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Iowa State University Extension

May 2007 -- From Jack Payne

Spring greetings. After just over a year here, I’ve just about got the Iowa weather figured out, and I know that there’s no figuring Iowa weather. After a rough start, it seems like we are only going to get a bit of spring and then, from what the climatologists are saying, a long, hot summer. But I’m happy to see the sun and to see the fields starting to come alive. 

Now that we are officially out of hibernation and VEISHEA is behind us, there is a lot going on in Extension all around the state. Be sure to check out Extension’s Sesquicentennial activities. The service projects planned for June include planting trees, landscaping, hanging and dedicating barn quilts, fairground building renovations, placing a time capsule and more. Also check Extension’s online calendar for more goings on this summer.

Extension: The jewel of the land-grant system

Extension: Jewel of land-grant system

ISU President Geoffroy gave a major presentation on ISU Extension to the Board of Regents earlier this month, after which Regent Ruth Harkin said, “Extension is the jewel of the land-grant system.” The compliment is appreciated and the analogy is great. Extension is multi-faceted and precious to the fabric of rural AND urban America.

At the national urban Extension conference recently I explained how ISU is continually improving our understanding of and delivery to urban clientele. Seen broadly, Extension involves so much that it is hard to grasp the incredible outcomes quietly happening each day. But when this “jewel” is held up to the light and turned to different perspectives, we see so many aspects to this system. This newsletter highlights some examples of how ISU Extension is prepared and positioned to serve both rural and urban Iowans.

Extension helps Iowans get ‘money smart’

'Money Smart' kids and Ben Franklin

For many folks, getting their financial life in order is at the bottom of their “to do” lists. To help them focus on this neglected goal, ISU Extension was part of Money Smart Week April 16–21 in Des Moines. Extension and dozens of local organizations joined together to improve the level of financial literacy in the Des Moines metro area. Extension’s contribution was a series of sessions for youth, women and men called Money Craze. Attendance was huge -- even Ben Franklin was there.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago hatched the “Money Smart Week” theme to get people to focus for a short time on their financial activities. A large coalition of Iowans came together on this theme and created one of the most successful versions of Money Smart Week to date.

According to Margaret Van Ginkel, ISU Extension family resource management specialist, “The goal was to promote financial literacy education. I have not heard the total figures to date. However, I do know that the classes that Extension taught were well attended. More than 300 women attended my Women and Money sessions. We had capacity for 300, and three weeks before the session there had been 300 registered and more than 200 on a waiting list.” 

The programs were specially tuned to their audiences. Financial issues cut across both rural and urban Extension clients and are another example of the comprehensive effect ISU Extension can project. For more information about Money Smart Week or ISU Extension’s Money Craze program, contact Van Ginkel at (515) 727-0656 or

Coalition adds value, economic development -- and a Kellogg Grant -- to northeast Iowa

food market

Northeast Iowans are long-time supporters of locally grown foods and are developing market infrastructure for niche and highly differentiated products. They’re doing this through the Northeast Iowa Food and Farm Coalition (NIFF) in Allamakee, Clayton, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek counties. ISU Extension has been a catalyst for bringing people together around economic development goals in the five-county area. Already the project has gained recognition from the Leopold Center and a $500,000 grant from the Kellogg Foundation.

The NIFF Coalition believes diversification can help farmers and rural economic development. They believe they can add value locally with new storage and processing facilities. The coalition has been hard at work getting this done. 

In fact, Iowa State University’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Regional Food System Working Group named the NIFF Coalition as their pilot community for local food system development. The coalition and its producers have been awarded funding to cover expansion costs of planting new crops, building greenhouses and expanding processing capabilities of local food cooperatives.

ISU Extension helped the coalition compete successfully for a W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant that takes advantage of what has begun in NIFF. The coalition will use the half-million dollars to help communities embrace active living and healthy eating.

Learn more about the NIFF Coalition. For more information about the W.K. Kellogg food and fitness grant, contact Brenda Ranum at (563) 382-2949 or

The bioeconomy: What Iowans think

bioeconomy E85

Is the bioeconomy on your mind? It’s a topic in the papers almost daily. It’s affecting markets and local economies. Extension wanted to know more about what Iowans thought on this topic. So, ISU Extension staff in 96 counties facilitated group discussions and 945 Iowans spoke out. Opinions varied from optimism to concerns for future effects.

The meetings were designed to loosely guide the discussions to get the most candid responses. To begin, participants watched a brief ISU Extension Web cast presentation of the issues.

Extension facilitators came armed with a list of questions, but the participants led the discussions, which tended to be self-starting and freewheeling. The goal of this Extension project was to gather objective opinions on the bioeconomy from the broadest base of Iowans possible. This information will serve as a baseline for future studies. The report may serve to support decisions on public policy, ISU research initiatives and Extension outreach activities. Learn more about the results.

Extension is prime source of information on distillers grains

cattle and distillers grains

The huge growth of ethanol production in Iowa means several things to cattle feeders and cow/calf operators. First, corn prices have doubled so feed costs are up. Second, ethanol byproducts are abundant and nearby and can offer a competitive advantage for cattle producers willing to try them as livestock feed. ISU Extension has been a prime source of information on one of those byproducts -- distillers grains. So far, ISU Extension beef specialists have been responding to a host of questions from 2,955 producers at 64 workshops, with more to come.

Ethanol or corn milling byproducts generally have been available to Iowa feeders for nearly 30 years. However, many producers have raised their own feed and have not looked to the byproduct market. And, only recently has the supply been huge and readily available across the state. ISU Extension researchers including Alan Trenkle, Dan Loy and John Lawrence took a lead role and developed research-based information long before the current surge of interest.

Typically, when a topic heats up, Extension has seen and sought opportunities to partner with private sector business to get information out. New ethanol plants were prime partners for several meetings, as they had an interest in establishing their local market. Feed companies and others stepped up to sponsor meetings as well.

The format of each meeting varied slightly depending on local needs. For instance, northern Iowa meetings emphasized feedlot needs. Southern Iowa meetings put more focus on cow/calf and stocker operations. Topics included the economics of feeding distillers grains, storage and delivery, how to use these byproducts in various ration scenarios and current research updates.

For more information check Extension’s Iowa Beef Center.

Expect growth spurt in Iowa urban 4-H

C.J. Gauger

4-H can play a role in meeting the needs of low-income urban youth, if you have the guts to change your thinking and bring the genius of 4-H to meet the needs of other young people. Those are words C. J. Gauger took to heart during his tenure as program director of Iowa State University Extension 4-H Youth Development from 1959 to 1979. Iowa’s 4-H program has much to offer urban youth, Gauger believes. In fact, that will be the next great push for the 4-H Youth Development program. Read more.