August 2011 -- From Cathann Kress
In the past few weeks, I’ve had opportunities to meet people engaged in this enterprise of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach: From serving ice cream in Harrison County as local residents took a break from their round-the-clock flood watch, to 4-H youth enjoying their last night at 4-H Camp, to a Nigerian delegation interested in recreating our model for education, to meetings with council members, faculty and key organizational partners.
At these and other events, a lot of people talk to me about their concerns and ask me about my vision and intentions for ISU Extension and Outreach. And every place I go, I’m inspired by the stories Iowans share about the many ways ISU Extension improves their lives. I’m proud -- and somewhat amazed -- at the variety of ways Extension and Outreach brings value to the citizens of Iowa.
I will be getting out during August as well, including a trip to the Iowa State Fair, and look forward to hearing more Iowans’ stories.
Here’s another way you can share how Iowa State and Extension and Outreach have enriched your life: Submit your photos to Main Street Engaging ISU via the ISU Extension website, iTunes or your Android- or Blackberry-powered smartphone. Anyone can submit photos, which then will be part of an interactive video display in Iowa State’s exhibit at the Iowa State Fair. (Look for it in the northeast corner of the Varied Industries Building.) Let us know how Iowa State is making a difference in your community.
To understand the impact of flooding on western Iowa business and industry, ISU Extension Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) surveyed more than 190 companies in six counties.
“Some manufacturers have moved warehouses or operations, others are thinking about where to relocate if they need to move out of the way of flooding,” said Ruth Wilcox, CIRAS program manager. They’re also concerned about employee stress.
CIRAS identifies obstacles to companies being able to exceed pre-disaster production levels and conveys industry needs to local, state and federal agencies, organizations and people providing support and resources. For companies that don’t have business continuity plans in place, CIRAS offers a checklist of priority actions to take.
With help from ISU Extension and the Town/Craft Center, 17 central Iowa communities discovered they had a lot in common — and could accomplish more working as a region. Now as Common THREAD (Tourism, Health, Recreation, Education, Arts and Development), the group is planning for shared progress.
Common THREAD decided to focus first on recreational assets they can develop into tourism and entertainment, said Alan Vandehaar, an ISU Extension community development specialist and Town/Craft project manager. “Town/Craft helps small communities consider alternative futures.”
Talking about transitioning the family business from the exiting generation to the entering generation is a difficult conversation for many Iowa families. That’s why ISU Extension provides farm and business succession workshops.
“People come looking for skills and information to keep the farm in the family and to continue building the family legacy,” said attorney John Baker, with the ISU Extension Beginning Farmer Center. “These workshops move university research into communities in ways Iowans want it, so they can make better decisions and live out their dreams and aspirations.”
Since 2009, youth groups in the Sioux City, Waterloo, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Winterset and Marshalltown areas have been tackling complex community issues through Reach Out Iowa. Rather than complete “one and done” community service projects, these youth are adding learning to their service — researching the need, planning and taking action, then reflecting on what they learned and how to do better next time.
“Through the program, we have already helped more than 2,500 people,” said Marc Peterson, a 4-H urban program specialist. “These youth are showing their communities that they are valuable citizens with voices to be heard.”
As more Iowans take up gardening and pay attention to local foods, they also are showing a growing interest in safe food preservation. And, with an increasing prevalence of food allergies, consumers want to know where their food comes from and what it contains. ISU Extension’s new program, Preserve the Taste of Summer, addresses these trends.
ISU Extension Nutrition Specialist and Assistant Professor Sarah Francis said, “We want Iowans to be able to identify safe recipes that are tested and also to understand that there are risks to food preservation. We want them to know the steps to avoid those risks.”
Ruth Hambleton, founder of Annie’s Project, and Linda Barnes, creator of the Entrepreneurial and Diversified Agriculture program, were named Rural Champions of Change by the White House. Both innovative educators partner with ISU Extension and Outreach.
Hambleton, an Illinois educator, said ISU Extension is the reason Annie’s Project has expanded to provide women in 26 states with farm business management education. Barnes, a Marshalltown Community College professor of biology and organic farmer, said she appreciates the Iowa State research and outreach that supports regional food systems and consumer education on the health benefits of eating locally.