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

A match made in Iowa

John Lawrence’s message from Feb. 18, 2019

Twenty-five years ago, a beautiful relationship took root in this state, thanks to dedicated ISU Extension and Outreach personnel and the Iowa Legislature. It began through a series of discussions concerning how to encourage new farmers. They concluded that all Iowans would benefit from a statewide center focused on the needs and issues facing beginning farmers. They also decided it should help match beginning farmers with established farmers who want to transition their farm businesses to the next generation. That’s how the Beginning Farmer Center was established at Iowa State. The law creating the Center is set out in Chapter 266 of the Code of Iowa. Did you know?

  • Our Beginning Farmer Center in conjunction with our Agriculture and Natural Resources specialists provide programs and services to develop farmers’ skills and knowledge in financial management and planning, legal issues, tax laws, technical production and management, leadership, sustainable agriculture, human health and the environment.
  • The Center also collaborates extensively with other interested groups and agencies to promote the transition of Iowa’s farms.
  • Dave Baker joined the Center 13 years ago as a farm transition specialist and became director in 2018. On average, he conducts two family farm consultations per week, either at his office in Urbandale or around the state, and is working on 20 to 25 matches at any one time. Over 25 years, the Center has averaged eight matches per year.
  • Sometimes the work involves helping families make difficult decisions. In this #StrongIowa video, Dave tells the story of helping a family carry on after the death of a loved one in the midst of their farm’s transition.

The Beginning Farmer Center strengthens rural communities by counseling young, aspiring farmers and encouraging landowners and retirement-age farmers to consider transitioning their farms to the next generation. I’d call this a perfect match made in Iowa.

4-H program leader search begins

We have contracted with a professional search firm to assist in our national search to fill our 4-H program leader position. The committee members will meet for the first time Feb. 25 to receive their charge, prepare the position description and begin the process.

The committee will conduct the search and recommend candidates to bring to campus for interviews. The members represent program areas, program specialists, counties and partners. This small committee will do the heavy lifting, but all of us have a responsibility to provide input. Please share with them your suggestions for attributes you believe make a strong 4-H program leader and names of potential candidates who should be encouraged to apply. As we go through the search process, there also will be formal opportunities to provide input and to meet with candidates who will come to campus for interviews.

4-H/Youth Development Program Leader Search Committee:

  • Debra Sellers (committee chair), Human Sciences associate dean and director.
  • Curt Lang, Iowa 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees president.
  • Nichol Kleespies, Buena Vista County youth education coordinator.
  • Terry Maloy, Iowa Extension Council Association executive director.
  • Maya Hayslett, ANR program specialist working in youth development.
  • Norma Dorado-Robles, 4-H Youth Development field specialist.
  • Earl McAlexander, 4-H Youth Development field specialist.
  • Shelly Smith, Black Hawk County director.
  • Rosa Gonzalez, Human Sciences field specialist, Central Iowa.
  • Bonnie Dalager, 4-H Youth Development program specialist.
  • Jeffrey Macomber, Region 16 director.
  • Kris Kilibarda, Iowa Department of Education.

More notes

  • Please join me in congratulating Kameron Middlebrooks, who will be receiving a “Hidden Figure” award as part of the Wells Fargo Annual Black History Month Celebration Day on the Hill. The free, public event is Feb. 25, 1:30-3 p.m. at the Iowa State Capitol Building. Kameron is being recognized as a new, up-and-coming leader who is making a major impact in the community. He is a program coordinator in Community and Economic Development focusing on African and African-American small business and nonprofit development. He also is president of the Des Moines NAACP Branch.
  • Due to weather and road conditions, the Iowa Extension Council Association cancelled its 2019 IECA and 4-H Legislative Day, which had been set for Feb. 13. The Association is not planning to reschedule the event this year, but does plan to hold another legislative day in 2020.
  • ISU Day at the Capital is March 6. We’ll hope there’s no snowstorm then.

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

The education we offer

John Lawrence’s message from Feb. 11, 2019

Human Sciences Extension and Outreach recently released Healthy and Homemade, the first full priority program developed through their Educational Offerings Life Cycle Process. The Healthy and Homemade series focuses on strategies to help Iowans use their time, dollars and skills wisely to save money and prepare nutritious, safe foods. It’s a complete educational package with marketing and evaluation materials, and it will be reviewed every two years. Human Sciences is using this new process to ensure all their educational offerings are research-based or evidence-based, up to date and appropriate for Iowans. Did you know?

  • Educational offerings refer to programs, consultations and resources — the menu of educational opportunities that Human Sciences Extension and Outreach provides to Iowans.
  • The life cycle process is a systematic approach to how and when Human Sciences Extension and Outreach creates, adopts, adapts and reviews subject matter to produce educational offerings.
  • All Human Sciences Extension and Outreach faculty and staff are expected to follow the process when creating, adopting or adapting new educational curricula and materials. Existing educational offerings are worked into the two-year review cycle.

Reviewing an educational offering won’t take long if the science has not changed. However, as Human Sciences Extension and Outreach Director Deb Sellers has noted, “If we are teaching something that is out of date, then we have a responsibility to change that content in our offerings.”

Goodbye … and welcome

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

  • Natalie Oberbeck, Clinton County youth coordinator.
  • Elwynn Taylor, professor, Agriculture and Natural Resources.
  • Dee Weiss, clerk III, Extension Information Technology.
  • Daniel Burden, program coordinator II, Agriculture and Natural Resources.

We welcome the following new staff:

  • Jessie Soderstrum, Story County youth coordinator.
  • Courtney Chapman, Appanoose County youth coordinator.
  • Emily Yockey, Woodbury County youth nutrition educator.
  • Lisa Chensvold, Madison County office assistant/bookkeeper.
  • Alexis Seuntjens, Pochahontas County program coordinator.
  • Sean Murphy, Wayne County program coordinator.
  • Susan Roos-Rickels, extension program assistant I, Human Sciences.
  • Amanda Ruckdaschel, program assistant II, Conference Planning and Management.
  • Beth Bunkers, field specialist II, 4-H Youth Development.

One more note: There still are opportunities to participate in “Creating Accessible Documents” workshops, to learn about new processes when working in Microsoft Office: Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Publisher and Outlook. Workshops will be held in Ames during February and March, in LeMars in April, and in Independence in April and May.

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

Stories we can share

John Lawrence’s message from Feb. 4, 2019

The university doesn’t close very often, but it did last week due to bone-chilling cold. But extension professionals carry on. Campus folks relocated from their university offices to their kitchen tables or wherever their home offices might be. As the deep freeze spread throughout the state, staff and councils made their best decisions, based on local conditions, about whether to close offices or reschedule events. I thank you all for putting safety ahead of everything else under these extreme weather conditions.

I’d also like to thank our county staff and councils for preparing and sharing their 2018 county stakeholder reports. Not only are these reports useful to share with Iowans in each county, they also are a great way for us all to share program ideas across regions and throughout the state. Did you know?

  • With identity theft on the rise, in 2018, Lyon County educated more than 35 local residents on ways to protect themselves and their families.
  • Allamakee County’s Women in Ag Tour reached women who owned or worked in a farm business or agribusiness, as well as women who owned or worked in non-ag businesses. Participants appreciated the opportunity to network with other women, and gain a broader understanding of the diversity of agriculture in the county.
  • Since the 1970s, Fremont County 4-H members have participated in Citizenship Washington Focus. This year, 21 high school students and four adult volunteers spent a week in the nation’s capital, immersed in government, history and civic engagement.
  • Lee County Intern Connect engaged 20 interns in local networking and building relationships. Extension and Outreach partnered with Lee County Economic Development Group, Fort Madison Partners and Keokuk Area Chamber of Commerce to create a positive experience and recruit interns back to the area after they graduate.
  • Stakeholder reports from the four corners of Iowa and throughout the state are available on the County Services website.

During the listening sessions last summer and fall, I often heard from staff and councils that we need to better tell our ISU Extension and Outreach story. These stakeholder reports are an important step to do just that. A stakeholder report is not an end product; it’s the beginning of the extension stories we can share. We share our stories with stakeholders because they have a stake in our impact and outcomes. We share our stories with the public to build their awareness of the education and information we can provide. We share our stories with taxpayers and the elected officials who allocate precious public resources so they understand their return on investment in ISU Extension and Outreach. We strive to serve all Iowans. A key to our success is making sure people know how we are working to build a strong Iowa.

More notes

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

February 2019 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • The ISU Extension and Outreach farm management team held 12 Pro-Ag Outlook and Management Seminars during November and December, reaching 450 people with information on market outlook, profit potential, international ag and changes with cooperatives. A majority of attendees were ag lenders and other ag professionals, who walked away with ISU Extension and Outreach research-based materials that they could share with their clients. According to surveys conducted after the meetings, those in attendance will provide this information to an additional 3,400 people across the state.
  • Three Master Gardener webcasts this winter will discuss managing vegetable pests, engaging with new audiences and gardening in containers. The one-hour webcasts will be shown at ISU Extension and Outreach county offices and are free-of-charge and open to anyone who may be interested.

Community and Economic Development

  • The 2018 Community Visioning Program will be conducting a series of “transportation assets and barriers” focus-group workshops in 10 communities. The workshops are part of the assessment process that the program conducts in client communities to provide local decision makers a framework within which to make informed choices. In February CED specialists Abbie Gaffey, Eric Christianson and Scott Timm will assist in facilitating focus groups in Royal, Hinton, Coggon, Sumner and Walcott.
  • Hosted by the Evelyn K. Davis Center in Des Moines, Master Business Bootcamp helps small business owners to improve their business outcomes through business workshops and one-on-one membership. Participants will be working on how to increase small business profit margins and sharpen their business practices. On Mondays in February, CED specialist Kameron Middlebrooks will be facilitating the bootcamp.
  • During February, Hawarden, Paullina, Sheldon, Hartley, Sanborn, Sutherland and Boone will be participating in Marketing Hometown America. Community and Economic Development offers the program to help communities focus on what people are looking for when they choose a place to live and do business.
  • During February, CED specialists will be conducting Township Trustee Training in Mills, Lucas, Louisa and Howard counties. Township trustee and clerk workshops help locally elected township clerks and trustees understand their roles and responsibilities. Iowa residents living in rural areas outside of incorporated cities rely on their local township government to provide a broad range of services, from vital functions such as fire protection to maintenance of public cemeteries and the resolution of fence disputes.


Human Sciences

  • The Parent Education Collaborative in Linn County is celebrating 20 years of improving child outcomes. In 1996, Kristi Cooper, a human sciences specialist in family life, and the county director brought together people interested in parent education. Through all these years, the collaborative has engaged in a shared mission and with shared leadership. Extension and Outreach has remained a staunch partner. For more information, contact Kristi Cooper,
  • Iowa State, Purdue, University of Illinois, University of Nebraska and University of Wisconsin participate in Growing Together, a multi-state SNAP-Ed and Master Gardener project to increase access to fruits and vegetables in food pantries. During the 2018 growing season 142,523 pounds of fruits and vegetables were supplied to food pantries and distribution sites, and 131,993 people with low income were served. In addition, 964 Master Gardener volunteers contributed their time and 615 community partners and agencies cooperated on the project.
  • Kids in the Kitchen reach and results for federal FY 2018 are as follows: 778 youth were served in EFNEP-funded counties (Black Hawk and Polk); 45 percent identified with an under-represented racial group; 10 percent identified as Hispanic or Latino; 73 percent of kindergarteners through second graders improved knowledge in choosing foods consistent with Dietary Guidelines for Americans; and 79 percent of children in grades 3-5 improved knowledge in choosing foods consistent with the guidelines.
  • Human Sciences Extension and Outreach will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the national Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) throughout 2019, in alignment with coordinated initiatives across the country. Watch social media for updates.

4-H Youth Development

  • Norma Dorado-Robles will lead an Iowa 4-H Recruitment, Retention and Engagement pilot to better engage underserved and underrepresented youth, parents and volunteers in four focus communities: Ames, Marshalltown, Meskwaki Settlement and Cedar Rapids. She also is working on a multidisciplinary College and Career Readiness Work Group to help develop and test new family curriculum and wrap-around components to encourage post-secondary education and career opportunities for different cultural groups.
  • Recent 4-H STEM activities around the state include: Cass County collaborating with Nishna Valley YMCA to offer a squeaky-clean magnets day camp for third through fifth graders; Dubuque County partnering with James Kennedy Public Library to offer an electrical engineering camp for third through fifth graders; the new 4-H club at Marshalltown’s Lenihan Intermediate School participating in “Engineering is Elementary” to learn about invasive species and water quality; and Warren County collaborating with the Irving Elementary School in Indianola and Heartland AEA to host the first STEAM Day with grades K-5.
  • Eleven Healthy Living Ambassadors have been selected from regions across the state to be leaders for delivering wellness initiatives and providing educational opportunities for youth in their communities. These ambassadors will represent Iowa 4-H at the National 4-H Healthy Living Summit in February to explore all the areas of wellness through workshops, guest presenters, networking with other 4-H programs from across the country, and career panelists. They will gather new ideas and put together an action plan for how they can make our state a healthy and strong Iowa.

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