Addressing rural mental health and the farm economy

John Lawrence’s message from Oct. 7, 2019

Rural mental health and the farm economy are often intertwined in an agricultural state like Iowa, particularly when farmers are experiencing another year with tight margins and decreasing value of total farm assets and net farm worth. During our 2018 listening sessions, we identified both as critical statewide issues impacting the ability of Iowa communities to thrive over the next five years. We also examined what ISU Extension and Outreach could do to appropriately address how these issues intersect. We knew it was important to positively impact farm families with research-based information and education. Did you know?

  • Since May 1, David Brown has been serving as ISU Extension and Outreach’s behavioral health state specialist. He provides subject matter support and leadership to programs dealing with farm stress, stress management, mental health literacy, disasters and other behavioral health related issues.
  • We are expanding Mental Health First Aid. This evidence-based, 8-hour course 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. We will continue to provide the training to our staff (and the next scheduled workshop is Nov. 7), but we also are exploring how to offer the training for university, community and agribusiness organizations.
  • In collaboration with our farm management specialists, our family life team will provide scenario-based suicide prevention training at more than 50 Farm Bill meetings in November, December and January. “Stress on the Farm: Strategies to Help Each Other” reviews risk factors, protective factors, and warning signs of suicide, as well as a strategy for how to intervene.
  • Iowa Concern continues to provide confidential access to stress counselors and an attorney for legal education, as well as information and referral services for a wide variety of topics. Iowa Concern services are available 24 hours a day, seven days per week at no charge.

Iowa farm families are facing challenges and we are committed to this work long-term.

More notes

  • Please review the October program update from the leadership team for current examples of what is happening across our programs.
  • We have read and considered all the questions and comments we have received regarding Structured for Success. The common themes FAQ has been updated to reflect questions and comments submitted during the virtual listening sessions, the area-wide meetings and other face-to-face sessions, and via the virtual suggestion box.
  • It’s National 4-H Week. Iowa 4-H Youth Development reaches nearly 100,000 youth each year, preparing them to be successful, contributing members of society – and that deserves celebrating!

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

October 2019 Program Update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • The 2018 Iowa Farm Costs and Returns analysis shows that despite a slight increase in net farm income, farmers saw another year of tight margins and a decrease in total farm assets and net farm worth. The average accrual net farm income increased by 6% in 2018, while the average value of total farm assets declined 6% and farm net worth fell by 7%. The full report is available in the September issue of Ag Decision Maker.
  • Ever wonder about ANR’s impact on social media? Social media continues to be an influential platform for the agricultural industry as a whole; and that trend continues to hold true here in Iowa. Many Iowans are looking for a fast, easy way to collect and share information with the agriculture and natural resources community and ANR specialists and teams have joined the conversation. Here’s how many people are following the 114 ANR accounts collectively: Twitter – 58,450; Facebook – 18,957; Instagram – 3,685; Youtube/Vimeo – 3,689; Pinterest – 114; and Overall total – 84,812 followers.

Community and Economic Development

  • The 2018 Community Visioning Program is transitioning to the implementation planning stage during which design teams are presenting feasibility reports and steering committees are meeting to plan project implementation. In October, design teams are presenting feasibility reports to Durant, Coggon and Sumner, and implementation planning meetings will be conducted in Sumner and Coggon.
  • 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 October CED specialist Eric Christianson will be conducting workshops in Waterloo, Iowa City and Storm Lake.
  • During October CED staff will be facilitating Navigating Difference cultural competency training in Cedar Rapids and Mount Pleasant.

Human Sciences

  • Human Sciences Extension and Outreach is transitioning to Raising School Ready Readers for early literacy efforts. It is a contemporary educational offering based in modern-day research with a variety of families. Literacy development starts at home with parents and caregivers serving as a child’s first teacher. Raising School Ready Readers offers parents fun ways to engage their 3- to 6-year-old children in literacy play. It is a five-week series of 90-minute workshops grounded in the Engaging Families in Children’s Literacy Development Workshop Series created by Scholastic. Sessions focus on developing six core literacy areas that give children a head start on school readiness. Facilitator training for educators was held in June and September. Some participants had facilitated the previous Family Storyteller program, but others were newly engaged in literacy work. Several series have been completed with others in the planning stages.
  • Four human sciences staff members received university awards at the ceremony in September: Malisa Rader, human sciences specialist in family life, Regents Award for Staff Excellence; Barbara Woods, special projects manager, Award for Inclusive Excellence; Mackenzie Johnson, human sciences specialist in family life, Professional and Scientific Outstanding New Professional Award; and Kim Brantner, human sciences specialist in family life, Award for Distinguished Service in Extension and Outreach.
  • David Brown and Anthony Santiago presented at the Annual National Association for Rural Mental Health Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico in August. Their presentations included “Responding to Behavioral and Mental Needs among Rural Iowans and Farming Communities” and “Cohesive Promotion and Implementation of Healthy Relationship Education in Rural Iowa to Promote Overall Health and Wellness.” This presentation provided an overview of the Healthy Relationship Education Training program and featured work completed by Mackenzie Johnson, human sciences specialist in family life, and Brenda Schmitt, human sciences specialist in family finance.

4-H Youth Development

  • Iowa hosted the Regional Youth Crop Scouting Competition at the Field Extension Education Lab, in Boone, Iowa. This year’s competition featured nine youth teams representing Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and Kentucky. The competition is designed to educate students through hands-on interaction in crop fields, through scouting for plant injury and identifying pest and situational problems, culminating in designing their own effective solutions and management strategies. When surveyed, students responded that the competition was fun, and they enjoyed engaging with friendly staff. Team coaches reported that the competition helped students learn concepts of IPM, teamwork skills, and communication skills, and prepare for a future career in agriculture.
  • This year 4-H State Council members can sign up to serve on the Finance, Youth Voice, or Service and Outreach committee. Through these committees, the council members will get to share their voice, come up with county and statewide service projects, or learn about the financial process of the 4-H’ers for 4-H Campaign and budgeting for Youth Conference and other initiatives. State Council members will also continue to serve on one of six Youth Conference committees. At their October retreat they will begin planning for this annual event.
  • 4-H youth who participated in regional chili cook-off competitions this summer were invited to participate in ICS Chili Inc.’s World Championships event Sept. 7-8 in Ankeny. Several youth participated and Clara Damman from Story County 4-H placed 5th in the homestyle division. Iowa 4-H was also able to showcase our program and highlight Healthy Living and making healthy choices count.

September 2019 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

4-H Youth Development

  • The 4-H project area hot sheets have been redesigned, updated, made digitally accessible and posted to the Extension Store. The new design kept many of the previous features and now includes sections on goal setting, record keeping and entrepreneurship. Each publication also features college and career connections.
  • Twenty-three middle and high school youth from across the state took part in the first InventSTEM Iowa State Fair Challenge sponsored by Alliant Energy. John Larsen, chairman and CEO of Alliant Energy, and other Alliant Energy team members were on hand to mentor youth and present awards. The event began with a mini circuit lesson; then youth were tasked with creating a “beat the heat” machine using only the tub of materials provided. There were two overall winners of the challenge. One team created a fanny pack with attached fan and cell phone holder. The second created a neck travel pillow with attached fan and side snack holders. Nate Weber and Rachel Shannon supported this event.
  • Clubs who participated in the Healthy Living Club Challenge were recognized at the Iowa State Fair. Sixteen clubs tied for first place, earning 2,850 miles, the maximum possible. This means they completed each of the three challenges every month (water, fruit/vegetable and physical activity) in addition to each monthly bonus challenge featuring a new area of well-being (social, personal, emotional, financial, environmental and community).

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • Iowa State University Research and Demonstration Farm field days have been taking place throughout the summer and will continue into September. Seventeen field days were scheduled in 2019. Additional information on field days can be found through the Iowa State Research and Demonstration Farms website.
  • Eleven Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training meetings have been scheduled by ISU Extension and Outreach, providing information and training for those interested in fruit and vegetable production, as well as those interested in learning about produce safety, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule and Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs). Training sessions will be held across the state, beginning Nov. 6 in Harlan and running until March 2020. More information can be found on the ISU Extension and Outreach Safe Produce website.

Community and Economic Development

  • In July, AARP awarded the Iowa League of Cities a Community Challenge Grant, a program designed to make communities livable for people of all ages. The project is being conducted in partnership with the CED program. As a part of the grant, the League will develop and host a day-long workshop Sept. 18 focused on leveraging local government data. The workshop will incorporate the themes of city finance, housing and transportation, including information related to older adults and the overall community. The day also will include an immersive problem-solving session, designed to bring together city officials and data experts to explore and solve a local issue: mobility in Marshalltown. In addition, the grant will fund a “smart cities” demonstration project in Marshalltown, using the roadmap and input gained in the workshop session. CED faculty and staff participating in the workshop include Erin Mullenix, Chris Seeger, Biswa Das and Abbie Gaffey.
  • Several CED faculty and staff will be attending the Iowa League of Cities Conference, Sept. 25-27 in Dubuque. Eric Christianson will present on nuisance abatement. Erin Mullenix will co-present a session on preparing for AV-ready Iowa. Sara Shonrock will present on housing programs and incentives. Other CED faculty and staff who will attend include Gary Taylor, Scott Timm and Aimee Viniard-Weideman.
  • Diane Van Wyngarden will lead the Best of the Upper Mississippi River Road Scholar tour Sept. 8–14 and again Sept. 22–28. Through these travel courses, participants from 15 states (first tour) and 13 states (second tour) will learn about community histories, local economies, innovative local projects and community challenges. Communities along the first tour include McGregor, Dubuque, Calmar, Spillville and Dyersville. The second tour will feature Marquette, the Quad Cities, Scott County and Decorah.

Human Sciences

  • Human Sciences Extension and Outreach had four pitches in “The Great Iowa State Pitch Off: STANDING InnOVATION.” Malisa Rader pitched Little Free Libraries, a statewide contest engaging extension staff, volunteers and 4-H clubs to be creative in “investing” in their community with a Little Free Library and making books readily available. Christine Hradek pitched Growing Together Iowa, which aims to offer additional development opportunities such as Navigating Difference for Master Gardener volunteers working on healthy food access initiatives across the state. Lori Hayungs pitched Welcome Kits for life changes: Welcome to Iowa, Welcome to Parenting, Welcome to Retirement and Welcome to Your New Health Journey. Connie Beecher and Sara Nelson pitched Checkout Iowa Backpacks. A team of education faculty and students created engaging activity kits that include quality books that families can check out from the library.
  • Food Preservation 101 was held in the Elwell Family Food Center at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 15. This program was co-taught by Holly Van Heel and Kelsey Salow, human sciences specialists in nutrition and wellness. They estimate 40 people attended from various counties across Iowa, and many participants personally thanked them for the abundance of information and resources.
  • The World Food Prize events include a day called the Hunger Summit in which professionals and lay people come together to learn about current issues related to food security domestically and internationally. The day always includes a Hunger Luncheon where an organization fighting hunger (such as Meals from the Heartland or Meals on Wheels) is featured. This year the Hunger Luncheon will feature a meal prepared from “Spend Smart. Eat Smart.” recipes to highlight resources for healthy eating on a budget. The Healthiest State Initiative recommended that “Spend Smart. Eat Smart.” be featured at the luncheon. The summit is Oct. 14.

August 2019 Program Update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Human Sciences

  • Jill Weber, human sciences specialist in nutrition and wellness, has a successful community partnership in West Union (Fayette County). Public Health and Gundersen Palmer Lutheran Hospital worked jointly to create a mobile community teaching kitchen. Funding from 5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count helped to provide eight participant stations and one instructor station stocked with tools and equipment. Jill pilot tested classes from the Healthy and Homemade series and provided feedback on the mobile kitchen as the classes progressed. She worked with Master Gardeners on a May herb class and then it was on to jam and salsa workshops for youth and Food Preservation 101 during the county fair. In the fall, she will use the mobile teaching kitchen for a Stay Independent series in Oelwein. The community partners recognize Jill’s teaching abilities in delivering high quality programs, and she appreciates the opportunity to deliver programs in Fayette County using the new teaching kitchen.
  • Suzanne Bartholomae and the family finance team have created a successful partnership with the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System (IPERS). Including funding, the partnership involves regional delivery of the Creating a Secure Retirement program to IPERS members. During FY20, the team will deliver the program 20 times, including 12 times at the IPERS headquarters in Des Moines by a combination of human sciences specialists in family finance, with Joyce Lash and Barb Wollan co-leading. The summer and autumn regional pilots have been set for Sioux City, Mason City, Cedar Rapids, Ottumwa and Council Bluffs. In the next few months, focus groups will be conducted with IPERS members who attended the program in the past year. Late this year and/or early next year focus groups will be held to explore program opportunities with younger IPERS members.
  • Small Talk: Big Future is featured on the APLU Board on Human Sciences website. This program helps parents from many backgrounds to consistently provide enriching language interactions to their children, thus creating habits that may benefit their children for many years to come.

4-H Youth Development

  • Sara Nelson has been hired as the new 4-H STEM program specialist for the Iowa 4-H Youth Development Program. She will oversee STEM product development and STEM literacy outreach to enhance access to educational learning opportunities for all K-12 youth.
  • In 4-H, parents, extension staff and volunteers communicate and work together to meet each child’s specific needs. Two Washington County youth show what is possible with good communication and understanding prior to the county fair. See the video and news release to learn about Sophie’s and Blake’s stories.
  • 2019 looks to be a record-breaking year for Iowa State Fair 4-H Livestock entries. This year, 8,750 entries have been pre-entered by over 2,300 Iowa 4-H exhibitors. Growth is expected in the individual livestock areas of dairy and meat goat, dog and swine. Pre-entered dairy and meat goat entries have increased by nearly 40 each, dog entries are up 10 and swine numbers are 235 entries higher than previous years.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • The 2018 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll shows Iowa farmers are seeing a steady shift in who is responsible for what happens on the land they farm. The poll showed an increase in farmers who agreed that conservation practices are their responsibility on land they rent as opposed to the land’s owner, although renters were hesitant to invest their own money on structural conservation practices in land they rent. The Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll also examined perceptions of quality life and farm financial well-being, awareness of and participation in watershed management activities, and the use of precision agriculture practices.
  • A tool developed at Iowa State University to help farmers make decisions, including decisions about nitrogen applications, has expanded to cover Illinois and Indiana. The FACTS project was launched in 2015 in Iowa to provide yield and soil nitrogen predictions at a field scale. Weather data from the Iowa Environmental Mesonet, soil information from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and management information from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service and local experts all feed into a single program that quickly analyzes the information to offer meaningful agronomic information.
  • A preventive controls for animal food standardized course to serve employees and managers of facilities that are processing any type of animal food will be held in Ames, Aug. 13-15. The course is offered by the Iowa Grain Quality Initiative and will help facilities comply with new, good manufacturing practices and implement a written animal food safety plan.

Community and Economic Development

  • Steering committees are reviewing preliminary community design concepts and design teams are presenting final concepts to the public in this stage of the 2019 Community Visioning Program. During August, public presentations will be held in Audubon, Coggon, Durant, Walcott and Van Meter. On Aug. 28, the design team will present the feasibility report to the Durant steering committee.
  • Diane Wyngarden will be conducting Professional Guide Assessment and Certification sessions throughout August for the following organizations: the Washington Chamber of Commerce, the Muscatine Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau in Davenport, and the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau in Bettendorf. Diane, along with Himar Hernández, Jane Goeken, Abigail Gaffey, Steve Adams and Victor Oyervides, received a Herb Howell Creative and Innovative Program Grant to develop the curriculum.
  • Susan Erickson and Lisa Bates will be attending the 2019 Iowa Downtown Conference in Dubuque and providing an ISU Extension and Outreach CED presence as an exhibitor. The Downtown Conference is the premier statewide annual conference for professionals and volunteers involved in preservation-based downtown revitalization in Iowa and neighboring states.

40 years of Master Gardeners

John Lawrence’s message from July 8, 2019

Any gardener can seek education for self-improvement, and many do. However, Extension Master Gardener volunteers seek and use research-based horticulture and gardening knowledge and practices to benefit others. They also take on projects that promote healthy communities. Iowa Master Gardener volunteers have been building a strong Iowa for 40 years. Did you know?

  • ISU Extension and Outreach piloted the Master Gardener program in Scott County in 1979, using a program that had originated in Washington State. Today, there are Master Gardeners in more than 80 Iowa counties.
  • Master Gardeners receive specialized training in garden best practices from ISU Extension and Outreach. In return they contribute their time (20 hours per gardener per year) doing garden-related volunteer outreach in their communities.
  • Once again, our Master Gardeners are partnering with our Human Sciences staff to fight hunger in Iowa. Thanks to USDA SNAP-Education funding, 22 mini grants were awarded to Master Gardeners in 2019 for food pantry donation gardens. Last year, over 90,000 pounds of fresh produce were donated.
  • At the International Master Gardener Conference last month, the Linn County Master Gardeners were recognized for their ongoing pollinator project. They built partnerships to increase pollinator habitat by 2,000 acres.
  • State coordinator Susan DeBlieck says nearly 2,000 Master Gardeners were active across Iowa in 2018, compiling 113,392 volunteer hours. That averages out to nearly 60 hours worked per volunteer. Those volunteer hours are valued at $2.7 million spent improving Iowa.

Over the past 40 years, more than 14,300 Iowans have participated in the Master Gardener training to volunteer in their communities. Iowans who would like to join this impactful group can apply online to attend Master Gardener training, starting around the state in August.

One more note: Take a moment to review the July program update from the leadership team for current examples of what is happening across our programs.

A special thank you: Today is Linda Brinkmeyer’s last day as my administrative assistant. She is retiring to start the next adventure in her life. I want to personally thank her for helping me get grounded in this job and for being an important part of the leadership team. She kept the plates spinning as we worked on several priorities to move our organization forward. She will be missed. Thank you, Linda!

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

July 2019 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Community and Economic Development

  • The 2019 Community Visioning Program is in the design stage; steering committees are reviewing preliminary community design concepts. Design review meetings will be held in Durant, Van Meter and Hinton. The public presentation of design concepts will take place in Royal.
  • The 44th Iowa Municipal Professionals Institute and Academy is July 15–26 at the Gateway Hotel and Conference Center in Ames. This is a targeted training for more than 200 city clerks, finance officers and other city staff to further professionalism, knowledge and efficiency in Iowa cities. All training in this venue qualifies for certification within the International Institute of Municipal Clerks, as well as the Iowa Municipal Finance Officers Association.
  • In July CED specialists Lisa Bates and Brian Perry will be in Osage (Mitchell County) facilitating sessions 3, 4, and 5 of Leading Communities. Eric Christianson and Scott Timm will be delivering Leading Communities in Norway (Benton County). Leading Communities is made possible in part by a vice president for extension and outreach initiative.
  • During July Diane Van Wyngarden will be conducting Professional Guide Assessment and Certification sessions at several locations: the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge, Jasper County; Hoyt Sherman Place, Des Moines; Matchstick Marvels, Gladbrook; Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce; Tyden Farm No. 6, near Dougherty; and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Stockman House, the River City Society for Historic Preservation, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Historic Park Inn and the MacNider Art Museum, all in Mason City.

Human Sciences

  • Christine Hradek, coordinator for SNAP-Ed and EFNEP, presented to the Cyclone Scholars and George Washington Carver summer interns on June 12. She shared the landscape of healthy food access for Iowans with low income and how Growing Together Iowa aims to improve access to fruits and vegetables.
  • Cindy Thompson, human sciences specialist in family life, co-led her fourth Powerful Tools for Caregivers series, along with a staff member from the Northeast Iowa Area on Aging. Six participants completed the series and one care receiver attended. When asked about their biggest accomplishments during the series, one participant stated, “When my [relative] says he doesn’t want to live, I now say ‘I’m sad you feel that way. That must be hard.’” Another said, “I’m letting go of the guilt a little.” All indicated they would recommend participation in the series to a friend.
  • Nicole Leidal, family nutrition program assistant, and Mary Wilkins, youth outreach coordinator, have been working as a team to provide “wrap around” education for individuals within the Buy Eat Live Healthy classes. As Nicole teaches the nutrition lesson to the parents, Mary provides education to their children, and together they share the other opportunities ISU Extension and Outreach in Story County has for families. The goal is to lessen the burden on the family needing childcare, provide quality adult and child education, and increase awareness of the office. Due to the quality team work of the staff, ISU Extension and Outreach has gained lifelong extension users in Story County.

4-H Youth Development

  • Mahaska County 4-H offered their first Ricochet Leadership Club in 2019. Eleven students in sixth and seventh grade at Oskaloosa Middle School participated in the hybrid Ricochet program partnership between ISU Extension and Outreach in Mahaska County, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mahaska County, Oskaloosa Middle School, William Penn University, and United Way of Mahaska County. Five William Penn University students served as site-based mentors and helped process Ricochet activities and plan a service project. This program made an impact in the lives of the participants by providing them with a better sense of civic engagement, leadership, communication and teamwork. The group took part in collaborative decision-making processes to figure out the focus for their service project. They voted to fight hunger in the community. The project also provided an opportunity for participants to enhance communication skills. They had to “pitch” the service project to Oskaloosa School District staff. Mentors provided guidance and rehearsal time.
  • Invent STEM is a new Iowa 4-H program focused on wind energy and innovative solutions to real world problems. The program will be available this fall and is sponsored by Alliant Energy. An Iowa State Fair kick-off for Invent STEM will occur on Aug. 11. Youth will be tasked with creating a “beat the heat” machine.
  • Healthy living programs at Oakridge reached more than 60 youth this spring. The Des Moines housing complex has a large African refugee population. Intern Tre Goode worked with the high school students over four months – identifying issues in their community, discussing college and career, and planning a community cookout as a way to unite their community and engage youth in 4-H activities. Youth program specialist Lisa Green and 4-H volunteer Gerald Joseph took the middle school youth through a 16-week entrepreneurship program. Youth taught others what they had learned by showcasing their business concepts at the cookout. Goode also worked with a new 4-H volunteer, introducing 4-H to fifth graders in the community by exploring the four priority areas in a weekly after school program. Youth in the Oakridge Community are excited about 4-H and many have asked staff if they could take part next year. A new 4-H volunteer plans to continue programming with the elementary students next year.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • Gardeners will have the opportunity to learn about growing cut flowers, sweet corn and tomatoes in the home garden during this year’s Demonstration Garden Field Days, hosted by ISU Extension and Outreach and the ISU Research and Demonstration Farms. Seven field days will be held across the state, focusing on three main themes: home-grown bouquets; augmented sweet corn; and a showcase of different types of tomatoes.
  • A series of six agritourism checklists were designed by ISU Extension and Outreach agritourism experts to help ensure farmers and landowners who open their property to the public follow safety best practices. The checklists cover bio-security, emergency preparedness, food safety, pesticide safety, play area safety and negligence mitigation. The checklists are not to be considered a certification, but they can help producers understand their strengths and weaknesses. The checklists are available through the ISU Extension Store (FFED 0025 A-F).
  • Field days and workshops are continuing to be scheduled for this summer at ISU Research and Demonstration Farms. Topics include crops and soils, cover crops, nitrogen and water, Forecast and Assessment of Cropping sysTemS (FACTS) and demonstration gardens. Most events are free and open to the public.

June 2019 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • The 2019 Cash Rental Rates for Iowa Survey showed a 1.4% drop in cash rental rates for Iowa farmland, falling to $219 per acre from $222 an acre last year. This drop in rental rates won’t offset a much larger drop in corn and soybean prices, which have fallen 50% and 45%, respectively. Cash rental rates are down about 19% since their all-time high of $270 an acre in 2013, a decline that is in line with a 16.7% drop in land values over that same period. The full Cash Rental Rates for Iowa 2019 Survey is available through the ISU Extension Store.
  • The 2019 Master Gardener Search for Excellence Award was given to Master Gardeners in Buchanan County, recognizing their work revitalizing the grounds surrounding the county’s Prairie Pioneer Schoolhouse. Working with the Jesup School District and area businesses, Master Gardeners planted new flowerbeds, revitalized old flowerbeds, seeded prairie wildflowers and added pollinator-friendly plants.

Community and Economic Development

  • Community and Economic Development 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. During June Sandra Burke will be conducting health data literacy workshops in Cherokee, Cedar Rapids and Boone.
  • In an effort to support independently-owned grocery stores in the rural Heartland, the CED program partnered with the Kansas State University Center for Engagement and Community Development and the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships to develop the proposal “Food Access and Independent Grocers: Strengthening Food Securities in Underserved Communities.” The North Central Regional Center for Rural Development funded the proposal with a planning grant of $22,012. The goal of the proposal is to compile existing resources that support independently owned groceries as sites of food security, social centers and economic opportunity from the three land-grant university partners; review the resources; and identify gaps where development of additional resources is needed. From there, the partner institutions will develop a joint curriculum for working with independently owned grocers that could be shared throughout the Heartland. On June 26–28 Lisa Bates and John Wolseth will be hosting colleagues from KSU and UME as part of this project.
  • The 2019 Community Visioning Program begins transitioning from the assessment process to goal setting and design workshops. Goal-setting meetings are being conducted in Bedford, Coggon and Graettinger. Communities holding design workshops include Van Meter, Bedford, Coggon, Walcott and Sumner. The public is invited to attend and provide input on preliminary transportation enhancement plans.
  • During June Leading Communities sessions will take place in Mitchell and Benton counties. The program is made possible in part by a Vice President for Extension and Outreach initiative.

Human Sciences

  • Through a partnership with Hawkeye Community College, Human Sciences Extension and Outreach offered the How to Manage Your Money program to students who were English language learners. The community college also requested education about tax filing; eight students visited a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site in Chickasaw County in spring 2018 and indicated an interest in learning more. Extension and Outreach partnered with a local nonprofit, and classes to train volunteers took place in fall 2018. In January 2019, five students (four Congolese and one Burmese ) and one individual from the nonprofit were certified as VITA program volunteers. Currently the site provides services in English, French and Burmese; Bosnian- and Spanish-speaking volunteers will be needed in the future. The Hawkeye Community College ELL program includes 805 students who represent 47 countries. During the 2019 tax season, 47 returns were completed; the majority of individuals assisted were part of the immigrant population. It is anticipated that the number of volunteers and returns completed will increase next year. The IRS visited the site and provided a positive review of the VITA Program.
  • Lori Hayungs, human sciences specialist in family life, and Sue Boettcher, human sciences program coordinator in Dickinson County, have worked together to provide outreach to people with Parkinson’s disease. As a result, Sue has connected with local partners and a Parkinson’s group is launching in June. Sue is reaching out to similar groups around the state to inquire how they conduct their groups, and also has been in contact with Elizabeth L. Stegemöller, in the Department of Kinesiology, whose research includes how music therapy can benefit people with Parkinson’s disease.

4-H Youth Development

  • Ninety-seven youth have been selected to attend the 2019 Animal Science Roundup as part of the State 4-H Conference June 25-27. This year marks the most species groups yet, including beef, dairy cattle, horse, meat goat (new), poultry, sheep and swine. Animal science faculty and staff are partners in this hands-on, science-based event.
  • In partnership with Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group and National 4-H Council, Iowa 4-H once again was selected for a grant to implement the 4-H Ag Commodity Carnival. Currently, 11 fairs (including the Iowa State Fair) are scheduled to host the hands-on activity with a targeted reach of more than 8,000 youth.
  • More than 50 Native Bee Challenge events are scheduled in 27 counties across the state this year. So far 4-H has completed 18 of these events, reaching more than 727 youth. Events are being facilitated by trained teen leaders, staff and volunteers. 4-H trained seven additional teen leaders at the 4-H Connect Retreat in April.
  • Nearly 170 youth and adult chaperones took part in the 2019 4-H Connect Retreat held at both Iowa State University and Clover Woods Camping Center. Many county, field and state 4-H staff collaborated to make this a successful educational event for youth from across Iowa. This year’s retreat included New Volunteer Training for the adult chaperones, a more extensive chaperone orientation and Clover Woods tour, a partnership with the Experience Iowa State organization, and the integration of the 4-H Youth Leadership Planning Team. Initial feedback from the event has indicated that the youth learned more about themselves, their interests and made new friends, while the chaperones felt more a part of the planning process and involved in steps moving forward to engage long-term with the Iowa 4-H Program.

May 2019 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

4-H Youth Development

  • Once a month, Cerro Gordo County 4-H news and photos are featured in one full page in the Globe Gazette. Ads from area businesses, arranged by the Globe Gazette, pay for the page. This innovative, new partnership has begun thanks to Kelsey Spotts, Cerro Gordo County youth coordinator, and it is working. For the first time in many years, spring break camps were full.
  • Norma Dorado-Robles, youth program specialist, developed a new partnership with the Marshalltown High School Mathematics’ Department. She engaged 50 freshman youth throughout the school day in sampling a 4-H STEM Lit-to-Go activity at the Math Center. At least 80% of the youth that day had little to no prior knowledge about 4-H. Many of these students were very interested in a follow-up session that will be part of the 4-H youth needs assessment facilitated by Norma and Ani Das, 4-H youth stakeholder and partnership coordinator.
  • 4-H Healthy Living and the SWITCH program were featured at the Iowa Department of Education’s School Wellness Conference on March 28. School staff in attendance learned about “Engaging Youth to Enhance School Wellness Initiatives.” 4-H SWITCH Ambassadors from Earlham Middle School co-presented about their involvement in boosting wellness opportunities for their peers. They taught the audience a brain break and led a taste test to demonstrate the Cafeteria Coaching program. Many schools were intrigued by SWITCH and the ISU Extension and Outreach partnership with schools; 4-H hopes this will help grow recruitment for the upcoming year.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • The ISU Extension and Outreach Master Conservationist program will be offered in four locations across Iowa in 2019. The program will take place in Region 7 (Humboldt, Wright, Webster and Hamilton counties), Region 14 (Jasper, Poweshiek, Marion and Mahaska counties), Story County and West Pottawattamie County. The program is designed to create a community of passionate conservationists and is led by local conservation professionals, state specialists and Iowa State experts.
  • The inaugural Iowa Equine Day will be held May 4 at the Hansen Agriculture Student Learning Center in Ames. The event will feature presentations related to horse and rider care, safety and horse nutrition. A ranch riding and showmanship clinic presented by Doug Bogart also will be held.

Community and Economic Development

  • The 2019 Community Visioning Program completed community assessment work on April 6 and local steering committees are reviewing the assessment data provided by the ISU research team. In May, assessment reviews will be conducted in Walcott, Coggon and Durant. Following the assessment reviews, steering committees will conduct performance objectives meetings in Walcott (May 15) and Durant (May 22).
  • CED is working with Human Sciences on Early Childhood Iowa, a federal grant that focuses on identifying challenges and issues regarding childcare in Iowa for children ranging from infant to preschool age. During May, CED specialists will be conducting focus groups with parents, preschool providers, and daycare providers in Storm Lake, Creston, Marshalltown, Waterloo, Mount Pleasant, West Des Moines and Fort Dodge.
  • 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. In May, workshops will be conducted in Dubuque, Fairfield and Davenport.
  • 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 health data literacy workshops in Boone, Davenport and Adel during May.

Human Sciences

  • Boone County will become the first Kids in the Kitchen rural site with a current staff member trained to deliver Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) curricula for youth as a regular aspect of programming. Boone County will begin service this summer. This approach should help expand youth EFNEP programming to rural areas in a way that is cost-effective and sustainable.
  • Nine human sciences specialists are trained to deliver “Growing Up Wild.” The four-hour workshop requires two facilitators – an outdoor educator and an early childhood specialist. Human sciences specialists have worked with 38 naturalists in the last five years at 35 training locations, reaching 560 participants representing 58 counties. Barb Gigar, Project WILD state coordinator from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, is the lead state partner for this effort. Human Sciences Extension and Outreach also is sharing the program beyond Iowa. On April 10, Kim Brantner, Cindy Thompson and Joy Rouse presented a national webinar for the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, reaching 22 participants representing 21 states. Their presentation helped participants understand the benefits of nature in early education, learn about Growing Up Wild and explore collaboration options for outdoor education.

Joining forces for farm, food and enterprise development

John Lawrence’s message from April 29, 2019

ISU Extension and Outreach’s programs in Local Foods and Value Added Agriculture recently joined forces. Although the resulting program has a new name – Farm, Food and Enterprise Development – the combined program team offers the same, great technical assistance and resources for Iowa farmers, food systems advocates and business owners. Did you know?

  • Topics in the Farm, Food and Enterprise Development wheelhouse include small farm profitability, agritourism, community food systems planning and development, farm to school and farm to early childhood education, and business feasibility and financing.
  • Christa Hartsook leads the small farms area, serving farmers, acreage owners and service providers.
  • Courtney Long leads food systems, serving community coalitions, city planners, nonprofits and county extension staff.
  • Brian Tapp leads enterprise development, serving small business owners, entrepreneurs and start-ups.

Program Manager Craig Chase says focusing on small farms, food systems and enterprise development will allow the 20-member team to develop stronger educational programs and collaborative partnerships. You can contact the team at contactFFED@iastate.edu, 515-294-3086.

One more note: Mark your calendars and save the date for our next Annual Conference, April 1, 2020.

— 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.

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