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Iowa State University Extension

August 2008 -- From Jack Payne

ISU Extension CY-Riders

On Sunday, July 27, the Tour de France ended in Paris. It was fitting that the world’s greatest bicycle race ended right after the end of America’s biggest bicycle ride, RAGBRAI. For the first time, ISU Extension fielded a team, the Extension CY-Riders. I certainly do not claim that RAGBRAI is anything close to the Tour de France, but riding a bicycle across the State of Iowa, over all the hills and through days of hot sun and cold rain, provided us with a great feeling of accomplishment. The emotional feeling that came over me personally, when I finally saw that big Mississippi River after topping that last hill, cannot be too much different than what those pro cyclists must feel when they finally ride into Paris on the Champs Élysées.

Seeing Iowa from a bicycle from the Missouri River to the Mississippi reminds one of how wonderful it is to live in this state. When we rode into Coon Rapids, for example, the entire entrance road was lined with American flags, as well as the cheerleaders from the local high school cheering us on. At the end of the road, as we turned into the town’s main street, was the high school marching band to welcome us. It was Americana at its best. I had a great breakfast burrito at the firehouse in Chelsea, which, only a short time ago, was under 12 feet of water! The town really pulled it together. RAGBRAI is a wonderful spectacle that is hard to describe unless you experience it. 

Wearing our Extension CY-Riders jerseys and with signs on our bikes, we received many inquiries about ISU and what Extension does. We also visited with many alumni from around the country as well as the great friends that ISU has throughout Iowa. All of the CY-Riders greatly appreciated the very warm welcome we received from our ISU Extension colleagues as we rode across the state. The hospitality provided by ISU Extension staff was incredible, especially given this time of county fairs and the continuing impact being felt from flood damage in the eastern part of the state. We extend a very special thank you to all of you who made our Extension CY-Rider adventure the great success that it was.

Ride Strong!

Relive RAGBRAI via the Extension CY-Riders Web site

ISU Extension CY-Riders

Thanks to ISU Extension and modern technology you can relive RAGBRAI, virtually. Visit the ISU Extension CY-Riders Web site for video clips, photos, audio interviews and daily journals from the weeklong ride. A group of ISU Extension staff and friends riding RAGBRAI, the Extension CY-Riders were ISU Extension ambassadors along the route, promoting ISU Extension’s work for healthy people, environments and economies.

Horizons program launches citizen-leaders in Iowa communities

Elma Horizons project

Working with Iowa communities in the Horizons program is like parenting, says program coordinator and ISU Extension family resource management specialist Ruth Freeman. “If you do it right, you launch them.” And Horizons is doing it right, as 20 communities completed the 18-month community leadership program in June and 15 more begin the next round in September. The “launched” citizen-leaders already are making their communities better places to live and work.

In Morning Sun a Horizons task force is taking steps to retain a town grocery store. They’re exploring options for the current grocer, the feasibility of forming a local food co-op and benefits of buying locally in partnership with a school and a care center.

Elma residents believed if dependable, quality child care were available locally, parents could seek better paying jobs in the area. They formed Elma Early Childhood Center Inc., worked with the local school district, secured grant funding and built a child care center adjacent to the local school. Principal Rob Hughes said, “There is success in Elma because people have come together in collaboration.”

Grand Junction established an after-school tutoring program, and Keosauqua and Woodbine have set up youth mentoring programs.

These are only a few examples of how the Horizons program helps small communities experiencing a poverty rate over 10 percent build stronger leaders to address economic issues and find ways to implement change. ISU Extension directs the program with funding from the Northwest Area Foundation. Freeman has spent much of the past month meeting with eligible communities that are interested in participating in the program. Those that are serious must apply by Aug. 13.

“This is a commitment on the part of communities,” Freeman said. Those that are accepted must pull together a local steering committee and find volunteers willing to be trained to facilitate local study circles in October and November. A community with less than 1,500 people needs six trained facilitators and at least 30 people participating. That increases to 14 facilitators and 100 people as community population reaches 5,000. The program intensifies with additional leadership training in spring 2009.

In Horizons, local leaders become involved in decision-making and come together to take action against poverty, Freeman said. Communities gain training about leadership, community development, visioning and strategic planning. They learn to use their own resources to make a difference.

Community leaders to learn from peers at small towns conference

Northeast Iowa Community Development Conference

From attracting younger workers to reducing carbon emissions and supporting new businesses, Iowa’s small towns face issues and possibilities as they plan for the future.  Community leaders have a chance to find out how their peers are handling such challenges at the Northeast Iowa Community Development Conference on Sept. 3.

According to Sandy Scholl, an ISU Extension community and economic development specialist and conference committee chair, “We’re hoping that folks will get some new ideas for their local development efforts and find out from people like themselves what has worked in communities like their own.”

The conference, Small Towns Looking Toward the Future, is geared toward small town leaders, volunteers, local elected officials, local development groups, Chambers of Commerce, community betterment groups and similar entities. It’s set for Sept. 3 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. at the Heartland Acres Agribition Center, 2600 Swan Lake Boulevard, Independence.

“Our conference programs are related to what’s happening in other small towns,” Scholl said. For example, representatives from the City of Decorah will explain how they are implementing their mission to follow the Kyoto protocol, reduce carbon emissions and save on the city’s operating costs. The Iowa Department of Economic Development will offer tips on how communities can “go green.”

Entrepreneur Jason Trout will discuss how technology and the Internet make it possible to choose Iowa as a rural location to grow a business and create quality of life.

Other topics include supporting start-ups as well as existing businesses, dealing with a changing workforce, developing agri-tourism and providing affordable energy-efficient housing.

For registration information, visit the conference Web site. The registration cost is $40 if paid by Aug. 15. After Aug. 15 the price increases to $55. For more information, contact Scholl at (319) 433-1286

Standing in this line brings revenue to Iowa businesses

Iowa Procurement Expo

Sometimes standing in line has its rewards. That’s why small business owners attending a recent ISU Extension-sponsored procurement conference didn’t mind the wait to meet with prime government contractors and procurement officials.

“This enabled us to connect names with faces and show what we can bring to the table,” said Malcolm Goodwin, president of Promise IT Solutions and Global Search. “It was well worth the time.” Goodwin expects his contacts at the conference will result in increased revenues for his two young companies.

Extension’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) organized the 2008 Iowa Procurement Expo and Networking Event to provide opportunities for small businesses to make connections that could lead to increased sales and profits. The half-day event was held July 10 in Des Moines.

Approximately 200 people registered for the event, and some drove as many as four hours each way to attend. The quality of the 30 exhibitors contributed to the “phenomenal” interest, said expo organizer Dave Bogaczyk, CIRAS procurement program manager. The exhibitors included the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Iowa Department of Transportation, Iowa National Guard, Rockwell Collins and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).

The line for engineering giant Rockwell Collins “started at 20 and never really ended,” Bogaczyk said.

“There’s always a line to see us,” said exhibitor Ruby Rice, business specialist from the U.S. GSA’s regional office in Kansas City. Rice counsels small businesses on how they can obtain government subcontracts, advising them to start with city and state government.

This isn’t the first time that GSA has had a booth at a CIRAS event. “I’ve gone for years,” Rice said. “Each year it just keeps getting better and better. CIRAS is outstanding in their efforts to reach small businesses. When CIRAS calls, I drop what I’m doing and I get on the road.”

Goodwin believes attendance at CIRAS purchasing expos is crucial for minority-owned businesses such as his own. The minimal cost of this event is an important factor for a small business. “Companies can spend thousands of dollars just to get in front of one person,” he said.

Goodwin, as well as the other attendees, appreciated the networking opportunity. The expo evaluations, according to Bogaczyk, didn’t contain a single negative comment.

Grow old in your own home with smart home technology

panel discussion of smart home technology

The “smarter” your home, the longer you’ll be able to live in it as you grow older. This concept is gaining attention not only in Iowa with its increasing aging population, but also nationally and internationally. The 2008 International Conference on Smart Homes and Health Telematics (ICOST) came to Iowa State this summer to discuss ways technology can enhance quality of life for rural elders.

“The goal of all of the new technology is to help people stay in their own homes independently,” said Mary Yearns, ISU Extension housing specialist and an ICOST organizer.

This marked the first time that ICOST was in the United States and the first time that it focused on smart home technology in terms of an aging population.

Smart home technology runs the gamut from simple touch screen monitors to complex robots using fuzzy logic to respond to people’s needs, Yearns said. With computers, special sensors and other assistive technology, smart homes enable older people and those with physical limitations to more easily perform daily tasks, engage in entertainment and leisure activities, and communicate with friends and family members, no matter how far apart they may be.

An older woman who lives alone could have virtual meals with her adult children in another state via a flat screen TV in her dining room and one in theirs, Yearns said. The technology would allow them to converse over dinner just as if they were sitting at the same table.

The same technology could be used for virtual health checkups, connecting a person who no longer drives to a doctor or nurse in a distant clinic, she said.

Strategically placed cameras and sensors in the floor and appliances can track a person’s movements through a home. For example, if no one opens the refrigerator all day, a sensor on the door would send a signal; then someone would come to the home and make sure the resident was OK.

“It’s a trade-off between privacy and security. If you agree to have the sensors in your home, you can have the assurance that someone will check on you,” Yearns said.

Many of the technologies already exist on the market, she noted. The challenge is to help people figure out how to integrate them into their existing homes.

To learn more about smart home technologies, contact Yearns at

Farm Progress Show features Iowa State opportunities for Iowa’s future

Farm Progress Show

Visit the Farm Progress Show Aug. 26-28 to see examples of how Iowa State is “Providing Opportunities for Iowa’s Future.” About 30 displays in the Iowa State exhibit will showcase research and programs offered by ISU Extension and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The displays cover the bioeconomy, food and human health, rural communities, economic development, the next generation of Iowans and ISU student recruitment. Check out Iowa State’s eight lots of exhibit space, including a 6,000 square foot hoop building and outdoor exhibit area at the show site in Boone.

Edwards’ goal: Help public understand ag economics issues

William Edwards

More agricultural economists are getting out of their ivory towers and taking economics to the field, thanks to William Edwards, an ISU Extension agricultural economist. That’s part of the legacy Edwards leaves as he steps down as past president of the Extension Section of the American Agricultural Economics Association (AAEA). Edwards wants to help the public understand tough ag economics issues— and to make sure the AAEA shares that goal.

“We have motivated the leadership of the AAEA to pay more attention to outreach responsibilities to the public,” he said. “Our mission is to make sure extension is well represented in the whole agricultural economics profession.”

Edwards has been on the Extension Section board for seven years, serving as secretary, president elect, president and past president – the term that he ended in July. The Extension Section of the AAEA has about 200 members from most U.S. land-grant universities. The majority has academic appointments in agricultural economics, though some work for nonprofit organizations or private industry.

Edwards said the Extension Section also is interested in bringing new people into the fold as extension professionals. It sponsors a competition in which graduate students, mentored by extension ag economists, develop extension programs based on their research, complete with educational materials and instructions for delivering the program to the public.

“The idea is to help groom a new generation of ag economists with an interest in, or at least some familiarity with, how extension programs work,” he said.

Many universities have extension economists on campus, but have few or none in the field. However, Iowa State is an exception, Edwards said. Farm management field specialists “are the backbone of ISU Extension economic programs in the field.”

He added, “I think ISU Extension is envied by a lot of other states. Our strong point is having the field specialist system in ag economics. That makes our system more effective and responsive in delivering information to the public.”

Edwards, an ISU Extension agricultural economist since 1974, also is a professor in Iowa State’s Department of Economics. His ISU Extension work covers farm accounting, business analysis, machinery management and custom rates, farm leasing agreements, and managing risk, farm finances and labor. He teaches farm management, international agriculture and risk management, and has been involved in a number of international programs.

It’s sausage to go at annual meats short course

short course lab work

Ready, set, go process meat! It’s this hands-on approach that brings meat processing professionals to Iowa State University every summer for the Sausage and Processed Meats Short Course. The 30th annual short course July 14-18 attracted 76 participants from 24 U.S. states and five countries, according to Joe Cordray, ISU Extension meat specialist. Participants were divided into teams and, under the supervision of an instructor, formulated and prepared a processed meat product.

The course is designed for people with supervisory, production and technical responsibilities in commercial meat processing operations, Cordray said. It also is open to those in marketing and supplier industries.

The 2008 short course covered fresh, cooked, dry and semi-dry sausage products. Participants also learned about sectioned and formed cured meats, whole muscle precooked meats, reduced fat products and ethnic sausage products.

 “Since Iowa State started its processed meat short course programs in 1979, over 10,000 people from the meat industry or an allied area have participated in one of our programs,” Cordray said.

For more information, contact Cordray at

Extension’s energy tip: Close the window on high energy bills


If your home has single-pane windows, as almost half of U.S. homes do, consider replacing them. New double-pane windows with high-performance glass are available on the market. In colder climates, select windows that are gas filled with low-emissivity (low-e) coatings on the glass to reduce heat loss. If you decide not to replace your windows, there are other ways to improve their performance. In cold climates, close your curtains and shades at night, and open them during the day. Installing storm windows can also reduce your heat loss, by up to 50 percent. Check out Windows for more tips. This tip is brought to you by the U.S. Department of Energy and ISU Extension.