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Iowa State University Extension

April 2008 -- From Jack Payne

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A Question of Asking

I hope that you took the opportunity to see the exhibit, the Land Grant Act and the People’s College, at the Christian Petersen Art Museum in Morrill Hall. What better place for the original Morrill Act itself, which created our nation’s land-grant institutions, to be made available to the people of Iowa than in Morrill Hall at Iowa State University, our nation’s first land-grant institution? What I found even more interesting was that this priceless document never had been outside of Washington, D.C., since being signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1862. President Geoffrey had asked the Smithsonian Institution why and was told, “No one had ever asked.”

I have long believed that one telltale sign of a great mind is someone who asks a lot of questions. And not just a lot, but questions that have never been asked or thought about before. Questions open new doors. Questions clean up assumptions. Questions inspire.

The questions we ask ourselves help to create the lives we lead. Our brain works just like Google. We ask it a question and it gives us a list of responses, beliefs and memories.

The question becomes ... what kind of questions are you asking?


Iowa’s green industry is growing -- the economy

Iowa's green industry grows economy

As Iowans open their wallets and make plans for their lawns and landscapes, it’s no wonder that Iowa’s green industry -- ornamental horticulture -- is the fastest growing segment of the state’s agriculture industry. According to a newly released ISU Extension survey, the estimated value of sales and services directly related to Iowa’s green industry in 2004 was $311.5 million. Add the allied sectors associated with the industry, and the economic impact climbs to $538.2 million.

The findings were published in the October-December 2007 issue of the research journal HortTechnology. Extension specialists and ISU faculty Cynthia Haynes, Ann Marie VanDerZanden and Jeffery K. Iles authored the study. The researchers surveyed Iowans in wholesale and retail greenhouses, nurseries and garden centers, as well as florists, arborists and landscape designers and contractors. They gathered information on the scope, scale and business climate of the industry in Iowa.

Most survey respondents expect their business to grow in employment, annual gross payroll and sales, and total annual expenses by 2010. Size and type of businesses varied, Haynes said, but most had only one location, were family-owned and had been in business less than six years.

“Respondents participating in our study were generally optimistic and identified only a few factors that could limit the success of their businesses,” Haynes said. Two of those factors — the availability of skilled labor and capital — also are limitations in states with larger green industries than Iowa.

Most of the respondents felt they were much stronger than their competitors in customer perception of product quality and service and ability to meet customer needs, Haynes said. “Promoting and enhancing these strengths should help them compete with big box retailers.”

Iowa’s green industry provides more than 11,000 jobs. Haynes and her colleagues plan to use this preliminary research to create further educational programming and professional development opportunities to address industry needs. Building the skills of the workforce will help position Iowa’s green industry for further expansion, she said.

Integrated Crop Management News is online and on time

Integrated Crop Management News

When crop research news happens, Iowa farmers and agribusiness professionals want to know — and now they know a lot faster, thanks to the Integrated Crop Management (ICM) News Web site. The former printed newsletter has been replaced with an online resource. Gerald Miller, director of ISU Extension to Agriculture and Natural Resources, says the change will help subscribers stay informed about crop issues during the upcoming growing season.

“With the printed version, there would be about a week’s delay from the time an article was written to the time the newsletter was received in a subscriber’s U.S. mailbox,” Miller said.

“With the online resource, a specialist can write an article, and the editor can review it and post it on the Web in only a matter of hours. When an article is posted — whether it’s Sunday afternoon, or Friday morning or Monday at noon, subscribers can automatically get an e-mail notice that there’s a new article available.”

Subscribers can choose to be notified about new articles daily or weekly. They can read articles online as well as print single articles or weekly compilations.

ICM News is supported primarily by ISU Extension and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the departments of Agronomy, Entomology and Plant Pathology. However, Miller said specialists in other areas also could be called in to contribute research-based information.

The needs of Iowa’s farmers and agribusiness professionals drive the decisions on what is published in ICM News, Miller said. If they have a need, then ICM News will address it.

For subscription information, visit the ICM News Web site.

Have trailer, will demonstrate universal design

trailer and portable universal design display

Give Mary Yearns a trailer and she’ll figure out a way to demonstrate how universal design makes a home more useful and accessible. From setting up portable display trailers with kitchen and bathroom exhibits to designing a three-room “Home for All Ages,” this ISU Extension specialist has spent her 35-year career at ISU focused on the housing needs of an aging population and people with disabilities. Chances are you’ve seen at least one of these exhibits: Yearns has demonstrated them at home shows, fairs, and conferences across the United States.

Countertops can be adjusted, tables and chairs are on wheels, and showerheads and grab bars move up and down. Just about anything can slide, turn or shift into an accessible position depending on the user’s physical abilities.

During the past five years, Yearns also has led a major research project to design Kwik-change Kabinets.

“All you need is a screwdriver and these cabinets can be changed from standard units to accessible units for wheelchair users and back again to standard,” Yearns said. The cabinets have been installed in an assisted living project to test whether they can solve accessibility problems for senior housing providers as residents with differing needs and abilities move in and out. The research is funded by the U.S. Administration on Aging and the Iowa Finance Authority, in collaboration with Bertch Cabinet Manufacturing.

The National Institute of Senior Housing (NISH) and National Council on Aging recently honored Yearns for her work. In March she received their Sid Spector Memorial Award in appreciation for exemplary and long-standing service to the field of senior housing. She is immediate past-chair of the NISH delegate council and is a past-president of the American Association of Housing Educators.

Morrill Act on display at Iowa State

The Morrill Act

An important piece of Iowa State University and ISU Extension’s history was on display at the Christian Petersen Art Museum in Morrill Hall during March and April. The Morrill Act, signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862, enabled the states to establish land-grant colleges to make higher education accessible to all. Iowa was the first state to accept the Morrill Act’s provisions, and Iowa State was designated Iowa’s land-grant institution. This is the first time the Morrill Act has been available for public view since 1979. The document has never been exhibited outside of Washington, D.C., until now.

Speaking at the museum’s open house April 15, Vice President for ISU Extension Jack Payne said, “What better place for the Morrill Act itself to be made available to the people of Iowa than in Morrill Hall at Iowa State University, our nation’s first land-grant institution.”

The Morrill Act is named for its sponsor, Congressman Justin Morrill of Vermont, for whom Iowa State’s Morrill Hall also is named.

The Morrill Act paved the way for Cooperative Extension, which began in Iowa, Payne said. “I am very aware that the privilege and opportunity that I now have to lead Extension at Iowa State would not be possible without this Act. I also am the product of the land grant educational system and owe my entire career to what this Act established.”

4-H’ers say clubs build communication, citizenship, leadership skills

4-H'ers build life skills

To find out how 4-H clubs improve youths’ communication, citizenship and leadership skills, it’s best to ask the source. That’s why ISU Extension surveyed 466 randomly selected 4-H club members in 2007. According to Keli Tallman, an ISU Extension 4-H youth development state specialist, “The 4-H’ers told us how much their skills had improved as a result of their participation in county 4-H clubs.

Using a five-point scale, the youth compared their skills in each area after participating in 4-H with their skill level before participating in 4-H, Tallman said. “For every indicator of communication, citizenship and leadership, the youths’ rated their skills significantly higher after participating in 4-H.”

The research showed on average, 46.1 percent of 4-H club members indicated a one-point increase in their communication skills after participating in a 4-H club. In addition, 17.6 percent indicated a two-point increase, and 2.8 percent indicated a three-point increase, Tallman said. The youth reported similar increases in their citizenship and leadership skills.

The 4-H’ers said being involved in 4-H clubs helped them gain communication skills through creating demonstrations and presentations and speaking in front of groups. In addition, they learned to work together with people of various ages, to speak and write effectively, to listen attentively to others’ views and to express their ideas.

In terms of citizenship, 4-H’ers said 4-H clubs help them connect to their community and understand their community’s needs and strengths. They have the opportunity to participate in service learning projects, and respect their own skills and the skills of others as they work together to get things done.

4-H clubs helped youth gain leadership skills through opportunities to serve as club officers and activity team leaders. They learned to work as a team with people who have opinions and ideas different from their own. The youth also said they learned to set personal goals.

For more information contact Tallman,

Care for Yourself/WISEWOMAN helps reduce risk of cardiovascular disease

Care for Yourself/WiseWoman

Iowa women are getting wiser about reducing their risk of cardiovascular disease. During the past six years more than 1,200 Iowa women over age 40 have participated in Iowa Care for Yourself/WISEWOMAN, a series of 12 small group sessions taught by ISU Extension nutrition and health field specialists. The community-based intervention program empowers low-income, primarily rural women to make lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.

“Although cardiovascular disease has been considered a ‘man’s disease,’ research shows that more women have fallen victim to it than men since 1984,” said Ruth Litchfield, the ISU Extension state nutrition specialist who leads the program. “Women underestimate their susceptibility to cardiovascular disease. Breast cancer is perceived as a greater threat, despite the fact that heart disease kills one in 2.6 women while breast cancer kills one in 30 women.”

Iowa Care for Yourself/WISEWOMAN was funded as a collaborative endeavor of the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), ISU Extension and the University of Iowa College of Public Health.

The program received the 2008 Priester Award at the National Extension Health Conference April 9 in Durham, NC. The award honors quality and innovative health education programs on the county/multi-county and state/multi-state levels.

The Center of Excellence for Training and Research Translation at the University of North Carolina also has recognized the program as one of five recommended nationally for use by others as an evidence-based intervention.

The Iowa WISEWOMAN project is the brainchild of retired Iowa State University professor Elizabeth “Betsy” Schafer. ISU Extension nutrition and health field specialists on the project are Patricia Anderson, Nancy Clark, Susan Klein and Jan Temple. For more information, contact Litchfield at

Iowa State’s 150th comes to a close

ISU Extension sesquicentennial service project in Greene County

Iowa State University concluded its yearlong sesquicentennial celebration during VEISHEA 2008. Over the past year, ISU Extension county staff coordinated community service projects involving ISU Extension county councils, 4-H’ers, ISU alumni and others to celebrate the sesquicentennial. The service projects ranged from tree planting to building rehabilitation to community beautification efforts.

ISU Extension recorded the VEISHEA sesquicentennial closing ceremony as well as interviews with Iowa State faculty and staff who were involved in planning the sesquicentennial celebration. The video and audio are available online.