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February 2007 -- From Jack Payne

I don’t need proof that Iowa is a great place to live – but it was great to see Sac County included as No. 7 of 3,500 counties in Progressive Farmer magazine’s list of best places to live in rural America. The county’s barn quilt project — started by a 4-H’er — was included in the photo gallery. Another 17 Iowa counties were listed in the top 60 in the Midwest.

Four Iowa communities — Dubuque, Lamoni, Mason City and Pottawattamie County — were honored by America’s Promise Alliance for Youth as among the nation’s 100 Best Communities for Children and Youth. Extension is proud to be a partner in America’s Promise through the efforts of Iowa’s Promise across the state.

I’m trying something different on my blog this month, an “open thread” that allows you to start the discussion. I’d particularly like to hear from county extension council members, but I invite all of you to bring up your concerns and issues that affect our state and ISU Extension. What would you like to talk about? I look forward to hearing from you.

Workshops for planning officials explain land use process


Planning and zoning matters can pit neighbor against neighbor and citizens against local officials. ISU Extension’s Iowa Planning Officials Academy is offering elected and appointed officials an opportunity to learn about the roles and responsibilities of their positions through real-world experiences. The new 12-hour certificate program will be offered in Bettendorf, Council Bluffs, Des Moines, Dubuque and Cedar Rapids from March through May. 

Using an actual subdivision proposal from an Iowa community, the academy will take participants through the development review process from start to finish. Along the way, the program will cover common planning, zoning and subdivision processes, how to read and review site plans, running effective board meetings and the ethical considerations that frequently arise in zoning cases.

Extension specialist Gary Taylor, who leads the academy, said, “A land use decision made today can have a profound impact on a community for years to come. Many elected officials, planning and zoning commissioners and board of adjustment members receive no training in the critically important responsibilities of their positions. The Planning Officials Academy is designed to fill that need.”

Iowa offers ‘Better Kid Care’

Better Kid Care

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Iowa has the highest percentage of employed parents of young children in the nation. Finding quality child care often is a concern.

Now Iowa child care center programs have a new professional development option to improve their level of care and education for young children. Iowa Better Kid Care New Staff Orientation is a distance-learning program for new child care staff. The program is funded through Iowa Community Empowerment/Early Childhood Iowa and ISU Extension.

The training was developed in Pennsylvania and is spreading to other states, said ISU Extension specialist Lesia Oesterreich, part of the team that has reviewed and developed the Iowa program. “Teachers can study on-site at their child care program. Rather than spending the time to travel to an evening workshop, teachers can view DVDs, practice their new skills in their own classroom and write up a brief response sheet to summarize what they have learned. It’s a great way to familiarize staff with the basics of working with children, as well as with the rules and policies of the individual child care center.”


Operation: Military Kids receives additional grant

Operation: Military Kids

ISU Extension 4-H Youth Development will receive an additional $106,668 for Operation: Military Kids (OMK). Through this program, ISU Extension provides education, outreach and support to youth of deployed military families. The new grant will benefit the 1,000 military kids in Iowa whose parents’ tours in Iraq have been extended. 

According to Chris Gleason, OMK project director, “ISU Extension 4-H Youth Development will use this extra grant money to design and implement a variety of fun experiences for military kids to help them cope with the extended deployment. In addition, our goal is that these fun experiences will help the military kids build skills in communication, leadership, citizenship and personal life management as they relate to dealing with deployment issues.”

Gleason is encouraging ISU Extension county offices to submit ideas for experiences and programming in their areas. Dubuque County already is planning an After Hours event for military kids and families at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in June.

Operation: Military Kids is a partnership between the U.S. Army’s Child and Youth Services and USDA/4-H that works with children of National Guard and Reserve soldiers. For more information on Operation: Military Kids in Iowa, contact Gleason,

Seminars address Iowa farm income tax issues

Roger McEowen

During November and December 2006, ISU Extension held the 33rd annual series of Farm Income Tax Schools. The series attracted more than 1,200 participants to eight locations across Iowa. The Farm Income Tax Schools are designed for tax preparation professionals, including attorneys and accountants.

Participants appreciate ISU Extension bringing the university’s technical expertise to them all across the state, said Roger McEowen, Leonard Dolezal Professor in Agricultural Law at Iowa State and an instructor for the tax schools. “Many make comments to us personally that the schools are very important to their practices.” 

Participants report they value the focus on Iowa taxes, the practical suggestions on office procedures and practices and how the speakers make complex issues easy to understand.

For information on farm tax and legal issues, contact McEowen at or see the Ag Decision Maker website.


Grandma’s kitchen and 4-H inspire food science student

Jinny Milhollin

To be fair, Jinny Millhollin of rural Guthrie County, Iowa, credits her Grandma’s recipes, 4-H food projects and a family tradition of attending Iowa State for leading her to a major in food science and human nutrition (FSHN). But 4-H gave her opportunities to become acquainted with the Ames campus.

She attended a football game annually with tickets provided through the ISU Extension county office and in high school attended the Iowa 4-H Youth Conference, a three-day annual event in June that allows youth to experience life in campus residence halls. Add in a visit to the FSHN department and Millhollin said she knew “Iowa State was where I should spend my next four years.”

The amount of scholarships available also enabled Millhollin to attend Iowa State. A stellar student who was active in school and community activities, she was named to the President’s Leadership Class and attended a weekly meeting at President Gregory Geoffroy’s house as a freshman. Now a junior, she’s had several leadership roles on campus. A three-year member of the Student Alumni Leadership Council Homecoming Central Committee, she will co-chair the group in 2007-08.


From Extension's online store

Pm 1121

Look for these popular products and new/revised items.

Getting Organized: Personal and Financial Records, PM 1121
Applying Fertilizer and Lime to CRP Land: Conservation Reserve Program Issues and Options, CRP 5
Beef Feedlot Systems Manual, PM 1867
Fruit and Vegetable Pest Management, Category 1D: A Guide for Commercial Pesticide Applicators, CS 12
Harvesting and Drying Flowers, PM 1398
Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll 2006 Summary Report, PM 2032
Midwest Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers 2007, FG 600
Public Health Pest Control, Category 8: Iowa Commercial Pesticide Applicator Manual, CS 23

Look for additional items at the ISU Extension Distribution Center online store.