December 2014 // Volume 52 // Number 6
Acknowledgments & the Oxford Comma
"Acknowledgments & the Oxford Comma" explains where to put acknowledgments in JOE articles and lays down the law about commas in lists of three or more things. "JOE Editor RFP" is a reminder that Extension Journal, Inc. (EJI) is inviting proposals to provide editorial services for the Journal of Extension (JOE), starting in 2016. "December JOE" highlights too few of the excellent articles in the December issue.
Milestones and the Future for Cooperative Extension
Milestones like the centennial of the Cooperative Extension system are significant in any organization. Milestones measure progress along a path, but can also give reassurances that travelers are on the right track. As Extension moves into the next century, we must continuously ask ourselves if it is focused and on the right path. What are some guiding principles that we need to follow? What are the grand societal challenges that need to be addressed now and as we move forward?
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on "Milestones and the Future for Cooperative Extension"
Interdependence: Ninth and Newest Critical Element for 4-H Positive Youth Development
For the past 15 years, a list of eight critical elements has provided a strong foundation for articulating the positive youth development focus of 4-H programs and efforts. Now it is time to revisit this list and update the critical elements for positive youth development. Interdependence is proposed as a ninth critical element that should be included. Research is cited for the importance of this element that was not included in the original list in 1998, and a call is made for a national think tank to update the critical elements.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on "Interdependence: Ninth and Newest Critical Element for 4-H Positive Youth Development"
Marijuana Legalization & Extension: A Growing Dilemma
The legalization of marijuana is gaining momentum. Twenty-three states and D.C. have legalized medical marijuana, and two are considering it. Four states have legalized recreational marijuana, and another 11 are considering following their lead. Extension brands itself as extending research to help families and small farmers grow crops. However, because Extension receives federal funding, Extension has decreed that we not help patients, caregivers, growers, processors, or retailers raise and harvest this finicky crop. We seek to be relevant. Do we need to find a way to help our urban and rural clients deal with this complicated, current, and controversial issue?
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on "Marijuana Legalization & Extension: A Growing Dilemma"
Ideas at Work
Google Earth for Landowners: Insights from Hands-On Workshops
Google Earth is an accessible, user-friendly GIS that can help landowners in their management planning. I offered hands-on Google Earth workshops to landowners to teach skills, including mapmaking, length and area measurement, and database management. Workshop participants were surveyed at least 6 months following workshop completion, and learning outcomes as well as landowner application of Google Earth were assessed. Participants made significant gains in Google Earth skill level immediately following workshop completion, but longer-term skill retention was variable. Most participants found Google Earth to be a valuable tool for a variety of land management purposes.
Face Time Is Still Critical to Effective Extension in Commercial Agriculture
Even in the digital era, face-to-face meetings still have impact. Employees and managers must have a similar understanding of the challenges facing their industry. The meeting series described here was designed to allow workers and managers to learn side-by-side. A total of 622 workers and managers representing 75 companies (which have the combined annual capacity to feed approximately 1.8 million cattle, or 9% of the entire U.S. cattle feeding industry) attended seven meetings across western Kansas in which both overarching industry challenges and specific best management practices were communicated. Meeting face-to-face remains an effective way to communicate with commercial agricultural workers.
Farming—It's So Citified: An Urban Agriculture Marketing Campaign
The marketing campaign of the inaugural West Virginia Urban Agriculture Conference, a project between West Virginia State University (WVSU) and West Virginia University Extension Services and partnering agencies, was a tremendous success. The WVSU communications team developed an innovative, character-driven campaign combining urban and rural elements for a unique visual messaging strategy. The cornerstone of the campaign was Chicken Stu, the official "spokes-chicken" of the conference, who shared his journey from the farm to the city via social media. The campaign generated buzz, surpassed goals, and illustrates the impact of innovative social media marketing in promoting Extension initiatives.
Serving Those Who Served: How Can Extension Reach U.S. Military Veterans?
U.S. military veterans are often overlooked as an audience for Extension education despite a number of programs targeting military youth and families. This may be due to the difficulty in reaching a diverse and widespread veteran population. The Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Care System is a network of facilities across the country that can provide access to veterans, as a group. The VA's resources can be leveraged for Extension programming through unique partnerships that meet the institutional goals of both Extension and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Personal Food System Mapping
Personal food system mapping is a practical means to engage community participants and educators in individualized and shared learning about food systems, decisions, and behaviors. Moreover, it is a useful approach for introducing the food system concept, which is somewhat abstract. We developed the approach to capture diversity of personal food systems within a community food system and to better understand how it might inform program development. We found mapping to be a useful tool with beneficial applications outside our intended domain. Aggregated map data also provided a useful approximation of the community food system.
Sugar Free with Justin T.: Diabetes Education Through Community Partnerships
This article describes the design, development, and delivery of an Extension community cable television program, Sugar Free with Justin T., in Roane County, Tennessee. The program targets diabetics, pre-diabetics, and those who care for them, with practical information and demonstrations to improve dietary quality. In addition to television, program videos are posted to the county Extension Facebook page for greater exposure. This innovative approach is the result of extensive Extension and community partnerships, and the article highlights the roles of these varied partners, including the local community college that films, edits, and produces Sugar Free with Justin T.
4-H and Aquatic Robotics
4-H is positioned to engage youth in the areas of environment and engineering. This article shares how Minnesota is engaging youth and adults to identify and solve community issues with the use of an aquatic remotely operated vehicle (ROV). After creating a new program design, the team has attracted new skilled volunteers and new youth to create youth-adult partnerships to take action in the community.
New Jersey 4-H Goat Extravaganza: Efficiently Meeting the Educational Needs of 4-H Goat Project Members, Volunteers, and Parents
The 4-H Goat Extravaganza maximizes limited resources to help youth and adults develop knowledge and skills in goat care and management. It capitalizes on the talents and interests of volunteers to efficiently combine a goat-themed art show, team presentation contest, quiz bowl, skillathon, and adult workshop into 1 day. This article outlines the Extravaganza and includes the results of a survey of participants from the program's first 9 years. While the Extravaganza has been effective in meeting most short-term objectives, organizers are exploring ways to increase youth awareness and understanding of career opportunities and current issues in the animal industry.
Creating the Southern Region 4-H Volunteer Advisory Group
The SR4-HVAG combines the efforts of states to provide quality educational programming for volunteers and Extension professionals using an advisory group system. An advisory group rather than a council was created because the group provides programmatic input rather than sets policy. The purposes of the SR4-HVAG are to: provide a mechanism for volunteer input and perspective regarding educational, programmatic and developmental needs of volunteers and strengthen communication and delivery systems that provide for the continued sharing of resources and programmatic efforts in the Southern Region. Each state is represented by two volunteers and is facilitated by a state volunteerism specialist.
Tools of the Trade
Using Needs Assessment as a Tool to Strengthen Funding Proposals
In an increasingly competitive funding environment, Extension Services nationwide seek to diversify their funding bases to conduct successful programming and communicate impact to stakeholders. In this article we suggest the use of the Proposal Enhancement Tool, a needs assessment based approach of determining the gap between the current situation and the desired situation, as it applies to a defined audience. This approach requires principal investigators to engage communities in defining the existing problems, determining causes of those problems, and collectively developing solutions to address them. When followed, this approach increases the potential for more successful grant proposals.
Crowdsourcing eXtension: Communities of Practice Provide Rapid Response
This article provides an example of how you can use eXtension's Communities of Practice for crowdsourcing information rapidly and thoroughly. It contends that unlike traditional Google or Yahoo searches, asking colleagues within eXtension provides a depth of discovery with multiple layers of vetting already built in. In addition to that, it's free. The example herein stems from a recent inquiry to the Community, Local and Regional Food Systems (CLRFS) Community of Practice and provides excerpts from the responses.
Extension Must Adopt Mobile-Friendly Websites
Mobile phones and tablets have become important tools for accessing information on the Web. We have found visitors to The Almond Doctor Extension blog and AgFax.com are increasingly using smart phones and tablets rather than desktop computers. However, only 40% of Extension websites have mobile-friendly layouts, and websites that are frustrating to use on mobile devices may be a deterrent to Web traffic and use of services. Therefore, it is critical for Extension websites to develop mobile-friendly designs to increase Extension's presence on the Internet and maintain its relevance to current and future clientele.
Delivering Extension to the Living Room Using Internet TV
Television is a widely adopted source for viewing educational information. Unfortunately, producing a television show on network television can be costly and time consuming. Internet TV offers Extension video content producers the opportunity to create a niche topic channel quickly and at low cost. Internet TV offers viewers a low-cost and comfortable way to watch educational Extension programming on their home television. As of March 2014, there have been a total of 72,063 video views on the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service's sub-channel within the AgSmart Roku Channel.
Creating Safe Spaces Within Extension Programs
Extension agents, educators, and specialists are challenged to find effective ways to ensure that our participants learn in program contexts that are inclusive and respectful of all people. In order to make our programs inclusive environments, it is important for us to be brave enough to disrupt statements that are demeaning and marginalize others. This article gives practical ways to deal with statements made by participants that are grounded in prejudice, discrimination, stereotyping, and scapegoating.
Eagle Adventure: School-Based Type 2 Diabetes Prevention Program Results in Improved Outcomes Related to Food and Physical Activity
The Eagle Adventure program was designed as a semester-long, SNAP-Ed program to address food and physical activity choices important for prevention of type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other chronic diseases. The program was developed for implementation in Grades 1-3. This article presents findings from two participating grade centers inclusive of Grades1-2. The elementary school-based program not only addresses health-related behaviors in a culturally relevant and responsive way, but also serves as a potential model for promoting diversity inclusion in Extension programming.
Cooking Up Innovation: A Guide to Creating a Shared Commercial Kitchen Facility
Interest in locally grown food has skyrocketed in recent years. Those planning to enter this growing industry must comply with strict health and safety codes at the federal, state, and county level. One promising innovation for start-up food businesses is the creation of local shared commercial kitchen facilities, licensed spaces dedicated to the processing and production of food for retail sale. In 2014 University of Wisconsin-Extension - Eau Claire County opened a shared commercial kitchen facility at the Eau Claire County Exposition Center. This guide summarizes important lessons learned in order to facilitate replication by Extension professionals around the country.
Assessing Irrigation Water Quality for pH, Salts, & Alkalinity
Proper irrigation management is increasingly critical as demand and competition for high quality, potable water grows. Coupled with identifying all potential stressors, accurate interpretation of water quality reports is essential to irrigation managers because management practices affect both soil and plant health. The complex nature of information given in water quality reports makes interpretation and selection and implementation of appropriate management options difficult for many stakeholders. Therefore, an easy-to-follow flow chart was developed for use by Extension agents to aid in consultations with stakeholders' about their water quality reports.
LEGO Parts Organization for New Mindstorms EV3
In this article, I provide an organizational system for the new LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Robotics System used in 4-H Robotics and the FIRST LEGO League (FLL). The system presented is for organizing the EV3 Core Kit and the EV3 Expansion Kit into a set of translucent parts trays. The article provides step-by-step instructions for obtaining needed materials and for constructing the parts inventory cards. The system allows for personalization of the parts cards to help with equipment management.
Urban Agriculture in the United States: Characteristics, Challenges, and Technical Assistance Needs
Urban agriculture offers potential benefits to urban areas and has captured the attention of residents and policymakers. Some challenges of urban agriculture are unique to the urban setting, and many farmers do not receive adequate technical assistance. Based on a national survey of urban farmers and interviews, this article explores the challenges and technical assistance needs of these farms. The urban agriculture sector is one of young, recently established farms and farmers. Profitability, financing, and production costs were rated the highest challenges. Farmers also reported moderate to high technical assistance needs in many other areas that Extension staff can address.
Putting a Face on Hunger: A Community-Academic Research Project
Food insecurity is a growing concern for Eau Claire County residents in Western Wisconsin. A community-academic partnership studied food insecurity through the voices of families struggling to access food and institutions that assist with hunger related problems. Data were collected through focus groups held in urban and rural parts of the county. Participants reported that food insecurity affected all aspects of daily life, increasing stress and reducing coping abilities. Results indicate that when Extension and campus-based staff partner with community groups, they can increase community awareness of and find innovative solutions to pressing community needs, such as food insecurity.
Going the Distance Part 2: Five Ways of Teaching an Extension Course: Elive, Blackboard, Teleconference, Correspondence, and Face-to-Face
Remote and widely dispersed clientele in Alaska create a need for effective distance-delivery programs. Extension agents often travel via small airplane, snow machine, or boat to teach face-to-face classes in off-road communities. Effective and more cost-efficient delivery methods are needed. We taught a course for beginning farmers residing throughout Alaska using five delivery methods: Elluminate Live!, Blackboard, teleconference, correspondence, and face-to-face. We evaluated these delivery methods based on five areas: accessibility of delivery method, course completion, knowledge gain, plans to use skills, and student satisfaction. Our findings will help Extension professionals design distance-delivered programs suited to their target audience.
Risk and Emergency Communications: How to Be Heard When the Message Counts Most
To cope with disasters and emergencies, agricultural producers need specific information addressing livestock care, disease containment, secure storage of volatile chemicals, and other unique concerns. Effective risk and emergency communications result from a time- and resource-intensive process that begins well before emergencies occur. To influence our agricultural clients to engage in risk-mitigation and emergency-preparedness behaviors, Extension agents must build trust with the community, provide information through a variety of channels, and convey an image of professional emergency response competency.
Bio-Security Proficiencies Project for Beginning Producers in 4-H
Improving bio-security practices among 4-H members who raise and show project animals is important. Bio-security measures can reduce the risk of disease spread and mitigate potential health and economic risks of disease outbreaks involving animal and zoonotic pathogens. Survey data provided statistical evidence that the Bio-Security Proficiencies Project for Beginning Producers in 4-H advanced youth participants' knowledge and skills related to bio-security and financial risk management. Furthermore, the project provided youth with opportunities to apply their understanding and abilities to authentic settings and extend their learning to their communities.
Niche Markets for Natural Fibers: Strategies for Connecting Farmers Who Raise Fiber Animals with Textile Artists—A New England Perspective
Farmers annually harvest natural fibers from alpacas, goats, llamas, rabbits, and sheep. However, they have seen a decline in consumer demand due to the increased production of synthetics. Despite global trends of decline, New England farms involved in fiber production have increased. This article identifies niche markets for these natural fibers and provides farmers with marketing/sales strategies to successfully target these markets. Data from 2007 and 2013 suggest that the niche market of textile artists can help farmers increase their profits through direct marketing strategies. Extension professionals can use these strategies to develop educational materials and workshops.
Research in Brief
Is Our Service in Vain? Relevant Roles of an Extension Service as Perceived by County-Level Employees
Agriculture continues to be the primary focus of most Extension organizations, although farming operations decreased significantly between 1950 and 1997. Extension organizations have been encouraged to redirect program focuses to be inclusive of nontraditional audiences and to remain vital. These organizations should identify and adopt new roles to avoid an impending demise. This article summarizes research conducted to identify relevant organizational roles as perceived by county-level Extension employees working for an Extension service in the Southeastern United States. These roles can be used as a foundation for planning and implementing programs that are conducive to the needs of today's clientele.
Distilling Research into Actionable Knowledge: An Assessment of a Conservation Buffer Guide
Agriculture and natural resources Extension professionals face increasing challenges in delivering evidence-based information to clients. Illustrated design guidelines may offer one tool for presenting useful information, particularly when delivering assistance for multifunctional solutions. Using conservation buffers as the technical topic, the study reported here evaluated resource professionals' perception and use of design guidelines to communicate technical information for planning and designing buffers for multiple goals. Overall, the results provide favorable support for design guidelines. The study offers insight into what constitutes effective guidelines, and these lessons learned may be applicable to other topics in Extension programming.
Does Landowner Awareness and Knowledge Lead to Sustainable Forest Management? A Vermont Case Study
Family forest owners control 40% of forestland in the United States. Timber harvesting on family forests represents a critical component of the nation's wood supply. We examined how awareness and knowledge translated into actual forest management practices. We conducted field surveys on 59 family forest properties, coupled with a landowner survey designed to measure landowner engagement. We determined that engaged landowners implemented silviculture and Best Management Practices at a higher level than their less engaged counterparts. Improvement was needed across the board. Forestry Extension professionals should continue to promote and re-enforce awareness and knowledge among landowners.
Using Survey Responses to Determine the Value-Added Features of a Webinar Portal System for Adoption by Natural Resource Professionals
This article presents the findings of a recent survey of natural resource webinar providers. Respondents were asked a range of questions regarding their webinar services. Findings showed that respondents most commonly marketed their webinars through email or websites and targeted an audience of professionals. Respondents noted that the greatest challenge in offering webinars was the time commitment, whereas access to high-quality speakers added the most value to a webinar portal. Although the majority of responding webinar providers do not currently charge for their webinars, over one third noted that they would be willing to pay a fee per participant.
The Voice of Low-Income Adolescent Mothers on Infant Feeding
Adolescent mothers' feeding practices impact infant weight gain. Infant obesity, especially in low-income families, is rapidly increasing. The aim of the exploratory study reported here was to identify factors affecting low-income African American and non-Hispanic White adolescent mothers' infant feeding practices and useful learning modalities. Two focus groups were conducted by a trained facilitator using a semi-structured topic guide. Three themes emerged: (1) feeding decisions related to introduction of solid foods; (2) feeding information/advice provided by others; and (3) useful learning strategies. These themes can be used by Extension professionals in designing nutrition education programs for adolescent mothers.
Feed Efficiency: An Assessment of Current Knowledge from a Voluntary Subsample of the Swine Industry
A voluntary sample of pork producers and advisers to the swine industry were surveyed about feed efficiency. The questionnaire was designed to accomplish three objectives: (a) determine the level of knowledge related to feed efficiency topics, (b) identify production practices used that influence feed efficiency, and (c) identify information gaps requiring additional knowledge to further improve feed efficiency. Results suggest that many practices that improve feed efficiency are used in production, but gaps in information and knowledge exist across demographics of respondents. Extension education should be expanded to provide more information in an easy-to-access format for the swine industry.
The North Dakota Beef Industry Survey: Implications for Extension
A portion of the North Dakota Beef Industry Survey was developed to determine how educational programs can evolve to meet future needs of North Dakota beef producers. Of the 2,500 surveys mailed out to beef producers, 527 responses were completed and returned. Results highlight the level of education of North Dakota beef producers, anticipated use of technology in the next 1 to 5 years, educational meeting attendance, and preferred methods of receiving educational programming. Future programming efforts should be developed and delivered using a multi-faceted approach to ensure acceptance and utilization by producers with varying degrees of technology reliance.