A Summer in Extension

September 11, 2017

A Summer in Extension

By Shana Hilgerson, ISU Women in Ag Student Assistant

Three interns stand outside of an ISU tent at a farmers market

Pictured Above: Rachel Ulven, Shana Hilgerson, and Yuanhao Wang visit the Farmers Market in Clarion, Iowa


It’s so great to be back on campus after an awesome summer!  I had the opportunity to meet many people throughout the state, especially in north central Iowa, during my internship with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. This summer I was a part of the Rising Star Internship program, which is a relatively new program created by ISU Extension and Outreach and focuses on local food production.

I lived in Fort Dodge all summer with two other interns and worked in the Hamilton, Humboldt, Webster and Wright county offices.  My days were filled with lesson planning for youth activities, and grocery lists for farmers market food demonstrations.  The food demonstrations focused on easy and healthy ways to incorporate locally grown foods into your diet. With the youth programs, our goal was to teach them skills about the garden and incorporating fruits and vegetables into their diet for a healthy life style. I also took on an individual project writing for the area newspapers during the month of July, discussing current food topics. Karen Barkley, stands behind her father Richard Buske, along with the three ISU interns

We had a lot of fun! One of my favorite things we did all summer was travel to different producers' farms in the area.  We went to some wineries, aronia berry groves, a dairy farm, and of course, vegetable gardens. A really inspiring trip was the Buske Family Gardens. 

Karen (Buske) Barkley grew up raising acres of vegetables with her parents and family. In recent years, her parents’ failing health provided some challenges in keeping up with the gardens. Karen and her husband Mike decided to move back to Fort Dodge to help in the gardens. Now retired teachers, Karen, her brother and her husband all work together to take care of the zucchini, summer squash, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, spinach, kohlrabi, radishes, onions, and pumpkins to a name only a few!  The pride that the Buskes take in their product was very eye-opening. I got the chance to work with Karen and Mike in their gardens. They work hard and have fun before carefully cleaning, packing, and storing their harvest for sale at the local farmers market that Richard Buske, Karen’s father, helped to found many years ago. Not only does Karen take careful care of her product, but she takes careful care of each customer as well. She participates in the Farmers Market Nutrition Program, which accepts $3 vouchers for fresh Iowa foods. To further help her customers, Karen takes the time to set up “value boxes” worth $3, but holding much more than $3 of vegetables for the seniors, women, or other program participants to help them obtain as many healthy foods as they can. Karen also saved our tent at the market one day when the winds picked up by lending us a few hundred pounds of weights to tie it down! Pictured Right: Rachel, Shana, and Yuanhao are pictured with Karen Barkely and her father, Richard Buske after a successful harvest at Buske Gardens.

Shana in her crown with a friend in a cow suitI balanced this internship with my Dairy Princess duties, where I worked with so manyawesome people throughout the state to promote the dairy industry. I just finished my term as the 2016-2017 Alternate Iowa State Dairy Princess, and met so many wonderful young women representing the industries they love and grew up in. As the Alternate State Dairy Princess, I was able to travel the state and attend events from banquets, to fairs, to farm visits. In the picture on the left, I'm with a member of the Davis Family Farm in Gilmore City dressed as a cow while we handed out cow hats! My favorite part of the experience was meeting all the producers and seeing how dairy farming looks different across the state, but maintains the community atmosphere. It was a lot of fun and a great honor to represent Iowa farm families like mine.

Now it is back to work!  Madeline and Lisa have been busy in and out of the office all summer, and I’ve got a lot to do to get caught up. I’m looking forward to a great year as the student assistant for ISU Extension and Outreach Women in Ag.