Iowa Learning Farms monthly webinar series to continue in 2013

AMES, IOWA— The Iowa Learning Farms is continuing its monthly webinar series again in 2013. This is the third year of webinars that offer another avenue of learning. They are held on the third Wednesday of each month, beginning at 11:30 a.m. through Adobe Connect. All that is needed is a computer with Internet access. The topics discussed will be beneficial for technical service providers, watershed project coordinators, Extension specialists and anyone else interested in the topic of the month.

The January webinar will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 16 and will feature Jon Wolseth and Jacqueline Comito, anthropologists who are working with water quality issues. Their webinar presentation is titled, “The State’s Role in Water Quality: Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioners and the Agricultural Status Quo.”

The continued transformation of Iowa farmland is intimately linked to state policies and government subsidies. These initiatives encourage farmers to alter their farming methods and the landscape so that they develop better conservation ethics, prevent soil erosion and improve water quality. Local-level, nominally elected politicians, Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) commissioners are the primary point of contact farmers have with the state. While SWCD commissioners are charged with evaluating farmers’ eligibility for government assistance, they have become more than implementers of social policy. Through the establishment of funding priorities, they are also policy creators. In this webinar, Wolseth explores how SWCD commissioners implicitly support intensive agricultural production, allowing farmers to feel more secure about their methods of production. He will also discuss how the commissioners play a vital role in maintaining the agricultural status quo by assuring farmers that they are doing their part in improving soil and water quality.

Jon Wolseth, Ph.D. in anthropology, is an independent consultant working in central Iowa. Over the last two years, he has collaborated with Drs. Jacqueline Comito and Lois Wright Morton on water quality issues in Iowa. He has co-authored three forthcoming academic journal articles along with ILF publications Water Quality Matters to Us All and Watershed-based Community Assessments. In addition to his work in Iowa, he has conducted long-term research projects in Latin America investigating the intersection between children and youth, peer socialization and learning behavior. Wolseth has numerous publications based on this work including a book published in 2011 and a subsequent book that will be released in 2013. He is currently pursuing a professional degree in Community and Regional Planning at Iowa State University (ISU).

Through ISU Extension and Outreach, Jacqueline Comito heads several water quality initiatives: Iowa Learning Farms, Watershed Community Assessment project and Water Rocks!. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa and a master’s degree in anthropology from ISU. Comito says that emotions and personal choices have as much of an impact on how people treat our soil and water, as do knowledge and economics. Her work aims to bring awareness, and ultimately, change our attitudes and behaviors toward water quality.

Upcoming ILF webinars in the series include:
• Feb. 20 – Mark Rasmussen, director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, will talk about the Center’s initiatives and his outlook toward its future.
• Mar. 20 – Assistant scientist in the ISU agronomy department, Dan Barker will discuss nitrogen-sensing technologies to apply variable-rate nitrogen fertilizer.
• Apr. 17 – Andy Larsen, ISU Extension and Outreach agricultural program specialist, will talk about Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE). He is the Iowa coordinator for the national organization and will discuss building stronger relationships and grant opportunities through SARE.
• May 15 – Michael Castelleno, assistant professor of agronomy at ISU, will focus on soil sustainability.
• June 19 – ISU sociology professor Lois Wright Morton is the project director for the four-state Heartland Integrated Regional Water Coordination project. She will report the accomplishments of this project to date.

To connect to the webinars, go to: http://connect.extension.iastate.edu/ilf/ at 11:30 a.m. on the date of the webinar to log in. Each webinar will be archived so viewers who cannot watch live, can still see the presentation. All ILF 2011 and 2012 webinars are archived on the ILF website as well. Go to: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/ilf/page/webinars to see the listings.

Iowa Learning Farms is building a Culture of Conservation, encouraging adoption of residue management and conservation practices. Farmers, researchers and ILF team members are working together to identify and implement the best in-field management practices that increase water and soil quality while remaining profitable. Iowa Learning Farms is a partnership between the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service and Iowa Department of Natural Resources (USEPA section 319); in cooperation with Conserva¬tion Districts of Iowa, the Iowa Farm Bureau and the Iowa Water Center.

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