December 2008 -- From Jack Payne
Forgiveness: The Gift That Keeps Giving
Some traditions are just plain silly. The latest one, which dominated the airwaves during much of November, was pardoning turkeys. The custom of singling out a bird for a photo op, and then decreeing that it won’t end up as a Thanksgiving entrée, undermines the meaning of pardoning. (I won’t even get started on what egregious act the poor turkey needs forgiveness for.)
Nevertheless, a pardon is all about forgiveness. So if we can pardon a turkey, why can’t we find it in our hearts to forgive some of our real transgressors? I’m not suggesting absolving the Osama bin Ladens of the world, but what about the little grudges against our neighbors, family or business associates that get stored up over the years? Then there is the bitterest grudge of all -- the rancor and attendant guilt held against oneself for past deeds.
These pent-up resentments aren’t doing anybody any good, but instead, are slowly gnawing away at us. And they are prime pardon material. The best part is that you can issue one unbeknownst to anybody. Just dig down into your heart and let it go. I guarantee that both you and the grudge-ee will feel better.
Iowa’s rural economy benefits when a specialty product goes to market, instead of staying home. That’s the goal of Buy Iowa Online, a fully automated e-commerce Web site that brings together products from entrepreneurs in southwest Iowa. Soon to be up and running, the new Web site offers Iowa-made products from more than 30 local crafters, artisans and manufacturers, said Lynn Adams, an ISU Extension community economic development specialist.
The Rural Development Resource Center (RDRC) is launching this new project to provide a no-risk sales and advertising tool to support the region’s rural entrepreneurs, Adams said. ISU Extension is a partner in the RDRC, along with Grow Iowa Foundation, Southwest Iowa Coalition and the Wallace Foundation for Rural Research and Development.
Rural entrepreneurs invigorate their local economies as they broaden their sales markets, Adams continued. Most of the entrepreneurs need product-to-market assistance; most can’t afford the advertising on their own. They can use this Web site to go beyond their storefront or basement — or wherever their business is based. Buy Iowa Online increases the “virtual” foot traffic to these small businesses.
What might shoppers start finding on Buy Iowa Online as sellers are being added? Everything from one-of-a-kind works of art to bird houses, purses, pottery, stained glass, furniture, baskets, dolls, books, photography prints and jewelry for both people and pets. In addition, the site will feature a variety of nonperishable food products, which may include jellies, jams, spice mixes, honey and soy products, and even beef jerky.
“You’ll also find community-themed items from nonprofit organizations like museums and chambers of commerce, as well as gift certificates from local restaurants and bed and breakfasts,” Adams said.
Buy Iowa Online is looking for a special type of customer, she continued. “We are targeting investors right now, the customer who wants to participate in a project that creates sustainability for the state of Iowa.”
With Buy Iowa Online, rural entrepreneurs can invest more in their local economy as well, Adams said. If one local entrepreneur can keep his or her storefront open, maybe three or four more will open.
Sometimes Iowa business people need to work on their business instead of in their business. That’s the message that ISU Extension’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) is sending Iowa business and industry through a partnership with Iowa Farm Bureau’s Renew Rural Iowa program. CIRAS is making sure manufacturers and small business owners take advantage of the opportunities this program provides for education and networking.
Renew Rural Iowa provides seminars and mentoring that guide new and existing businesses through all phases of developing and operating a successful business, including strategic fit, business planning, marketing, balanced teams, leadership and resources, said Ruth Wilcox, CIRAS program manager.
Business leaders can get so caught up in running their businesses that they may not see how they can take time away from the day-to-day operation. Adam Pollock, owner of Fire Farm Lighting in Elkader, said he was one of those people who didn’t have time — but he attended a Renew Rural Iowa seminar anyway.
“You need to break away that time to get a refresher, to get some perspective,” Pollack said.
“Many businesses are not aware of the range of knowledge and entities in the state available to help them succeed,” Wilcox said. “Renew Rural Iowa is an opportunity for them to learn what resources are out there and to network.”
CIRAS and the Iowa Farm Bureau have a formal agreement to work together for the benefit of small businesses. CIRAS connects Iowa business and industry with research, education and technical assistance. Farm Bureau’s Renew Rural Iowa program adds a mentoring model and a rural vitality investment fund to the mix.
“The Farm Bureau’s strengths and its relationship with rural communities, along with CIRAS’ resources, can make a great impact on economic development in Iowa,” said David Lyons, Iowa Farm Bureau chief business development officer. “We can achieve more working together on Renew Rural Iowa than we can separately.”
Wilcox added, “It’s a way to bring all the resources together and find ways to continue to grow the economy in Iowa.”
Quality of life is an elusive concept, but ISU Extension researchers are capturing what it means to Iowa farm families. The results of the 2008 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll show the largest increase in assessments of quality of life in a decade, at both the family and community levels, said J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr., ISU Extension sociologist who leads the annual survey.
The poll defines quality of life as “degree of satisfaction with all aspects of your life,” Arbuckle said. “Since 1982 we have asked the same set of questions every two years, tracking both ups and downs across the decades as the farm economy and other factors have buoyed or depressed farm families’ assessments of quality of life for themselves, their communities and rural communities across Iowa.”
With grain prices on the rise for much of 2007 and modest economic growth at the state level for the year, Arbuckle and his colleagues expected that ratings of quality of life would increase as well.
Looking at the past five years, 46 percent of the farmers reported that their own families’ quality of life had improved; 35 percent believed that other families in their communities had experienced similar improvements.
Nearly 60 percent of farmers reported that they could not think of any other community where they would rather live, and 75 percent felt their community would be a good place for future generations to raise their families.
Farmers also were optimistic about the next five years, Arbuckle said. Forty-eight percent expected that quality of life for their families would remain at current levels, while 37 percent indicated it would improve. At the community level, 46 percent forecasted that quality of life would stay the same and 27 percent that it would improve.
“Farmers generally were positive or neutral about the overall economic prospects for rural Iowa, with nearly 40 percent anticipating improvements over the next five years,” Arbuckle said. “This is a sharp increase from 2006, when only 19 percent believed that economic prospects would improve, and represents the largest percentage of positive responses on this question since 1988.”
Arbuckle said 1,262 farmers participated in the poll. The 2008 summary report (PM 2067) is available from ISU Extension county offices and the ISU Extension Online Store.
Elders, senior citizens, aging Baby Boomers — no matter the term, older adults are looking for places to live that are elder friendly, says Susan Erickson, ISU Extension program coordinator with the PLaCE program (Partnering Landscape and Community Enhancement).
As Iowa communities develop comfortable, safe and accessible environments that promote physical activity and healthy lifestyles, they can become elder friendly communities that will accommodate and attract older residents as well as the dollars they can inject into the local economy.
People already are retiring to small-town Iowa, Erickson said. “If we try to attract them on purpose … others will come. If you can attract elders to your community, it does have an economic impact.”
Some economic development experts claim that one elderly couple moving to a community can have the same effect on the local economy as one good manufacturing job, Erickson noted. In any case, community design and development that meets the needs of Baby Boomers as they age allows for economic and social stability and growth of rural towns.
With funding from the Town/Craft Center, ISU Extension and the PLaCE program conducted studies of two Iowa communities that are determined to become more elder friendly — Lamoni and Polk City. Lamoni is rather isolated on the far south-central edge of Iowa in Decatur County, but has a university. Polk City, located 13 miles north of Des Moines, is growing, but is largely a commuter town. Both communities have different needs, Erickson said, but each saw economic promise in attracting and retaining older residents.
The first step is getting a new definition of “elderly,” Erickson said. “Elderly — or retired — does not mean frail.”
Then communities can figure out the resources they need and position themselves to appeal to this growing population.
Lamoni and Polk City each received about a 50-page report with suggestions for developing a range of housing choices that reflect residents’ varied abilities, independence and income. They also received recommendations for improving access to critical services and destinations — such as the grocery store, bank, library or hair salon. In addition, they received suggestions for encouraging walking as a means of transportation, social interaction and individual health.
Erickson is hoping other Iowa towns will examine these suggestions and consider becoming elder friendly communities as well.
Never met a trans fat you didn’t like? Before your blood pressure and cholesterol levels go off the charts, create some Habits for Healthy Hearts. In this new ISU Extension program, Iowans are learning to make healthy food choices, add physical activity to their daily routine, and make smart choices when dining out while decreasing their fat, sodium and sugar intake.
“Forty-five percent of what we do daily is habit,” said Jill Weber, ISU Extension nutrition and health field specialist serving northeast Iowa. “Habits for Healthy Hearts teaches the skills people need to identify and improve those habits that affect health.”
Iowans in Black Hawk and Adair counties are among the first creating Habits for Healthy Hearts. Two men and five women ranging in age from 50 to 60 are enrolled in Weber’s class in Black Hawk County. She says participants are setting goals and making changes.
One of the men spends a lot of time on the road and in meetings. After a recent Habits for Healthy Hearts class he said, “I go into convenience stores now and go right back out without buying anything, except for one store I can buy fruit in. I find it’s easier to just go to the grocery store and buy my snacks now.”
He’s even helping improve the habits of his coworkers. “It was my turn to bring donuts to a meeting, and I took bananas — and people ate them without complaint! I think they really liked the change,” he said.
“Learning more about the different types of fats was helpful,” said an Adair County woman.
Different aspects of Habits for Healthy Hearts appeal to participants, said Barb Fuller, the ISU Extension specialist who taught the Adair County class. One participant is focusing on lowering her salt intake, while another is taking a closer look at food labels.
Habits for Healthy Hearts was developed from a research project conducted by ISU Extension along with the Iowa Department of Public Health and the University of Iowa Center for Public Health Statistics. The six sessions teach skills that help participants reduce their blood pressure and cholesterol levels and also moderate their blood glucose levels. For more information, visit the Habits for Healthy Hearts Web site.
Water heating can be expensive, but there are a number of ways to lower your costs. One way is to use less water. Repair leaky faucets immediately and use low-flow showerheads. (A family of four, with each person showering for five minutes a day, uses 700 gallons of water a week; you can cut that amount in half by using low-flow aerating showerheads.) Insulate your hot-water storage tank and pipes, and drain a quart of water from your water tank every three months to remove sediment that impedes heat transfer and lowers the efficiency of your heater (follow the manufacturer’s instructions). Lower the thermostat on your water heater to 120 degrees; water heaters sometimes come from the factory with higher temperature settings than are necessary. When buying a new water heater, compare EnergyGuide labels to find an energy-efficient model. Check out Water Heating for more tips. This tip is brought to you by the U.S. Department of Energy and ISU Extension.