October 2017 // Volume 55 // Number 5
The Importance of Commentary and October JOE Highlights
In the first section of this Editor’s Page, "The Importance of Commentary," I encourage all who feel strong emotion about their work in Extension to consider submitting a manuscript for possible publication as a Commentary in JOE. In "October JOE Highlights," I emphasize the relevance of Extension in contemporary society by identifying articles in this issue on subjects that permeate the news every day.
Emphasizing Extension's Unbiased, Research-Based Recommendations Is Critical
With a multitude of information sources available to stakeholders, it is critical that Extension emphasize the supporting work and unbiased approach that comprise the backbone of our recommendations. In Alabama, management of target spot, a disease that can devastate cotton, is the result of 100 field trials, 6,700 man-hours, and $485,800 in grants. The team involved delivered 94 associated publications and stakeholder activities and posted information via YouTube and Twitter. For Cooperative Extension to remain relevant, we must emphasize our strong experiment station partnership that ensures a foundation firmly planted in unbiased, research-based information that is not influenced by outside, market-driven interests.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on “Emphasizing Extension's Unbiased, Research-Based Recommendations Is Critical”
Ideas at Work
Double Play: The Need for 4-H to Partner in Youth Sports
Fewer children in the United States are playing team-based sports, and the trend is making national headlines. While there is no complete agreement as to the predominant reason for this trend, it is clear that a national conversation on this problem has begun, and Cooperative Extension holds the potential for getting kids back in the game. At its core, this conversation is about the healthful development of our children and their advancement as contributors to society. Cooperative Extension has decades of experience creating a "playbook" for youth development, and it is time to put that playbook into action.
Bringing Farm Advisors into the Sustainability Conversation: Results from a Nitrogen Workshop in the U.S. Midwest
Increasingly, farmers are looking to private sector advisors to inform their nitrogen decisions, but little is known about these important actors. We held a Sustainable Nitrogen Roundtable workshop to bring together important groups—private sector farm advisors, Extension educators, scientists, and farmers—to discuss new research and more sustainable use of nitrogen in midwestern cropping systems. We gained important insights by reaching outside academia and including private sector farm advisors as valued participants. Ninety percent of participants found that their understanding of varied viewpoints on nitrogen management improved, and an equal proportion would recommend such a workshop to a colleague.
Using Gamification to Teach Livestock Management Skills
This article describes a game that is based around estimating body weights of live cows and is used for teaching ranchers about the importance of monitoring the body weights of their animals. Ranchers viewed four cows and then used their smartphones to submit an estimate of each cow's weight. Results were accumulated and analyzed through use of a custom software script and then were shared with the ranchers during a training session. Following training, the ranchers evaluated four additional cows. Participating in and engaging with the game and training significantly improved ranchers' skill at estimating weight. Gamification can be a useful approach when interacting with and educating ranchers.
Repurposing Video Documentaries as Features of a Flipped-Classroom Approach to Community-Centered Development
Online and off-site educational programming is increasingly incorporated by Extension educators to reach their clientele. Models such as the flipped classroom combine online content and in-person learning, allowing clients to both gain information and build peer learning communities. We demonstrate how video documentaries used in traditional tourism development programs were repurposed as preprogram, flipped-classroom learning materials to deliver content and extend the goals of community-centric programming. The flipped-classroom approach yielded learning and process outcomes and allowed educators to maximize time spent facilitating peer learning, client engagement, and community organizing.
Life Skills at a Tribal College: A Culturally Relevant Educational Intervention
American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians (AI/AN/NH) experience the lowest rates of college retention and significant barriers to graduation. In addition, AI/AN/NH individuals face health challenges that include higher rates of obesity, overweight, and type 2 diabetes. We designed a culturally relevant life skills curriculum based on family and consumer science standards to promote educational achievement, self-efficacy, and healthful food choices among tribal college students. The Life Skills at a Tribal College course was delivered by tribal college Extension professionals in a family meal–style environment and involved culturally appropriate, traditional ways of learning to promote positive educational and health outcomes.
Straight from the Horse(man)'s Mouth: Innovative 4-H Camps
As 4-H evolves to include a wide breadth of youths' modern interests, innovative educational opportunities and evaluation practices become necessary. Horsemanship and safety-based horse camps were created in response to a statewide challenge to develop competitive 4-H members and retain those members as they approach adolescence. This article addresses the development, implementation, and review of Arkansas's horse 4-H camps. The article content includes a practical example of Kirkpatrick's evaluation model and a description of how a goal-based evaluation led to planned program modifications.
Tools of the Trade
Getting Your Message Across: Mobile Phone Text Messaging
Want to send a message that 99% of your audience will read? Many Extension professionals are familiar with using social media tools to enhance Extension programming. Extension professionals may be less familiar with the use of mobile phone text-based marketing tools. The purpose of this article is to introduce SMS (short message system) marketing and provide a starting point for using mass text messages in Extension programming.
Living Shoreline Design Charette: A New Twist on the Charette Technique
Design charettes are a common outreach technique that planners and landscape architects use to obtain input on planning issues. The desired outcome is a design solution that takes into account participant feedback. Because design charettes bring people of diverse backgrounds together to work toward a goal, exploring uses of this technique for purposes beyond the traditional is valuable. At a living shoreline design charette, we used the technique not to devise design solutions but to engage interested parties in an activity that provided them with improved awareness and understanding of what regulators permit regarding living shoreline designs. Here we describe our process and its results.
Modifying and Supplementing Annie's Project to Increase Impact in New Jersey and Beyond
Annie's Project is a widely known risk management program emphasizing five areas of risk and creating support networks for women in agriculture. Designed as an 18-hr course delivered through a series of face-to-face classes, it can be adapted to meet the learning needs and time constraints of the target audience and instructors. This article describes modifications and additions to the traditional program delivery that were implemented by the Annie's Project New Jersey team: synchronous learning at multiple locations, archived video-recorded classes, condensed 1-day workshops, a supplemental program about estate and farm transition planning, archived webinars, and international adaptations of the program.
A Beginner's Guide to Local Meat Processing
This article describes the Beginner's Guide to Local Meat Processing—a tool created by the national Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network (NMPAN) as an introduction to a complex topic. Increased consumer and producer interest in local meat and poultry has resulted in requests for Cooperative Extension, public agencies, economic development districts, nonprofit organizations, and other support organizations to participate in or lead efforts to build, expand, or enhance local processing. The guide, backed by NMPAN, is intended to improve the effectiveness of such efforts by providing a window on the complex economic, regulatory, operational, and market conditions and context in which meat processors operate.
Maximizing Use of an Extension Beef Cattle Data Set: Part 3—Weights and Growth
Previously, we described calving distribution and reproductive rates from CHAPS20Y, an Extension beef cattle data set. In this article, we describe CHAPS20Y data on birth weight, weaning weight, pounds weaned per cow exposed, calf age at weaning/weighing, average daily gain, weight per day age, frame score, and cow age, weight, and condition. Yearly mean weights and growth are consistent over the 20-year period, with variation among herds. Breed, management, and environmental differences may explain some of the variation. Our analysis of the CHAPS20Y data provides Extension professionals with expanded knowledge of beef cattle weights and growth and, accordingly, improved ability to help producers more effectively manage their herds.
Guiding Local Tourism Entrepreneurs Interested in Ecotourism: A Tool for Extension Facilitators
Tourism can stimulate economies, promote cultural preservation, and incentivize environmental conservation. The tourism assessment and planning process described in this article is a tool for facilitating tourism development at the community level by helping entrepreneurs assess the products and services they currently offer, align their current tourism products with best practices for improving their businesses' sustainability, and coordinate efforts to harness the full benefits of sustainable nature-based tourism or ecotourism. Extension educators can use this tool to educate and coordinate tourism entrepreneurs and to encourage them to adopt practices that maximize the cultural, social, economic, and environmental benefits of local tourism by minimizing potential negative impacts.
Drawing Together: Using Sketchbooks to Gain Insight on a Program's Effectiveness
Drawing Together is an activity based on work in Extension and other fields that involves drawing as way of delivering information or collecting participant impressions about a program. It was used as part of the Healthy Garden and Healthy Living program in New Jersey and produced impressions about the program that were candid, reflective, and useful. A simple set of instructions can be used to collect information in sketchbooks, and the content can be analyzed in a variety of ways. This flexible activity can be easily incorporated as part of an existing Extension program or an interdisciplinary collaboration.
Using Videoconferencing to Create Authentic Online Learning for Volunteers
Face-to-face training for Extension volunteers is no longer the only viable delivery mode. In times of rapid technological advances, we are faced with a plethora of options for offering volunteers the training and support they need. Zoom, an online videoconferencing platform, can easily be used to engage volunteers in professional development. Creating interactive virtual sessions with a face-to-face feel can be a win-win situation for both Extension staff and volunteers.
Tools for Addressing the Skills of a Communication-Challenged Extension Agent
In Extension, communication challenges often become more palpable during periods of workload shift when initiatives are started. As an Extension agent and a supervisor who found ourselves in this situation, we took steps to improve communication among members of the program team by adopting four strategies: fostering a supportive environment, defining and communicating expectations, using effective communication planning tools, and maintaining program momentum and work output through supervisor and supervisee best practices. Implementing these strategies positively affected team satisfaction and work output. Other Extension professionals in the midst of "breakdowns in communication" also may find the strategies we describe useful.
FB-BRAG: A Tool for Assessing Family Business Functioning
Understanding a family business from the multiple viewpoints of family and business stakeholders can help enhance communication, ultimately improving overall functioning of the family business. The FB-BRAG is an easy-to-understand tool that can be used by family businesses and family business practitioners alike. The results are easy to calculate and interpret and can be easily compared across members of the family business.
Supporting the "Archstone of Democracy": Cooperative Extension's Experiment with Deliberative Group Discussion
Cooperative Extension has a rich history of providing research-based knowledge and functioning as a catalyst for change through community engagement. It is via this second dimension of its identity that Extension has long played a role in creating space for public issues to be understood through deliberative discussion. Rather than view the use of deliberation and discussion as only a recent development in Extension's approach to engaging citizens about public issues, I highlight efforts and challenges related to Extension's experiment with deliberation and discussion in the 1930s and 1940s and use this historic perspective to identify important implications for Extension today.
A National Framework for Urban Extension
To help ensure Extension's relevance and accessibility to an increasingly diverse population, the National Urban Extension Leaders group created a framework based on historical and emerging developments. Themes focus on programs, personnel, partnership, and the positioning of Extension at local, state, and national levels. For Extension to be a vibrant and resilient 21st-century system, it must build on best practices, leverage regional and national networks, and invest in innovative strategies that engage people living and working in metropolitan communities. A robust urban Extension presence contributes to building strong connectivity among urban, suburban, and rural communities.
The Farming Population and Health Insurance: Educational Needs and Approaches of Extension Professionals
Health insurance policy has critical implications for farmers, who work in a dangerous occupation and have historically high rates of being uninsured and underinsured. Extension is well poised to respond to changing policies and provide outreach to agricultural communities. However, few studies have explored capacity within Extension to respond knowledgeably to health insurance–related opportunities. Accordingly, we conducted focus group sessions with Extension professionals to understand current efforts, resource needs, and opportunities for program development in this realm. Our findings revealed a need for knowledge building within Extension through programming collaboration and an opportunity to connect the agriculture and health insurance sectors. We also identified strategies for addressing the topic with farmers.
Usefulness of Delivery Methods for Climate Change Programming: Perspectives of Extension and Research Faculty
Extension is responding to climate change through programming intended to encourage adaptation and mitigation in agricultural production and natural resources management. However, effectively engaging target audiences requires identifying appropriate delivery methods. We conducted a study to identify delivery methods researchers and Extension professionals at land-grant universities in the northeastern United States perceive as useful for climate change outreach. Respondents viewed all delivery methods as only slightly useful, though traditional options, including face-to-face interactions and the use of videos and websites, were perceived as slightly more useful than other delivery methods. Therefore, we in Extension must experiment with various delivery methods to identify those most likely to effect the adoption of adaptation and mitigation practices.
Using Standardized Evaluation Metrics to Demonstrate Collective Statewide Impacts of Diverse Water Conservation Programming
Although the diversity of Florida Cooperative Extension landscape water conservation programs creates evaluation challenges, it is possible to measure their impacts as a whole. We conducted pilot testing of a statewide evaluation strategy and identified behavior changes resulting in an average monthly water savings of 3,257 gal and utility bill savings of $10.78 per participant. Here we explain the approach we used, providing details about underlying research on water conservation practices and technologies, standardized metrics for demonstrating environmental and economic impacts of behavior/technology adoption, and reporting tools. A focus on statewide impacts based on standardized metrics can be extremely valuable to U.S. Extension professionals.
Reminding Individuals to Check Their Free Credit Reports: A Case for Using Low-Touch Campaigns to Promote Positive Behaviors
This article describes University of Wisconsin–Extension's Check Your Free Credit Report Campaign. The program encourages adults to check their free credit reports through use of a memorable rule of thumb. The primary mechanisms of the program are a set of three email reminders each year and a campaign website. Data on program participation, engagement, and outcomes suggest that this program can complement higher touch financial education activities. Moreover, the format could be used to address other financial behaviors or extended to domains beyond consumer finance.
Activating Opinion Leaders Across the Nation to Increase Water Conservation
Water conservation is an area Extension has emphasized nationally to enhance public engagement in protecting water resources. The findings presented in this article are from a study that addressed regional water conservation opinion leaders' demographic characteristics, water use behaviors, water conservation information sources, interest in learning about water-related topics, and preferred learning channels. The intent behind the study was to provide insight into how Extension professionals can engage the power of opinion leaders in different regions of the United States. The findings revealed that opinion leaders are not using Extension as a source, and the article includes recommendations for strategic efforts Extension professionals across the United States can use to activate opinion leaders.
Research in Brief
Ready or Not? UConn Extension Disaster and Emergency Preparedness
We conducted an attitude and opinion survey of UConn Extension personnel regarding workplace and home emergency preparedness. Our primary focus was on cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillators (AEDs). Respondents were aware of the benefits of knowing CPR, with a majority having taken a CPR course. Respondents were generally aware of the benefits of knowing how to use AEDs, but only a minority had had AED training. They indicated a preference for home over workplace preparedness training, although they recognized workplace preparedness as important. These findings suggest that emergency and disaster education be focused on home preparedness, which will result in workplace preparedness too.
Perceptions of Crop Consultants and Crop Producers on Grazing Corn Residue in Nebraska
We conducted a survey to evaluate factors influencing consultant recommendations on grazing and producer grazing practices in Nebraska. Producers who did not graze cited soil compaction, inconvenience (lack of watering and fencing), and lack of access to livestock as major reasons for not grazing. Producers who allowed grazing and consultants who recommended grazing were more likely than those who did not favor grazing to perceive that grazing increased subsequent grain yields. Most consultants and producers reported making decisions on the basis of their personal observations. Findings from the survey can be used for enhanced Extension dissemination and research activities regarding grazing of residues.
Characteristics of Home Irrigation Users: Implications for Encouraging Landscape Water Conservation in the United States
Home irrigation users are a relatively under-researched target audience for Extension, yet they are major consumers of water. To promote water conservation practices, Extension professionals need to understand key aspects of this group. For example, the home irrigation user participants in the study described here perceive water to be extremely important. They engage in water conservation by following water restrictions, are interested in irrigation technologies that save water, desire home and garden landscaping ideas, and prefer to get water conservation information from websites. However, their interaction with Extension is somewhat limited. To more effectively engage with this audience, Extension should provide relevant water conservation information on well-branded websites.