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Iowa State University Extension

January 2008 -- From Jack Payne

Cartoon from

“Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.”  -- Fleetwood Mac

“The human being is the only animal that thinks about the future.” I knew that, but I never really thought about it until recently. In other words, our furry friends only have the capacity to live in the moment. Although this ability to be in the here and now is seen by many philosophers as the most desirable state of being, it is almost impossible to achieve. Just try clearing your mind of future or past thoughts for just two seconds. See what I mean?

One of the upsides of not being able to think about the future is that we could rid ourselves of making New Year’s resolutions. And we wouldn’t be stressing about our 401k accounts shrinking and contracting with every twist and turn of the stock market. Global warming would become a non-issue. Just think, future worries of getting old, or replacing the roof, or getting a promotion at work, or -- well, you get the idea -- would go away. If we didn’t have to think about the future, we could forget about most everything except day-to-day survival. Food and shelter. Just like our furry friends. 

But planning, worrying and thinking about the future is a defining feature of our humanity. As Daniel Gilbert noted in "Stumbling on Happiness" (Knopf, 2006), “The human brain is an ‘anticipation machine,’ and ‘making future’ is the most important thing it does.” Accordingly, every year around this time, we take a moment to reminisce about the past. Then we make resolutions to improve our lives and the lives of others. We dream of world peace; of eliminating hunger, poverty and sickness. We wonder what it all means and where it’s going. But we live in hope that the future will bring a better tomorrow for us and for our furry friends. 

May your future be rosy and bright.


Rastetter discusses future of U.S. ethanol industry

Bruce Rastetter

With continued improvement in corn genetics, 300-bushel per acre yields will provide enough grain to supply both ethanol and livestock production demands. So predicted Bruce Rastetter, CEO of Hawkeye Renewables, at the North Central Iowa Crop and Land Stewardship Clinic in Iowa Falls Jan. 3. Some 250 grain producers and agribusiness professionals heard Rastetter speak on the future of the ethanol industry in the United States.

According to Rastetter, the southeastern United States is a huge potential market for ethanol. But ethanol is only one of several solutions to reducing the United States’ dependence on foreign oil. Alternatives such as wind and solar energy also are an important part of the equation. In addition, federal incentives are necessary to encourage alternative energy production to reduce the United States’ dependence on fossil fuels, Rastetter said.  

A long-time entrepreneur, Rastetter last fall made a $1.75 million commitment to the Entrepreneurship Program in Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

ISU Extension crop specialists presented information on relevant grain production and land stewardship topics, said Darwin Miller, ISU Extension education director for Hardin County. ISU Extension in Hardin County was the lead partner in planning and conducting the clinic, which also featured an agribusiness trade show. For more information, contact Miller at

Communities check ‘speed’ of economic development with ReCAP

speedometer-type data chart

Checking the “speedometer” to see how economic development is affecting individual Iowa counties and towns soon may become second nature for local leaders looking for a better way of life for the people in their communities. Iowa State University’s Regional Capacity Analysis Program (ReCAP) will help them get up to speed with data on everything from population to retail sales to jobs, says coordinator Liesl Eathington.

“The speedometer graph is one example of the user-friendly formats we have for illustrating community data,” Eathington said. A glance at the needle on a speedometer-type dial tells community leaders whether they are doing better than most similar communities in the state, or lagging behind. It gives a graphic view by quartiles of how the numbers are distributed across the state and where the local community ranks.

ReCAP is a data dissemination and analysis project jointly funded by ISU Extension and ISU’s Departments of Sociology and Economics. Although it evolved from the Office of Social and Economic Trend Analysis, ReCAP has a new Web site and a new focus on Iowa data, including population, age, race, migration, workers, commuting, jobs, farms, business firms, retail sales, industries, earnings, income, poverty, families, education, housing and geography.

ReCAP also offers customized research services, community education and community development assistance in partnership with ISU Extension. For more information, check the ReCAP Web site.

New Elderhostel program demonstrates successful Iowa tourism

Elderhostel participants

Why are people traveling from New York to Bloomfield or Guttenberg, Iowa – and paying more than $1,000 for the privilege? They are participating in ISU Extension’s new Elderhostel program that offers themed educational travel courses for people age 55 and older. With the aura of utopian societies and the beauty of the Mississippi River, the Iowa Elderhostel programs are “spectacular in all aspects,” participants say.

A weeklong course about utopian societies was conducted in southeast Iowa and two eight-day courses about the Mississippi River were held in northeast Iowa, said Diane Van Wyngarden, the ISU Extension community and economic development specialist who coordinates the program. “All 128 seats were filled by participants from 32 states, with an additional 97 people on the waiting list.”

Van Wyngarden said the Elderhostel courses give her an opportunity to teach communities group hospitality practices. The program also presents a positive image about Iowa to a national audience and demonstrates the potential of Iowa as a national tourism destination.

ISU Extension will offer five Elderhostel courses in 2008 in eastern and central Iowa. Van Wyngarden is researching the potential of a new 2009 course about the Loess Hills and Missouri River Valley and soliciting input on possible sites and attractions for senior bus groups in this region. For more information or program suggestions, contact Van Wyngarden at or check ISU Extension’s Elderhostel Web site.

Communities take action for quality child care

dad and child

The effects of child care last a lifetime. That’s why more than 300 Iowans in 12 community conversations in fall 2005 discussed how to improve the quality of child care in their communities. They covered a range of possibilities, from increasing government regulation to educating parents and improving training for child care providers. Two years later, ISU Extension, a sponsor of the conversations, surveyed those Iowans to find out which actions they pursued.

“Iowans in several communities have indicated that the conversations helped create awareness of the need for quality child care and helped increase community interest in taking action,” said Jeanne Warning, assistant director for ISU Extension to Families.

Survey respondents reported a number of actions taken since the conversations, Warning said. For example, four school districts in one county have been participating in the statewide voluntary preschool program for 4-year-olds. Another school district established a tuition-based preschool.

“Several communities indicated that they are seeing more and more child care centers participating in quality assessments and becoming accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Home child care providers have been participating in home provider accreditation as well,” Warning said.

In many cases, families have been asking for quality child care, Warning said. “Some communities feel that the legislative climate is right, and see advocacy and funding as important factors.”

Warning said ISU Extension works year round with Child Care Resource and Referral and other partners to offer child care provider education to improve child care quality in Iowa.

A copy of the community conversation findings (PM 2018) is available from ISU Extension Distribution Center. For more information, contact Warning at

Cut the ribbon, open the door: eXtension launches Feb. 21-22


Can you host an open house for a home in cyberspace? Yes, says the Cooperative Extension System, as it officially launches the eXtension (pronounced E-extension) Web resource Feb. 21-22 during the USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum in Washington, D.C. eXtension is an educational partnership of more than 70 universities, including Iowa State, to provide online access to objective, research-based information and education. ISU Extension will make the launch ceremony available via video conferencing. It will be downlinked on campus at the Extension 4-H Youth building and at a number of ISU Extension county offices.

The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture has been invited to “flip the switch” to launch the national eXtension celebration Feb. 21 at 2:15 CST. In addition to the launch ceremony, eXtension will be delivering briefings at the forum all day Feb. 22 on various aspects of the initiative. At 10:30 a.m. CST on Feb. 22, eXtension will feature a “Stump the Expert” event in which national media representatives will question experts from eXtension communities of practice in personal finance, horses, parenting and horticulture. 

Promoted as “a new information resource for American consumers,” the eXtension Web resource offers land grant university expertise and reliable answers based upon sound research. eXtension now offers information on consumer horticulture, parenting, entrepreneurship, personal finance, diversity across higher education, geospatial technology, horses, dairy cattle, wildlife damage management, cotton and imported fire ants. Coming soon are beef cattle, family care giving and many more topics.

Leibold shares Iowa State perspective in China and Germany

Kelvin Leibold

ISU Extension work has an impact around the world — just ask ISU Extension farm management field specialist Kelvin Leibold. During recent travels to China and Germany, he discussed ISU research with graduate students and international colleagues who were eager to hear Iowa State’s perspective on issues ranging from ethanol impacts on grain markets to crop production costs and cost-effective tillage.

“In October ISU Extension economist Bob Wisner and I made presentations on the impacts of ethanol on world grain markets and U.S. agricultural policies to graduate students in finance and economics at the University of Shanghai, China,” Leibold said.

“We also visited a 100 million gallon ethanol plant in Henan and met with their management group. The plant operated on corn, sweet potatoes and cassava. During the trip we traveled about 2,000 miles around China seeing various types of agriculture and technology.”

In November, Leibold attended the AgriTechnica Tillage show, the largest machinery show in the world, in Hanover, Germany. He presented two sessions on large-scale tillage and successful cultivation management in the United States along with two Russians who presented on tillage in Russia.

He also saw outcomes of an ongoing project with FAL, Germany’s Federal Agricultural Research Centre, which is similar to the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) at ISU. “About 20 nations come together and share data on the cost of production for various crops. I run the numbers for an Iowa soybean and corn farmer,” Leibold said. “FAL’s AgriBenchmark group compiled the data and presented the results at AgriTechnica.”

For more information, contact Leibold at

4-H volunteer training is online and on DVD

Cy says volunteer for 4-H

Volunteering for 4-H just got easier. Training is now available online or by DVD for those volunteers whose schedules keep them from attending ISU Extension’s face-to-face trainings in their county. A volunteer who completed the online version said, “The online training works better for me than going to a meeting, since I can do it when it’s convenient instead of trying to re-arrange my schedule to fit it in.”

According to Chuck Morris, director for ISU Extension 4-H Youth Development, “Great training leads to great 4-H clubs. Training keeps leaders up-to-date on the latest resources, techniques and opportunities, and it allows more experienced leaders to share their expertise with newer leaders. We also want our volunteer training to be consistent across the state so all 4-H members have the same access to well trained volunteers.”

This expanded volunteer training has been funded by grants from the Iowa 4-H Foundation’s President’s Campaign in partnership with Pioneer Hybrid and National 4-H Council in partnership with Monsanto. To learn more about the training and 4-H volunteer opportunities, contact an ISU Extension county office.