April 2014 // Volume 52 // Number 2
Some Words About Commentaries
"Some Words About Commentaries" explains what distinguishes a Commentary and describes a few steps we have taken to differentiate Commentaries from articles in other categories. (More to come.) "April JOE" talks about the three Commentaries in the issue, including another one on climate change, and mentions a number of Feature articles.
New Problems, New Day
New challenges are constantly on the horizon for America's agricultural producers. Cooperative Extension has, historically, played a significant role in the success of agricultural production and communities across the United States by providing science-based information and education. From Extension's role in addressing devastation affecting cotton production by the boll weevil in the late 1800s, to today's concerns regarding kudzu bugs, it is clear Extension remains not only relevant but is essential to agricultural endeavors. As we ramp up for a world population of 9 billion by 2050, the need for Extension remains.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on “New Problems, New Day”
"Connecting" with Your Clients [on Facebook]
Connecting with your Extension clients through Facebook can have a very positive effect in spreading programs throughout your county. This article analyzes the advantages, disadvantages, and important considerations to contemplate before you begin using Facebook as a tool to advance your Extension programs. I urge all Extension agents to grow fluent in social media and capitalize on this widespread technology.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on “"Connecting" with Your Clients [on Facebook]”
Cooperative Extension and Climate Change: Successful Program Delivery
The politically charged debate surrounding climate change poses a challenge to outreach and education. A 2011 survey revealed that NC Extension professionals have approached climate change programming cautiously, citing lack of audience interest as the primary barrier—perhaps because the Southeast region has experienced relatively mild climate change impacts, to date. We propose a tiered approach to effectively communicate climate change adaptation strategies to agriculture and natural resource Extension clients: Extension should provide climate science information to early adopters and emphasize risk management of specific threats to clients not convinced about climate change, focusing on local solutions and familiar management tools.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on “Cooperative Extension and Climate Change: Successful Program Delivery”
Ideas at Work
Power Hours-Invasive Species Communication Through Collaborative Webinars
The collaborative webinar project Emerald Ash Borer University (EAB-U) was established in 2009 to address pressing communications needs regarding the invasive emerald ash borer in the midst of national financial crisis. The 40 EAB-U webinars to date have been viewed over 10,000 times. Results of a post-webinar survey evaluating audience composition, impact, and participant satisfaction are presented, and suggest EAB-U webinars reach key audiences who share and apply learned information. Extension professionals faced with complex issues such as invasive species should consider a collaborative webinar approach to efficiently communicate harmonized messages in a cost effective manner.
Developing a Successful Asynchronous Online Extension Program for Forest Landowners
Asynchronous online Extension classes can reach a wide audience, is convenient for the learner, and minimizes ongoing demands on instructor time. However, producing such classes takes significant effort up front. Advance planning and good communication with contributors are essential to success. Considerations include delivery platforms, content development strategies, copyright issues, peer review, user registration, pricing, and marketing. This article shares experiences from developing a comprehensive asynchronous online education program for forest landowners in Washington and suggests strategies for institutions considering the development of similar programs.
Using a Food-Themed Calendar to Engage the Public and Promote Extension from Field to Fork
A monthly, Web-based food-themed calendar was created to provide Extension research-based information from farm to fork to consumers and multiplier groups working with consumers. It provides resources for selected national food-themed days, weeks, and months. This approach helped optimize the use of social media and search engines in promoting content, leading to visits and links to our organization's website. The calendar received 45,875+ page views. It has been linked 493 times from 186 websites, including other universities, blogs, and social media sites. The calendar was listed in the top three recommended webpages by search engines.
5 Steps to Food Preservation Program Meets the Needs of Idaho Families
University of Idaho FCS Extension Educators in southeastern Idaho developed a five-lesson condensed version of safe food preservation classes, driven by participants' interest to meet the needs of everyday home preservers. A post-test survey revealed that participants took the course to be self-reliant, use their own produce, and be in control of what was in their food in a safe manner. The shorter course format consisted of five hands-on classes. The hands-on design allowed students to ask questions and share stories during the workshop, tailoring the workshop to meet the needs of participants.
Microenterprise Development Program Encourages Entrepreneurship While Supporting Extension in Van Wert County, Ohio
Microenterprise development programs (MED's) have expanded in recent years as an economic development strategy in rural areas. The sluggish economy coupled with an acknowledgement that small businesses create many rural jobs are the main drivers behind this expansion. In the rural county of Van Wert, OH, the local Extension Community Economic Development office demonstrates how MED programs can also increase the relevancy of local services while generating funding to support Extension.
Interacting with Law Enforcement Audiences in Livestock Management
An Ohio voter initiative was passed to create the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board. The board established livestock animal care regulations. Eight workshops were held for humane officers and others who deal with livestock animal care complaints. A total of 127 participants were trained on beef, dairy, swine, sheep/goat, equine and poultry husbandry; body condition scoring; farm animal behavior and handling; and biosecurity. The OPOTA has authority over training the County Humane Agents. OPOTA put together a team, including instructors from Animal Agriculture 101, to edit this section of their training on how to determine animal abuse related to livestock.
4-H PetPALS Juvenile Diversion Program Supports At-Risk Youth and Seniors
The 4-H PetPALS Juvenile Diversion Program provides a partnership opportunity with Extension and the juvenile court system to positively impact lives of at-risk youth. At-risk youth are taught by 4-H PetPALS adult volunteer leaders and 4-H PetPALS members to value and respect the human-animal bond, as well as to understand and empathize with senior adults who require skilled nursing care. At-risk youth interact with youth exhibiting positive behaviors, pets that are predictable and inspire confidence in whom they visit, and senior citizens who crave interaction with young people, making a rewarding experience for everyone involved in this program.
Tools of the Trade
Reader Time Investment as a Partial Impact Measure of Online Extension Content
Information published online can help many vineyard workers better understand concepts that relate to job performance. The eXtension Grape Community of Practice (GCoP) created numerous articles and other content to extend information to their community of interest. Assessing impact of these interactions is difficult; however, using economic models such as opportunity cost could help assign monetary value to each page view. Although it presents an incomplete picture of the impact of the article, deriving the opportunity cost allows authors of online articles to assess how readers value their time and the investment they are willing to make to read online information.
ShoWorks, There's an App for That!
The county fair is a large part of the traditional 4-H program. The ShoWorks 2012 update includes an app for iPads that allows staff to use volunteers in new ways, recruit new volunteers, and significantly reduces post-show data entry time. Using technology greatly increases staff efficiency and organizational ability, a requirement during the packed schedule and quick turn-around times of county fair.
Mobile and Web-Based Applications to Determine the Most Economical Feedstuffs for Livestock
Producers are turning to mobile and Web-based decision-making tools in increasing numbers to better manage their businesses. To assist livestock producers in evaluating feed options, a "Feed Cost Calculator" was developed as an app for iOS, Android, and Web-based platforms. Mobile applications are a viable alternative to spreadsheet tools to address the needs of Extension clientele; however, there are certain inherent limitations to using mobile technology that must be considered.
Targeted Food Marketing to Youth: Engaging Professionals in an Online Environment
The use of technology provides unique ways to create an engaged online community of learning for professionals that can be integrated into existing and future Extension programming. The Targeted Food Marketing to Youth online professional development course uses strategies and tools to create and support an engaged online community.
Identifying Locally Important Farmland: A Novel Approach to Cooperative GIS Analysis
Geographic information systems can be powerful and highly utilitarian tools for making land use decisions. However many local units of government may lack skills in the use and understanding of the capabilities of GIS. As an Extension educator, one could showcase GIS skills or educate the local units of government in terms of what GIS can do. By working with local government, educators could help develop basic and realistic expectations for GIS technical services. This support could reinforce Extension educators place in the decision-making process and facilitate the development of land use decisions based on real data and local input.
Capturing the Ripples from Community-Driven Business Retention and Expansion Programs
Community-driven Business Retention & Expansion (BR&E) is a time-tested University of Minnesota Extension program that is benefitting from a new evaluation technique—Ripple Effect Mapping (REM). This BR&E model helps communities create priority economic development projects. REM efficiently captures a community's project outcomes and impacts via community-based focus group discussions. REM results from four Minnesota communities showed the greatest number of effects in human and social capital, out of seven community capitals. For communities, completed ripple effect maps illustrate cumulative accomplishments while motivating participants to keep pursuing their project goals. For Extension, REM enables analysis for program reporting and improvement.
Using Prompts in Extension: A Social Marketing Strategy for Encouraging Behavior Change
Extension educators are encouraged to focus more on changing behaviors over increasing knowledge as measures of program success. Prompts are a proven social marketing strategy to encourage behavior change. This article provides a basic overview for using prompts in Extension.
Agricultural Awareness Days: Integrating Agricultural Partnerships and STEM Education
In the United States there is a need to educate young children in science, technology, and agriculture. Through collaboration with many agricultural groups, the Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Education Center has set up a program that works with 3rd grade students and teachers to reinforce the science that has been taught in the classroom in a hands-on environment. This program has grown in size and scope over the years that it has been in place, but the partnerships that come together from Extension, Virginia Tech, USDA, and many others is what makes this program such a success.
Increasing Parent Involvement with Parent Progress Reports
Youth service providers recognize that involving families in children's learning is critical to academic achievement and overall healthy development. Yet youth service providers face ongoing challenges engaging families in out-of-school time programs. The authors, administrators of a nationally recognized youth development program, share their success using a tool to provide parents with expectations, feedback, and motivation: The Parent Progress Report. Tips for replicating the Parent Progress Report are provided along with lessons learned.
Use of an Extension Horse Conference to Improve Profitability for the Horse Industry
An annual horse training conference has been used to improve profitability for horse owners through providing owners an affordable opportunity to learn from high-profile equine professionals. This conference has contributed to $9,300,000 increase in value of horses over its 21-year history. Furthermore, by attracting the country's elite equine professionals and designing an annual quality even that is unmatched in the region, equine Extension and teaching programs can gain much credibility to the horse industry regionally and nationally.
Doing the Work of Extension: Three Approaches to Identify, Amplify, and Implement Outreach
This article explores the literature and practice of how the Cooperative Extension Service does its work and asks if traditional outreach and engagement models have room for innovative delivery mechanisms that may identify emerging trends and help meet community needs. It considers three innovative approaches to the educational mission: sense-making, contextual (typological) framing, and an internal starting with why concept. It discusses how each might offer processes that would help Extension workers identify and act on community needs, and how the approaches could become critical work skills that will help sustain Extension in the future.
Engaging Learners Through Collaborative Learning: Leadership Development of County Extension Directors and Lessons Learned
The leadership institute, targeting new and aspiring county Extension directors, was completely revised to reflect face-to-face and online constructivist learning theory and practice. New co-learning and engagement methods were incorporated, and all facilitators and teachers/presenters were trained and coached to use the new methods and philosophy. Five competency area outcomes were expected and then evaluated to determine level of competency development. The events, teachers, and activities of each of the four workshops were also evaluated to determine participants' satisfaction level. The results of the study showed that learning and application of practices occurred in all five competency areas.
Development of a University Undergraduate Course Sequence About the Extension System
Many undergraduates are interested in community-based programming, but at most land-grants undergraduates have little contact with Extension. This article describes a grant project that developed two undergraduate courses about Extension and community-based, experiential education. The academic-year course incorporates lecture, discussion, guest speakers, and hands-on activities. The summer-session course takes students to visit program sites in operation. In outcome evaluations, students gained significantly in their understanding of land-grants, Extension, and community programming, and gained confidence in working collaboratively, among other findings. Recommendations note that the success of similar courses requires involvement of county Extension personnel and balancing of several key factors.
Responding to the Needs of Geographically Dispersed Military Youth
When the U.S. military reshaped its deployment methods in response to conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of deployed Reserve and National Guard soldiers increased to nearly half of all deployed servicemen. Unfortunately, support to reduce the stresses of deployment is not readily available to these families because they live in geographically dispersed civilian communities. In 2011, Utah 4-H responded as the key partner and ideal organization to align resources and work with community partners to provide a variety of summer camps designed to support military families during the Post-Deployment stage of the Deployment Cycle.
Mindfulness-Based Adventure Camp for Military Youth
Research suggests that military youth have higher rates of anxiety and socio-emotional difficulties as compared to their non-military peers, due in part to the unique stressors of military life. The study reported here provides feasibility findings of a mindfulness-based adventure camp that was conducted in Colorado and Hawaii with 292 military youth, through a partnership with 4-H Extension Professionals /Operations Military Kids. The results suggest that military youth were highly satisfied with the camp experience and that mindfulness tools could be used to help deal with stress. Mindfulness-based programs could be one way for Extension professionals to work with youth.
A Food Policy Council Guide for Extension Professionals
Public interest in food systems and national prevention strategies focusing on cross-sectoral, community and systems level approaches paved the way for growing numbers of food policy councils. These councils function as organizations to discuss food-related problems, foster coordination across sectors, and influence food policies. Extension professionals can serve as "change agents," bring a wealth of experience and knowledge, form cross-sectoral collaborations, take leadership roles, and build community capacity through food policy councils. Based on expert interviews and our experiences in establishing a council, we present practice recommendations to serve as a concise how to guide for Extension professionals.
Extension Educators' Perceptions About the NC 10% Local Food Campaign: Impacts, Challenges, and Alternatives
This article reports on the perceptions of Extension educators who served as the Local Food Coordinators (LFCs) in promoting the North Carolina Local Food initiative. The study determined Extension agents' perceptions about the local food campaign, its impacts, campaigning partners, campaign materials, challenges, and alternatives. It was a descriptive survey research conducted with all LFCs in NC. The findings of the study support the notion that promoting local foods has positive impacts on local economies and communities, and has implications for other Extension Services to promote local food campaign as a sustainable community development initiative.
Fitting the Framework: The STEM Institute and the 4-H Essential Elements
Extension and 4-H youth development programs are addressing a shortage of scientists, engineers, and other related professionals by promoting science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). This case study illustrates how the Oklahoma 4-H Youth Development program trained youth-adult teams to design and implement STEM projects. The STEM Institute incorporated the 4-H Eight Essential Elements to structure programming. Using the Essential Elements framework helped ensure quality STEM programming, participant retention, and successful community projects lead by youth leaders. The most successful projects were youth driven and adult facilitated, used local partners, and took time to develop.
Assisting Family Forest Owners with Conservation-Based Estate Planning: A Preliminary Analysis
Conservation-based estate planning (CBEP) offers a spectrum of options to meet landowner financial and ownership goals. The study reported here analyzes a survey of individuals who obtained CBEP information through Extension programs. Participation was greater in older landowners and landowners with larger properties. Our findings suggest women and multiple generations likely play an important role in decisions about the future of the land. Cost and family-related issues were most frequently cited as barriers. Because respondents were at various stages of the process, outreach interventions should be flexible and able to assist landowners wherever they are in the planning process.
Resident Valuation of Kentucky's Extension Fine Arts Program
Since 2005, the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service has supported agents and programming exclusively dedicated to the development and promotion of the fine arts. This article presents an estimation of the perceived value of the Kentucky Extension Fine Arts (EFA) Program by county residents. While controlling for several factors, we find that residents were more likely to support a tax increase to enhance their county's EFA Program if residents were aware that their county employed an EFA agent and/or participated in EFA programming. We hope this finding encourages other state Extension programs to consider EFA programs.
Research in Brief
Probing Needs Assessment Data in Depth to Target Programs More Effectively
Extension professionals often assess community needs to determine programs and target audiences. Data can be collected through surveys, focus group and individual interviews, meta-analysis, systematic observation, and other methods. Knowledge gaps are identified, and programs are designed to resolve the deficiencies. However, do Extension professionals look deeply enough into the data to identify subgroups that will allow more targeted programs, or are programs based on only superficial analysis? Cluster analysis allows data to reveal demographic patterns and relationships involving survey respondents. It allows Extension professionals to more precisely target program audiences and thus effectively achieve program impacts.
Appraising the Appraiser: Extension Agents' and County Directors' Perceptions of Their Appraisers
The research reported here describes Extension agent and county director perceptions of the roles and behaviors of their appraisers (relative to performance appraisal). A survey measured satisfaction with appraiser performance. The population was all Extension agents and county directors employed by the University of Tennessee and Tennessee State University (N=312). Overall, Extension agents were satisfied with the roles and behaviors of their appraisers (county directors), and county directors were equally satisfied with their appraisers (regional directors). Respondents viewed their appraiser's performance in conducting the appraisal with positive judgment, fairness, and trust. The major recommendation is instruction for all appraisers.
Growing Pains or Opportunities? A Customer Survey of Three Farmers' Markets in One Rural Community
The continued growth of farmers' markets is presenting new challenges to Extension. As the number of markets expands, how can Extension help those in the same community work together for mutual benefit? The study reported here examined similarities and differences among customers attending three different farmers' markets within a single locality in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Based on 370 customer surveys, study results underscore the diversity of markets operating within the same community and provide insights into ways Extension might assist markets to work together to expand their shared customer base, increase revenues, and better serve local residents.
Evaluating Adolescent Satisfaction of a 4-H Leadership Development Conference
Youth leadership development is strengthened by activities that promote a sense of belonging, development of competence, and increased agency. The study reported here used 7 years of evaluation data from the California 4-H State Leadership Conference to analyze the relationship among satisfaction and sense of belonging, feeling respected, and perceived competence. Results revealed that perceived competence and feeling respected were always significant and belonging was significant in two years. An ANCOVA demonstrated that youth participants who felt respected by youth in leadership roles predicted satisfaction more often than feeling respected by adults or peer participants.
What Are the Economic Costs and Benefits of Home Vegetable Gardens?
Home vegetable gardens are often promoted as a way to cut household costs by providing low-cost access to fruits and vegetables. How much can gardeners expect to spend and recoup from their efforts? An analysis of published data suggests that home vegetable gardens are profitable, if the fair market value of garden labor is excluded from calculated costs. On average, home vegetable gardens produce $677 worth of fruits and vegetables, beyond the cost of $238 worth of materials and supplies. Local environmental conditions, gardening practices, and crop choices will influence the actual net value realized by individual gardeners.
BRITE©: A Program to Promote Resilience Among Unemployed Families
Unemployment may be the single most powerful force challenging families in the U.S. today. The objective of the study reported here was to develop, implement, and evaluate a pilot program, BRITE©, for unemployed individuals and their families. Results found that depression and problematic family functioning were significantly reduced from pre- to post-intervention. Follow-up with participants 6 to 9 months later also validated the efficacy of BRITE© and the use of a family systems approach to unemployment. Suggestions for future programming for unemployed families as well as some policy implications are discussed.