November 2007 -- From Jack Payne
“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”— The Buddha Gautama
Knowing when you’re full
No holiday seems to go without its share of controversy, and Thanksgiving is no exception. Nevertheless, Thanksgiving has become the portal to THE HOLIDAYS, which is the code phrase for a growing collection of winter festivals of many origins.
For many, Thanksgiving is an invitation for family and friends to unite over food and football in gratitude for their good fortune. Typically, a bountiful spread is served and devoured; then the feasters frequently retire to the family room with bulging bellies and with pumpkin pie in hand. There, they discuss how they have eaten way too much, thrash out their game plan for filling their bags at the malls during the pre-holiday sales and drift off in a tryptophan stupor or find the ubiquitous game on TV. And so the stuffing begins, both figuratively and literally.
Now I have voraciously gnawed my way through many a Thanksgiving celebration, and believe me, I know that it’s not easy knowing when you’re full, especially when you have a cheering section egging you on. But what really brought this idea home for me was a lunch I attended during the inaugural Iowa Hunger Summit, held just prior to this year’s World Food Prize Conference. Here were governors, legislators, Nobel Prize winners and the usual dignitaries, all sitting down to “do lunch.” When lunch was served, it was a four-inch by four-inch square of a High-Energy Emergency Relief Ration, an emergency relief food product used to feed those who are suffering from malnourishment and starvation. It brought new meaning to the adage, “The way to one’s heart is through the stomach.”
It occurred to me that it’s possible that many Americans have very little concept of being full or contented. And that maybe the seemingly endless super-sized supply of just about everything has commandeered our ability to know when we are satisfied.
I do not pretend to have any of the answers to these weighty matters, but in view of the fact that many of us are bulging at the seams, are owing too much money and are using up our air, water, wildlife and other natural resources, it certainly seems that a moment of reflection is in order. And what better time than at Thanksgiving, when being “Thank-Full” is on the table.
“Iowa farmers are not looking at the bioeconomy as ‘the answer,’” according to ISU Extension sociologist J. Arbuckle. Nevertheless, their responses to the 2007 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll indicate “farmers have great hopes for the bioeconomy, but they also have practical concerns.” Voicing opinions on a range of potential social and economic impacts associated with the growing bioeconomy, farmers show a definite mix of optimism, pragmatism and uncertainty, Arbuckle said.
Concerns range from whether removal of corn stover for ethanol production would increase soil erosion to whether they could trust farm organizations, farm magazines and environmental organizations as accurate sources of ethanol information.
Other results included the following:
• 86 percent agree that moving Iowa toward energy independence is a worthy goal.
• 84 percent believe that Iowa should become a leader in producing biodegradable corn-based products.
• 77 percent agree that Iowa should lead the nation in bioeconomy-related research and innovation.
• 75 percent agree that biofuels research should not come at the expense of traditional agricultural research.
Arbuckle notes that the Farm Poll data complement the information ISU Extension gathered from Iowans during community conversations on the bioeconomy last spring.
“Much of the opinion data from Iowa farmers is consistent with what was said during the community conversations,” Arbuckle said. “We are comparing our quantitative data to the information from the local conversations, and are drafting a report that ISU Extension can use for further discussion with stakeholders.”
For more information contact Arbuckle, firstname.lastname@example.org.
ISU Extension keeps its fingers on the pulse of Iowa’s farm and rural population each year with the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll. In the 2007 poll more than 1,000 agricultural producers voiced their opinions related to the bioeconomy, bias and information about ethanol, grain storage and transportation, alternative energy, land use issues and farming plans. “There are a lot of retirements on the near horizon,” said ISU Extension sociologist J. Arbuckle. The next five years will see retirements as well as some changes in land ownership, though production practices likely will not change significantly.
Arbuckle said a significant proportion of farmers — 28 percent — stated they would probably or definitely retire from farming over the next five years. An additional 21 percent were undecided. Five percent indicated they would leave farming for another profession.
Yet as one population plans to disengage from farming, another plans to ramp up. About 18 percent plan to buy more land, and 16 percent plan to rent more land. Those planning to rent more land over the next one to two years estimated they would rent an additional 224 acres on average, Arbuckle said.
The 12-page summary report will be available in December from ISU Extension’s Online Store as well as from ISU Extension county offices. Additional reports are planned on farmer entrepreneurship, the bioeconomy and grain handling. For more information contact Arbuckle, email@example.com.
When you offer access to e-commerce, rural Iowa entrepreneurs and small business owners will respond. In 2007 ISU Extension has been offering Access eCommerce workshops and 100 Iowans have come forward — to develop Web sites for their businesses, make better use of their existing Web sites or just learn more about doing business via the Internet. With a grant from the Community Vitality Center, Jane Nolan Goeken, an ISU Extension community development specialist, has taken the program on the road, offering hands-on instruction to small groups of business owners and entrepreneurs in seven rural Iowa communities.
“Access eCommerce is geared toward businesses with fewer than 50 employees,” Nolan Goeken said. “It’s a hands-on workshop in our traveling computer lab that we bring to the community, either as a one-day, six-hour program or a two-day program with two three-hour sessions, depending on local needs.”
The workshops attract a wide variety of entrepreneurs and small business owners. Businesses represented at a Hardin County Extension workshop included a bakery, travel agency, real estate broker, bridal and women’s formal wear store, candy maker, aviation service, chamber of commerce and agricultural commodity broker.
One participant reported, “The Access eCommerce workshop helped me critique the design of our Web site. Learning how to better market our Web site to our internal and external customers … is helping us set measurable goals for our business.”
To learn more about Access eCommerce and the 2008 schedule, contact Nolan Goeken, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Children do well when their families do well, and families do better when they live in supportive communities. That philosophy has garnered another award for PROSPER (Promoting School-Community-University Partnerships to Enhance Resilience). The program has received a 2007 Family Strengthening Award from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the National 4-H Council. Extension at both Iowa State University and Pennsylvania State University developed PROSPER, which is designed to reduce risky behaviors in middle school youth, such as using alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana. The program already is having an impact in Iowa.
“Families and youth in seven Iowa communities participate in PROSPER,” according to JaneAnn Stout, ISU Extension to Families director and PROSPER co-investigator. “Over five years, data comparing PROSPER youth with youth in control communities show that the PROSPER youth were less likely to begin substance use during the seventh grade, had better problem-solving skills, were more likely to refuse substances and received more consistent and less harsh discipline from their parents.”
ISU Extension and the ISU Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute are studying whether communities can sustain these efforts over time. Learn more from the PROSPER Web site.
4-H volunteers continue to expand 4-H Safety and Education in Shooting Sports (SESS), the fastest growing project offered through ISU Extension 4-H Youth Development. Whether through archery, air rifle, black powder, rifle, shotgun or wildlife skills, Iowa’s young people are learning leadership, citizenship and communication skills. Some 55 new adult volunteers spent 17 hours this fall earning their SESS certification, enabling hundreds more Iowa youth to participate in a program known for “skills for life – activity for a lifetime.” The newly certified volunteers join 370 trained instructors and coordinators already teaching the program in Iowa.
ISU Extension uses the national SESS curriculum, according to Bryan Whaley, 4-H specialist and shooting sports coordinator. The national program is a product of extensive testing and has been offered to states since the mid 1980s. Iowa is in its fourth year of participation.
The national curriculum undergoes continual scrutiny, with revisions made as appropriate, Whaley said. Original curriculum writers included National Rifle Association instructors and training counselors, hunter education instructors, National Bow Hunter Education instructors, National Archery Association instructors, National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association instructors and Extension specialists.
The next three-day certification training will be April 4-6, 2008, at the Iowa 4-H Center in Boone County. To find out more, contact a local county office of ISU Extension or check the SESS Web site.