Essentials for a strong Iowa

John Lawrence’s message from June 19, 2017

When we say ISU Extension and Outreach works with Iowans from cradle to grave, we hope there are many healthy years between those two points. One of the ways our human sciences faculty and staff educate Iowans across the lifespan is by providing training for child care providers.

Before September 2016, few Iowa child care providers had working knowledge of how to handle a child’s serious allergic reaction to food, store hazardous materials, manage infectious diseases, safely administer medicine or prepare their child care or preschool program for dealing with an intruder or weather-related emergency. Every year, children die in child care settings due to inappropriate sleep practices, accidental drowning or being shaken while crying. New state regulations now require all child care providers to have training that will protect the basic health and safety of children while in child care or preschool. Did you know?

  • Human Sciences Extension and Outreach and Healthy Child Care Iowa developed the Essentials Child Care Preservice Program to help child care providers meet new state requirements and learn basic health and safety “essentials” for child care and preschool programs.
  • Essentials Online is free, self-paced and available 24/7, making it ideal for rural child care providers and teachers who have limited hours available for professional development. In the eight months since the program’s inception, more than 15,000 child care providers, center directors and preschool teachers have enrolled in the 12-hour, online course.
  • The Essentials Program also is available in onsite workshops taught by Healthy Child Care Iowa and Child Care Resource and Referral.

While this program addresses child safety and health, it also supports economic development across the state. Yes, it provides training for child care providers so they can be employed or have a business, but it is more than the jobs created in child care. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (2014), Iowa ranks first in the nation for the percentage of young children with employed parents. When their kids are receiving quality care, Iowa moms and dads can enter the workforce and are better able to focus on their work, which makes a difference for the state’s economy. The Essentials Child Care Preservice Program is essential for healthy children, a stable workforce and a strong Iowa.

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

Feeding people, then and now

John Lawrence’s message from May 30, 2017

As I was paging through my extension history book the other day, I found myself reading about ISU Extension and Outreach work during wartime – an appropriate topic for Memorial Day weekend. R.K. Bliss was extension director during both World War I and II, leading our organization in all-out efforts to produce and preserve more food. During World War II in particular, extension professionals engaged Iowans in increasing meat, milk and egg production. Extension pamphlets shared calls for teamwork on the battle field and the home front – from producing and conserving food, to sharing labor, power and machinery. Iowans answered the call, as Bliss noted: “Never before in recorded history had so few people produced so much food.”

One hundred years ago in April 1917 the United States entered World War I and Iowa initiated a War Emergency Food Committee. The committee used the budding county extension system and county farm bureaus (the forerunner of the Iowa Farm Bureau) to deliver the message about increasing food production and reducing waste. There was a particular emphasis on increasing grain and hog production to support the war effort. A slow growing season and early frost in 1917 threatened corn production, because much of the corn froze before it matured and would not germinate when planted in 1918. Extension led a seed corn inventory and testing program to find and evaluate seed for the following year. The U.S. Food Administration declared that “pigs are as essential as shells” in winning the war. Extension helped Iowa farmers answer the call to raise more pigs, and Iowa has been a major pork producer ever since.

During WWII our organization helped identify and coordinate 28,000 volunteers – 14,000 men and 14,000 women – to provide leadership in the war food production program. That was a man and woman volunteer for each four square miles and 15 or 16 farm families. Think of the task before them. Men and women were leaving their homes and communities to go off to war or to industries supporting the war, and resources were being rationed. Iowans were being asked to increase production of food and reduce waste through education and improved efficiency – our wheelhouse. Compared to the prewar 1938-1940 average, by 1943 Iowa had increased total production of corn 30 percent, hogs 53 percent, eggs 51 percent and soybeans 300 percent. Farmers even added 45,000 acres of a new crop, hemp, for ropes and fiber. It was estimated that there were 455,000 gardens in 1943 and that rural and urban Iowans canned 150 million quarts of food, dried a half million pounds of food products and stored 5.7 million bushels of fruits and vegetables.

A focus on feeding people always has been part of ISU Extension and Outreach’s history and continues as part of our future. ISU Extension and Outreach is not mobilizing farmers and families during war time, but we still address timely and relevant issues. Did you know?

  • More than 1,100 livestock producers, veterinarians and feed distributors in Iowa participated in workshops, webinars or podcasts to increase their knowledge of the new animal antibiotic use regulations, improve their management related to judicious use of antibiotics in animal production, and improve record keeping related to medication use. They manage or impact more than 4 million animals.
  • Over one-half of Iowa farmland is under some form of lease agreement, and farmland leases are an on-going discussion between tenants and landowners. In 2016 some 2,100 participants attended farmland leasing meetings to increase knowledge on leasing arrangements, and 96 percent indicated they were satisfied the meeting met their expectations. Popular publications on leasing were downloaded more than 415,000 times, and new videos received 3,176 views.
  • ISU Extension and Outreach provides Pesticide Safety Education Program training to more than 25,000 certified applicators who each year safely apply pesticides to virtually all of Iowa’s 24 million crop acres, as well as to residential and recreational land.

Even in Agriculture and Natural Resources we focus on the people, rather than things you buy in a bag or spray over the field. We help Iowans build their capacity to better their lives and make sound decisions. Of course, this also applies to our Human Sciences faculty and staff working with families from cradle to grave, from training child care providers to working with eldercare. It applies to Community and Economic Development – whether that be planning and zoning or new businesses on main street. And it certainly applies to 4-H, as we build capacities and strong individuals through positive youth development and leadership opportunities. Because a strong Iowa requires not only feeding people, but also keeping them healthy, helping their communities prosper and thrive, and turning the world over to the next generation better than we found it.

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

Watch and share our videos

John Lawrence’s Monday Message from May 22, 2017

I am beginning to feel more comfortable as the Interim VP of our organization. I hope you are becoming more comfortable with me. For those of you who don’t know me, Advancement put together a brief video interview with me that gives you more background and perspective, and gives them more material for the blooper reel. I’m reminded of the reference about making a silk purse from a sow’s ear, but I think it turned out all right.

 still from John Lawrence video

People have been asking questions about whether there are changes in direction for ISU Extension and Outreach and where are we headed. The simple answers are no and forward. As I listen and learn about our organization, people and work, I believe that we are doing well and I encourage you to continue moving forward. Iowa State has a new strategic plan and ISU Extension and Outreach along with the colleges are reviewing and revising their plans to be consistent with the university’s plan. Through that process we will assess direction and function and share any changes through our system. Similarly, as I learn things that deserve attention and we adjust to budget pressures, those changes also will be shared.

We still want a #StrongIowa. We achieve it by feeding people, keeping them healthy, helping their communities to prosper and thrive, and turning the world over to the next generation better than we found it. We serve as a 99-county campus, connecting the needs of Iowans with Iowa State University research and resources. We provide education and partnerships designed to solve today’s problems and prepare for the future.

By the way, in spite of what you thought about my video interview, you should watch and share our videos that showcase the work of our people throughout the state. Did you know?

  • Our Story videos share the stories of our programs and people working for a strong Iowa.
  • UKnow features a variety of ISU Extension and Outreach “how to” videos with research-based, do-it-yourself advice.
  • The ISU Extension and Outreach YouTube channel is your connection to videos about our organization, as well as from our program areas and university partners.

One more thing: Mark your calendars and save the date for Annual Conference 2018. It’s set for Monday, March 26, 2018 – at the Scheman Building on the Iowa State campus in Ames.

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

New staff, mentoring and CED

John Lawrence’s Monday Message from May 1, 2017

Well, these few weeks of “acting” are over. It seems the Iowa State powers that be haven’t changed their minds, because I’m “interim” now. And that’s OK. I’ve always seen myself as a utility infielder for ISU Extension and Outreach. Whatever job needs to be done, I try to step up and help. I enjoy the opportunity to work with great faculty, staff and councils. And it’s truly an honor to help shape our next generation of extension professionals. I’m looking forward to New Staff Orientation on Thursday.

Did you know?

  • After our 2011 leadership summit, we started paying closer attention to how we introduce new staff to ISU Extension and Outreach. We formalized orientation and created an onboarding checklist for everyone – campus, field and county.
  • We now conduct New Staff Orientation twice a year, in spring and fall.
  • We’ll welcome 32 staff during New Staff Orientation on May 4.
  • It’s a full agenda with overviews on our structure, program areas, advancement, conference planning and management, the Iowa Extension Council Association, and respect in the workplace.

Another essential part of bringing new staff up to speed in our organization is mentoring – how we experienced extension professionals welcome, coach and shepherd our new colleagues. Having an engaged mentor can make a real difference in the success of a new hire and ultimately our organization. Without an engaged mentor we run the risk of the “tragedy of the commons”: It is everyone’s responsibility, therefore someone else will take care of it. Wrong. While it is everyone’s responsibility to make ISU Extension and Outreach a rewarding and enjoyable place to work, it is the mentors’ responsibility to shepherd our new colleagues through our system and culture, and to help them launch a successful career. The Mentor Academy led by our Professional Development unit equips our folks to be good mentors and to build great colleagues.

I also have an update on the Community and Economic Development director search: The search committee has named a finalist for the position of Associate or Full Professor – Director of ISU Extension and Outreach Program to Communities and Economic Development; Associate Director of the Institute for Design Research and Outreach; and Director of Design Extension. That candidate is Gary D. Taylor, current interim director for CED and an associate professor and extension specialist in the Department of Community and Regional Planning. You can learn about his interests and qualifications for the position during a public forum May 15 at 2:30 p.m. in the Memorial Union Gold Room. You also can participate via webinar. Information about Gary’s background is available on our Human Resources website.

Our people are our greatest asset and, as with any valuable asset, we must invest in them. Whether you are new staff or more seasoned, I hope that you all are proud of what you do, that you are supported in a way that you can do your job effectively, and that you are valued and appreciated by the people you work with and those you serve. Together we help Iowans identify needs, seek opportunities and achieve their fullest potential. We are the trusted source of unbiased information to help Iowans make better decisions to improve their lives and their communities for a strong Iowa. We are Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

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

County events, offices and councils

John Lawrence’s Monday Message from April 24, 2017

One of the perks of this job I’ve noticed so far is an open invitation to county events. In the past week I attended Mahaska County’s 100th anniversary celebration dinner, Polk County’s 100th anniversary open house and Worth County’s open house at their new office. The hamburgers were great (Thanks, Mahaska County Cattlemen!), the rain didn’t put a damper on Polk’s party and Worth gave me my first official ribbon cutting (without the ribbon). I always enjoy meeting with our partners, staff and council members. At Annual Conference I asked you to invite me out, and I thank you for taking me up on it. Linda Brinkmeyer makes sure everything fits on my dance card, so keep those invitations coming.

Over my 25 years with ISU Extension and Outreach I have visited many of the county offices for meetings and discussions with producers. My wife and I also visited each office over a three year period and have a picture with our motorcycle in front of each ISU Extension and Outreach XXXXXXX County sign. Check out our quest on our Facebook page. We are the Fallen Clovers Chapter. (Disclaimer: This is a private Facebook page, not an official ISU Extension and Outreach page.)

Never forget that our county extension councils enable us to do great things. Did you know?

  • Iowa has had elected county extension councils since the 1955 County Agricultural Extension Law.
  • The Iowa Extension Council Association helps our councils have a greater impact and voice for issues being addressed by local and state government.
  • The Extension Council Training Academy offers individual and group training to increase council members’ knowledge and effectiveness.
  • Through the Engaged Scholarship Funding Program, county extension councils are investing in new research with Iowa State. For example, the Calhoun County Extension Council is partnering on a project to test how a virtual singing group intervention could be replicated across the state to help Iowans with Parkinson’s disease.

This year Bob Dodds and Cathann Kress started videotaping “Conversations with Council Members.” Bob and I plan to continue these quarterly updates for council members on new products, announcements and upcoming events. With the continuing partnership of our county extension councils, together we can achieve what we all want: a strong Iowa.

Congratulations to our Extension and Outreach colleagues on receiving University Awards.

  • Donna Donald, Human Sciences: ISU Award for Distinguished Service in Extension
  • Russ Euken, ANR: ISU R.K. Bliss Extension Award
  • Bailey Hanson, CED: ISU Award for Early Achievement in Extension or Professional Practice

Be sure to congratulate them on their recognition and contribution to what makes our organization great.

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

From our 2016 Annual Report

John Lawrence’s Monday Message from April 10, 2017

In my first few days as acting vice president for ISU Extension and Outreach, I have found myself thinking of Garrison Keillor’s opening line to his monologue: “Well it’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon.” While it may have been quiet for the regulars working under the green dome, to a newbie it sure seemed hectic. I moved into 2150 Beardshear on Saturday, April 1, and haven’t seen much of the office since. I am finishing a few things in my ANR position and sorting emails in the appropriate direction, all while getting up to speed about my new role on the ISU Extension and Outreach team.

Some of the things I’ve learned are from the 2016 Annual Report for ISU Extension and Outreach. Did you know?

  • More than 1 million people directly benefit from our programs each year. That’s one in three Iowans.
  • About 100,000 4-H youth are building skills for college and career readiness. That’s nearly 20 percent of all Iowa K-12 youth.
  • We support online courses for 50,000 users. They’d nearly fill Jack Trice Stadium – if, of course, they were here rather than online.
  • More than 16,000 volunteers partner with us – more than a sell-out crowd at Hilton Coliseum.
  • We reach more than 4 million with our digital presence. That’s four times the number of direct contacts.

We didn’t achieve these big wins on our own. Our 900 locally elected extension council members are right there with us, working for a strong Iowa. Their partnership is essential to our 99 county campus.

Here are a few more things to keep in mind this week:

  • Performance reviews for 2016 must be completed by April 15, 2017.
  • Proposals are due April 17 for innovation and sustainability projects. We’ll be awarding four grants of $2,500 each. Download the RFP from the See You There blog.
  • The Iowa History 101 Mobile Museum will be coming to a county near you sometime in the next three years. Watch our video about the museum’s stop at annual conference, and learn how we’ll be working with the State Historical Society of Iowa on this project.

Well, one week down, not that I’m counting. I’m in this for as long of a haul as necessary. Early reports indicate I haven’t dropped the ball so far, and that’s thanks to all of you. Because in ISU Extension and Outreach, we all keep each other at the top of our game.

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

A priceless heirloom

John Lawrence’s Monday Message from April 3, 2017

Feeding people, keeping them healthy, helping their communities to prosper and thrive, and turning the world over to the next generation better than we found it: Sounds like a plan for a strong Iowa. As I take on this new role as acting vice president for extension and outreach, I am thankful for the leadership and stewardship of Dr. Cathann Kress. She is leaving our organization in a strong position for what is ahead. And as I said at Annual Conference, I will try not to screw it up. I feel like I have been handed a priceless heirloom and told not to drop it.

Jay Harmon has been named interim director of Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension and interim associate dean for extension and outreach programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. During the interim, ANR will be taking a team approach to cover programs that I gave leadership to over the past seven years.

As recent rains prove, sometimes there are dark clouds on the horizon. However, our strong position and bright future will help us navigate the rough weather, as we turn into the wind to stay on course.

  • We face the uncertainty of a new Iowa State University president. We know Ben Allen and, more important, he knows Iowa State and ISU Extension and Outreach. I am confident that we can work with him in the interim. However, we will need strong representation on the search committee for our new president. I will be asking some of you to participate.
  • The press release announcing my appointment mentioned a national search for a permanent vice president for extension and outreach “in the coming months.” I don’t know the impact President Leath’s departure may have on the timing. You may have me around for a while. I made a firm commitment to be flexible on my interim appointment and to do what is best for ISU Extension and Outreach.
  • There’s uncertainty at the federal level. The Administration’s Budget Blue Print called for a 21 percent reduction in USDA, but didn’t mention the land-grant universities or SNAP-Ed specifically. Longer-term, discussions have started on the new Farm Bill that will set the policy direction for the next five years and beyond. The Farm Bill is not just for farmers, as it sets direction for nutrition, conservation, commodity risk management and other policy, and specifically addresses research and extension programs.
  • There is less uncertainty at the state level, and that is good news. The bad news is that budgets will be tighter and likely will remain so for the next two to three years, while the economy recovers and the rainy day fund is replenished.

Moving forward, it will be like drinking from a fire hose as I learn more about our organization, but here is my promise to you. I will listen and learn. I plan to meet with program directors to learn about their programs and people. I will consult with our partners, including councils, colleges, agencies and NGOs to understand how we work together today and in the future. I will engage with stakeholders, to better appreciate their needs and what they expect from us.

I have an open door policy, open inbox and open phone for you – the staff, faculty and county councils of ISU Extension and Outreach. Invite me out. I would like to meet with you and your stakeholders. Together with the leadership team, I will work to maintain your trust and will share information throughout the process.

We are going into this stretch of rough weather without a map, but we do have a compass to help us stay on course.  That compass is our mission and vision, our core values and our culture.  It is who we are.  We are one system. We are Iowa State University Extension and Outreach! I look forward to working with you as acting and then interim vice president. Together we will keep our organization on course toward a bright future.

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

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