Al Grigg, Osceola County Extension Education Director
Osceola County has 649 farms with 240,601 acres in production. These farms produce $139,942,000 worth of agricultural products, which includes sales of hogs, cattle, dairy products, corn and soybeans. [Data from 1997 Census of Ag] Many of the city residents have the perception that agricultural and livestock production practices are doing harm to the environment, causing lower quality water and air resources for the citizens of the county.
To educate county and community officials, Iowa State University (ISU) Extension of Osceola County hosted an "Environmental Tour of the County" to show officials how agricultural and livestock production can compliment environmental stewardship. Twenty-five participants, including seven staff members, met at the extension office in Sibley and boarded a bus for the tour. The tour consisted of three family farms which raise livestock, two investor owned farms-a dairy with 1700 cows and a poultry farm with 13 million birds, and two public enterprises-a golf course and a city waste treatment plant. At each of the stops, the operator of the enterprise gave a presentation on how they handled environmental issues such as manure storage and application, fertilizer and chemical application, handling of the waste water from the city and what the water contained, what the water contains when it is released into the creek, and handling of fly populations around stockpiles of manure. The operators also gave a brief overview of the economic impact of their enterprise to the county business's and population. The operators told of the environmental regulations they are currently following and the anticipated new regulations coming into law.
Each participant answered a pre-evaluation before boarding the bus and upon completion of the tour answered a post-evaluation. The answeres were rated on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being the most helpful and 5 being the least. Eleven of the 18 participants answered that the tour was most helpful, 2 participatns answered 2, 2participants answered 3, 3 particpants answered 4, and no one answered 5. On the post-tour evaluation, all tour participants gave examples of changes they will make to become better stewards of their land and homes.
Upon conclusion of the tour, participants stated they had learned that environmental issues are important to the family, private and public enterprises. They also commented that all these entities can co-exist with the general public, given a level of understanding and cooperation. Some stated that they wanted environmental issues regulated on the local county level; however, the county supervisors did not agree with this. Tour participants said with the education and information provided that they needed to become better informed on how to make environmental practices better for the quality of life for all the citizens of the county. All tour participants agreed that continuing education and informational programs need to be provided, so that all citizens of the county can be better informed about environmental issues. A follow up meeting will be held to educate these people and the general public on their role in environmental issues after the rules and regulations of SF 2293 are written.
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July 10, 2006
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