May 2012 -- From Cathann Kress
This summer we will be developing a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the agreement that outlines the partnership between ISU Extension and Outreach and the county extension districts, which extension councils represent. The MOU is a legal agreement authorized by the Code of Iowa. However, its impact reaches far beyond the legal necessity of the document. The new MOU will carry forward the work that began with our leadership summit and continues through our new strategic plan and the reorganization of Extension and Outreach administration. It will set the course for our shared future.
A committee that includes council members, leadership from the Iowa Association of County Extension Councils (IACEC) and extension staff and administrators will begin meeting in June. I look forward to serving on this committee as we take a thoughtful and pragmatic look at the partnership. We plan to have a draft ready by this coming fall so we can gather feedback from council members, staff and other citizens.
Development of the new MOU is one of the efforts coordinated by our County Services and Outreach administrative unit, which was established as a result of our summit. The unit also is conducting informal surveys with county councils and staff about needed resources, as well as exploring options for county accounting software. In April, county council members, treasurers and staff members with bookkeeping responsibilities were asked to evaluate the current county accounting software system. Their feedback is enabling us to evaluate options for the future, either with a new system or upgrading the current software to better fit our needs. We will share the accounting survey summary very soon.
We thank everyone who has been involved in these efforts. Together we are on our way to becoming a more relevant, vibrant organization, with a common mission and common principles.
Iowa State University has been selected as one of six regional network hubs that will promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and economic development across Iowa. Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and University of Northern Iowa President Ben Allen announced the hubs during a press conference May 7.
This is the first major initiative of the new Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, a public-private partnership to create greater student achievement in STEM subjects and a stronger STEM workforce. Each hub will work with business, education institutions, nonprofit groups and others in a way that best fits local needs, interests and resources.
Food safety and sustainability are important to West Liberty Foods LLC. For the past 10 years the company has partnered with ISU Extension and Outreach nutrition and health specialists and Meat Science Extension to develop in-depth, hands-on food safety training for employees. The course is offered at least weekly and all new employees, no matter their position with the company, are required to take it.
The company also works with the Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) on waste stream mapping and green manufacturing. “Our top goal is for all three of our plants to be zero landfill,” said Michele Boney, environmental compliance officer. West Liberty Foods has locations in West Liberty and Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, and Tremonton, Utah.
Chad Ingels, a watershed specialist for ISU Extension and Outreach, helps farmers organize and secure funding for watershed groups. He also provides technical expertise and education on agronomic practices and environmental performance measures the farmers want to implement. But he doesn’t tell them what to do. The farmers lead the effort.
A decade of this grassroots activity is having a positive impact on Iowa’s environment, and getting noticed in Washington, D.C. In mid-March, Ingels participated in the White House Rural Council’s Working Lands and Healthy Watersheds roundtable. People from across the country shared their experience in effectively and efficiently investing resources to improve water quality in rural areas.
Growing Strong Families is a comprehensive family experience for expectant parents as well as parents and caregivers of children from birth through age 5. Participation is voluntary in this program that features regular, on-going home visits from ISU Extension and Outreach parent educators, along with group meetings. Available in Adair, Fremont, Page, Taylor and Wayne counties, the program has earned the Iowa Family Support Credential from the Iowa Department of Management and Public Health.
Growing Strong Families teaches parents about child development, nutrition, money management and health and safety. In a typical year the program serves approximately 230 families, reaching 350 children.
Clive residents, businesses and visitors are involved in community planning and design from the comfort of their own homes. Since January, they’ve been using a Web application to submit perspectives, comments or photos about the community and locate them on the map. Chris Seeger, an associate professor and extension landscape architect for ISU Extension and Outreach, developed the community assessment tool, building on previous projects and using Google Maps API.
“It is another avenue for citizens to give their input without actually having to go to a meeting,” said Alex Pfaltzgraff, a planner from the City of Clive. The online option gives local officials and planners another way to collect community input.
With $10,000 from a Walmart Foundation Healthy Living Youth Voice, Youth Choice grant, ISU Extension and Outreach is providing mini-grants to support partnerships between Master Gardeners and 4-H youth in 11 counties. Each county team will plan and implement a community-based project to promote healthy eating through the production of fruits and vegetables. Projects are under way in Allamakee, Boone, Buchanan, Clarke, Delaware, Henry, Jasper, Johnson, Mahaska, Poweshiek and Warren counties.
“The projects help young people learn about gardening and healthy food, as well as develop citizenship, leadership and communication skills as project team members share what they learn with other youth and adults in their communities,” said Chris Gleason, 4-H youth program specialist.