April 2008 // Volume 46 // Number 2
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In "New Way to Subscribe to JOE," I alert readers to the new RSS option for subscribing to JOE. In "April JOE," I highlight just a few of the excellent articles in this month's issue, including a timely Commentary.
Sustainable Living Education: A Call to All Extension
Community priorities are shifting in response to the scientific reality and socioeconomic threats of climate change. Improving sustainable resilience in the ways we supply food, water, and energy are creating new ways of thinking about these critical resources. Cooperative Extension is in a prime position to teach individuals and communities how to live and work sustainably. The National Network for Sustainable Living Education has identified six essential steps for creating a national approach to Extension programming on this topic. Our full paper, A Vision for Relevance was presented to leaders at the National Extension Directors and Administrators meeting in February 2008.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on "Sustainable Living Education: A Call to All Extension
Strengthening Entrepreneurship and Building Leadership Capacity in Rural Communities
This article describes a potential model for other Extension programs across the United States that are looking for effective strategies to support and enhance community-based entrepreneurship. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension, in collaboration with other business-assist organizations, business owners, and municipal officials, organized the annual Washington County Business Conference and Marketplace. The overall goal of the conference was to improve the chances of success for existing and aspiring small business owners. A post-conference survey revealed that conference participants improved their business management skills; started, expanded, or improved a business; increased sales and profits; and made better business decisions.
Growing Rural Tourism Opportunities
Agritourism is an important industry in rural states. Assisting rural operators to design and develop on-farm or ranch experiences to attract some of the more than 645,000 visitors to the state to their businesses has became an important educational program for the NDSU Extension Service. North Dakota's experience provides an example of how Extension can provide the educational programming and applied research necessary to help facilitate growth and sustainability in the rural and nature-based tourism industry.
Building Wealth Through Ownership: Resident-Owned Manufactured Housing Communities in New Hampshire
Eighty-two resident-owned manufactured housing parks serve over 4,000 New Hampshire families. Despite their popularity, one important question remains: do they outperform investor-owned manufactured housing parks from a social and economic standpoint? A research team from UNH set out to answer this question through a comprehensive study that engaged subjects from resident-owned parks and investor-owned parks and officials from seven New Hampshire towns. The research findings suggest that resident-owned manufactured housing parks indeed provide a more affordable housing option for low-income families, as well as an enhanced sense of ownership and an opportunity to build equity. Implications for Extension are discussed.
A Mixed-Methods Analysis of the Educational Needs of Employers and Non-English Speaking Workers in Arboriculture
Arboricultural employers and non-English speaking workers were surveyed to acquire information about their outreach educational needs. Results suggest that language barriers sometimes reduce job performance and threaten worker safety and relationships. Respondents stated that employee performance would improve if workers received English language and cultural training. Method of education mattered, with face-to-face learner and educator contact as the preferred method. It is recommended that arboriculture employers and outreach educators provide English language and cultural outreach education opportunities to arboriculture workers whose first language is not English, then follow this with arboriculture training and information (such as pesticide safety).
Engaging Youth as Active Citizens: Lessons from Youth Workforce Development Programs
This article identifies youth engagement strategies in programs funded by the federal Workforce Investment Act in California. The strategies demonstrate that youth can be meaningfully engaged at all stages of the policy process, including design, implementation, and evaluation. Our data come from a comparative case study evaluation that examined youth programs in 10 of California's 50 local workforce areas. Youth engagement requires effort, but improves the quality of services, promising greater long-term payoffs that warrant increased public investment. Armed with youth development theory and research, Cooperative Extension personnel can be valuable contributors to local Youth Councils and Workforce Investment Boards.
Self-Esteem Assessment of Adolescents Involved in Horsemanship Activities
The study reported here was designed to determine if participation in horsemanship activities is associated with change in self-esteem and other developmental competencies. The study examined 122 adolescents, aged 12-18 years, who participated in the Florida 4-H Horsemanship School during summer 2005. The results found a small but significant change in self-esteem after the adolescents participated in the 6-day residential horsemanship program. It is important to consider the findings of the study when designing a horsemanship school curriculum for adolescents. Equine activities also may provide beneficial results to youth, including increased self-esteem, physical exercise, and positive youth development.
Volunteer Researchers: Moving Beyond Cooperators
Engaging volunteer cooperators to perform field research presents a new approach to conducting applied research. We enlisted Extension Service users to conduct research. This allowed for an increased sample size and expanded study area than was possible using traditional approaches. Cooperators received comprehensive training that briefed them on the subject and research protocols. Data were collected via research workbooks and informal written surveys. We obtained acceptable data for demonstrating the efficacy of rodenticide treatment under operational conditions. Unexpectedly, cooperators favored one control method and indicated they would use it in the future, despite no statistical difference between treatment methods.
Public Awareness and Knowledge of Red Tide Blooms
We measured the knowledge of Southwest Florida residents regarding red tides by surveying 1,006 randomly selected individuals. Although 89% were aware of red tides, 72% erroneously believed that finfish and crustaceans were unsafe to eat and that waters were unsafe for swimming during a red tide. Because respondents primarily rely on newspapers and television (70% and 62%, respectively), these media should be pursued in Extension efforts to correct these misunderstandings and reduce revenue losses to local businesses. Costly brochures, workshops, and Internet sites do not warrant additional educational efforts at this time because only 6% of respondents identified those sources.
Research in Brief
Evaluation of an Adult Extension Education Initiative: The Michigan Conservation Stewards Program
The Michigan Conservation Stewards Program (CSP), coordinated by Michigan State University Extension, convened a unique group of partners for a new statewide Master Naturalist™ effort. Partners designed a curriculum, implemented a pilot program, and evaluated program processes and impacts. Extension staff used pre- and post-program questionnaires, achieving a 97% program retention rate and an 85% response rate. The CSP attracted a new Extension audience, increased learners' ecosystem knowledge, improved attitudes toward resource management, and fostered skills for accessing ecological information. The CSP achieved its goal of assisting adult learners in gaining skills necessary to complete conservation management volunteer activities.
Investigating Marine Recreational Fishing Stakeholders' Perspectives Across Three South Carolina Coastal Regions: The First Step Towards Collaboration
Collaborative endeavors are increasingly utilized to assure active involvement of local stakeholders in natural resource planning and management. In order to enhance collaborative capacity and involve marine recreational anglers in resource management, the South Carolina Sea Grant Extension Program conducted semi-structured interviews in three coastal regions of South Carolina in order to determine: 1) the main problems associated with marine recreation fishing and 2) key non-regulatory solutions to those problems. Top themes for problems and non-regulatory solutions across each region as well as implications for Extension and outreach opportunities are included.
Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Grant-Funded Educational Program Aimed at Increasing Native Seed Collections in Nevada
In 2003, Nevada Cooperative Extension obtained grant funds to publish a manual and complete educational programs related to collecting native seeds. A survey was completed to determine manual utility and estimate native seed collecting activity. The evaluation indicated 66% of respondents had increased their knowledge related to native seed collections. Seed collection activities were increased by 31% of manual recipients. Manual distribution was increased beyond the original recipients, with 67% of the respondents reporting to have shared the manual with friends or co-workers. The evaluation tool demonstrated how perceived usefulness of the educational tool can be correlated to knowledge gain.
An Exploratory Study of Farmers' View on Aquaculture Development in Indiana
The study reported here involved a mail survey of Indiana aquaculture producers to determine the level of Indiana aquaculture and what producers thought were constraints to aquaculture development. Aquaculture is a minor part of Indiana's agricultural economy. Suggested constraints were generally ranked as significant, but the top three constraints were identified as high start-up costs, lack of well-established market for aquaculture products, and high costs of day-to-day operations. Consequently, research and Extension programming has focused on funding aquaculture businesses, analyzing market potential, assessing aquaculture's place in the general seafood industry, and developing value-added aquaculture products.
Breaking the Bonds of Isolation: Can Home-Based Education Increase Social Support Levels?
Historically, Extension educators have used home-based education to teach people. Studies have suggested that emotional connectedness between the individual and home visitor can reduce isolation, build social support, and increase resources (Green & Rodgers, 2001). The study reported here investigated the influence of a home-based parent education program on perceived social support levels of 122 parents involved in a treatment or control group. Analysis showed that post-test scores for the treatment group were significantly better than the control group. The results suggest that home-based education can be a way for Extension educators to increase social support for clientele.
Ideas at Work
The Use of Radio Broadcast, Internet, and Podcasting in A Family Life Education Program
This article discusses the use of three technologies in an Extension family life program: a professionally produced radio program, Family Album Radio, available to stations nationwide; an Internet presence through a companion Web site; and a podcasting feature making the program available to subscribers via the Internet. We explain the development of the program through a partnership across several units at a major land-grant institution and provide evidence of the program's success, using data from the program's Web site traffic. We conclude with a discussion of the potential of this multifaceted program for family life education.
Extension's Role in Facilitating Collaborative Initiatives: Direct Marketing Farm Products on the Internet
Using the Internet to direct market farm products provides multiple opportunities for producers to expand their existing businesses. Most often, these initiatives are undertaken by individual businesses. However, recent efforts in Central Pennsylvania suggest ways in which Extension can facilitate collaborative initiatives to direct market farm products online. In addition to increasing the profitability of small producers, collaborative marketing efforts can also contribute to sustainable community outcomes. Inherent in our discussion is the assumption that the principals of facilitating collaborative initiatives to direct market farm products online can be used to facilitate collaborate initiatives in other programmatic areas.
Mystery or Magic--A Grants Review Process that Works
For Extension professionals involved with Extension or community funded grant programs, the grant review process can be mysterious or open and informative. An open review process that includes interviewing grant applicants in a collegial setting can better position reviewers to make decisions and provide a learning experience for the applicants. It takes the mystery out of the process and provides grant applicants with valuable insights to assist them in future applications. This article outlines a grants review process that both reviewers and applicants have found useful.
The 4-H Computer Refurbishing Program: An Implementation Model
The 4-H Computer Refurbishing Program was implemented as a service learning project for the 2006 National 4-H Technology and Leadership Conference. The specific goals of the program were to decrease the number of computers discarded each year and provide 21st century job skills to youth. The program was introduced as a model 4-H'ers could take back to their communities to start their own refurbishing efforts. The model is comprised of the following three steps: 1) program planning, 2) inventory management, and 3) technology training.
Adventure Programming in an After-School Environment
4-H Afterschool Adventure is a 12-week adventure-based program that includes introductory personal development activities, a series of group initiative activities, and outdoor adventure activities. The life skill and character development program has involved urban youth from four after-school programs since early 2004. Based on surveys from 70 participants, youth have indicated increases in their leadership, communication, team building, and goal-setting skills. The after-school hours are a critical time for millions of youth, and properly sequenced and facilitated adventure programming is an engaging and effective way to help turn these hours from a time of risk to a time of opportunity.
Increasing EFNEP Program Outreach and Enhancing Program Content Through Local Partnerships
The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) has been shown to be a cost-effective investment of federal dollars. The funding for the program has not increased significantly since the 1980's. Growing rates of poverty in cities like Cleveland have increased the demand for the program. This article describes some innovative strategies that EFNEP in Cuyahoga County, Ohio has used to enhance program quality and expand program outreach.
Tools of the Trade
Strategies for Generalizing Findings in Survey Research
Surveys are the most common method of data collection used by Extension professionals, agricultural educators, and researchers engaged in social and behavioral sciences. Rarely do they get 100% response for their studies. Then, the question is what do you do to enhance the external validity of your study? Following certain procedures, making logical choices, and providing clear explanations, you can enhance the external validity of your study. This article suggests strategies to enhance the external validity of your study. It is hoped that Extension professionals can benefit from this and interpret results of their research with both clarity and caution.
Creating Quick and Easy Displays for Extension Events
Creating quick and easy displays for Extension can be an effective method for reinforcing and disseminating research-based information to consumers. A display of nine power point slides is an effective way to influence consumers. The slides can be laminated and mounted on foam board or displayed on traditional, fabric-covered display panels. Using computer-generated slides allows easy sharing through e-mail to other professionals. Displays can be prepared easily and inexpensively and are effective in reaching consumers with the newest information on a "hot" or traditional topic.
The Demonstration Rain Garden
The process of developing a successful, demonstration-based rain garden education program for a specific county is presented. A series of demonstration rain garden projects were conducted by Extension personnel and Master Gardeners to provide "in-the-ground" tools to help teach local homeowners to become better "stormwater stewards" on their own property. The demonstration sites were constructed based on the idea that Extension programming to the public can be enhanced by conducting programs at the sites. At the same time, the eight demonstration sites are contributing to treating and infiltrating approximately 200,000 gallons of stormwater runoff annually.
Internet Protocol (IP) Videoconferencing for Networking During a Crisis
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) responded to clientele needs during the severe droughts in 2006 and 2007. The ACES Agronomic Crops Program Priority Team utilized interactive videoconferencing through Internet Protocol (IP), allowing real-time communication between producers, agricultural industry representatives, and state and federal officials. Travel time and costs were minimized, while information exchange was maximized. Planning through teleconferencing prior to the videoconference allowed on-site moderators to function efficiently with regard to time and topic management. Our intent is to develop procedures and infrastructure to allow faster response time and more efficient information exchange during times of crisis.
Providing Quality Continuing Educational Opportunities for Certified and Licensed Pesticide Applicators
Applicators of pesticides are required to meet certain certification and licensing standards in order to legally handle and supervise the use of pesticides. The initial process is to pass the certification exams. To keep certification and licensing valid, applicators are required to retake exams or accumulate continuing educational units (CEUs). Providing CEUs is a great educational opportunity for Extension professionals. Florida is flexible in the types of programs that are approved to meet recertification standards for applicators of pesticides to renew their licenses. Approved program flexibility allows Florida applicators to achieve recertification with minimal time away from work.
Rating Current Vermont Equine Industry Issues and Determining if Motivation for Participation in Change Efforts Exists
UVM Extension has played a key role in reaching beyond agricultural circles to develop public awareness regarding the statewide economic impact and importance of the equine industry. In order to continue supporting industry growth, UVM Extension surveyed the areas of current concern for industry participants. Survey results indicate that the current issues of greatest concern to participants were in the areas of insurance and liability, horse park/facilities, land use policies, trail systems, and agricultural use (of land). This project demonstrates a method that can be utilized in any Extension program to identify critical issues and/or to evaluate program effectiveness.
Developing and Utilizing Visual Tools to Assist Pork Producers in Employee Training in the Evaluation of Sow Body Condition
The article describes development of a bilingual poster to assists pig producers in classifying body condition scores (BCS) in sows. Sows of the lowest body condition score were purchased, fed for 96 days, and photographed as each sow incrementally increased to the maximum BCS of 5. Pictures from two sows of each BCS of 1 through 5 were professionally arranged on a poster and published in a nationally distributed swine magazine. The poster was designed to assist producers in employee training at the farm level. Similar posters could be developed to improve selection and/or management skills in other livestock species.