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Iowa State University Extension

July 2007 -- From Jack Payne

It always makes me smile when folks ask me what I am going to do during the summer. I guess they assume that because I work at a university that I get the summer off. Boy, I wish. Even though I have a year-around appointment at ISU, July is a month that seems to bring on nostalgia for the summers of my youth in which my days were spent fishing, swimming and spending as much time as I could outside. 

Recently, I was able to relive a bit of those bygone days when my 8-year-old grandson visited from Phoenix, sporting a new fishing pole, and informed me that I was going to teach him to fish. We set out in hot pursuit of his first fish at the local lakes at dawn, before work or in the evenings, after dinner. Even though the weather was so hot that hungry fish were scarce, in the process, I was able to learn a lot about my grandson and his life views, and to refresh my own a bit. In the end, he caught a few fish and was thrilled. I only caught a few myself, but was just as delighted as he was to have been there for his first fish.

Wishing you good fishing,

Manufacturer + workforce + CIRAS = 12,000 units of deer repellent

packaging deer repellent

It’s about quality -- and deer repellent. That’s why RepelIt, a Cedar Rapids producer of animal deterrent products, teamed up with Goodwill Industries in Cedar Rapids to manufacture a new weatherproof deer repellent. After a test market and promising results, RepelIt decided to expand to a national market. But Goodwill needed to change its manufacturing process to meet this demand. Enter ISU Extension’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) to help Goodwill streamline its workflow.

CIRAS assisted Goodwill with lean manufacturing processes, combining best practices with real world accommodations for workers with disabilities. As a result, Goodwill and RepelIt met production goals of 12,000 units of product in a shift, up from 5,400 units. During one quarter, more than 130 people gained valuable workforce experience.

Jess Schamberger of Goodwill said, “With CIRAS’ help we were able to grow our capabilities from an excellent process to a production system. They helped us meet our goals of providing training opportunities for our workforce and exceeding customer expectations!”

Jane Burroughs, director of operations for RepelIt, said, “Goodwill has met our quality standards daily. Together we are building a quality product from beginning to end.” 

Take it from ‘Penny Wise’: Listen up and ‘Invest Wisely’

Listen to 'Invest Wisely'

Understanding investment risk, setting smart investment goals and taking advantage of compound interest are but a few of the tips “Penny Wise” has to offer. Radio listeners across Iowa are hearing this fictional character’s tips and learning to invest wisely, thanks to ISU Extension’s Invest Wisely Project. It’s a yearlong campaign encouraging Iowans to make informed investment decisions.

“Penny is an ISU Extension field specialist. Although her character is make believe, her tips are very real — she represents ISU Extension expertise,” said Cynthia Fletcher, ISU Extension family resource management state specialist. Fletcher said the radio saga will cover topics ranging from calculating investment returns, to asset allocation models, to tax considerations of investment vehicles. “The project goal is to help Iowans prevent problems, make wise decisions and achieve their investment objectives.”

ISU Extension received a grant for the project from the Investor Protection Trust (IPT), a nonprofit organization devoted to investor education. Along with a weekly series of radio messages, the ISU Extension Invest Wisely Project is providing a series of newspaper articles and Web resources for investors.

What’s next for the Community Vitality Center?

Community Vitality Center

The Community Vitality Center (CVC) celebrated its fifth anniversary in June, but hold the gifts of wood and silverware. This anniversary was celebrated by observing something much more valuable: increased entrepreneurship and philanthropy in Iowa communities. ISU Extension is the center’s administrative host and fiscal agent. CVC’s newest initiatives include working with emerging partnerships that help small rural entrepreneurs gain access to capital, enhancing capacity for building local endowments and encouraging excellence in local government.

“CVC plans to continue its challenge grants for community and youth entrepreneurship and be a catalyst in areas with entrepreneurial gaps,” said Director Mark Edelman. “We are collaborating with the Iowa Bankers Association, Iowa Area Development Group, Community Development Financial Institutions, several ISU centers, and Small Business Development Centers and others to discuss better ways of providing access to capital for small business entrepreneurs in rural Iowa and coordinating technical assistance.”

CVC will provide pilot demonstration grants to expand capacity for building local endowments that tap into Iowa’s $5 billion in wealth transfer that occurs through probate every year. Edelman said CVC also will fund a Tax Facts for Financing State and Local Government Data Project in response to requests for local government decision-making information and to enhance governmental excellence. 

Co-ops can check ‘data warehouse’ for financial information

Roger Ginder

No more waiting up to 18 months for accurate -- and old -- comparative financial data. Soon Iowa co-op boards and managers will be checking the “data warehouse” to compare their co-op’s current performance to others throughout the state, said Roger Ginder, ISU Extension agricultural economist. ISU Extension and the Iowa Institute of Cooperatives are bringing them Cooperative Metrics, a benchmarking system that provides real-time financial information.

Cooperative Metrics, a Boston-based data management cooperative, developed the system for natural foods and drywall installer co-ops, Ginder said. “We piloted the system with six grain and farm supply marketing co-ops. They uploaded their trial balances each quarter. The data then were placed in a data warehouse in a decentralized form incorporating all accounts in all firms into a common chart of accounts. An individual co-op’s data cannot be identified. To preserve anonymity, only averages of similar co-ops are provided for comparison. Individual co-ops can call in anonymous comparative data from similar co-ops for any quarter or a rolling average year consisting of the prior four quarters. The data come back in the precise format their accounting system uses.”

The data will help co-ops identify best practices that reduce cost and increase efficiency. Ginder also noted, “The ability to access these data on a timelier basis will be especially valuable when events such as hedge to arrive, Starlink or the more recent run-up in grain prices occur.”

Thirteen Iowa co-ops were added in June. An additional 20 to 30 Iowa co-ops should be in the system by Sept. 30. Then co-ops in other states will be allowed to join. The more co-ops that participate, the better the data quality becomes, Ginder said. For more information contact Ginder,

Intern is Extension’s ‘eyes and ears’ within Waterloo Latino community

Claudia Marcela Prado Meza

A young woman from Mexico is helping ISU Extension define priorities for Latino outreach, thanks to a partnership between Extension and Mexico’s University of Colima. This summer, University of Colima graduate and current ISU graduate student Claudia Marcela Prado Meza is working as an intern for ISU Extension in Black Hawk County.  She is working from El Centro Latinoamericano, the Latino resource center in Waterloo, serving as Extension’s “eyes and ears” within the area’s Latino community to help Extension become more effective in reaching this growing population.

“Claudia is organizing a ‘Fiesta Familiar’ for Sunday, Aug. 5. It will be an opportunity for us to meet Latino families and help them understand what Extension is all about,” said Allen Ricks, ISU Extension education director for Black Hawk County. “She also has made contact with a number of people in the Latino community and has good leads on possible volunteers to help us organize a Latino youth 4-H club.” 

Because Mexico doesn’t yet have an equivalent service, these families aren’t familiar with what ISU Extension has available. The fiesta will introduce them to ISU Extension programs. 4-H’ers will do demonstrations and working exhibits so families can see what kids can achieve. Good food, soccer and time for conversation with parents will round out the day. For more information, contact Ricks at

“Claudia is only one example of how the University of Colima (UC) is able to help ISU in a true partner relationship. She is one of eight graduate students from UC presently completing studies in business and agriculture. The program is funded by an award from USAID to the Extension Outreach Academy for Veterinary Medicine and Rural Community Development,” said David E. Hansen, who directs the program.

Get farmland leasing information via Web or workshop


This is the time of year when farmland leases come up for review. So through Aug. 31, ISU Extension is offering two forms of farmland leasing education. Check online for presentations and links to materials that can guide landowners and renters through the process of finding the right kind of lease for their situation. Or attend a farmland leasing workshop on issues related to farmland ownership, management and leasing agreements. Available dates, times and registration information will be listed in the ISU Extension Calendar as workshops become available. Search under the category “Financial Management and Strategic Planning” to find meeting locations near you.