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Iowa State University Extension

September 2007 -- From Jack Payne

Cartoon from New Yorker Collection, from

Cartoon published October 24, 1988 by Leo Cullum, from the New Yorker Collection; © 2003 The New Yorker Collection from All Rights Reserved.

Something about September makes me feel like it’s the start of a new year. Over the Labor Day weekend, I found myself making out my fall chore list for house projects and then thinking about the personal things I put off over the summer. As my list grew, I realized that I was creating New Year’s resolutions.

For most of us, a childhood lived to the rhythm of the academic year is more than enough to instill in us a long-lasting sense that it is in September, not January, that the real new year begins. And the longer I work in education, the stronger the connection becomes.

The late Augusts of our formative years are spent preparing for the new pedagogic dawn. Pencils are sharpened; school bags are dug resentfully out of the closet. New sensible and stiff shoes are bought along with heavy, winter school clothing to replace what’s been outgrown. Resolutions to work hard, be nicer to friends and not answer back to the teacher are made with at least as much gravitas as the traditional January oaths.

Or perhaps it goes even deeper than childhood memories. Possibly we all have an imbedded primeval memory that tells us September is the harbinger of winter, an end to frolicking in the sun and time to gird our loins and start sharpening the family flints instead of pencils, stockpile roots and berries rather than stationery, and generally hunker down against the imminent threat of snow and hardship instead of the tyranny of an unknown teacher.

In either case, let’s get out there and enjoy the Indian summer while we still can.


Got shovels? Iowa State breaks ground for Borlaug Learning Center

groundbreaking for Borlaug Learning Center

Got shovels? Northeast Iowa Agricultural Experimental Association members, ISU Extension staff, donors and visitors brought theirs. They were happy to help dig the footings for the new Borlaug Learning Center at the Northeast Iowa Research and Demonstration Farm west of Nashua on Sept. 6. The new regional facility will promote rural development and sustainable agricultural practices and farming systems in northeast Iowa.

The center honors Norman Borlaug, father of the “Green Revolution” and Nobel Peace Prize winner for his work to improve agricultural production in countries faced with famine.

The new center will create a state-of-the-art learning environment for educational programs for area farmers and agribusinesses, the experimental association, ISU Extension and many community groups and youth organizations such as 4-H and FFA.

In his remarks to the crowd, Vice President for ISU Extension and Outreach Jack Payne said, “Norman Borlaug recognized that integrating ag research into sustainable farming systems was the key to fighting hunger. Here, today, these ideas are working together and becoming a reality in which feeding our people, protecting our natural resources and strengthening our economy are attainable.”

Latino business networks help small businesses start, expand

Latino business network

Almost every town in Iowa with more than 7,000 people has at least one Latino business, and some small towns have up to 15 or more. These small businesses want to invest in Iowa communities. ISU Extension’s Latino business networks provide the group support they need, along with technical and financial advice, marketing help, a newsletter and educational workshops. This grassroots economic development is helping first-generation immigrants establish and expand family-owned grocery stores, restaurants, clothing stores, car sales and repair shops, gift shops and more.

“Small businesses are big job creators in Iowa,” said Himar Hernandez, an ISU Extension community development field specialist. “Also, 90 percent of Latino businesses are located in downtown areas, usually occupying old buildings that otherwise would be empty. Through the Latino businesses we can inject life again into our downtowns and reverse urban decay and sprawl.”

Network member Miguel Jaimes, owner of El Asadero Restaurant in Mount Pleasant, said, “Ever since I opened my business, Extension has helped me with marketing, obtaining permits and improving my money skills.”

Gisela Guerrero, owner of Mi Familia Restaurant in Perry, added, “I was very close to shutting down the business many times, since I had no experience, but Extension has been helping me improve my business. I would never close now.”

For more information about joining a Latino business network, contact Hernandez,

When a horse is more than a horse: Therapy for military families

Operation Military Kids try therapeutic riding

Sometimes a horse is good therapy. An internship at a therapeutic riding stable convinced ISU student Victoria Birkenholtz that it might be just the kind of therapy a military family would need when a soldier parent finally comes home. So the former 4-H’er brought her idea to ISU Extension’s Operation: Military Kids (OMK) program. That idea developed into a partnership with three therapeutic riding programs around the state and has resulted in workshops to help military families and their returning soldiers get to know each other again.

“When I started working with OMK this summer, one of the things we discussed was the struggles youth face when a parent deploys, serves in a war and then comes back into the family. I have seen horses help youth open up and share their feelings and thought there may be a way to use horses to help military youth with the issues they face,” Birkenholtz said.

The OMK “horse therapy” provides structured time for the youth and returning soldier to bond. It also gives the family a project they can work on together and something in common they can talk about at home.

“I spent a lot of time crying into my horse’s neck while I was growing up. I know the comfort a big docile horse can bring to a hurting young person,” Birkenholtz said. Extension’s 4-H program helped her discover her passion —using horses to enhance, improve and build the lives of youth.

Kellogg Foundation checks on its investment in northeast Iowa

W.K. Kellogg Foundation team

After a four-day bus tour through northeast Iowa, a W.K. Kellogg Foundation team could rest assured that the foundation’s $500,000 grant to the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative was invested in a worthy effort. In late August a technical assistance team from the foundation saw firsthand how northeast Iowa is creating vibrant communities that support access to locally grown, healthy and affordable food and safe places for physical activity and play. Local ISU Extension staff arranged the whirlwind trip and report that the initiative had a great first check-up.

“The W.K. Kellogg team was impressed with the commitment, energy and progress that northeast Iowans have already made to support this initiative. They were especially impressed with the technology we have in place to communicate and plan with one another as a region,” said Brenda Ranum, ISU Extension education director for Winneshiek County and one of the initiative’s co-directors.

The initiative includes Allamakee, Clayton, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek counties, Ranum said. “Our county planning teams are focusing on promoting changes so that eating healthy and being active become a way of life for everyone.”

Other partners are Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation and Development, Luther College and the Northeast Iowa Food and Farm Coalition.

Value-added ag businesses get help with agritourism and ‘agri-tainment’

pumpkin patch as agritourism

What happens when you bring together a winery, a pumpkin patch, farmers’ market vendors, on-farm retail and vegetable production, a corn maze and a hunting preserve? You find out far more than you knew before about the needs and challenges of Iowa’s agritourism industry. This meeting-of-the-minds was orchestrated by the Iowa Agritourism Working Group. This new ISU Extension-led effort offers value-added agriculture businesses help in developing and promoting their agritourism and “agri-tainment” businesses.

More and more working farms and other value-added ag businesses are taking advantage of growing consumer demand for ag-related tourism and entertainment opportunities, said Christa Hartsook, with ISU Extension Value Added Agriculture and a member of the Iowa Agritourism Working Group.

The group also conducted an online producer survey during spring 2007, gathering information on the types of businesses represented, their busy seasons and the number of guests they host annually.

Ninety-two businesses completed surveys, Hartsook said. Eighty-four percent wanted educational programs in agritourism, and 95 percent wanted information on marketing, Internet sales and financing. As a result, the group is planning an educational workshop for producers and developing an online resource guide.

Extension’s partners in the Iowa Agritourism Working Group include the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa Ag Innovation Center, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Tourism Office, Iowa Farm Bureau, Practical Farmers of Iowa and Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area.

Extension employees named to 4-H Hall of Fame

4-H clover

Several current or former ISU Extension employees were among those inducted into the Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Iowa State Fair Aug. 19. Inducted were Chris Gleason, Operation Military Kids coordinator; Ann Lohman, recently retired Clay County education director; Charles (Chuck) Ehm, Union County education director from 1962 to 1965; and Phyllis Olson, an ISU Extension nutritionist for 28 years. Eighty-two counties inducted individuals or couples into the Hall of Fame.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the counties and state to recognize and celebrate 4-H volunteers and staff who have shown outstanding service and dedication to Iowa’s 4-H program,” said Chuck Morris, ISU Extension 4-H Youth Development director.

Many inductees served as club leaders, youth mentors, fair superintendents, fair board members, Extension council members, county youth council members, fair judges, financial supporters or chaperones.