in Ankeny.
  • Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) and the Renewable Resources Extension Act are covering all facility, meal and materials costs for this professional development opportunity. Be sure to pre-register before midnight, April 26. If you have questions, please contact one of the organizers: Adam Janke (, Ann Staudt ( or Jamie Benning (

To preview some of the programs and topic areas on display at this event, see these examples of ISU Extension and Outreach programming on natural resources issues: Iowa Learning Farms; Monarchs on the Move; Master Conservationist Program; Nature Explore – Connecting Kids with Nature; and Water Rocks!

Goodbye … and welcome

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

  • Kayla Emery, Clayton County K-12 outreach coordinator.
  • Robbyn Duchow, Johnson County program manager, Big Brothers Big Sisters.
  • John Sjolinder, Cerro Gordo County executive director.

We welcome the following new staff:

  • Brenda Fuller, Buchanan County office assistant.
  • Alisha Davidson, Lee County office assistant.
  • Devan Cress, Jones County youth coordinator.
  • Mandi De La Cruz, Buena Vista County program assistant.
  • Peggy Schilling, Clayton County K-12 outreach coordinator.
  • Diane Wisniewski, program coordinator II, Agriculture and Natural Resources.
  • James Wisniewski, program coordinator II, Agriculture and Natural Resources.
  • Sean Nelson, program coordinator III, Vice President for Extension and Outreach/Office of Equal Opportunity.
  • Judith Dittmar, extension program specialist III, Human Sciences.

More notes

  • Applications now are being accepted for our 4-H state program leader position. Please see the job announcement and encourage people to apply. We’re seeking a new leader for 4-H to continue building on the growth and success of our youth development program. We are strengthening our clubs, curriculum and volunteers, and actively recruiting new participants. We are committed to being inclusive and welcoming, and to fulfilling the national 4-H goal of having members, volunteers and staff who reflect Iowa’s population. 4-H connects with almost 1 in 5 Iowa K-12 students. (Want the numbers for your county? Download 4-H Data for Decision Makers.)
  • Whether we’re dealing with flooding, drought or other severe weather, remember that disaster recovery resources are always available on the ISU Extension and Outreach website (from the “Learn More About …” tab). As you help Iowans deal with flooding issues this spring, please take care of yourselves, too.
  • During our recent trip to Washington, D.C., our CARET delegates shared this 2019 report with Iowa’s congressional delegation to advocate on behalf of Iowa State’s land-grant programs.
  • We need judges for the State Science and Technology Fair, March 28-29 in Ames. You can help make this event a great experience for the 700 young research students who are expected to participate.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

Shared reporting is getting closer

John Lawrence’s message from March 11, 2019

I have good news to report – on reporting. For slightly more than a year and a half, a steering committee has been developing one Shared Reporting System for our entire organization. They have defined and aligned reporting terms, selected a database platform and hired a shared database coordinator. Construction of a practical, flexible and user-friendly database has steadily progressed, and this spring the committee will identify and invite three to five counties to voluntarily take the new shared system for a test drive. Did you know?

  • All campus, field and county staff who provide educational programming in the invited counties may volunteer to participate in the pilot.
  • Onsite user training will be scheduled at each of the invited counties, as well as on campus for the invited campus-based staff and faculty.
  • One guiding principle of the pilot is to take advantage of existing data collection processes and automatically bring them into the shared database when appropriate, such as registration data from Conference Planning and Management and participation data from 4HOnline.
  • Pilot participants’ feedback will be incorporated to make sure the final product meets as many county and program unit reporting needs as possible.
  • The pilot will continue for six to 12 months. Afterward, the committee will take the necessary time to incorporate required changes and develop appropriate professional development materials for the system-wide roll out.

The shared database will be rolled out in phases so it can be customized to the specific needs, uses and work cycles of ISU Extension and Outreach. Consequently, training for and timing of the database roll out likely will differ for each program unit and for county-based staff. If all goes as planned, the new database will be tested, tried and rolled out to the entire ISU Extension and Outreach system by January 2021. (If you want more background information about shared reporting, you can review my Everybody’s Job video message from September 2017.)

Tuition assistance available

As I said at Annual Conference, I am making tuition assistance available to all ISU Extension and Outreach staff for credit coursework that is consistent with their extension career path. My office will cover 50 percent of tuition (up to half the ISU tuition rate) for credit classes from Iowa State or other institutions beginning this spring. Details will be posted in the coming days.

Area meetings will be coming

I want to thank the Internal Communications Task Force for their 10 month research project. They officially presented the report at Annual Conference, and the leadership team will be reviewing the task force’s recommendations. In the meantime, as I said at conference, we are going to begin having quarterly area-wide county and field staff meetings. We’re dividing the state into five areas for meeting purposes only; this is not a reorganization and it is not another administrative layer. The boundaries aren’t fixed and they may change as our Structured for Success committee continues its work. There are more recommendations in the ICTF report and more steps to take, but this is a concrete action we can take now to improve communication in ISU Extension and Outreach. More details about these meetings will be available in the near future.

Insurance for county staff

Some of you left note cards after the Annual Conference panel discussion, or contacted me by email, wondering why we hadn’t discussed insurance for county staff. You correctly reminded me that it is an important topic and often was mentioned at the listening sessions. I apologize for not featuring it during the conference. I am working with County Services and Iowa Extension Council Association to evaluate alternatives and provide information to councils in the coming weeks. As you are aware, insurance is complex and costly, and will take careful preparation to move forward.

More notes

  • The 2019 Community Food Systems Annual Event is Friday, March 29 at the Ramada Tropics Resort and Conference Center in Des Moines. Keynote speakers are Sommer Sibily-Brown, founder and director of the Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition, and Arthur Neal, deputy director for USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. ISU Extension and Outreach Local Foods, Value Added Agriculture, and Community and Economic Development are sponsoring the event. Cost is $60; register by March 18. Contact Courtney Long,, for more information.
  • Be sure to read the March program update from the leadership team for current examples of what is happening across our programs.
  • The Third Annual Extension Council Conference is March 30 in Ames. This conference is planned by councils for councils. Council members, county staff, regional directors and others who work with councils may attend. The early bird registration deadline is March 18.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

March 2019 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Community and Economic Development

  • Transportation assets and barriers focus-group workshops are continuing in Community Visioning Program communities. The workshops are part of the assessment process conducted in client communities to provide local decision makers with a framework for making informed choices. In March, CED specialists Abbie Gaffey, Eric Christianson and Scott Timm will assist in facilitating the focus groups in Durant, Van Meter, Audubon, Bedford and Treynor.
  • On March 20, the Des Moines Civil and Human Rights Commission will hold its 33rd annual symposium. “Move Passion to Progress” will highlight the goal of helping people move beyond emotions toward tangible, substantive community progress. The symposium will feature national speakers Richard Edmond Vargas (subject of the CNN documentary, “The Feminist in Cell Block Y”), and Linda Sarsour (cofounder of the Women’s March) to motivate attendees to move beyond just being passionate and moving their communities toward progress. ISU Extension and Outreach community development specialist Kameron Middlebrooks is the chair of the Des Moines Human Rights Commission.
  • On March 29 in Des Moines, the Community Food Systems program will hold its fourth annual event. The goal is to engage, support and inspire individuals from all areas of Iowa’s food system in conversation about community food systems. Participants will attend workshops, hear from expert panelists and speakers, and network with colleagues, building robust local food systems all across Iowa.
  • In March, CED specialists Lisa Bates and Brian Perry will be in Osage working with a group to bring Leading Communities to the county. CED specialists Eric Christianson and Shelley Oltmans will be facilitating Leading Communities in Wever. CED specialists Himar Hernández and Jon Wolseth will deliver session five of Leading Communities in Mount Pleasant. The Leading Communities program is made possible in part by a Vice President for Extension and Outreach Initiative.

Human Sciences

  • Two new healthy food access specialists started work in February. They will partner with food banks, food pantries and Growing Together Iowa projects to promote healthy food access for Iowans experiencing poverty. Judy Dittmar is housed in the West Pottawattamie office and Jen Lamos is located in the Johnson County office.
  • During federal FY 2018, the “Spend Smart. Eat Smart.” app was installed on 3,406 mobile devices. Apple installs were down, compared with FY 2017, while Android increased 150 percent. The “Spend Smart. Eat Smart.” website had 119,546 users (an increase of 22 percent over federal FY 2017): 77 percent of users are age 44 or younger, and 73 percent of users are female. The vast majority of users access the website in English; 113 accessed it in Spanish and 105 in Chinese. Forty-seven percent of users now access the site via a mobile device.
  • “Market Outlook 2019 and Stress of the Farm: Strategies that Help” was developed to offer agriculture producers and agribusiness professionals an opportunity to learn more about the signs of stress, how to cope with stress, how to help others and available resources. In this way, the agriculture producer and agribusiness professional may be more aware of the signs of stress, and also be more willing to help others to find the assistance they need. This effort was a collaboration with Chad Hart, associate professor of economics and extension crop markets specialist, and eight human sciences specialists in family life; Lori Hayungs, Mackenzie Johnson, Kim Brantner, Joy Rouse, David Brown, Cindy Thompson, Dawn Dunnegan and Barb Dunn-Swanson. In January, the session was offered across Iowa at 14 Crop Advantage meetings. Approximately, 2,127 agriculture producers and agribusiness professionals attended, and 563 participants completed evaluations. The following results note the percentage of participants who responded either strongly agree or somewhat agree that they feel more confident that they can:
    • Recognize the signs that someone may be dealing with stress (82 percent; N = 481)
    • Use the strategies that help with stress for myself or to assist others (80 percent; N = 478)
    • Offer help to someone who may be stressed or in a crisis (79 percent; N = 476)

4-H Youth Development

  • Marybeth Foster, Leslie Stonehocker and Bonnie Dalager worked with field specialists and county staff to streamline the data collection process. The Annual County Plan of Work Form and new Program Data Collection Form (formerly known as the Group Enrollment Form) were simplified significantly. In all, nine separate forms were condensed to just two forms. The goal was to create a process that provides clarity and simplicity for county staff and youth program specialists, and encourages a culture of reporting by filling out a report form for every event, no matter the number of education hours. Compiled information will be used in state and federal reports.
  • The National 4-H Ag Innovator’s Experience national training was held Feb. 8-10 at Reiman Gardens in Ames. Twenty teens and adults from Michigan, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa came to the Iowa State campus for the national training to hear from experts and participate in learning experiences about pollination and native bees. They will take this information back to their states and host their own trainings. The state training for Iowa was March 2-3 in Ames.
  • Dickinson County started Clover Kids in January 2019 for the first time in 13 years. Clover Kids has been started as an after-school program in three towns. In two of the towns, 4-H is partnering with local libraries. Friends of the library are providing snacks for the program. This partnership is a perfect fit, as both libraries were looking to increase youth programming. Each month the Clover Kids receive a list of books available at the library for check out that tie in with the theme. The third location is in a smaller community that did not have many after school activities. Clover Kids sessions will be hosted at the school with the support of one faculty member per session. So far 52 Clover Kids have enrolled and they are in the process of making their first Clover Kids Fairbook.
  • Counties across Iowa spent January and February conducting annual 4-H volunteer training. This year the theme was “4-H Fosters Independence.”

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • A new publication from the Iowa Beef Center highlights a project that was designed to identify costs, environmental impacts and best practices for Iowa cow-calf operations. “Iowa Cow-calf Production – Exploring Different Management Systems” (IBC 0131) is the result of cooperation of Iowa State and producers, with Iowa Beef Center faculty and specialists examining years of production results to better understand how traditional grazing, extensive grazing and limited or no grazing operations run across the state. The data were used to develop decision aids and educational tools to assist cow-calf producers across all systems and improve sustainability of the cow-calf segment in Iowa.
  • “Learn It. Do it. Share it.” is the theme of the third annual Women in Agriculture Conference, set for March 23 at the Washington County Fairgrounds. The conference’s goal is to show women of all ages the importance of not just learning something, but how to put that knowledge into action and share it with others. More information about the conference and registration can be found through the ISU Extension and Outreach Washington County office.
  • Growing Together Mini-Grants have been awarded to 22 Iowa projects. This is the fourth year mini-grant funds have been available through the ISU Extension and Outreach Master Gardener program, with more than $50,000 in grant money from the SNAP-Education program being distributed across the state. The projects being funded are focused on increasing food security and promoting healthy food access throughout Iowa. A full list of the projects funded through the mini-grants can be found online.

Many ways to share our story

John Lawrence’s message from Feb. 25, 2019

One of the reoccurring themes I hear from staff and councils is that they want help to share our ISU Extension and Outreach story. Well, help is available in more ways than one. Did you know?

  • Next week I will be in Washington, D.C., with our Iowa delegates to the Council for Agricultural Research, Extension and Teaching (CARET). Donald Latham (Alexander), Robert Petrzelka (Mt. Pleasant), Kevin Ross (Minden) and Sally Stutsman (Riverside) represent ISU Extension and Outreach as well as the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in this national grassroots organization. CARET advocates for greater national support and understanding of the land-grant university system’s food and agricultural research, extension, and teaching programs that enhance the quality of life for all people. While in our nation’s capital, our delegates will be sharing Iowa State’s story with Congress.
  • ISU Day at the Capitol is March 6. This year’s event will showcase the university’s impact in the areas of innovation and entrepreneurship. ISU Extension and Outreach participates in this annual opportunity to meet face-to-face with our state legislators and showcase the impact Iowa State has on students, communities, businesses and Iowans across the state.
  • Our ISU Extension and Outreach 2018 Annual Report is available online. The report is filled with examples of how we are listening, learning and working for a strong Iowa. Share the url with your partners or download and print the pdf when you need paper copies to put in their hands. Connect the statewide content points to the educational programs in your county.
  • Human Sciences Extension and Outreach has begun sharing program success via the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities Human Sciences at Work national website. The first story featured is our Growing Together Iowa program.
  • Remember that the county stakeholder reports are a great resource. We often have the opportunity to work across county lines, so it makes sense to keep informed about what our extension neighbors are doing. The stakeholder reports are filled with stories we all can share.
  • Each month the four program leaders provide me with two or three points of pride that I carry with me to share with groups throughout the state. These points are available on my “Did You Know” blog in the Program Updates category. It’s another great way to know and share what is happening across our programs.

Excellence in Extension Grants

The Excellence in Extension committee has announced the recipients of the 2019 Excellence in Extension Grants. Descriptions of the grants are available from the Excellence in Extension website.

  • Betty Elliot Professional Improvement Grant, two group recipients: 1 – Paul Gibbins, Marci Vinsand, Madisen Gaskin, Megan Freel, Michelle Schott and Cassie Odland; 2 – Holly Merritt, Shelly Smith, Ron Lenth, Roxanne Fuller, Shari Sell-Bakker and Cheryl Bruene.
  • Herb Howell Creative and Innovative Program Grant, one group recipient: Diane Van Wyngarden, Himar Hernandez, Jane Goeken, Abigail Gaffey, Steve Adams and Victor Oyervides.
  • Innovative Program Grant, two group recipients: 1 – David Brown, Anthony Santiago, Malisa Rader, Eugenia Hartsook, Jathan Chicoine, Jeff Vaske and Brett McLain; 2 – Jeong Eun Lee, Suzanne Bartholomae and Sarah Francis.
  • Marvin A. Anderson Graduate Scholarship, three individual recipients: Sarah Zwiefel, Laura Liechty and Joshua Michel.
  • Individual Staff Development Grant: Angela Shipley.

More notes

  • Be sure to visit the Learning Fair during our ISU Extension and Outreach Annual Conference. The featured programs and resources relate to needs and issues that surfaced during the 2018 listening sessions.
  • When you see someone wearing a “Year One” sticker at Annual Conference, say hello and introduce yourself. Do your part to welcome these new staff members to our extension family.
  • Our Structured for Success committee is in data collection mode. The latest video and meeting notes are available on the committee website, along with the questionnaires the committee will be using in Iowa and in other states. You also can learn more about the committee’s work during Annual Conference.
  • I won’t be sending a message next week, since I’ll be with our CARET delegates in Washington, D.C. I will be back in your inbox on March 11.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

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