October 2012 // Volume 50 // Number 5
Verify Your URLs!
"Verify Your URLs!" urges authors to verify their URLs as the last step before submitting their final revisions for publication. "October JOE" highlights the issue's two Commentaries, one timely and one timeless, and mentions seven other articles on evaluation and/or information technology out of 36 articles that make for a "jam-packed" issue.
Responding to Health Care Reform: Mobilizing Extension
The 2010 Affordable Care Act provides an opportunity for Extension. Research shows that most Americans do not understand the law's provisions and are not comfortable making health insurance purchase decisions. By January 2014, nearly 30 million Americans will be making enrollment decisions; an estimated 180 million will be reenrolling in health plans. We have a teachable moment to both educate and measure the impact of that education. At issue is the question of the extent to which we in Extension are willing and able to mobilize to address the opportunity.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on "Responding to Health Care Reform: Mobilizing Extension"
JOE's Niche in the Extension Scholarship Movement
Extension's sustainability is tied to relationships with academia. Now more than ever, Extension faculty and staff need to integrate their work into the aims of their university to gain credibility, relevance, and support. This requires Extension workers to more deeply and widely document and share the scholarship of their work with academics and stakeholders. Extension workers should look more often to the Journal of Extension as the premier Extension journal in North America to help address this need. The journal provides a number of factors and services that contribute to developing and sustaining a culture of Extension scholarship.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on "JOE's Niche in the Extension Scholarship Movement"
Ideas at Work
Planting the Legal Seed: The Benefit of Agricultural Law Education for Extension Professionals
Agriculture is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the United States. Government oversight, increased litigation, legal and policy issues that demand careful analysis, and a multitude of legal complexities have created a need for Extension professionals to better understand this complicated regulatory environment. To address this need, the University of Florida has implemented two curriculum adjustments in the last decade. Past studies discussing legal education and Extension have been included along with potential recommendations for the Cooperative Extension Service.
Evaluation of a Cooperative Extension Service Curriculum on Empowering Older Adults with Assistive Technology to Grocery Shop, Prepare Food, and Eat
The Empowering Older Adults with Assistive Technology to Shop, Cook and Eat curriculum was designed to provide education about concepts of empowerment and assistive technology for grocery shopping, preparing food, and eating. The curriculum included examples and hands-on demonstrations of assistive technology devices for grocery shopping, food preparation, and eating. Results of post-then-pre evaluation with 100 participants revealed significant increases in awareness and comfort using assistive technology devices. Evaluation indicated education and hands-on demonstrations increased awareness of the importance of older adult nutrition and older adult empowerment through use of assistive technologies designed to facilitate independent living.
Natural Resource Service Learning to Link Students, Communities, and the Land
University-based Extension specialists often face the dilemma of scheduling time for both teaching and outreach activities. Service learning projects that give hands-on experience in the application of classroom activities while giving back to the community can bridge this gap. A demonstration forest and service learning techniques were used to help 30 undergraduate forestry students lead a forestry field day for 100 elementary school students. Upon completion of the project, undergraduate students were more confident in their forestry knowledge and played an important role in the success of a natural resources Extension demonstration and outreach project.
4-H Teen Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)
The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program is designed to train Americans to safely help themselves and their community in the event of a widespread disaster. This program is designed for adults. Despite youth increasingly becoming recognized as valuable resources, able to equally partner with adults in leadership and decision-making roles (Zeldin, Petrokubi, & MacNeil, 2007), they remain a largely untapped resource in disaster preparedness where they could play an important role before, during, and after a disaster. 4-H Teen CERT is a program that empowers youth to prepare for, stay safe during, and respond after a major disaster.
Grazing Schools Improve the Sustainability of Pasture-Based Livestock Enterprises
Implementing intensive grazing management can improve the three primary aspects of sustainability of enhancing profitability, natural resource stewardship, and quality of life. Participants in Georgia Grazing Schools (GGS) held between 2007-2010 were surveyed to assess near-term (six-42 month post-meeting) impact of the workshops on these aspects of sustainability. Respondents reported increased profitability, with nearly 18.9% and 18.9% reporting an increase in net returns of 20-30% and over 30%, respectively. Respondents also highly rated principles learned and experiences gained at the GGS as aiding them in meeting goals of improved natural resource stewardship and quality of life on their farms.
Tools of the Trade
Mobile Applications for Extension
Mobile computing devices (smart phones, tablets, etc.) are rapidly becoming the dominant means of communication worldwide and are increasingly being used for scientific investigation. This technology can further our Extension mission by increasing our power for data collection, information dissemination, and informed decision-making. Mobile computing applications (apps) with relevance for Extension can be divided loosely into three categories—information delivery, collaborative research/participatory sensing, and self-assessment. Examples can be found in all Extension fields of inquiry, from agricultural production, pest management, natural resources management to youth science literacy and managing nutrition and fitness.
Consumer-Centered Extension Education Website Increases Usage
Concern about young families' ability to cope with rising food prices resulted in creating Spend Smart. Eat Smart (SSES), a website focused on budget-friendly nutrition information for limited resource audiences (LRA). SSES was redesigned using LRAs needs and preferences to increase use by LRAs. SSES usage increased after it was revised to incorporate interactivity and more consumer-friendly design elements.
FlowersOnTime: A Computer Decision-Support Tool for Floriculture Crop Producers
A computer decision-support tool was developed as an Extension outcome of the Floriculture Research Alliance to help commercial plant growers and educators estimate the effect of changing average air temperature on production time of over 60 species and cultivars of herbaceous ornamental crop plants. Cropping time predictions are based on research data from 16 sources. This information can help growers determine appropriate greenhouse temperature settings so that their plants are in flower on time to meet pre-determined market dates. The target audiences are growers, Extension professionals, and crop consultants.
Extension Online: Utilizing Technology to Enhance Educational Outreach
Extension Online is an Internet-based online course platform that enables the Texas AgriLife Extension Service's Family Development and Resource Management (FDRM) unit to reach tens of thousands of users across the U.S. annually with research-based information. This article introduces readers to Extension Online by describing the history of its development, outcomes achieved over a 5-year period, system features, and the strategies that have led to the growth of the online system. In 2011, over 77,000 online courses were completed through Extension Online, demonstrating that technology can be successfully used to dramatically enhance Extension's outreach capabilities.
Testing a New Generation: Implementing Clickers as an Extension Data Collection Tool
Using clickers to gauge student understanding in large classrooms is well documented. Less well known is the effectiveness of using clickers with youth for test taking in large-scale Extension programs. This article describes the benefits and challenges of collecting evaluation data using clickers with a third-grade population participating in a childhood obesity prevention program.
Ripple Effect Mapping: A "Radiant" Way to Capture Program Impacts
Learn more about a promising follow-up, participatory group process designed to document the results of Extension educational efforts within complex, real-life settings. The method, known as Ripple Effect Mapping, uses elements of Appreciative Inquiry, mind mapping, and qualitative data analysis to engage program participants and other community stakeholders to reflect upon and visually map the intended and unintended changes produced by Extension programming. The result is not only a powerful technique to document impacts, but a way to engage and re-energize program participants.
Using Discussion Methods to Inspire Diversity: Harnessing Social & Cultural Capital
How can you better harness the powerful social capital that exists within diverse individuals, families, businesses, and schools to make positive impacts in your community? What could you add to your next meeting—a Chamber strategic planning session, an employee wellness program, a non-profit board development—to better connect participants with valuable (and sometimes hidden) resources that often go untapped? This article describes a guided-discussion process in which participants (communities, volunteers, clients, students, non-profits, business alliances, etc.) discover strength, richness, and value within their collective narratives. It allows exploration of topics in diversity, social capital and community action.
The Fall of the Faculty and the Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters: A Book Review
Benjamin Ginsberg's book, The Fall of the Faculty and the Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters, suggests that the downfall of universities lies in expansion of administrators who do not have an academic or client orientation, but rather a managerial orientation. Dr. Ginsberg, David Bernstein Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University, chronicles the disproportionate rise in the number of administrators and other professional staff at the expense of faculty and students. Few solutions are presented, but the problem is well chronicled.
A Statewide Train-the-Trainer Model for Effective Entrepreneurship and Workforce Readiness Programming
A statewide youth and adult train-the-trainer model that integrates workforce readiness and entrepreneurship can have a profound effect on young people's academic performance, interest in college, and overall youth development. Participants in workforce and entrepreneurship programs develop personal resources that have value in school, in the workplace, and in the local community (Entwisle, Alexander, & Olson, 2000). To increase the collaborative entrepreneurship and workforce readiness efforts in Maryland, 4-H Youth Development Educators created an interactive youth and adult train-the-trainer model to implement workforce readiness and entrepreneurship educational programs in local communities.
Educating Idahoans to Make Their Own Estate Planning Decisions
To address the need for estate planning education, University of Idaho Extension partnered with community organizations, local attorneys, and health care professionals to conduct unbiased, low-cost seminars that teach important legal end-of-life concepts and skills. Using the award-winning Legally Secure Your Financial Future: Organize, Communicate, Prepare (LSYFF) curriculum, 19 seminars were offered to nearly 1,600 participants throughout Idaho. Instructors guided seminar participants through an evaluation of their important documents and legal decisions, taught estate planning concepts, motivated attendees to communicate legal end-of-life wishes, and provided references for self-help or professional assistance.
A Feasibility Template for Small, Multi-Species Meat Processing Plants
This article describes a spreadsheet-based template designed to help livestock producers and others examine the feasibility of operating a small, multi-species meat processing plant. The template allows users to define plant size and capacity, including the breakdown of processing activities by species and additional revenue opportunities. The spreadsheet utilizes user-defined information on capital and operating costs to develop depreciation schedules, loan amortization schedules, 10-year profit/loss projections, cash flow projections, and various measure of return on investment. An imbedded user's guide and a companion "how to use" video helps template users examine the financial feasibility of a meat plant venture.
A Model for Evaluating eXtension Communities of Practice
As Americans shift their work and leisure activities online, Extension seeks to remain viable by delivering programs through a website known as eXtension. eXtension is predicated on the voluntary labor of Extension specialists and educators who form Communities of Practice to create and deliver content through the website. Evaluation of eXtension CoP can be effectively executed using Patton's (2011) developmental evaluation model. A flow of activities for evaluating eXtension CoP using this approach is presented along with a case study of the Grape CoP evaluation using Patton's developmental evaluation model.
Evidence-Based Programming: What Is a Process an Extension Agent Can Use to Evaluate a Program's Effectiveness?
Extension agents and specialists have experienced increased pressure for greater program effectiveness and accountability and especially for evidence-based programs. This article builds on previously published evidence-based programming articles. It provides ideas that address three problems that Extension staff face with EBPs and that Extension agents and specialists can use either to test or enhance an existing Extension program's effectiveness or to test the effectiveness of a new program that looks promising.
A Look Inside: Self-Leadership Perceptions of Extension Educators
Extension educators are often considered influential community leaders. Still the question remains—how do educators motivate themselves to success? Does this contribute towards their self-leadership perceptions? Specialists from three universities administered a survey to look at the "self-leadership" of Extension educators. Results indicated Extension educators use a variety of motivation strategies; however, there was a lack of awareness of how their thought processes contributed towards leadership success. Ultimately, future Extension professional development curriculum and trainings should be focused on developing motivational strategies such as how to successfully "self-talk," evaluation of one's beliefs and assumptions, and how to visualize successful performance.
Flexible Training Program Builds Capacity for Diverse Challenges
Flexible training programs help participants build skills to solve problems in a variety of contexts. Programs that enable trainers to adapt materials create an additional type of useful flexibility. This case study explores how a program was designed to help natural resource managers address challenges and conflicts across the southeastern United States. Changing Roles: Wildland-Urban Interface Professional Development Program gives trainers maximum flexibility in creating a locally relevant program and also engages participants in addressing important challenges. The evaluation suggests this design was successful and is helping participants overcome the helplessness that comes with not knowing how to solve problems.
Converting Face-to-Face Curricula for Online Delivery: Lessons Learned from a Biomass Harvesting Guidelines Curriculum
With shrinking budgets, staff reductions, and increased availability and access to digital technologies, Extension educators will be seeking ways to convert face-to-face programs to alternate formats. When converting Minnesota's biomass harvesting guidelines for online delivery, we learned many lessons while planning, developing, and testing our curriculum that can help others through a similar process.
The Influence of Extension on Team Success of a Milk Quality Improvement Program
A mail survey was used to determine the influence of Extension on team success of a milk quality improvement program for Wisconsin dairy producers. Producers who did not learn about Milk Money from Extension were less likely to complete the program and reported an increased bulk milk somatic cell count at the time of survey. Producers who did not use an Extension agent as the team leader were less likely to complete Milk Money compared to teams led by Extension agents. The impact of Extension on team success of Milk Money should be considered when creating new Extension programs.
Eating Green: Coverage of the Locavore Movement
Various environmental, health, and food safety concerns have affected the purchasing decision of consumers and contributed to the growing demand for local produce and products, all of which can be found at local farmers markets. The research reported here adds knowledge about the media coverage regarding the role of farmers markets in local food consumption. Through a framing analysis of newspapers from eight different U.S. cities, the study revealed that four frames describe the coverage on the farmers markets and the buying local trend. Suggestions for Extension outreach efforts based on the locavore movement are offered.
Iowa Consumer Motivations and Preferences for Agritourism Activities
The study reported here sought to ascertain the agritourism attraction preferences of Iowa consumers based on population category. Respondents were asked questions regarding their motivation and preferences related to participation in agritourism activities. The results revealed that individuals enjoy participating in agritourism activities to spend time with family and friends while supporting local farmers. They placed considerable importance on the availability of fresh produce, on-site restrooms, and a convenient location. The information regarding consumer motivation and preferences may be used by Extension educators, state organizations, and the agritourism owner/operator to create a consumer profile and target market prospective audiences.
Research in Brief
North Dakota Leadership Training Boosts Confidence and Involvement
Effective leadership is critical for communities as they work to maintain their vitality and sustainability for years to come. The purpose of the study reported here was to assess confidence levels and community engagement of community leadership program participants in North Dakota State University Extension programs. Through a survey administered to 196 program participants, a statistically significant increase was shown in self-confidence as well as in community organizational involvement and leadership.
Family Resource Management Needs Assessment in New Mexico
New Extension state specialists face many uncertainties when beginning to work in their new position, especially when it involves a state unfamiliar to them. Literature reviews may not provide the latest and clearest picture of the needs and challenges in the state. Furthermore, the between-county variation of issues may differ greatly. The study reported here illustrates how a survey of Home Economics county agents may benefit a new Extension specialist and provide a picture of Extension Home Economics needs and challenges specific to New Mexico.
An Unexplored Direction in Solid Waste Reduction: Household Textiles and Clothing Recycling
"Nearly 100% of all household textiles and apparel can be recycled" was the thesis for a recycling education program for Extension professionals attending a state meeting. Positive encouragement resulted in six additional presentations and pre-test/post-tests. One group received a follow-up survey after 3 1/2 months. After the educational sessions, awareness and perceived importance increased, and donating unwanted clothing to churches or charities became the preferred option, while discarding in the trash became the least desirable option. Extension professionals can engage consumers in a unique area of waste management. The resulting Extension fact sheet lends curriculum support.
Equine Owner Knowledge and Implementation of Conservation Practices
Various outreach programs promote best management practices (BMPs) for small farms, including equine farms; however, many horse owners may fail to get this information. A survey was completed by 230 people who owned and/or managed an equine facility to examine the current level of knowledge about nutrient (manure) management and awareness of extension services available. Results show that less than half of respondents use conservation techniques on their farms; 93% of Florida and 73% of non-Florida respondents, respectively, had never spoken with a conservation agency. Results of the survey have implications for educating equestrians about nutrient management and conservation techniques.
Women Farmers: Pulling Up Their Own Educational Boot Straps with Extension
Women comprise a rapidly growing segment in agriculture. In this article, we examine how a network of women farmers, Extension educators, and researchers responded to the significant increase in women farmers in one state by creating a membership organization that draws on the expertise and resources of the land-grant university and Extension in Pennsylvania to create educational events with networking opportunities. We report 4 years of evaluation data for 37 events indicating educational impact, expansion and enhancement of the network, and marketing strategies for Extension to improve participation of women.
Information Sources and Farmers' Attitudes Toward Switchgrass Production as a Biofuel Feedstock
Farmers' use of information sources about switchgrass, a potential cellulosic ethanol feedstock, and interest in growing switchgrass are examined. Data are from a 2009 survey of farmers in 12 southern states. Farmers familiar with switchgrass production for energy tend to be younger, more highly educated, have larger farms, have higher farm incomes, and attend more Extension workshops than farmers unfamiliar with switchgrass. Farmers familiar with switchgrass tend to use multiple sources of information and use certain types of sources to formulate various opinions about switchgrass. Familiarity with switchgrass and using multiple information sources may build farmer interest in growing switchgrass.
Assessing Extension Educators' Needs for Homeowner Pesticide Use and Safety Information
The study evaluated Extension educators' viewpoints on homeowner pesticide education needs, information availability, and the format and delivery of information that best meets those needs. Homeowner pesticide information requests are made most frequently when assistance is needed to select the proper product, determine the correct use rate, and understand differences in formulations and label directions. Homeowner pesticide education materials are easy to locate, but frequently are not in a format likely to be used by this audience. Homeowners often need additional information to make safe and effective pesticide applications, in addition to the specific product and rate information typically requested.
The Potential of Other Crop and Livestock Enterprises to Replace Tobacco: Perceptions of U.S. Burley Producers
The purpose of the study reported here was to explore burley tobacco growers' perceptions about the potential of other crops/livestock enterprises to replace tobacco and to identify the ways in which these perceptions are related to famer/farm business characteristics. Perceptions about the potential of other crop/livestock enterprises to replace tobacco varied by location of the farming operation, tobacco acreage, and previous experience with alternative crops/livestock enterprises. Extension personnel may be able to use these results to better target technical information about alternative agricultural enterprises to replace tobacco production to clientele who are transitioning from tobacco to alternative agricultural enterprises.
A Case Study Involving Pocket Gopher Damage Abatement in Alfalfa
Extension faculty mentored a local rancher to compare methods to control pocket gophers (Thomomys bottae) on his property. We compared the effectiveness of road flare fumigation to that of strychnine bait, which is the common method of pocket gopher control. The overall % change was highly variable among plots and treatment methods. Road flare fumigation is not recommended for hay fields because it was less cost-effective than commercially available 0.5% strychnine gopher bait and similar to no control at all. The faculty-and-farmer collaboration was a successful partnership to demonstrate research strategy and answer a management question.
Using Extension Phosphorus Uptake Research to Improve Idaho's Nutrient Management Planning Program
Irrigated silage corn is the main crop used for P removal in southern Idaho; however, little is known about the actual amounts of P removed under southern Idaho growing conditions. The study surveyed P removal by irrigated silage corn in primarily manured southern Idaho fields and wide-ranging soil test P. Whole plant corn tissue P concentrations ranged from 0.116 to 0.307% total P and averaged 0.208%—lower than Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) estimates used prior to 2007 (0.26%P) but higher than estimates used since 2007 (0.185%). The study was used to update the OnePlan.org© Nutrient Management planning online program.