December 2009 -- From Jack Payne
Success in Small Things
You never know when you’re going to run across one of those little gems that seem so innocent at first sight, but eventually turn out to be priceless guidance. Such was the quote I saw the other day on a faded, tattered bumper sticker attached to a clunker that obviously didn’t make it to the CARS Program. It read, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”
Simple words. Simple maxim. It would seem so at first sight, but when taken literally, it becomes a powerful credo for life. As we go through our day, hundreds of occasions present themselves where, with very little effort, a small, but meaningful, improvement could be made. Things like leaving a smile where none was expected. Saying “thank you” when none is necessary. Being kind when indifference could have been chosen.
With all the admonitions about thinking big and doing big things, it might be hard to imagine there being any value in thinking small and doing small things, but there is. Practically speaking, every improvement cannot be major. As a matter of fact, major improvements are most often the results of the small, but regular, positive changes. They are the outcomes of minor influences at strategic points.
Our lives are directed pretty much the same way. The major decisions and resulting changes that affect our lives the most are not grandiose. They are the end results of many small distinctions and minor actions that we make every day. If they are made with the intent of making the world a better place, the end results will be nothing short of spectacular. A very simple notion, yet it’s extremely effective.
On that note, have a wonderful holiday season.
The Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative is moving from planning to implementation, with a new grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The grant, $1.2 million over three years, extends the work that the initiative began two years ago with W.K. Kellogg Foundation funding. ISU Extension will continue as the lead partner, along with Luther College. The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque is the fiscal agent.
Through the initiative, northeast Iowans have been working to increase the affordability and convenience of locally grown, healthy food, while promoting opportunities for physical activity that fit rural lifestyles and livelihoods. From increased funding of indoor recreation facilities to getting fresh, local foods into school cafeterias, these Iowans are committed to sustaining the health of the land and community members, while increasing community economic viability.
You know what they say about New York -- if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere. That’s what ISU Extension nutrition and health specialists Cindy Baumgartner and Jill Weber were counting on when they stood with the crowd outside the Today Show studio early one October morning, with their ISU Extension sign and Iowa State pennant in hand. In New York to take a course at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE), they decided to show ISU Extension to the Big Apple and beyond.
“Jill and I use any opportunity we can to promote ISU Extension, as we so strongly believe in the mission of our land-grant system. We wore our ISU Extension food safety shirts too,” Baumgartner said. “I have been surprised by how many people saw us on TV -- my in-laws in Arizona, a friend in Minnesota and many people in town who’ve approached me on the street, at church or elsewhere.”
The two nutrition and health specialists work with the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative and other programs that encourage the use of local foods. They also work with an increasingly multicultural population. The ICE 5-Day Culinary Adventure addressed both work interests. The course addressed a different culture each day: French, Italian, Chinese, American and Latin. They shopped for produce at local markets, practiced knife skills (there’s a knack to properly cutting all that produce) and spent hours cooking with top chefs.
“We will be using what we’ve learned in upcoming teaching opportunities through our work with the Food and Fitness Initiative,” Weber explained.
Baumgartner already has demonstrated her new cooking and cutting skills to 186 students and their 24 adult coaches from16 school districts during a November Food and Fitness youth conference. Also through the initiative, she’ll be teaching food safety, cooking and food knife skills to food service workers to help them safely prepare local foods for school lunches.
In addition, the ISU Extension specialists are developing a program for high school family and consumer science teachers to help them teach food-service job skills to their students. Increasing employability skills in Iowa’s young people is one of the goals of the Iowa Core Curriculum, Baumgartner added.
A new federal regulation took effect in September requiring compliance with the E-Verify system for all companies selling to the federal government. Iowa companies currently selling or wanting to sell products or services to the federal government must use the online E-Verify system to electronically verify that employees are authorized to work in the United States. Extension’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) is offering workshops to help companies become registered and work effectively in the system.
According to Kristin Bowen, a CIRAS government contracting specialist, the E-Verify workshops continue through early February 2010 around the state. The workshops are free to Iowa businesses, but pre-registration is required. Any Iowa company that sells or has an interest in selling products or services to the Federal Government should participate.
E-Verify is a partnership between the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) oversees the program. According to the USCIS Web site, 96.9 percent of employees are automatically confirmed as work authorized either instantly or within 24 hours.
If companies that have federal government contracts don’t comply with E-Verify, they may face monetary fines of $100 to $11,000 per employee as well as other civil and criminal penalties, Bowen said. “They also may lose their existing federal contracts, and we want Iowa companies to avoid these potential consequences.”
After this initial round of workshops, E-Verify training will be integrated into CIRAS’ regular menu of training opportunities for Iowa companies, said David Bogaczyk, CIRAS program manager.
Government contracting gives Iowa businesses access to another lucrative market in challenging economic times. Approximately 1,500 Iowa companies are already doing business with this market that purchases products and services in excess of $400 billion. CIRAS is working to increase the number of companies winning government contracts to benefit the Iowa economy, especially during these tough economic times, Bogaczyk said.
CIRAS guides companies interested in government contracting through the Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP), a national program administered through the Department of Defense. CIRAS helps companies find and respond to appropriate bids, market their products and services to government agencies and contractors, and increase their sales in the government marketplace — steps that can prove critical to success in uncertain economic times.
“Think globally, act locally” means considering global consequences but taking local action. However, some issues require global action as well. So during October’s World Food Prize events in Des Moines, ISU Extension began a new collaboration with an international development organization dealing with hunger and poverty. Extension also renewed a partnership with a Chinese agricultural company focused on developing an extension system.
Extension and Iowa State University signed an agreement with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) to support small-scale farmers in developing countries, explained Sok-Leng Tan, with ISU Extension’s global programs. The project will include distance learning, crop improvement, biotechnology, climate change and drought management, along with agricultural extension and outreach. Vice President for ISU Extension and Outreach Jack Payne formalized the agreement with ICRISAT Director General William Dar.
Dar said, “We need united action to fight against hunger and poverty. We need to use technology to reach out to the unreached.”
He said small farmers in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa face global warming, drought, flood, new pests and diseases, loss of biodiversity and land degradation. They need access to improved technologies, management practices and crop varieties to cope with these challenges.
“In developing countries the extension system … it’s not healthy. There’s so much to improve,” he continued. “Extension is key, capacity building is key, empowerment is key, and we need all the support that is there — increasing investment for research, for extension and development.”
ISU Extension is continuing its partnership with Longping High Tech Agriculture, a leading seed company in China that specializes in hybrid rice. Chief Executive Officer Weibin Yan said, “We’re very pleased to have a strategic partnership with ISU Extension. We think we have a bright future for further cooperation.”
In 2008 eight Longping employees traveled to Iowa State University for two months of training in American English, manufacturing process analysis and farm and agribusiness site visits, Tan explained. Another group of Longping employees came to ISU for training in July 2009, along with visits to local farms, cooperatives and a grain storage company.
“Longping High Tech anticipates sending more of their employees annually to Iowa to acquaint themselves with best practices in U.S. agriculture,” Tan noted.
Monteverde, Costa Rica, and Fairfield, Iowa, really aren’t that different, according to Scott Timm. Both places have a bicultural feel and a strong interest in sustainability. Knowing he could think globally and act locally from any location, Timm, the former director of an environmentally focused Costa Rican school, came to Iowa. He’s the new ISU Extension program specialist who is helping move Fairfield’s Go Green strategic plan from concept to reality.
A Minnesota native with Iowa family ties, Timm was looking to return to the United States when friends in Costa Rica told him to check out Fairfield. A Google search led him to the city’s Web site and a job description that seemed a perfect fit.
Timm was introduced to Fairfield at a Beach Boys concert on Labor Day—not a typical first day on the job, but then, it’s not a typical job, and Fairfield, home to the Maharishi University of Management and known as progressive, isn’t a typical community.
“I’ve jumped into my dream job,” Timm said, as he described his new position encouraging and facilitating community sustainability programs — initially in Fairfield but expanding to southeast Iowa. Timm’s position is funded primarily by an Iowa Power Fund Grant that the city received from the Iowa Office of Energy Independence. Additional support comes from private contributions, Fairfield and ISU Extension.
“There’s a real strong buzz in town, in Extension and at ISU on sustainability,” he said, and that’s what appeals to him about carrying out the goals of the Go Green plan. “It already has the buy-in from all the key people in town. It’s a broad plan with lofty goals, but people are excited about rolling up their sleeves and getting to work.”
Those lofty goals include creating and maintaining the sustainability culture; creating jobs, wealth and opportunities for investment with sustainable development; and achieving sustainable community design, public policy and infrastructure. It’s his job to bring people together to get the work done.
“How can we change attitudes and behaviors across the board? Everybody agrees that needs to happen … to make Fairfield a sustainable place,” he said.
Timm is based at the ISU Extension Jefferson County Office in Fairfield. The Go Green strategic plan is available from the city of Fairfield’s Web site.
Tech-savvy teens say Iowa 4-H’s new Web site is “better than Facebook.” According to Shelly Greving, marketing coordinator for the Iowa 4-H Foundation, “That was the quote from our State 4-H Technology Team when they ‘test-drove’ the new site. That’s a pretty good endorsement.” The new site went live in mid-November.
Find a Club uses interactive Google Maps to help kids find 4-H contact information within their county. This feature will be expanded over the next few months to include links to all Iowa 4-H clubs.
Project Pages include links, exhibit ideas and community service ideas for each 4-H project area.
Teen Network is a site specifically for 4-H teens (ages 13-18) to connect, network, share photos and videos and talk about their 4-H experiences. It’s a community with content generated by 4-H youth for 4-H youth. Teens must be 4-H members to participate in this social network.
The new 4-H site also includes games, event calendars, an expanded search feature and information for parents, teachers and 4-H volunteers, Greving added.
Every day we lose 1,000 of them -- some to old age, others to sickness and many who never got to visit the World War II memorial that was built in their honor. However, the Corinth Red Stars 4-H club has made sure one more veteran is given the opportunity. After raising funds through a food stand at the Humboldt County Fair, the Red Stars donated $600 to sponsor a veteran through the Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping American veterans travel free of charge to see their memorial in Washington, D.C. Only later did they realize that the father of one of their leaders would be signed up for a future flight.