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Iowa State University Extension

February 2009 -- From Jack Payne

cartoon from

Bringing Back the Maytag Man

My retirement portfolio is proof positive (or negative) that I’m no economist. However, I do have my own, small entry into the “Fix the Economy Contest” currently going on at a legislature near you. My “fix” is really quite simple: Let’s all try to repair things and not just throw them away as soon as they start to act up.  After all, my parents, and probably many of your parents or grandparents, made it through the Depression by eating leftovers, reusing anything of even the slightest value and repairing everything. When something had to be replaced because it was no longer fixable, they kept the old one for the parts.

This resourceful, Depression-tested generation of packrats famously produced a new generation of extraordinary innovators and unparalleled inventions. What ensued, however, is what I call the disposable economy. By that, I mean that over the past several decades, the consumer mantra has been, “If it’s broke, don’t fix it.” With that mindset, what entrepreneur in her (or his) right mind would ever build stuff to last? Actually, obsolescence often is built into the sales plan of most manufacturers and, thus, into our behavior patterns as well. Consequently, our overflowing landfills are a testament to things that we neither can nor care to fix. What complicates this is that in some cases, the replacement cost is often said to be lower than the cost of repair. But that doesn’t factor in the cost to the environment and our natural resources.

So if there is an idea here, it’s to retrain and employ the people who have lost their jobs in the manufacturing and high-tech segment to fix the stuff that they once invented and produced. And the take-home message for us is to reduce, reuse, recycle and repair. If you’re game for some fixing ideas, check out some very cool do-it-yourself repair tips and resources at the Red Ferret website.

Me? I’m fixin’ to tackle my broken rototiller for starters.


Extension’s bottom line: Healthy people, environments and economies

Healthy people, environments, economies

In 2008 ISU Extension educated 82,000 Iowans on ways to improve their nutrition and health, equipped 5,000 teachers with lesson plans to educate 200,000 youth about the environment, provided 486,000 individuals with noncredit continuing education and professional development -- and that’s not all. Our report -- ISU Extension 2008: Healthy People, Healthy Environments & Healthy Economies -- provides an executive summary of our programs, progress and a few of our current initiatives that have emerged from listening to the concerns of Iowans across the state.

In these trying economic times, improving the quality of life in Iowa continues to be at the heart of ISU Extension’s work: collaborating with communities to reduce poverty; helping farmers and consumers enhance energy efficiency; educating Iowans about food, feed and fuel issues; and helping companies develop strategies to improve their bottom line.

ISU Extension also
• helped 12,000 Iowans build leadership and management skills to make their communities better places to live,
• counseled 40,000 Iowans on dealing with stress, finances and legal issues, and
• kept jobs in Iowa. Company executives stated that 2,226 jobs were added or retained as a result of the technical assistance and education they received from ISU Extension’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) and partners.

For more information, see the ISU Extension 2008 report.

Extension helps Iowans save money and eat healthy

Spend Smart Eat Smart

Ever-rising food prices are forcing Iowans to make purchasing changes — in the food they buy and where they eat. ISU Extension can help them make good decisions about those changes, said Peggy Martin, ISU Extension nutrition program coordinator. “Our new Spend Smart Eat Smart website offers consumers information that builds the skills and knowledge necessary to affordably make or buy healthy meals.”

The Spend Smart Eat Smart website is one way ISU Extension is helping families eat nutritiously and manage finances. The interactive website offers weekly smart tips; game-like activities about planning, shopping and preparing meals; and a blog for conversations with ISU Extension nutrition specialists.

One tip from the website that Martin shares is to analyze your resources. In order to buy the most food for the least money, she says to consider your money, time and knowledge and skills.

“Ask yourself three questions,” Martin said. “How much money do I have to spend? How much time do I have that I can use for planning, shopping and preparing food that will result in less money spent at the grocery store? What knowledge and skills do I have — or need — to make the most of what I can afford to buy?

“Balancing these three — dollars, time and knowledge and skills — can solve your food budget challenges,” said Martin. “With fewer dollars available for buying food, families need to invest some time into planning to shop, shopping and preparing meals. ISU Extension’s Spend Smart Eat Smart website will help people build knowledge and skills to do just that.”

For more tips and information on buying and eating nutritious food, visit the Spend Smart Eat Smart website.

CIRAS coaches Iowa manufacturers to ‘winning ways’

Eureka! Winning Ways session

The right coach can lead a team to winning ways — “Eureka! Winning Ways” that is, a program that brings manufacturing employees together to generate ideas for business growth. With coaches from ISU Extension’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS), teams from small and medium sized Iowa manufacturers are developing winning game plans that can lead to increased sales and market share.

According to CIRAS specialist Paul Gormley, Eureka! Winning Ways is part of CIRAS’ arsenal of programs to help Iowa manufacturers. With help from a “growth coach” like Gormley, companies generate, develop and test their own ideas for growing their top line sales.

Gormley, a certified Eureka! Winning Ways growth coach, said, “Eureka! Winning Ways has both the creativity and discipline to drive companies forward.”

A participating company forms a team of eight to 16 people, from line workers to upper management, including the company leader. They spend a full day with their growth coach, fleshing out ideas. Over the next 30 days, the coach meets with the team for two more days, and works closely with two key individuals who devote up to full time to the project for at least a month. After careful analysis, they identify the ideas with the best probability of success.

Tom Wenstrand, president of Hawkeye Steel, said, “It allowed us to communicate internally in a way that we wouldn’t have otherwise because we brought key people together.”

Added Bill Van Lent, president and owner of Veridian Limited in Spencer, “Through the Eureka process, things are well mapped out so you don’t have to explore territory on your own. It adds a level of discipline and follow-through lacking in most organizations.”

The key is in the coach being a coach, Gormley continued. “A consultant would say, ‘this is what you should do.’ A coach asks, ‘what do you think your options are?’ The coach’s job is to help companies become capable of doing things themselves.”

Gormley even offers a guarantee: “You’ll generate two ideas worth working on, or at no additional cost, we will work with you until you do.”

Added Winnebago Industries director of marketing Chad Reece, “In the end, you’re going to come out as a much better, stronger company.”

For more information, see CIRAS News or contact Gormley,

Human health screenings become a tradition at Cornbelt Cow-Calf Conference

health screening

Can a cow-calf conference improve human health? It can if it’s the Cornbelt Cow-Calf Conference. ISU Extension will continue its tradition of providing free human health screenings during the Feb. 28 conference in Ottumwa. Typically more than 500 people come to the conference to learn and share ideas about making the cow-calf business profitable and competitive long-term. Each year more of them seek out the health screenings, as well.

For the past five years ISU Extension has worked with Public Health volunteers to offer free human health screenings at the event, said ISU Extension nutrition and health field specialist Barb Anderson. Services offered have ranged from blood pressure checks and rapid diabetes checks to complete lipid panel, total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL and HDL. The tests have been made possible through the financial support of individual, business and community donors.

Participation in the screenings grows substantially each year, Anderson said. “At the 2008 conference more than 70 blood screenings were performed, until the screening kit supply was exhausted. Fifty percent of those tested had elevated cholesterol and triglycerides. Over 125 blood pressure checks were completed; of those, more than 25 percent were abnormal.”

Those individuals were referred to their health care providers to receive follow-up care, Anderson noted.

One of the people tested in 2008 said, “It is great that ISU Extension offers this service at this event. I wouldn’t have done this otherwise. … I plan to make a follow-up appointment as a result of this screening.”

Anderson seconded that sentiment. “Many farmers have told us they wouldn’t normally have sought out this treatment on their own. Having the screenings at a venue they are attending is not only convenient, but potentially life-saving.”

An addition this year is DermaScan viewing and skin cancer screening, Anderson continued. The device uses ultraviolet light to show sun damage on a person’s face that is invisible to the naked human eye.

The Cornbelt Cow-Calf Conference is cosponsored by ISU Extension, the Iowa Beef Center, Iowa Forage and Grasslands Council and John Deere Ottumwa Works. For more information about the conference, contact the ISU Extension office in Jefferson County, (641) 472-4166.

Citizens Advisory Council takes up Geoffroy’s challenge

Gregory Geoffroy

One of President Geoffroy’s long-range goals is that by 2050, “Iowa State University must be regarded as a treasured resource for Iowa, our nation and the world, because of the impact we have in improving people’s lives.” With that in mind, ISU Extension’s Citizens Advisory Council (CAC) is helping Extension take a close look at ways to increase the significant impact of the university and improve quality of life for Iowans in the years ahead.

The CAC members took up the task when they met with ISU Extension staff and administrators in January, said Mary Holz-Clause, interim associate vice president for ISU Extension and Outreach. “The current downturn in the economy, decreasing state budgets and declining tax bases make this a challenging assignment. But we’re looking forward to getting the CAC members’ ideas about ISU Extension’s services over the coming months.”

The CAC’s 39 members are a key and consistent link between ISU Extension administration and Iowa citizens, Holz-Clause said.

“The CAC members are appointed by the Vice President for ISU Extension and Outreach,” Holz-Clause noted. “The council meets twice a year and shares their perspectives and perceptions of ISU Extension. We’ve found their views of significant value.”

For the complete list of CAC members, see the Vice President for Extension and Outreach Web site.

4-H club service project assists disabled, provides learning

4-H garden project

Although happy-go-lucky means taking things easy, the Franklin Township Happy Go Luckies 4-H Club does no such thing. In fact, the club spent the past year coordinating the design and installation of a raised bed garden for disabled residents of a group home in Ames. This included finding grants and partners to help fund the project, and providing much of the labor for planting and maintenance. What started as a club project to help others became an education in community service and project management.

Read more.

Extension’s energy tip: Lower your lighting costs

compact fluorescent lamp

Increasing your lighting efficiency is one of the fastest ways to decrease your electricity bills. Turn off the lights in any room you’re not using, or consider installing timers, photo cells or occupancy sensors to reduce the amount of time your lights are on. Use task lighting; instead of brightly lighting an entire room, focus the light where you need it. For example, use fluorescent under-cabinet lighting for kitchen sinks and countertops under cabinets. Consider three-way lamps; they make it easier to keep lighting levels low when brighter light is not necessary. Finally, use compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs); they are much more efficient than incandescent bulbs and last six to 10 times longer. CFLs are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, but they pay for themselves by saving energy over their lifetime. Check out Lighting for more tips.
This tip is brought to you by the U.S. Department of Energy and ISU Extension.