April 2009 // Volume 47 // Number 2
Some Cautionary Notes on Authorship
Some Cautionary Notes on Authorship" cautions corresponding authors to list all authors in the final drafts they submit but only authors. "April JOE" mentions eight great articles, including two on evaluation that set the stage for the June issue.
Extension: A Modern-Day Pony Express?
Extension now faces the same problem that threatened and ultimately led to the demise of the Pony Express: survival in changing times. The Pony Express was made irrelevant by revolutions in society and disappeared into American history. American society has undergone many revolutions since Extension's creation, and we argue that the organization simply has not kept pace. We opine that Extension is dangerously close to also becoming irrelevant, but that it can survive with bold and visionary leadership that addresses Extension's niche and mission, funding challenges, marketing strategies, and rigor of our programs.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on “Extension: A Modern-Day Pony Express?”
Ideas at Work
Practical Tips for Evaluators and Administrators to Work Together in Building Evaluation Capacity
This article describes considerations for administrators and internal evaluators for working in conjunction to improve evaluation capacity within their Extension organizations.
Making Communities More Viable: Four Essential Factors for Successful Community Leadership
A recent study was undertaken to compare two particularly successful rural communities, focusing on the importance of leadership within the community. Four significant factors set these successful communities apart from those less viable-effective communication, development of social capital, community engagement, and collaboration across and within communities. This article describes each component and provides specific suggestions for improvement. Ultimately, these factors could be used as focus areas to improve community leadership through the development of community-appropriate curricula, seminars, and workshops.
Health and Safety Events for Latino Families: Collaborating to Create El Día de los Niños Celebración
Latino immigrants to rural counties within North Carolina are at an increased risk for experiencing injury, health complications, and chronic illness. This is due largely to the fact that many new immigrants arrive with limited knowledge of the health and safety risks that are present in their communities. To reduce the incidence of injury and health complications, programs must be developed to increase local awareness of these risks. This article outlines the collaborative efforts of one rural North Carolina community to develop and implement a community-based health and safety event for Latino families.
A New Model of 4-H Volunteer Development in Science, Engineering, and Technology Programs
New initiatives centered on science, engineering, and technology (SET) in 4-H may be moving away from the long-established adult volunteer delivery model. This shift in delivery may be due to a lack of availability of adult volunteers who possess the necessary SET competencies to effectively lead 4-H clubs. One way to offset this trend may be to blend traditional face-to-face training with continuous training efforts that include asynchronous on-line training modules, synchronous Web-based meetings, and self-directed learning. This new 4-H SET Volunteer Competencies Training Model is being tested in the Nebraska 4-H Robotics and GPS/GIS program.
A Long-Established Extension Education Course Goes On-Line
Technology is applied to an Extension education course. A grant was received to build an e-learning framework for Education 331. Instructor and staff created a learning environment that engaged students in field instruction. The course enhances students' knowledge of Extension, agriculture, and adult/continuing education. Educational program development and design are key content areas. Transition to e-learning frameworks included on-line course materials and class time instruction in technologies for content delivery in the Extension System. Students applied content and technology through delivering on-line in-service for Cornell Cooperative Extension professionals.
Tools of the Trade
Extension Program Marketing and Needs Evaluation Using Craigslist
Craigslist is a mostly free Internet classified ad website that is accessed by over 30 million American viewers each month. This article describes how Craigslist was used to market Cooperative Extension Service programs in the Mat-Su District of Alaska. The result was much larger program participation than obtained through traditional marketing sources such as newspapers and newsletters. Program marketing through Craigslist also resulted in more non-traditional audiences than normally experienced in the Mat-Su District. Participants tended to be ethnically and culturally more diverse, younger and less financially stable. Most had never heard of the Cooperative Extension Service.
Riskometer—Voting with Your Feet
As Extension professionals, we are faced with the need to educate youth and adults about risk and to assess their preference for risk; however, many find the concepts difficult to illustrate. This article lays out a simple technique that can be used to illustrate how personal attitudes toward risk change with changes in situations. Youth and adults who participate in the exercise will have a better understanding of risk and their attitudes about risk, which will lead them to make personal choices that are right for them.
FORVAL: Computer Software Package for Agricultural and Natural Resources Investment Analysis
The valuation of agricultural and natural resource investments presents challenging analysis problems that often require the use of computer software. Most of these computer packages are complex and costly. FORVAL is a free, user-friendly, menu-driven, agricultural and natural resource investment analysis package. It can accommodate any investment scenario and includes the standard financial criteria (net present value, rate of return, equal annual income, benefit/cost ratio, and land expectation value for forestry investments). FORVAL accommodates various cash flows like single sum, terminating annual and periodic series, and perpetual annual and periodic series. It also has options for payment and price projections.
Use of an Internet-Based Hay Directory in Beef Cattle Extension Programming
Commodity directories are often considered services but can also be used to collect current information for use in Extension programming efforts. An Internet-based hay directory was established in response to beef cattle producer requests. Mississippi Hay Directory listing criteria and submission methods were chosen by Extension personnel to collect statewide hay production demographics and producer communication method use information. Analysis of directory listings over a 2-year period provided Extension personnel with valuable information for future producer education efforts. Directory evaluation results indicate that it was successful in achieving its objectives. Directory use by producers exceeded expectations and continues to expand.
New England Workshops Increase Participant Knowledge of Farm Transfer Issues
During 2004-2006, Extension and non-profit groups in New England joined together to conduct 12 Transferring the Farm I workshops for 521 participants in six states. The workshops addressed farm transfer/business transition issues facing farm families through a 1-day workshop that included presentations on family communications, basic legal issues, farm linking, and conservation easements. A panel of farmers who had transferred their farms was included in the workshop. From workshop evaluations, the participants were highly satisfied with all aspects and showed statistically significant increase in knowledge in goal assessment, retirement planning, business transition, and estate planning.
Pedometers Are Perceived as Useful Tools for Weight Loss
Pedometers are used as motivational tools to encourage physical activity through Extension educational contacts. In conjunction with a community campaign, subjects (N = 60) enrolled in a weight-loss study were provided with pedometers. Participants recorded steps and responded to an evaluation. Step counts increased from baseline through 9 weeks (P ≤ 0.018) and correlated with goals (P ≤ 0.038). Participants who reported that the pedometer helped them achieve goals had greater fat and less fat-free mass at baseline than those who did not find it helpful. Pedometers benefit individuals by increasing activity and being perceived as useful for weight-loss.
Review of The Art and Science of Love: A Workshop for Couples
This article reviews The Art and Science of Love: A Couple's Workshop on the following criteria: the extent to which the program is research based and empirically validated, how well the program meets the needs of struggling relationships, and ease of use. The need for relationship education using empirical research is summarized. A program description reveals components and typical use of the workshop. The Art and Science of Love: A Couple's Workshop is a useful resource for Cooperative Extension agents to recommend to couples.
Designing a Regional System of Social Indicators to Evaluate Nonpoint Source Water Projects
A collaborative team has developed a system to measure the social outcomes of nonpoint source water projects as indicators of progress towards environmental goals. The system involves a set of core indicators, additional supplemental indicators, and a process for collecting and using the indicators. This process is supported by methodologies and instruments for data collection, analysis, and reporting that are coordinated and supported through detailed written guidance and an on-line data management tool. Its multi-state scope and application offer a unique opportunity to target, measure, and report interim resource management accomplishments consistently at multiple levels.
A Model of Employee Satisfaction: Gender Differences in Cooperative Extension
Employee satisfaction is an important issue for management and employees in any organizational setting. We developed a generalized model of employee satisfaction and tested it for both female and male U.S Extension employees. Results indicate that there are no differences in the antecedents of employee satisfaction between genders.
Agricultural and Natural Resources Awareness Programming: Barriers and Benefits as Perceived by County Extension Agents
The study described here assessed Extension agents' perceived barriers and benefits concerning a new Florida agricultural and natural resources awareness initiative and Web site. A total of 186 agents responded to a statewide Web-based needs assessment, for an overall response rate of 58%. Results highlighted several barriers to communicating about agriculture and natural resources, including (a) a lack of interest, knowledge, and awareness among the general public, government, clientele, and media, (b) a lack of agent access to resources/contacts, and (c) inconsistent/ineffective message delivery methods. Concerning the Web site, most respondents wanted information to be presented via fact sheets, economic facts, and downloadable brochures.
Community Health Advisors' Perceptions of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines and MyPyramid
This article describes knowledge and perception of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DG) and MyPyramid from 106 Community Health Advisors (CHAs) representing underserved, hard-to-reach communities in Alabama and Mississippi. Only 16 (15%) were able to correctly identify the MyPyramid graphic and DG knowledge scores were low. However, most respondents strongly agreed they would like to know more about the DG (86%) and more should be done in their community to raise awareness (81%). The Internet was the least preferred method to communicate DG. More intense efforts and appropriate communication channels are needed to promote the DG and MyPyramid.
Toward a Model of Empowering Practices in Youth-Adult Partnerships
Environments that foster empowerment lead to youth leadership development. Linking the concepts of empowerment and youth-adult partnerships, this article provides a context for youth professionals to reflect on their work. Empowerment is defined, its antecedents are identified, and a model of empowering practices for the context of youth-adult partnerships is posited. Five key practices that youth practitioners can implement to create an environment that fosters empowerment are presented, along with examples of empowering practices as a tool for reflecting on our practices.
Teaching Leadership and Communications Skills and Responsibilities: A Comparison of 4-H and other Youth Organizations
This article compares 4-H and other youth organizations in helping youth to learn skills such as leadership, communications, and challenges and responsibilities. One-hundred fifty-eight former 4-H members who were also members of other youth organizations provided data for the study. More than one-half of former members indicated that 4-H was "more helpful" than other youth organizations in teaching skills relative to leadership and communications skills and responsibilities. Findings suggest that youth organizations, especially 4-H, have worth in that they help prepare youth to be responsible and contributing members of society.
Uncovering What Helps Entrepreneurs Start Businesses: Lessons from Indiana
Although a great deal of research has been dedicated to the characteristics of entrepreneurs, a relatively small amount of research has focused on the factors affecting the transition of emerging entrepreneurs to firm birth. Virtually no studies have explored the role of Extension professionals in providing effective programs for entrepreneurs. Therefore, the objective of this research was to analyze the transition of emerging entrepreneurs to firm birth, noting the significant factors impacting movement beyond the gestation stage. Results from the model indicate that education significantly affects an entrepreneur's transition to firm birth and provide relevant information to Extension personnel.
Farm Transition and Estate Planning: Farmers' Evaluations and Behavioral Changes Due to Attending Workshops
A majority of Minnesota farm families have not named a farm business successor or developed an up-to-date farm business transition and personal estate plan. The collaborative Extension program effort described here focuses on introducing farm families to business transfer and estate planning processes, enabling them to develop and implement such plans. Findings suggest that farm family participants gained increased understanding of farm business transfer and estate planning. Furthermore, a substantive percentage of participants reported completing and implementing a business transfer and personal estate plan as a result of attending a program seminar.
From Climate Variability to Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities to Extension
Interest of farmers in climate change has recently increased in response to intense media coverage of climate change, recent weather extremes in Florida such as 2 years of intense hurricane activity and a drought in 2007, and additional revenue possibilities in the carbon market. This article discusses the challenges involved and potential opportunities for the development and implementation of a climate change extension program at the University of Florida, complementing a recently established climate Extension program aimed at helping farmers cope with seasonal climate variability.
Research in Brief
Organizational Restructuring and Its Effect on Agricultural Extension Educator Satisfaction and Effectiveness
As the Cooperative Extension Service faces mounting pressure to meet the challenges of change, there is growing concern about the negative impact changes will have on employee satisfaction and performance. Many studies look at the impact of Extension restructuring on employee satisfaction and performance. However, these studies primarily offer a formative view of employee change. New research, focused on the effects of substantial restructuring at the University of Minnesota in 2004, offers a more summative view-indicating that Regional Extension Educators gained significantly in 13 of 16 related satisfaction and performance related variables while Local Extension Educators gained in five.
Recruiting and Engaging Baby Boomer Volunteers
Baby Boomers are different from other generations of volunteers. Boomers have different view of both retirement and volunteering than previous generations. To successfully engage Baby Boomers volunteers in Extension programs, several adjustments will be needed. Recasting retirement as a means of developing a new perspective on aging and civic engagement; providing unique experiences and an opportunity to volunteer with family and friends; scheduling volunteer activity to fit a busy lifestyle; developing marketing strategies that target Boomers; creating Boomer-friendly volunteer incentives; and offering episodic volunteer roles will all contribute to a larger volunteer Boomer corps in Extension programs.
The Resilience Factor: What Extension Can Learn from Adolescents Coping with Parental Cancer
Using a developmental systems framework and grounded theory methods, the study reported here describes the psychosocial experiences of late adolescents coping with parental cancer. Results suggest three primary psychosocial developmental influences, including multilevel influences, coping strategies to maintain control, and responses to uncertainty and anticipatory grief. Identity and intimacy were the two most salient psychosocial tasks. The central unifying concept of resilience was the primary psychosocial developmental outcome that resulted from coping with parental cancer during late adolescence. This finding illuminates the need for Extension to expand its focus on positive outcomes that can result from coping with life crises during adolescence.
Helping Children by Educating Their Caretakers: An Evaluation of Knowledge Gain and Practice Implementation
This article describes the development and implementation of a child care-provider training program and evaluation based on the parenting book Right from Birth. The goals of the program are to increase the knowledge and use of developmentally appropriate, sensitive care practices among Louisiana child-care providers. The evaluation design assesses knowledge gain through pre-test post-test design and practice implementation by survey and telephone interviews. The results of the evaluation show relevant knowledge gain. Practice implementation methods did not achieve the responses necessary to make meaningful generalizations. Implications for Extension professionals are discussed.
Water-Conserving Landscapes: An Evaluation of Homeowner Preference
Landscape preferences were assessed for three identically designed Xeriscapes™, differing only in the plant material, under both well-watered and drought conditions. The classes of plant material included traditional (high water use), intermediate (moderate water use), and native/adapted plant species of the Intermountain West (low water use). Landscapes were subjected to a 5-week dry-down period. Under drought conditions, respondents preferred drought/adapted and intermediate landscapes to traditional landscapes. A focus on Xeriscape™ education, practices, and visual exposure may result in greater adoption of Xeriscape™ practices by homeowners and may also result in significant residential water savings.
Conservation Tillage: Repackaging the Message for Farmers
Improved agricultural conservation practices can benefit both the environment and farmers. A sample of farmers in the Western Lake Erie Basin Watershed were asked about conservation tillage, including where they learned about practices they use and why they adopted them. The study reported here found that farmers more commonly consult other farmers, magazines or newspapers, and family members to obtain information about tillage practices than they use Extension agents. Farmers said they practiced conservation tillage mainly because it saves time and fuel. Extension agents can increase their effectiveness by recognizing economics and using the popular press when delivering their findings.
The Economic Impact of Intensive Commodity Price Risk Management Education
Research shows that risk management, and in particular price risk management, has been a major concern for agricultural producers, and as such, has been the target area of a substantial amount of Extension education programming. Analysis of survey results indicate that the Master Marketer program, a 64-hour intensive training program that develops master volunteers who extend the education through marketing clubs, is a valuable Extension program helping producers to better-manage price and production risks. On average, graduates of the program have increased their net income by more than $33,000 annually.
Improved Understanding of Fiber Digestibility in Ryegrasses
Dairy nutritionists have long known that forages with the same laboratory analysis could produce significantly different performance in lactating cows. Neutral detergent fiber digestibility (NDFD) may explain much of this variation. The objectives of the study described here were to demonstrate NDFD variation between varieties of ryegrass and season of harvest and to use this information as the basis for an educational Extension program. Large differences in NDFD were found among 11 varieties of ryegrass. This information was used to change the way livestock rations are balanced and it is hoped will convince grass seeds companies to focus more on fiber digestibility.