July 2021 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Human Sciences

  • With newly trained facilitators, the Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14 recently was implemented in Louisa County. This represents the first opportunity to implement SFP 10-14 in Iowa with Burmese families. This three-minute video documents the experience of the families meeting at the Carson Chin Baptist Church.
  • Over the last few months, the Science of Parenting team offered six online workshops serving 54 participants. Two of the workshops, Understanding Research and Reality and Positive Discipline, focus on the objective of sharing research-based information that fits each family’s own reality. The first workshop has broad parenting strategies focused on family science theories, while the second workshop addresses how to practice positive discipline and manage a child’s behavior. The six workshops included participants from 12 Iowa counties. In the evaluation, 99% of respondents indicated they recognized that research could inform their parenting.
  • Renee Sweers, Lori Korthals, and Carol Ehlers serve regions 1, 6, and 7 in northwest Iowa. The block team connects regularly with county staff for planning, training, building relationships, etc. Recently the specialists and county staff came together to experience PowerPay. The focus was to experience this Utah State University Extension online money tool, which is featured in Iowa Annie’s Project and Money Smart for Adults. The online training consisted of three, 30-minute mini-sessions offered across three weeks. Comments from the participating county staff indicated the format, content, and scheduling were successful. The block team agreed to repeat this effort in fall 2021 and to look for other content areas to include.

4-H Youth Development

  • Over 200 4-H youth from across Iowa gathered on the Iowa State University campus June 30 for the 2021 Iowa 4-H Youth Conference. The typical three-day event was adjusted to one day to accommodate COVID-19 regulations. The conference included educational workshops led by Iowa State faculty and staff, cultural exploration sessions, team building, and college and career exploration. Service learning also is a key component and the State 4-H Council chose to serve foster care youth in Iowa this year. Prior to the conference, council members collected nearly 5,000 donations of travel-sized hygiene products from local businesses and donors from across the state. In partnership with the statewide group Achieving Maximum Potential, conference delegates stuffed 450 care bags with hygiene products and a note of encouragement for youth who enter the foster care system.
  • On Aug. 14 Iowa 4-H Youth Development will be sending fair food into space – all in the name of science. The public is invited to vote on which fair food they’d like to see launched during the Iowa State Fair. The launch, done in partnership with the Make to Innovate Lab at Iowa State, the NASA Iowa Space Grant Consortium, and the Stratospheric Ballooning Association, is an opportunity to teach youth about STEM, space, and making scientific predictions for what might happen to the foods when they reach space.
  • The Healthy Living Ambassadors have identified food insecurity as their focus for addressing a crucial health need in Iowa and spent the spring months connecting virtually to learn about statewide initiatives. At their June retreat, they packaged over 1,000 pounds of cereal at the Iowa Food Bank in Des Moines that will be distributed to food pantries across central Iowa, providing 870 meals. They also learned about the Food at First food pantry in Ames and helped complete gardening projects in their donation garden managed by ISU graduate students in sustainable agriculture. In addition, they completed the 4-H $10 Meal Challenge, navigating the challenge of food costs, food allergies, and nutrition guidelines to plan a meal that provides a serving of each of the five food groups for four people. The ambassadors are planning their capstone project, integrating hands-on activities addressing food insecurity for Healthy Living Day in the 4-H Building at the Iowa State Fair on August 14.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • The 2021 Fruit and Vegetable Field Day is July 22 at Iowa State University’s Horticulture Research Station northeast of Ames. The annual event will feature various research and demonstration projects on fruit and vegetable production for commercial growers, extension personnel, nonprofit organizations, and master gardeners. The field day will provide an opportunity to observe results and evaluate projects focusing on organic vegetable production, peppers, winter squash, apples, grapes, pest management in cucurbit crops, three-sisters intercropping, and beneficial insects. A list of other upcoming research and demonstration farm field days is available online.
  • ISU Extension and Outreach is hosting multiple farmland leasing meetings during July and August at various times and locations throughout the state, beginning July 26. The annual meetings address questions that land owners, tenants, or other interested individuals have about leasing farmland. Core components of this year’s program will be land values and cash rent trends, cost of production, methods for determining a fair rental rate, the latest legal updates that impact farm leases and land ownership (such as carbon credit contracts), and communication between tenants or landowners. A list of the county offices hosting meetings is available online.
  • Identification is key to managing weeds, and it’s easy to misidentify certain weeds if we don’t study them closely. The annual weed identification contest at the Iowa State Fair will be held August 13 from 9-11:30 a.m. in front of the John Deere Agriculture Building. Organized by ISU Extension and Outreach, the contest offers fun competition for the whole family with three divisions: future agronomists (youth under age 19), general, and professional. Following the contest, winners will be announced at the 3 p.m. awards ceremony inside the John Deere Agricultural Building.

Community and Economic Development

  • The 2021 Community Visioning Program is entering the design phase of the process, having completed community assessments and goal setting in spring. In July, Wheatland, Shenandoah, Calamus, and Malvern will be conducting design workshops. Additional meetings will be scheduled as the month progresses.
  • The 46th annual Iowa Municipal Professionals Institute and Academy will take place July 19-22 and July 28-30, respectively. 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 in the International Institute of Municipal Clerks as well as the Iowa Municipal Finance Officers Association certification program. MPI and MPA are coordinated by CED and the Iowa League of Cities, and several CED specialists will be teaching courses.
  • The Cedar Falls Racial Equity Task Force was created to provide guidance and recommendations to the City of Cedar Falls to address long-term challenges of racial equity in the city. The task force is working on a report that identifies specific problems and shortfalls and makes formal recommendations for action, including policy and procedure change recommendations, and identification of ongoing efforts and resourcing needed to promote an inclusive and diverse community and to eliminate both real and perceived racial inequity in Cedar Falls. The task force engaged CED for facilitation services, and since June, CED specialists Omar Padilla and Aimee Viniard-Weideman have been facilitating the task force meetings.

June 2021 goodbye … and welcome

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

  • Brenda Streeter, Clarke County program coordinator
  • Tyson Wirth, Johnson County BBBS specialist
  • Annemarie Litterer, Floyd County program coordinator
  • Jane Hayes-Johnk, education extension specialist III, 4-H Youth Development (retirement)
  • Joy Rouse, education extension specialist III (family life), Human Sciences (retirement)
  • Joseph Hannan, education extension specialist III (horticulture), Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • Kristen Corrigan, education extension specialist II (early childhood education support), Human Sciences (retirement)
  • Sue Henderson, regional director, County Services (retirement)
  • Paul Kassel, industry extension specialist III (crops), Agriculture and Natural Resources (retirement)
  • Shawn Shouse, industry extension specialist III (ag engineering), Agriculture and Natural Resources (retirement)
  • LuAnn Johansen, senior manager education extension, 4-H Youth Development (retirement)
  • Steve Adams, education extension specialist III, Community and Economic Development (retirement)
  • Patti Lewis, administrative assistant III, Human Sciences (retirement)
  • Jerry Chizek, regional director, County Services (retirement)
  • David Baker, industry extension specialist III, Agriculture and Natural Resources (retirement)
  • Alan Ladd, regional director, County Services (retirement)
  • Marisue Hartung, education extension specialist II, 4-H Youth Development (retirement)
  • Nathaniel Weber, program specialist I, 4-H Youth Development
  • Jill Sokeness, education extension specialist II, Community and Economic Development
  • Doug Gass, education extension specialist I (water quality), Agriculture and Natural Resources

We welcome the following new staff:

  • Georgia Miller, Dubuque County youth coordinator
  • Haylea England, Clinton County programming assistant
  • Shawn Tabke, Woodbury County horticulture coordinator
  • Gere Stevens, West Pottawattamie program coordinator
  • Hailee Sandberg, Linn County director
  • Kathy Davis, Palo Alto County office assistant
  • Clarabell Knapp, industry extension specialist I (crops), Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • Catherine DeLong, industry extension specialist III (water quality), Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • Alexis Stevens, industry extension specialist I (farm management), Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • Brittany Eide, communications specialist I, Integrated Pest Management
  • Bethany Nutting, education extension specialist II (early childhood education support), Human Sciences
  • Annika Koppes, education extension specialist I, Iowa Pork Industry Center
  • Jennifer Grundmeier, administrative assistant II, 4-H Youth Development
  • Aaron Steil, education extension specialist II (horticulture), Agriculture and Natural Resources

June 2021 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Community and Economic Development

  • Lee County Intern Connect is a summer-long program designed to immerse participants in the intrinsic benefits of Lee County and the tri-state region. Interns can network with other young people who are engaged in the area. The program promotes the vibrancy of the community and the benefits of choosing to live, work, and play in Lee County. Sponsors include ISU Extension and Outreach, the Keokuk Area Chamber of Commerce, the Fort Madison Chamber of Commerce, and the Lee County Economic Development Group.
  • The Five Steps of Excellent Customer Service” train-the-trainer workshop is for county extension staff who want to deliver customer service training locally. The program can be customized to meet local presenters’ teaching styles and community needs and can be tailored to accommodate a lunch-and-learn format or expanded with local information and interactive learning exercises. The audience includes front line employees and managers who interact with the public, including retail, service and hospitality business employees, and volunteers and employees who work at community attractions. Presenting the program locally provides extension county staff with an opportunity to build additional connections with the business community and help revive their local economy. During June CED specialists will be offering the workshop at Atlantic, Spencer, Nashua, and Oskaloosa.
  • CED provides goal setting, strategic planning, and action planning services to help local governments and nonprofits address critical issues, identify priorities, and develop plans to accomplish those priorities. In June CED specialists will facilitate strategic planning for the Toledo Community Theater Board and the Cedar Falls Racial Equity Task Force.

Human Sciences

  • Stay Independent: A Healthy Aging Series is a nutrition and wellness program for adults age 60+. The lessons were converted to interactive online lessons via Zoom for delivery during the pandemic. It was recently offered from mid-February to mid-March. On average, 42 participants attended each session, with 21 participants attending all six sessions and 81% attending at least half of the sessions. A follow-up survey indicated these outcomes for participants: eating more foods recommended through the MIND diet, fruits, and vegetables; eating meals that have three or more food groups; being more physically active; and participating in brain-stimulating activities. Afterward, participants sought additional resources.
  • Nine participants in Delaware County took part in Writing Your Retirement Paycheck. Most indicated engagement in or completion of the following activities after attending: identifying sources for retirement income; determining the Social Security benefit at a planned retirement age; estimating life expectancy; estimating the amount of income needed to save for retirement; and reflecting on how to spend time in retirement and the costs associated with those activities. All agreed they now have the knowledge and resources necessary to effectively plan for and manage income during retirement. All also indicated they will likely adjust current plans for retirement.
  • EFNEP and SNAP-Ed resumed in-person instruction in June. A sub-set of educators are teaching the initial in-person lessons to test protocols, followed by the option of opening to all later this summer. EFNEP previously required that participants be eligible based on income and caregiving responsibility for a minor child. Guidance now allows serving participants who are income-eligible and may have caregiving responsibility in the future. We are interpreting this change inclusively, as people in all stages of life have the potential to become caregivers. This opens EFNEP to more Iowans.

4-H Youth Development

  • Camera Corps 2021 currently has 291 youth participants, who represent 82 counties. The program has been hosting virtual county-based photography workshops and is looking forward to holding in-person workshops in late June. Their exhibit “Exploring Texture” is at the Green Hills Art Gallery in Ames through July 15. Iowa 4-H also worked with the New Jersey 4-H Program to help them create a 4-H Camera Corps Program.
  • Iowa is one of 10 states piloting the Soccer for Success program in partnership with National 4-H Council and the U.S. Soccer Foundation. The program helps youth establish important life skills and health behaviors through recreational soccer instruction. Iowa’s goal is to reach 100 youth this spring/summer and then grow into more counties next year. At this point 4-H will exceed this goal, as there are summer and fall programs lined up in Dallas, Louisa, and Wapello counties.
  • The 4-H LGBTQ+ Champion Group was a sponsor for the Iowa Safe Schools Governor’s Conference in April, and with that sponsorship the group had representatives at a virtual “table” to share their message and answer questions. This team, along with members from other champion groups, are also planning a retreat at the Boone YMCA in July for roughly 20 youth who have expressed interest in the Teen Equity and Inclusion Influencer role.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • Marsh Madness is the new Conservation Station developed and operated by Iowa Learning Farms and Water Rocks! The new trailer combines sight, sound, and science to engage Iowans about the values of the state’s wetland ecosystems. Marsh Madness will travel across the state to schools, county fairs, and other events. Reservations are free and include educational programming and materials for all ages and backgrounds, The Conservation Station trailers have appeared at 769 events since 2010, engaging with some 103,600 Iowans. They log an estimated 18,000 to 24,000 miles each year.
  • Most farmers in Iowa are seeing a significant increase in what they pay for land rents this year. According to the Cash Rental Rates for Iowa 2021 Survey, rates have increased an average of 4.5%, an increase of about $10 per acre, for a total per-acre rent of $232. Extension economist Alejandro Plastina says this is the first substantial increase in cash rents since 2013, when rents peaked, followed by four years of declining rents and three years of relatively stable rents.
  • The “Soil Judging in Iowa” handbook and the “Iowa Soil Judging Scorecard” have been updated. Both are used by youth soil judging teams and were produced in cooperation with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and FFA. Both publications help contestants look at soil properties and potential problems or opportunities with different soils. The publications are updated from time to time to ensure that terms and explanations are consistent with the soil industry, NRCS, and university education. Both publications provide useful information, regardless of whether the user is planning to go to college, return to the farm, or do something else.

May 2021 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Agriculture and Natural Resources and 4-H Youth Development

  • The 11th annual Crop Scouting Competition for Iowa Youth will be held July 26 at the Field Extension Education Laboratory in Boone. The in-person event is presented by the Integrated Pest Management program and 4-H Youth Development is a sponsor. Students completing grades 7-12 are invited to put their crop scouting skills to the test against other Iowa youth teams across the state. This event provides youth an opportunity to obtain knowledge and skills helpful in future careers related to agricultural and environmental sciences.

More Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • Our Agriculture and Natural Resources program provides clients, policy makers, agencies, agribusiness professionals, and other stakeholders the opportunity to learn from research-based education to inform their decisions, which leads to a sustainable agriculture and environment. In turn, this benefits all Iowans by ensuring clean water, profitable farms, thriving communities, and a more secure food system. Take a look at our 2020 ANR by the Numbers.
  • The derecho that swept across Iowa and the Midwest in August 2020 caused extensive damage to forests and woodlots – but not all of it was negative. Billy Beck, assistant professor and extension forestry specialist, has put together a series of YouTube videos that explain how woodland owners can recover, and make their forests more resilient than before.
  • For the first time in two years, the Beef Improvement Federation’s annual meeting and research symposium will be held in person. Dan Loy, Iowa Beef Center director and extension beef specialist, said Iowa State faculty and staff are excited to host this year’s event, set for June 22-25 at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines.

More 4-H Youth Development

  • SWITCH Facebook Live events reached 2,470 families virtually this spring. Each month, SWITCH (School Wellness Integration Targeting Child Health) team members demonstrated how to make a Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipe using a featured fruit of the month (which SWITCH students taste-tested in school that month). Local 4-H staff worked with the school core teams to provide to-go bags that included ingredients to prepare the recipe at home, as well as an activity for families to complete together. The goal is to get students to switch to consuming more fruits and vegetables. SWITCH registration for the 2021-2022 school year is now open.
  • Youth will participate in Astro Camp events across the state June 14-18. Astro Camp gives youth the chance to experience STEM and inspires future astronauts and engineers to learn about space with activities unique to NASA. Activities include creating a mission patch and building a space habitat, as well as a statewide rocket launch. The camp is a great way to help youth foster career dreams of tomorrow and develop life-changing goals through Next Generation science, math, and engineering skills.

Community and Economic Development

  • The Great Iowa Road Trip took place April 30 and May 1 in Marion and Mahaska counties. Community residents and visitors followed a mapped route featuring a self-guided tour of 42 cool places and special activities in towns such as New Sharon, Knoxville, Oskaloosa, and Pella. Tourism specialist Diane Van Wyngarden led this special weekend event cosponsored by ISU Extension and Outreach to assist small communities.
  • The 2021 Community Visioning Program completed community assessment work in April and local steering committees are reviewing the assessment data provided by the ISU research team. During May assessment reviews will be conducted in Alleman, Emmetsburg, Conrad, and Malvern.
  • During May, Rural Housing Readiness Assessment workshops continue for Harrison County, Glenwood, Pacific Junction, and Malvern. CED specialists will facilitate Leading Communities for Osceola and Wayne counties. Navigating Difference will be conducted for Region 6 Public Health and Centro Latino.

Human Sciences

  • Buy, Eat, Live Healthy education continued during the pandemic. The SNAP-Ed and EFNEP team taught 1,864 lessons virtually over the past year, and group-based lessons with long-standing partners have been part of this success. For example, the YWCA in Fort Dodge is home to women experiencing substance abuse recovery and 49 women at the Y have completed Buy, Eat, Live Healthy education with technology support from the Y staff. In April the Metro High School in Cedar Rapids initiated a group class for soon-to-be independent teenagers.
  • Two Human Sciences Extension and Outreach outcomes were featured as part of the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences IMPACT 2021 reports shared with national legislators and stakeholders. In the “Protecting Our Resources – Family Life” category, Iowa offered “Stress on the Farm: Strategies to Help Each Other” to 4,376 participants; 86% agreed they were able to recognize risk factors and warning signs that someone is distressed or potentially suicidal. Additionally, 79% agreed they were more willing to engage with someone who is distressed. In the “Improving Children’s Lives” category, Early Childhood Education Trainings in Iowa increase educators’ ability to identify strengths and limitations and prioritize changes. Of 570 participants, 96% indicated growth in these areas and initiated a workable plan for program development.
  • The Iowa Healthiest State Initiative operates the Double Up Food Bucks project in Iowa. An Iowan who shops with SNAP dollars at a participating site can receive $1 of Double Up Bucks for every $1 of SNAP benefits spent on fresh fruits and vegetables. The currency is redeemable at participating farmers markets and grocery stores. Beginning with the summer distribution, Double Up Food Bucks currency will feature a QR code to the Spend Smart, Eat Smart Produce Basics page. This partnership will provide resources related to produce selection, storage, and use to all Double Up Food Bucks shoppers.

April 2021 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

4-H Youth Development

  • Iowa 4-H members participated in virtual interviews for the annual State 4-H Recognition Day on March 27. State 4-H Recognition is the process in which senior 4-H members in grades 9-12 can apply to be selected for special statewide opportunities including awards, trips such as National 4-H Conference, State 4-H Council, Iowa 4-H Reporters Program, and Iowa 4-H Healthy Living Ambassadors. The 2021 award winners are listed by county on the Iowa 4-H website
  • Every other Wednesday State 4-H Council Members offer an inside look at Iowa 4-H through the Iowa 4-H CloverCast, sharing personal insights and stories, as well as talking with professionals and experts. Council members host the guests, share 4-H opportunities, and edit and transcribe the audio for each podcast. This podcast is made possible by a partnership with the Iowa 4-H Foundation and ISU Extension and Outreach 4-H Youth Development.
  • In partnership with the Iowa Education Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, State 4-H Council members worked together to prepare and sew nine tactile blankets for Iowa youth who are blind or visually impaired. The tactile blankets can be used by infants, young children, and older children who are blind or visually impaired, to help engage them in their cognitive development. Council members were encouraged to take this service project idea back to their own counties and 4-H clubs to help spread awareness and to encourage their fellow 4-H members to participate.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • The optimum planting window for Iowa corn has been April 11 to May 18, with a shorter window in the northern part of the state compared to the south. And the risk for a heavy frost (temperature below 28 F) remains above the 50th percentile until about mid-April. This Integrated Crop Management blog post provides more information on planting date considerations.
  • Madeline Schultz, program manager for the farm management team’s women in ag program was recently awarded a $300,000 grant focused on “Enhancing Conservation, Access, and Generational Transition of Iowa Farmland through Women Landowners.” The first part of the project will consist of collecting more data and analytics about women farm ownership. From there, the team will assemble area meetings of women landowners and stakeholders, to discuss and gather concerns. Finally, the team will hold online and face-to-face workshops to deliver information and resources that improve women’s knowledge of land ownership.
  • For 25 years, Ag Decision Maker has provided a decision-oriented agricultural business website designed for farmers, lenders, farm managers, agriculture instructors, and others. Ag Decision Maker is coordinated, written, and distributed by the farm management team within ANR. Since 1996, there has also been a monthly newsletter distributed to provide timely analysis and insight into many of the issues facing modern agriculture. Join us in celebrating 25 great years with such a useful resource to Iowans and beyond.

Community and Economic Development

  • In April Community and Economic Development continues to collaborate with the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s Community Development Block Grant technical assistance fund, conducting virtual Rural Housing Readiness Assessment workshops for Glenwood, Malvern, and Pacific Junction. CED is collaborating with Ohio State University to offer RHRA for Noble County, Ohio.
  • CED continues its work to enhance community leadership structures and broaden community engagement through leadership training. During April CED specialists are facilitating Leading Communities: A Place-based Leadership Program for Osceola, Howard, and Wayne counties. The program is designed to promote community engagement and increase capacity among community members for addressing common issues and problems. CED specialists will facilitate Developing Dynamic Leaders in Webster County. This program focuses on leadership skills at the individual level.
  • Navigating Difference cultural competency training enables participants to create a safe and welcoming environment for all learners with activities that respect and support individual learning styles. In April, CED specialists will conduct Navigating Difference with Region 6 Public Health and Centro Latino.

Human Sciences

  • The Science of Parenting team (Lori Korthals, Barbara Dunn Swanson, Mackenzie DeJong, and Mackenzie Johnson) received first place for a single program in the Epsilon Sigma Phi Elevate Extension Talk. Their winning video is posted on the National ESP YouTube Channel.
  • The Van Buren County Extension Council will reimburse 10 businesses who send their staff to ServSafe classes before the end of the fiscal year. Two participants received scholarships for the March 16 class. The council is offering scholarships to other Human Sciences Extension and Outreach educational offerings as well. The council is taking this action as part of their “Reviving the Iowa Economy” priority recovery initiative.
  • During federal FY 2020, the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. app had 2,468 new users and the website had 128,685 total users. Sixty-three percent of users were age 44 or younger; 69% were female. Most users accessed the website in English, but 2,362 used the live translation feature. This is 2.5 times the number who used this feature in 2019: 549 accessed it in Spanish, 304 in Portuguese, and 232 in Chinese. A September 2020 user survey showed that 52% of users access the website or app weekly or daily. Users reported that recipes, meal planning resources, and fresh produce preparation information were the most helpful types of content. Users also reported these top 3 behavior changes they made: cooking healthy recipes (most frequent response), eating more fruits and vegetables, and trying new foods.

March 2021 goodbye … and welcome

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

  • Samantha Hendricks, Monroe County office assistant
  • Francesca Reyes, Winneshiek County office manager
  • Logan Doty, Fremont County youth coordinator
  • Kameron Middlebrooks, education extension specialist II, Community and Economic Development
  • Abigail Stanek, education extension specialist II, 4-H Youth Development

We welcome the following new staff:

  • Valerie Jaehrling, Adair County youth coordinator
  • Janell Heater, Louisa County office assistant
  • Kylie South, Guthrie County office coordinator
  • Jada Goddard, Chickasaw County director
  • Jesse Garcia, Muscatine County Latino outreach coordinator
  • Ryan Rawson Van Wyk, education extension specialist I, Human Sciences
  • Kurt Goldsmith, business administrator II, 4-H Youth Development
  • Tyler Weig, partnerships and engagement manager, 4-H Youth Development

March 2021 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Human Sciences

  • Specialists in family finance continue to support the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. During the 2019 filing season they trained 56 volunteers who served 1,243 Iowa families including older adults, people with low to moderate income, or people who have a disability. These families claimed $1,031,472 in Earned Income Tax Credit on returns filed. More than 2,000 volunteer hours were spent in training, studying, and testing; tax preparation; scheduling and site coordination; program promotion including developing and distributing marketing and mailings; and commute time.
  • Specialists in family life have begun presenting Healthy Relationship and Marital Education Training virtually. Evaluations from a February class speak to the effectiveness of the training: 95% of participants understand how cultivating individual wellness and health supports the health of the couple relationship; 90% of participants understand how couples can foster a sense of couple identity; 100% of participants reported as a result of the course they are confident helping individuals and couples to support healthy living choices and become better connected to support systems.
  • Healthy food access specialists promoted and facilitated the distribution of USDA Farm to Family boxes to families in nine rural counties. More than 5,300 boxes that included meat, dairy, and fresh produce were distributed. The specialists also established a coalition working toward improving healthy food access in the Council Bluffs area. They coached food pantries through a Nutrition Environment Food Pantry Assessment Tool process and helped them develop action plans to make healthy choices easier for pantry clients.

4-H Youth Development

  • Iowa 4-H Youth Development has launched Gardening to Give, a hands-on educational gardening program designed for all ages and abilities. Registered participants receive educational resources monthly during this eight-month, immersive learning experience. In 2020, the program’s first year, Gardening to Give reached over 1,000 individuals across Iowa and the United States.
  • Forty-five youth from seven schools are gathering virtually for the SWITCH Youth Ambassador Summit. They are learning how they can be advocates for school wellness and serve as peer influencers to their classmates as they set goals to switch what they do, view, and chew.
  • The six 4-H Healthy Living Ambassadors unanimously decided to address food insecurity this year and will be further exploring policy, systems, and environmental change approaches they can advocate for at the individual, regional, state, and federal levels. During their next retreat in late March they will prepare a presentation to propose to the National 4-H Council “Dolphin Tank” competition. Top selections will be invited to semifinal round in April and top winners will be awarded $1,000 to put their project idea into action.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • Following a year that included both drought and a derecho, Iowa’s crop producers may face some unique challenges in 2021 related to weed management. The 2021 Herbicide Guide for Iowa Corn and Soybean Production, published by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, offers some timely information and guidance. The guide is updated every year, but this year’s version gives special attention to the issue of volunteer corn, which could be more severe in 2021 following the germination of storm-damaged corn from last year’s derecho.
  • This year’s Master Gardener training will be offered 100% online in the fall and participants have through July 1 to apply. Seventeen educational modules will be offered on topics including houseplants, pollinators, vegetables, and perennial flowers. Each course module includes a book chapter, lecture video, online discussion board, and a quiz. Participants can work through the book chapters and online materials at their own pace, on their own time. They will connect in online discussion forums to share ideas about how they plan to volunteer and what they are learning.
  • Morel and oyster mushroom workshops will be offered online (March 20 and April 3). To legally sell morel and oyster mushrooms in Iowa, sellers must complete a certification workshop that covers identifying morels and oyster, as well as distinguishing between true and false morels. Participants only need to participate in one of the sessions to be certified. ISU Extension and Outreach has provided morel mushroom certification training for many years; oyster mushrooms were added to the training in 2020.

Community and Economic Development

  • The 2021 Community Visioning Program has begun community transportation assets and barriers focus-group workshops. These workshops are part of the assessment process giving local decision makers a framework within which to make informed choices. In March virtual workshops will be conducted in Wheatland, Toledo, Conrad, Shenandoah, Malvern, Tama, Emmetsburg, and Princeton.
  • The 2021 Introduction to Planning and Zoning for Local Officials was facilitated virtually for a statewide audience in early March; the virtual workshop will be facilitated for the City of Marion on March 29. The session introduces the basic principles of land use planning and development management to elected officials, planning and zoning officials, and board of adjustment members without formal training in the subjects.
  • CED is facilitating the Business Model Canvas strategic management tool in Spanish for Latina entrepreneurs and small business owners for COMUN at MERGE in Iowa City. CED also will be facilitating the training in partnership with Albia Area Chamber of Commerce and ISU Extension and Outreach Monroe County for entrepreneurs and small business owners from Monroe, Appanoose, and Wayne counties.
  • CED is offering Grant Writing 101 for representatives of nonprofit organizations, local governments, and schools. CED specialists will be conducting Grant Writing 101 in person for Sutherland and virtually for Webster County and DPS counties.

February 2021 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Community and Economic Development

  • A new, blended version of the Municipal Professionals Institute is launching in 2021, consisting of winter (February) and fall virtual sessions and a summer, in-person workshop in Ames. The virtual sessions will be held in a live and interactive format. Courses will not be recorded, and participants will be required to be online and interacting as a part of the certification process.
  • In cooperation with the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s Community Development Block Grant technical assistance fund, CED specialists will be conducting virtual Rural Housing Readiness Assessment workshops in February for Mapleton, Keokuk, Harrison County, and Estherville, and with Ohio State University for Noble County, Ohio.
  • The township clerk and township trustees are the locally elected officials who are responsible for seeing that services are delivered effectively and economically. Yet many trustees and clerks assume their jobs with little or no training and experience. CED’s Office of State and Local Government Programs offers township trustee and clerk training upon request. CED specialists will be conducting the training virtually for a statewide audience on February 23 and 25.

Human Sciences and Agriculture and Natural Resources

Growing Together Iowa mini-grants have been awarded to 32 projects for 2021. The Growing Together Iowa 2020 data collection has been completed and analysis is underway. Here are some highlights:

  • Despite the pandemic, drought, and derecho, Growing Together Iowa projects donated more than 81,328 pounds of fruits and vegetables to Iowa’s food pantries this growing season. This equates to 243,984 servings.
  • 69,386 Iowans visited pantries where Growing Together Iowa produce was available.
  • 239 Master Gardener volunteers contributed to Growing Together Iowa this growing season.
  • 430 community volunteers who are not Master Gardeners contributed to Growing Together Iowa projects.
  • 1,016 people with low income engaged in food gardening education through Growing Together Iowa this year.

More Human Sciences

  • A new manager at a casino requested general food safety training for all food and beverage staff. Human Sciences offered two ServSafe Food Handlers courses and reached 50 casino employees. The staff applied concepts learned and made changes to reduce the risk of foodborne illness for casino guests. Six weeks after the class, managers reported practices including increased incidence of staff taking food temperatures, increased cleaning and sanitizing of thermometers after use, and increased handwashing.
  • In January, approximately 30 county partners and all human sciences specialists in family life participated in training for new Science of Parenting workshops. The workshops are a response to the Structured for Success initiative and feature team delivery. Specialists in family life deliver the first session, Understanding Research and Reality, a foundational class. County partners teach a second session, Positive Discipline. While this is the preferred format, either workshop can be delivered on its own. They also may be delivered virtually. The plan is to add additional workshops for county partners to deliver in the months ahead.

More Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • While many specialty crop growers saw increased demand in 2020, they also faced significant changes to their marketing plans and customer base. To help growers prepare for the year ahead, the Small Farm Sustainability program with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is offering a Specialty Crops Risk Management Webinar Series that runs through March 10. The goal is to help growers mitigate risk, so they can prevent loss and prepare for changes in the marketplace.
  • Pork producers can learn more about building ventilation from the inside out through a series of workshops in mid-March. The Iowa Pork Industry Center is joining ISU Extension and Outreach in offering Managing Your Unseen Employee: The Ventilation System at five different Iowa locations at no cost. The daylong program provides a two-pronged approach to understanding issues and consequences of decisions by combining classroom instruction with hands-on trials and application of knowledge gained in a real-world setting.

4-H Youth Development

  • STEM Sparks is a new program designed to “spark” youth interest in STEM while also showcasing STEM professions for youth in grades 4-12. Each STEM Sparks lesson includes a hands-on STEM activity that uses the experiential learning model, a short overview of STEM content, a defined STEM vocabulary, and an introduction to a STEM profession. These STEM Sparks lessons will be low cost and delivered in a small kit that contains a one-page lesson guide and any needed materials for individual youth or small teams of youth. This program is being designed by the Iowa 4-H STEM Team and is scheduled to be released in April.
  • State 4-H Council is planning the 2021 Iowa 4-H Youth Conference, “Quest to be your best,” taking place June 29-July 1 in Ames at the ISU campus. This event will take place face to face and follow COVID regulations with limited participant numbers and will not include overnights. We hope to maintain some of the key components and goals of the traditional youth conference through our alternative plan, such as networking with youth from across the state, experiencing a college campus, and ensuring leadership and service-learning components are a part of the event. State 4-H Council members are in the planning process and registration will open in March.
  • SWITCH Resource Kits were mailed out to 37 SWITCH schools in early January. SWITCH Facebook LIVE events are reaching families in a virtual setting once per month. 4-H staff and campus partners have developed several new resources that are available on the SWITCH website for schools and 4-H staff to access virtually.

January 2021 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • Registration is still open for CropsTV and subscribers can interact live with ISU Extension and Outreach specialists through February 4 to gain crop production information and Certified Crop Adviser continuing education. Content also is available for viewing on demand. More than 800 subscribers from Iowa and 14 other states have already stacked up over 5,500 episode views.
  • Extension dairy experts will present a Virtual Dairy Day February 9. Producers and industry partners will have a chance to hear about current and relevant information to help them make sound management decisions.
  • The Pesticide Safety Education Program will host statewide online 2020-2021 Private pesticide applicator Continuing Instruction Courses, beginning January 20. PSEP will offer additional virtual P-CIC programs in February, March, and April.
  • An interactive online-only course will be offered on January 20 and 21 leading to Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance designation as a Preventive Controls Qualified Individual in compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act Preventive Controls for Animal Food rule. The course is being offered jointly by the Iowa Grain Quality Initiative program and the American Feed Industry Association.

Community and Economic Development

  • The 2021 Community Visioning Program kicks off virtually in January with Program Overview and Communications Strategies virtual workshops for Calamus, Wheatland, Emmetsburg, Shenandoah, Malvern, Tama, Toledo, and Princeton.
  • In cooperation with the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s Community Development Block Grant technical assistance fund, CED specialists will be conducting Rural Housing Readiness Assessment educational workshops for Keokuk, with Ohio State University for Noble County, Ohio, and for Nevada. CED specialists will teach RHRA workshops #1 and #2 for Estherville.
  • CED provides goal setting, strategic planning, and action planning services to help local governments and nonprofits address critical issues, identify priorities, and develop plans to accomplish those priorities. In January CED specialists will conduct strategic planning for the American Poultry Association, National 4-H Equity Design Team, and Salud! in Storm Lake. CED specialists will facilitate goal setting for the National Extension Tourism Board.
  • CED staff will be conducting virtual Navigating Difference modules 2 and 3 for Cedar Valley Catholic Schools in Waterloo and Centro Latino in Council Bluffs.

Human Sciences

  • ISU SNAP-Ed helped Table to Table, a nonprofit food rescue in Iowa City, fund increased service during the growing season to increase access to fruits and vegetables in food pantries in Southeast Iowa. During this past growing season, Table to Table collaborated with six farms, 11 gardeners, and 40 businesses to collect 512,000 pounds of fruits, vegetables, and dairy.
  • Human sciences specialists facilitated an online offering of Preschoolers and Pennies: Read, Talk, Learn, and Play. Thirty-one childcare providers from 16 Iowa counties attended the two-hour workshop. Each completed an action plan that included writing a goal using what they learned.
  • COVID-19 amplifies the challenges of caregiving. Our Powerful Tools for Caregivers master trainers developed a plan for online, virtual class leader trainings. From May through September 2020, 58 individuals were trained to become certified class leaders.
  • Nutrition and wellness state specialists and a graduate student in food science and human nutrition have a new Journal of Extension article on assessing and responding to COVID-19 pandemic nutrition and wellness impacts on Iowans.

4-H Youth Development

  • ISU Extension and Outreach and the Iowa Space Grant Consortium will be sponsoring 10 StoryWalk pilots. One will occur this winter, while the rest will take place in the spring. The StoryWalk team is working with extension offices in Pocahontas, Marshall, O’Brien, Guthrie, Cass, Jasper, Allamakee, Monroe, and Mahaska counties.
  • The State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa is virtual this year. SSTFI is open to any student (grades 6-12) residing in or attending school (public, private, parochial, and home school) in Iowa. At this time there is no qualifier fair (local, conference, district, or regional) required for participation in the March event. To learn more, please visit the Iowa 4-H SSTFI webpage.
  • The 4th annual Healthy Living Club Challenge has begun. Clubs and staff teams are invited to focus on their different dimensions of well-being to learn, grow, and explore ways to practice a variety of healthy habits. Wellness officers from participating clubs meet monthly to learn about the upcoming month’s club activities so they can coordinate it locally.
  • The National 4-H Healthy Living Summit will be held virtually February 12-15. While the 4-H Healthy Living Ambassadors will miss the Washington, D.C., experience, they are excited to invite their peers from across the state to join in the virtual experience. Teens from across the state are encouraged to participate.

November 2020 goodbye … and welcome

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

  • Tenysa Handrock, Clarke County office assistant
  • Jennifer Lamos, Wapello County horticulturist and local foods
  • Kyler Waddle, Louisa County office manager
  • Jerolyne Packer, secretary III, Agriculture Program Services
  • Mary Barber, education extension specialist III, Iowa Concern, Human Sciences
  • Jen Lamos, education extension specialist II, EFNEP, Human Sciences
  • Billie Koester, manager communications, Advancement
  • Gale Francione, extension program assistant II, EFNEP, Human Sciences

We welcome the following new staff:

  • Marissa Foels, Allamakee County youth coordinator
  • Megan Janssen, Emmet County program educator/coordinator
  • Nancy Kincaid, Monroe County NEST coordinator
  • Brenda Lechner, education extension specialist I, Iowa Concern, Human Sciences
  • Demi Johnson, program specialist II, Human Sciences
  • Shannon Hoffman, program specialist II, Human Sciences
  • Olivia Hanlon, education extension specialist I, Farm, Food, and Enterprise Development

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