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Iowa State University Extension

January 2010 -- From Jack Payne

Thank You and Farewell

By the end of this month, 83 ISU Extension employees from all over the state will have left us through retirement. Some are retiring as planned and others are retiring early because of the budget crisis. All will be missed by their ISU Extension colleagues and by those they served. If the economy and state funding were sound, most of them would not be saying goodbye right now. And the sad truth is, that with their parting, we lose not only “boots on the ground,” but also years of collective expertise, experience and valuable relationships.

There is no way to adequately thank them for their untiring service and commitment to ISU Extension. Each individual brought something unique to our efforts, yet was part of a team dedicated to serving the greater good. As a legacy to their good work, we will continue serving Iowans with relevant, researched-based information and promoting healthy people, healthy environments and healthy economies. We also extend our gratitude for a job well done.

Thank you and farewell to
Barbara Abbott, communications specialist
Donna Andrusyk, families field specialist
Evelyn Beavers, families program specialist
Perry Beedle, county extension education director (CEED)
Robert Behnkendorf, CEED
Beverly Berna, families field specialist
Gary Bickmeier, CEED
Linda Bigley, CEED
Susan Bogue, youth program specialist
Becky Bray, CEED
Clark BreDahl, external relations specialist
Janet Brown, families field specialist
Daniel Burkhart, CEED
Darrell Busby, ANR field specialist
Donald Buzzingham, CEED
Paulette Cambridge, secretary
Rhonda Christensen, CEED
Douglas Cooper, communications specialist
Bonnie Crippen, Seed Science Center clerk
Mary Crooks, families field specialist
George Cummins, ANR field specialist
Dennis DeWitt, ANR field specialist
Jerald Dewitt, Leopold Center director
William Drey, CEED
Glen Easter, CEED
John Eveland, CEED
Eldon Everhart, ANR field specialist
Alice Fellingham, CEPD account clerk
Elizabeth Fleming, families field specialist
Paulelda Gilbert, families field specialist
Roger Ginder, ANR faculty
Myrtle Hanson, secretary
Cheryl Hardison, CEED
Sandra Hegna, seed analyst
Patricia Helms, CEPD secretary
Judith Hensley, CEED
James Hill, CEED
Lois Hunt, AEED
Judith Isaacson, external relations specialist
Nancy Jenson, CEED
Dennis Johnson, CEED
Linda Kennedy, secretary
Susan Klein, families field specialist
Del Marks, communications specialist
Sharon Mays, families field specialist
Nancy McConnell, secretary
Sandra McLain, CEED
Larry McMullen, ANR field specialist
Dale Miller, CEED
Darwin Miller, CEED
Gerald Miller, ANR director and CALS associate dean
Barb Negri, families secretary
Chris Nelson, CEED
Diane Nelson, communications specialist
Linda Nelson, CEED
Mary Ottmar, CEED
Beverly Peters, CEED
Carol Peterson, CEED
Wendy Peterson, families field specialist
Richard Pope, ANR program specialist
Lynn Rechterman, youth program assistant
Rhonda Rosenboom, families field specialist
Sharon Ryan, youth program assistant
Mary Schrandt-Prouty, AEED
Holle Smith, CEED
Lynette Spicer, communications specialist
Bruce Stoll, assistant to the vice president, HR
Daryl Strohbehn, ANR faculty
Cletus Swackhamer, CEED
Patricia Swartzlander, CEED
Henry Taber, ANR faculty
Mary TeWinkel, youth field specialist
Patricia Thies, families program assistant
Dale Thoreson, ANR field specialist
James Trow, EDC program coordinator
Susan Uthoff, families field specialist
Jack Van Laar, CEED
Lois Warme, CED/Design faculty
Sharon Wasteney, CEED
Colletta Weeda, CEED
Neil Wubben, CEED
Denise Wyland, families field specialist
Joseph Yedlik, CEED

4-H is creating more options for youth and their families

Join 4-H

With $150,000 raised by the Iowa 4-H Foundation and another $150,000 in economic stimulus funds, ISU Extension is making an investment in 4-H Youth Development. These funds are helping 4-H weather the state budget cuts this fiscal year, make strategic adjustments in staffing and programs, and create more options for 4-H clubs and other long-term experiences for Iowa youth, said Chuck Morris, 4-H program director.

The additional funding is allowing 4-H to develop online enrollment for clubs and projects, streamline the animal identification process for livestock shows at county fairs and strengthen support for new members and their families, Morris explained.

“We’ll eliminate paperwork for 4-H’ers and their families wherever we can to make 4-H more user friendly,” he said.

Currently one in five Iowa school-age youth participates in ISU Extension 4-H Youth Development programs, learning leadership, citizenship and life skills as they work in partnership with caring adults. 4-H also helps youth learn about contemporary societal issues such as healthy lifestyles, citizenship and science literacy.

“We want to make sure that 4-H’ers have all the skills and opportunities they need to become successful adults. We also want to make it easier and faster for more Iowa youth and their families to begin and continue 4-H experiences,” Morris said. So he and his staff are taking a close look at everything — from the way clubs are organized to determining the best way to select and screen volunteers to meet child protection and safety requirements.

Already counties are organizing new 4-H clubs through schools and afterschool programs and around special interests, such as the Project Runway and Iron Chef clubs in Jones County, a science club in Humboldt County and First Lego League clubs throughout the state.

Staff duties and assignments have shifted to align with the new ISU Extension regions and county-identified needs, Morris added. In the restructured organization, 21 regional 4-H youth development program specialists serve groups of three to seven counties. Each of seven urban 4-H youth development program specialists serves a designated county. County youth coordinators are hired by county extension councils and manage and support the 4-H program at the local level. Ten program specialists on campus provide content support for the program specialists throughout the state.


Business continuity plans help companies handle disasters

flooded rail bridge

The floods and tornadoes of 2008 made it clear that many Iowa businesses weren’t adequately prepared for disasters that might befall them. These companies lacked a business continuity plan, a strategy for how to recover their operations following a disaster. So ISU Extension’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) stepped in, developing a new approach and template for business continuity to meet the needs of Iowa companies.

Business continuity planning is a well-defined, complex field, involving risk analysis and mitigation, with a major subfield of information technology continuity planning. Business continuity plans can mean the difference between whether a company shuts down or recovers in the wake of a disaster. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimates that one in four businesses that close their doors due to a disaster never reopen. Beyond that, these plans by themselves bring immediate benefits, such as increased security for investors and customers.

In researching business continuity planning resources, CIRAS determined that existing off-the-shelf tools were either geared toward very small businesses, making them too general and compact, or were for large manufacturers, requiring more resources than available to small or medium firms, said Mike O’Donnell, CIRAS program manager.

Since one size doesn’t fit all, CIRAS works with a company’s leadership team in a one-day on-site workshop, identifying the manufacturer’s critical business functions, O’Donnell explained. Those functions might include such things as the management of facilities and suppliers as well as financial operations. The CIRAS-developed process highlights some of the common risks that might affect any of these core functions, such as a fire destroying financial records or a tornado putting a supplier out of business.

As a next step, workshop attendees learn best practices for mitigating these risks or -- worst case -- how to recover should a flood, fire or other major disaster affect a core function. The emphasis is on resuming normal operations in the fastest and most cost effective manner.

Thombert Inc. in Newton is one company that now has a business continuity plan, thanks to CIRAS. According to manufacturing manager Maureen “Mo” Lockwood, “We left the workshop with a solid draft of a business continuity plan and a clear list of follow-up items. … CIRAS has been there to answer questions and offer additional support information.”


New Working K9 Handler Academy provides search and rescue training

Working K9 Handler Academy

A child is lost in 80 acres of woodland, at night and in the rain. An elderly man is missing from an Alzheimer’s facility, last seen heading north through town. Situations like these often require the services of canine search and rescue teams. These canine handlers need specialized training, and now they can get it online, from the Working K9 Handler Academy. It’s a partnership of ISU Extension and Paws of Life, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to the education of search and rescue dogs and their handlers.

Getting that education has been difficult, said Robin Habeger, Paws of Life executive director. “There isn’t a school. You can’t go somewhere and take a class.”

Habeger was looking for a way to make search and rescue training accessible to more people when a friend directed her to ISU Extension Continuing Education and Professional Development (CEPD).

Habeger and her team of search and rescue experts provided most of the content, said CEPD Director Eddie Loo. Then CEPD shaped it into a series of interactive online courses with readings, quizzes and a final activity or essay. Each course requires about one to six hours of independent study at the learner’s convenience, and the learner can take up to 90 days to complete a course. The cost varies from $30 to $55 per course. Register for the courses online.

Four courses are available: an introduction to canine search and rescue, search strategies for wilderness and other areas, crime scene preservation and bloodborne pathogens. Bloodborne Pathogens for the First Responder and Canine Handlers is designed for first responders who have the potential to be exposed to human blood or other potentially infectious materials. Iowa State’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety developed this course to fulfill OSHA’s requirements of the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard and Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act.

Additional Working K9 Handler Academy courses are being developed and will apply to search and rescue canine handlers as well as those in other working dog professions, such as law enforcement canine handlers. Anyone who is interested in canine learning theory and nutrition or simply loves dogs also may be interested in the courses, Habeger said.


Bioeconomy e-conference examines biochar’s potential

Bioeconomy e-conference

Biochar’s potential to help reduce global climate change inspired 150 people to gather at Iowa State and nearly 600 people throughout the Midwest to join virtually for a bioeconomy e-conference in early December. Biochar is charcoal created by the chemical decomposition of biomass, and scientists say this biofuel byproduct has possibilities for sequestering carbon and improving soil fertility.

Iowa State, ISU Extension and 11 other Midwest universities hosted the virtual conference that took a closer look at this bioeconomic option that can help agriculture clean the planet.

The key is to bury the biochar in soil. Johannes Lehmann, an associate professor of soil fertility management and soil biogeochemistry at Cornell University, said biochar is more efficient than other forms of carbon for improving soil fertility.

“Not all biochar is created equal,” he told the conference participants. It can be created from different feedstocks. He stressed the need to tailor biochar to the soil, similar to the way manure application is tailored to the soil.

Using biochar to improve soil fertility could reduce agriculture’s environmental footprint, said Robert Brown, director of the ISU Bioeconomy Institute. With increased soil fertility, agricultural land use could become more efficient and fewer acres would be needed for agricultural production.

Biochar is the way forward, Lehmann said, based on sound science. A systems perspective is required because there are tradeoffs and opportunities, and research and development are needed alongside implementation.

David Chicoine, president of South Dakota State University, one of the conference co-sponsors, noted there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for advancing the bioeconomy. No state, region or sector can innovate and advance the industry alone. Collaboration is required for “pushing the envelope” on biosciences to improve energy security, environmental stewardship and sustainability, and economic prosperity.

Jack Payne, vice president of ISU Extension and Outreach, noted that the bioeconomy may be the nation’s best chance for achieving these key goals. Biofuels can help enhance national security by reducing U.S. dependence on imported oil. The bioeconomy offers opportunities for increased markets for agricultural crops with the benefits of reducing the need for crop support programs and improving environmental quality. In addition, the bioeconomy allows for advances in rural development, creating economic opportunities where the biofuel resource is located.

Some of the conference presentations are available online.


Iowa Land Value Survey shows 2 percent decline in average value for 2009

Land value trend

The average value of an acre of farmland in Iowa declined in 2009 for the first time in a decade, according to the annual Iowa Land Value Survey conducted by ISU Extension. Mike Duffy, ISU Extension farm economist who conducts the survey, said the statewide average as of Nov. 1 was $4,371 an acre, down 2.2 percent or $97 from the 2008 figure of $4,468.

While land values on average declined slightly in 2009, the survey reported that 14 counties showed increases. The counties with increases included several in east central Iowa where the 2008 flooding held down the gains shown in other parts of the state last year.

Additional information on the 2009 survey and an archived version of Duffy’s news conference announcing the results are available online.