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Iowa State University Extension

July 2008 -- From Jack Payne

This has been a most difficult time for so many Iowans. Thousands of folks have been affected. Our friends, neighbors, 4-H families, county extension council members and many others have had their homes and businesses badly damaged or destroyed.

Extension staff live in these communities, raise their families in these communities and are leaders in these communities. We all are very proud of the men and women of ISU Extension, who have been involved directly and continue to be involved in the disaster recovery effort. In many cases, their untiring and selfless efforts have been nothing short of heroic. Our field specialists, county directors and county staff, especially, are to be congratulated for their dedicated efforts in the face of this overwhelming catastrophe. On campus our ISU Extension center directors, state specialists and communications staff have been extremely helpful in getting out information important to those whose lives and livelihoods have been so severely affected.

But the real heroes are the people who have been impacted by these disasters, who, with their inimitable Iowa spirit, will cope and re-build their lives. ISU Extension will be there if needed. The Governor’s Office has stated that “in terms of FEMA-eligible damage, the Iowa flooding and tornados will likely rank in the top five disasters in U.S. history.” 

A big THANK YOU to all of our Extension staff who have been involved in disaster recovery. An entire state is grateful for your efforts!


First tornados, then floods

flooding in Iowa

With recent flooding in Iowa, 86 counties have been declared state disaster areas and 78 of those counties have been declared presidential disaster areas. As Iowans clean up the mess and deal with the aftermath, Iowa State University Extension is providing information and assistance to help with recovery efforts. Please check Extension’s Disaster Recovery Web site for information ranging from household cleanup to agricultural issues and business and financial concerns. Extension’s Answer Line, (800) 262-3804, is available to answer Iowans’ calls about food safety, household cleanup and other home and family topics. Extension’s Iowa Concern hotline, (800) 447-1985, has counselors available to help those experiencing emotional and financial stress because of flooding. Or, contact your ISU Extension county office.

Acreage Living newsletter helps manage rural non-farm life

person mowing a lawn

Think you might want to grow grapes on your acreage? Are you concerned about pesticides used near your home? And just how important is regular lawnmower maintenance? One way to keep up with these kinds of issues is to subscribe to ISU Extension’s Acreage Living newsletter. The online newsletter provides timely research-based information for the new rural Iowa that encompasses both farm and nonfarm populations.

One third of Iowa’s residents are considered rural nonfarm and live in either the country or in communities of less than 2,500, said Shawn Shouse, ISU Extension field ag engineer and Acreage Living managing editor.

“Acreage Living will help you manage your country home and property and enhance your rural living experience,” Shouse said. “Rural residents face some unique issues, and we want to provide you answers and information from ISU Extension and other land-grant universities across the nation.”

Each month the newsletter features a variety of topics related to home maintenance, water and wastewater, safety and emergency preparedness, grounds management, natural resources, machinery, business enterprises, animals, public affairs and family life.

Iowa State faculty and staff and other authors provide basic information and connections to further resources or expert assistance. The online newsletter is available at no charge. To be notified by email when the latest issue is posted, please send an email message to Shouse at requesting email notification.

Wanted: A program to help youth survive and thrive

Strengthening Families Program 10-14 training session

Twenty-four people came to Ames in June from across Iowa as well as from Wisconsin, Tennessee and even a U.S. air force base in Germany. They included mental health workers, a foster parent, a police officer and others who work in prevention programs to help youth survive and thrive. They came for one thing — to learn to facilitate ISU Extension’s Strengthening Families Program for Parents and Youth Ages 10-14 (SFP 10-14).

SFP 10-14 is a parent, youth and family skills-building curriculum designed to strengthen parenting skills, improve family bonding and communication and prevent adolescent substance abuse, said Cathy Hockaday, ISU Extension’s SFP 10-14 state specialist. The program includes sessions for parents, youth and families using realistic videos, role-playing, discussions, learning games and family projects.

A unique feature of the program is that parents and youth participate together, Hockaday said. SFP 10-14 was designed for and is used with ethnically diverse families in rural and urban settings. The program has been scientifically evaluated and shown to be effective. It also has been recognized by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Kim Combes trains foster and adoptive parents. These parents often face challenging behavioral issues with their foster and adopted children, he said. He is interested in SFP 10-14 because it works with parents and youth separately, yet also brings them together.

Joann Gansen will facilitate SFP 10-14 in Jackson County. She said she is impressed with the research that backs up the program and the documentation that it works.

“I think this will be a great program to bring to our community,” said Kari Merski, a community readiness consultant. She plans to use SFP 10-14 with military families at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany. She thinks the program will help military families deal with the issues they face when a parent deploys.

“We have 14 trainings confirmed or pending nationwide for the next three months,” Hockaday said. SFP 10-14 will continue to spread and help youth survive and thrive.

Federal reviewer says project strengthens Buena Vista, Waterloo

CYFAR reviewer with children in Iowa Sustainable Communities Project

At first glance Buena Vista County and Waterloo may seem too different to compare, but they bring similar challenges to the Iowa Sustainable Communities Project. One year into the five-year project, this ISU Extension effort received a federal review from the National Children, Youth and Families at Risk (CYFAR) Program. According to the reviewer, the project is making communities more stable by building family strengths.

This spring Mary Marczak, CYFAR liaison with the Center for 4-H and Community Youth Development at University of Minnesota, toured project sites in the Newell-Fonda and Alta school districts, Storm Lake and Waterloo. The project’s five sites in Buena Vista County are mainly rural, while Waterloo is urban. All have high poverty rates.

The project sites exemplify the changing demographics of Iowa, Marczak said. For example, Storm Lake is nearly 60 percent minority, including Latino, Sudanese and Lao populations.

“Waterloo on the other hand, has the largest African American population in the state, 14 percent,” she said.

The Iowa Sustainable Communities Project uses ISU Extension’s Strengthening Families Program 10-14. Marczak sees this as a strong point, because the project implements the evidence-based program consistently across the sites. “It did not matter who I talked to, everyone … voiced their approval of using a ‘proven’ program,” Marczak said.

The partnering organizations “are right on target” in terms of their ability to facilitate family education efforts in their communities, Marczak said. “Whether the partnership is formal or informal, all sectors of the community are involved in supporting the project. ... Directors of key organizations sit on project committees, elected officials are kept informed and are highly supportive, local businesses contribute family meals and door prizes, and school districts continue to be critical partners by offering space, human resources and time during the school day.”

The Iowa Sustainable Communities Project is one example of ISU Extension’s efforts to meet the needs of Iowans as the state gains new immigrant populations and becomes more urban. Currently, 41 percent of the Iowa’s residents live in urban areas.

“These opportunities complement the vision of CYFAR in terms of moving Extension resources into new communities,” Marczak said.

Citizens Advisory Council experiences agri ‘culture’

adult and child picking fruit

Extension’s Citizens Advisory Council (CAC) met in June for an immersion in agri “culture.” They waded into ISU Extension’s programs in agri-tourism, local food systems, barn quilts, Elderhostel and Iowa’s burgeoning wine industry as they met with ISU Extension staff and administrators. The CAC’s 39 members are a key and consistent link between ISU Extension administration and Iowa citizens. Thirteen new members were introduced at the June meeting.

The new members’ terms expire in 2011: Jose Amaya, West Des Moines; Dean Borg, Mount Vernon; Willard Boyd, Iowa City; Sarah Huddleston, Storm Lake; Shea Kruger, Grafton; Deb Krull, Mason City; Carlos Rios, Des Moines; Gary Smith, Emerson; Mallory Smith, West Liberty; David Suarez Moreno, Mount Pleasant; Mary Weaver, Rippey; LaMetta Wynn, Clinton; and John Ziegenbusch, Ames.

“The CAC members are appointed by the Vice President for ISU Extension and Outreach,” said Mark Settle, director of ISU Extension Communications and External Relations. “The council meets twice a year and shares their perspectives and perceptions of ISU Extension. We’ve found their views of significant value.”

For the complete list of CAC members, see the Vice President for Extension and Outreach Web site.

Iowa Association of County Extension Councils celebrates 10 years

Iowa Association of County Extension Councils

The Iowa Association of County Extension Councils (IACEC) is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2008. Ten years ago and continuing today, statewide communication is the focus of this organization that links and represents ISU Extension county councils throughout the state.

“We hoped to open up communication among counties and work together to share ideas and resources,” said Neil Lansing, initial committee member and current Fayette County extension council member. “The partnership of IACEC and administration has been a key aspect leading to open communication and cooperation.”

“It gave councils a voice,” said John Bossard, initial board member and current Greene County extension council member. “It is important that the vision of the group be in line with the current needs of councils.”

Iowa AmeriCorps State of Promise seeks volunteers


The Iowa AmeriCorps State of Promise Program needs you — to volunteer, says Judy McCarthy, ISU Extension’s director for the program. McCarthy is seeking volunteers to become Promise Fellows and serve their community through local schools and nonprofit organizations.

“The program encourages people to be involved and helps them accomplish things for their communities,” McCarthy said. “Promise Fellows help solve problems, bring communities together and set an example of caring and community spirit that America needs.”

The Iowa AmeriCorps State of Promise Program is hosted by ISU Extension 4-H Youth Development in collaboration with Iowa’s Promise and the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service. Promise Fellows serve with youth development programs in communities across the state. Membership is open to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents age 17 and older.

McCarthy is looking for volunteers to serve in school- and community-based sites and work with youth development programs for elementary, middle and high school students. “Our volunteers have been tutors and mentors. They’ve organized service-learning projects and developed enrichment activities such as career shadowing, environmental awareness and drug prevention.”

Promise Fellows can serve on a full or part time basis. Full time members receive a modest living allowance, and all members receive an education award of up to $4,725, which can be used for higher education tuition or loan repayment after completing a full term of service.

In May the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service voted to award an additional $343,389 grant to the Iowa AmeriCorps State of Promise Program. The 2008-2009 program runs from Sept. 1, 2008, through Aug. 31, 2009. To learn more, contact Judy McCarthy at (515) 294-1611 or

Extension learning community grows healthy food — and businesses

Growing Food and Profit

An increasing number of consumers want to eat locally grown food and are willing to pay extra for produce, meat and dairy products that are safe, fresh and flavorful. This trend creates business opportunities for small producers to sell their products to restaurants, at farmers’ markets and through community-supported agricultural enterprises. That’s why ISU Extension helped organize a Dallas County group known as Growing Food and Profit.

Growing their own businesses while supporting other producers is the approach these Dallas County producers are using to improve local food options. The team of 20 meets monthly from September to May to share ideas and expertise; sometimes they even trade equipment. Every June, they tour a member’s farm or a local agricultural enterprise. ISU Extension organizes the group in collaboration with the Iowa Network for Community Agriculture and the Dallas County Farm Service Agency. Other partners have included National Rural Catholic Life.

Members produce and sell everything from fruits and vegetables to herbs, honey, flowers, broiler chickens, eggs, milk and meat. Cleve Pulley sells organic fruits and vegetables grown on his land near Redfield to area restaurants. “There is no way to put a dollar value on what I have learned as a member of Growing Food and Profit ... the sky is the limit for what I can do with my business,” Pulley said.

“All you have to do is ask and someone can answer your questions about production, distribution or marketing,” added Ralph Lane, Prole, who with his wife, Karen, sells vegetables, pies and soy candles at farmers’ markets. “Through this group we’ve learned ways to improve our products and how to build relationships with our customers. We’re growing every year.”

Research shows that safe and healthy locally grown food benefits families, communities and the economy. According to ISU’s Leopold Center, if Iowans ate the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables every day and bought them all locally while in season (three months of the year), an extra $300 million and more than 4,000 jobs would be added to the Iowa economy.
For more information, contact Linda Nelson, ISU Extension education director for Dallas County,

Extension’s energy tip: Stay cool this summer while saving energy

air conditioner

If you use air-conditioning, set your thermostat as high as comfortably possible in the summer. The less difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be. Don’t set your thermostat at a colder setting than normal when you turn it on. It will not cool your home any faster and could result in excessive cooling and unnecessary expense. If you’re shopping for an air conditioner, look for the Energy Star and EnergyGuide labels. Remember that insulation and sealing air leaks will improve energy performance and comfort in summer by keeping cool air inside. Check out Air Conditioners for more tips.

This tip is brought to you by the U.S. Department of Energy and ISU Extension.