August 2020 // Volume 58 // Number 4
The Flip Side of Presubmission Reviews and August JOE Highlights
In the last issue of JOE, I stressed to authors the importance of having one's work read before submitting it. In "The Flip Side of Presubmission Reviews," I explore this topic from the reader's perspective. In "August JOE Highlights," I note articles that underscore the need for health-related policy, systems, and environmental change interventions and other programming meant to right inequities as well as articles describing innovations Extensionists have applied to various challenges, including those produced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Activating Volunteers for Statewide COVID-19 Pandemic Response
Extension is known for facilitating local networks and having the capacity to organize and mobilize volunteers. These assets, critically important in crises and emergency situations, were drawn on to support Tennessee's response to health care worker and community needs early in the coronavirus pandemic. Using local networks, we rapidly activated a statewide volunteer workforce to address potential shortages of cloth face masks before federal agencies recommended their widespread public use. We share social media communication strategies and a timeline of key events and acknowledge challenges we encountered in moving forward in an environment of inconsistent and evolving guidelines. Our actions may be applicable to addressing ongoing community needs as the pandemic persists and new circumstances arise.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on “Activating Volunteers for Statewide COVID-19 Pandemic Response”
Not Glamorous, but Needed: Teaching Energy Basics to Improve Farm Profitability
Despite the increase in energy consumption, rising energy costs, and the overall financial strain in the agriculture sector, the Extension system has allocated limited resources to energy education in agriculture. Many energy programs focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies whereas little attention is paid to developing an understanding of how farmers are billed for electricity, when electricity is used, and why. The first step in developing evidence-based solutions to improve farm profitability is clearly defining the problems that need to be solved. If not Extension, who will take on the responsibility of providing this critical education?
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on “Not Glamorous, but Needed: Teaching Energy Basics to Improve Farm Profitability”
Ideas at Work
Two States, One Mission: Building Policy, Systems, and Environmental Change Capacity of County Extension Educators
Policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) change interventions are a key part of comprehensive nutrition and health education. Although Extension educators find value in PSE approaches and report being involved in PSE work, many still indicate a lack of understanding regarding PSE approaches. We describe a unique multistate training designed to increase Extension educators' understanding, skills, and capacity related to implementing PSE change interventions. Data demonstrating success of the training are presented. Additionally, best practices for others wishing to create similar multistate programs conclude the article.
Revising Curricula Through the Use of Lesson Study
The lesson study methodology allows Extension educators to reflect on instructional practices and gather formative data that can be used to refine curricula. We trained Extension educators and formed a community of practice (CoP) of agents who used the lesson study method to inform improvements of a 4-H coding curriculum. The CoP planned and set goals, implemented the lesson, shared formative data, and strategized on how to improve subsequent lessons. They found the lesson study method to be an effective tool for engaging the specialist, other agents, and youths in meaningful dialogue so that curriculum goals could be met.
Master Money Manager Coach: A Financial Literacy Train-the-Trainer Program
Master Money Manager Coach (M3C) is a 2-day in-person train-the-trainer program targeted to staff and volunteers at community-based organizations. The dual purposes of the program are to teach trainees how to teach money management using the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's Money Smart curriculum and to give trainees coaching tools they can use to reinforce positive behavior change in their clients through assistance with goal setting and one-on-one support. The program has been effective in helping engage an audience that ultimately can reach more individual clients than one project team can working separately and directly with end-user clientele.
Engaging Teens and Adults in Mindfulness: The University of California 4-H Mindfulness Retreat
The University of California (UC) 4-H Mindfulness Retreat was developed on the basis of current research of positive youth outcomes associated with mindfulness. Curricula, resources, and programming were developed to introduce participants to mindfulness to improve overall health. The UC 4-H Mindfulness Retreat provides training and opportunities to teens and adults in the areas of mindfulness, nutrition, physical activity, stress management, relationship building, community connection, and advocacy. We present outcomes, successes, and lessons learned related to developing and executing a statewide mindfulness retreat for youths and adults.
Involving International Students in Designing and Implementing International Extension Tours
International Extension experiences can provide valuable outcomes to clientele. Careful planning is necessary to maximize the benefits to participants and the potential impacts of the tour. International agricultural sciences students can benefit from participating in these tours and greatly add to their success. In this article, we describe the main organizational steps we used and lessons we learned while planning and executing a comprehensive tour program to Brazil involving substantial contribution by an international student.
Tools of the Trade
Policy, Systems, and Environmental Change: A Planning Tool for Community Health Implementation
Extension educators across the United States are being asked to expand their direct education efforts to include policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) changes. However, professional development opportunities and tools are needed to familiarize Extension professionals with PSE change approaches, build their capacity to implement PSE change, and make the process relevant to their work. We describe a planning tool developed for a unique multistate PSE change intervention training and designed to facilitate the process of PSE change implementation at the local level. An example of the tool and recommendations for others wishing to use it are included.
"Ask the Ag Agent" Weekly Webinar Series: Agriculture-Focused Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has restricted traditional delivery of Extension programs. Our group of Rutgers agricultural agents responded by developing a weekly webinar series to remotely continue agricultural consultations and provide an open forum for farmers. Pandemic-related topics included farm labor, compliance with state executive orders, supply-chain disruptions, livestock processing, farmer assistance programs, and other issues. Participation from 258 farmers, agricultural agencies, and other groups resulted in effective networking and timely delivery of information to the agriculture industry. By using available online tools, we were able to efficiently deliver Extension programming and resources to agricultural producers and industry partners. Our efforts may be informative for others as needs related to the pandemic evolve.
From Territorial to Transformational: A New Framework for Master Volunteer Engagement
Meaningful volunteer engagement depends on the Extension professional's volunteer management philosophy, training, and organizational support for using volunteers. Volunteer development and leadership development are typically absent from management-focused volunteer models used in Extension. Professional development of the Extension professional, beyond discrete management tasks, is lacking but is needed for authentic volunteer engagement through master volunteer programs. A volunteer engagement framework is described to guide a shift from volunteer management to engagement, including use of principles of the community-based participatory approach. The volunteer engagement framework can help professionals identify and self-assess the skill set needed for authentic and sustained volunteer involvement in support of Extension.
"Making the Best Better" for Youths: Cultivating LGBTQ+ Inclusion in 4-H
4-H, as a research-based positive youth development program, should be affirming and inclusive for all youths, including those who are members of LGBTQ+ communities. This article provides 4-H youth development professionals with a series of checklists for supporting LGBTQ+ participation, focusing on systemic advocacy, guidance and protocols, programming, and professional development and dispositions. Using these checklists, 4-H professionals can identify areas of strength and growth for themselves and their programs. Further, they can enable youth thriving, increase protective factors, and reduce risk factors by cultivating inclusive and affirming 4-H spaces.
Off to a Good Start: A Practical Tool for Sexual Health Education
The Off to a Good Start: Physical, Emotional, and Sexual Development of Youth Grades 5–8 (OTAGS) curriculum provides students with a foundation for future sex education. The curriculum consists of three modules covering puberty, healthful relationships, and HIV and sexually transmitted infections. University of Illinois Extension educators taught OTAGS at 15 schools in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. Evaluation results were favorable, indicating knowledge improvement. OTAGS complements other Extension programs, lays a foundation for future sex education, and provides others in Extension with the opportunity to play a role in making timely and accurate sex education accessible to youths.
Science Communication: Synthesis of Research Findings and Practical Advice from Experienced Communicators
Use of effective public communication strategies is critical for Extension professionals to successfully navigate challenges faced by the agriculture sector and local community, effect policy changes, and ensure public value for the Extension program. Simply addressing the public knowledge deficit is ineffective for gaining public trust in science. Thus, implementation of public engagement and increased dialogue are central to contemporary Extension practice. Such an approach requires balancing factual knowledge with an engaging and open communication style. We draw on both research findings and advice from experienced science communicators to provide a synthesis of practical tips for achieving this balance. Guidance is given regarding framing, word choices, and common pitfalls.
Application of a Three-Phase Needs Assessment Framework to Identify Priority Issue Areas for Extension Programming
Cooperative Extension strives to deliver relevant programming to residents. However, problems facing communities are increasingly complex. We used a three-phase needs assessment to describe Utah residents' perceptions of issue areas for Extension programming. We gathered data from 1,043 Utah residents. Results highlighted four priority issue areas for Extension programming. These were environmental quality, conservation capacity, community development, and agriculture and food safety. On the basis of our work, we recommend that Extension allocate resources to addressing priority issue areas and implement a formal needs assessment framework for monitoring issue areas to inform relevant and quality programming in response to emerging needs.
Measuring the Economic Benefit of Extension Leadership Programs: McLeod for Tomorrow
Extension-led leadership programs provide economic benefits. Historically, evaluators have struggled to quantify these benefits as compared to costs. Further, leadership programs have both public and private value, which are difficult to quantify. To address gaps in understanding the value of leadership development programs, we quantified the economic benefit of the McLeod for Tomorrow leadership program. Through an alumni survey and a mind-mapping session, we collected data on the program's public and private benefits. Our findings show that each dollar invested creates $5.60 in economic benefit and that public value exceeds private value. Our article provides insights into methods for quantifying benefits of Extension programs, regardless of specialization or location.
County Commissioner Perceptions of Cooperative Extension: Implications for Strengthening the Partnership with County Government
We undertook a study to determine county commissioner perceptions of Cooperative Extension. The majority of county commissioners had had prior involvement with Extension. Nearly 59% represented rural counties, and 94% indicated that agriculture is important to their county economies. Overall, the commissioners had a positive perception of Cooperative Extension, and their overall perception positively correlated with the significance of agriculture to the local economy. Our findings have implications for county-based Cooperative Extension professionals seeking to build all-important strong partnerships with county commissioners.
Research in Brief
Impact of a Language and Literacy Training and Coaching Intervention on Early Childhood Outcomes in Low-Income Communities
We implemented an Extension-led language and literacy training and coaching intervention targeting preschool teachers and children in low-income communities in Nevada. Participation in the intervention had a positive influence on the language and literacy instruction skills of preschool teachers and language and literacy skills of children. Analysis of 40 preschool classrooms and 199 preschoolers over 3 years of data collection identified improvements in general classroom environments and teachers' language and literacy practices. Preschoolers demonstrated improvements in alphabet knowledge, comprehension, phonological awareness, vocabulary, and oral language. Extension professionals elsewhere may use a similar approach to positively affect the achievement gap of at-risk children.
Addressing Facilitators and Barriers Related to Early Childhood Obesity Prevention in Rural Appalachian Communities
Through a community-focused needs assessment conducted in rural Appalachia, we gauged perceptions of facilitators and barriers related to healthful eating and physical activity for young children and identified suggestions for improvement. Thirty-seven key informant interviews and three caregiver focus group sessions were coded and analyzed for key themes. Limited community resources emerged as a barrier to both healthful eating and physical activity. Suboptimal communication about existing opportunities was also identified. Community members reviewed the needs assessment data and implemented initiatives to address identified needs. The importance of Extension-facilitated needs assessments in rural settings to shape health initiatives to local contexts is highlighted.
Questions Farmers Ask: Implications for Improving Information Resources for Farmer Audiences
eOrganic, the Organic Agriculture Community of eXtension, has conducted webinars on organic farming research for over a decade. I examined questions asked by farmers and university researchers or educators during 52 webinars presented 2015–2017. A higher proportion of questions asked by farmers than questions asked by researchers/educators were about risks, benefits, and problem solving, and the farmers' questions contained many innovative ideas about production. A higher proportion of researcher/educator questions than farmer questions related to details of research studies, though farmers also posed questions about research methods. This article contains suggestions about tailoring research presentations to farmer audiences and confirms the mutual benefits of collaborations between farmers and researchers.
Using an Immediate Feedback Tool to Improve Learning and Facilitate Program Evaluation
We wanted to understand whether short-term learning could occur during Extension presentations and used an immediate feedback tool to find out. Applying the immediate feedback tool, we asked multiple-choice questions prior to delivering a presentation and repeated them at the end to assess how well the information was delivered to and received by the audience. The immediate feedback tool let participants know whether they understood the information presented. Results indicated that adults were receptive to immediate feedback and that closed-ended questions can provide reliable evaluation data. Participants showed significant learning with the tool, which has broad applicability in Extension.
Improving Parental Engagement for Latino Youths' Educational Success: Lessons from Juntos Oregon
Research has shown that more efforts are needed to increase high school completion and postsecondary enrollment among Latino youths. However, little is known regarding efforts that engage both Latino youths and their parents. To address this gap, we surveyed Juntos Oregon participants to examine the school and community context Latino youths and their families face in the educational journey and identify effects of the Juntos program. Results showed that in a context of persistent discrimination and unfair treatment, Juntos workshops increased the sense of school and community connectedness among Latino parents. Increases in academic planning and motivation occurred as well. Extension may increase its educational impact by strengthening connections and promoting engagement between schools and Latino families.
Quantifying Attitudes and Knowledge Change About the Meat-Animal Industry via a Massive Open Online Course
Massive open online courses (MOOCs) offer a unique platform through which Extension can provide valuable education. We explored The Meat We Eat, a MOOC designed to create a more informed meat consumer and increase perceptions of transparency surrounding meat production. Compared to pretest respondents (n = 490), students who completed the posttest (n = 226) had an improved attitude toward meat and slaughter, an improved perception of the meat industry’s transparency, and increased knowledge. These findings suggest the relevance and value of MOOCs as Extension activities for improving knowledge and attitudes toward animal agriculture and other topics.
Implementing Demonstration to Promote the Sustainable Farming Practice of Using Cover Cropping Systems
Use of cover cropping systems has multiple benefits for agriculture. To convince vegetable growers to adopt such systems, we applied a field demonstration in which we grew selected cover crops during the off-season and then tomatoes. We focused on implementation of a science-based demonstration design and attended to the usefulness of the demonstration and audience timing preferences. As a result, growers grasped the advantages of growing cover crops and, consequently, have extensively adopted cover cropping systems, thereby applying a critically important practice for crop management and agricultural sustainability. Our method and findings can help Extension educators better implement programs to convince agricultural producers to adopt desirable farming practices that improve sustainable agriculture.
Food Safety Needs Assessment for Georgia Specialty Crops
We conducted a needs assessment to determine food safety resources required by produce growers in Georgia. Most respondents were farm owners (52.5%), food safety managers (48.3%), and/or farm managers (34.2%). The most requested topics for training included how to improve food safety management skills and how to manage a food safety program. Of 120 respondents, 25 were unsure whether their operations were required to comply with the Produce Safety Rule. This information will guide Georgia food safety educators in developing materials and curricula for growers throughout Georgia. Additionally, our survey and findings may be of use to Extension professionals elsewhere in the Southeast and beyond.
Qualitative Evaluation of a Future Care Planning Program
We describe efforts to evaluate the impact of the Future Care Planning (FCP) program. To gain deeper understanding of the context and needs of older adults who attended FCP sessions, we conducted follow-up telephone interviews and a qualitative content analysis of the structured interview calls. We identified areas for which Extension can provide continued support, positive programming impacts, and recommendations for future programming. We discuss how our findings will be used for future efforts addressing the topic for older adults and the implications of our findings and method for others in Extension.
Structured Support Advances Extension Educator Intercultural Development During a Short-Term Study Abroad Experience
Extension educators need intercultural competence to communicate with international audiences and facilitate dialogue in diverse domestic communities. Although many Extension professionals have traveled abroad, experience abroad does not necessarily lead to intercultural competence without intentional intercultural development support. We describe a novel program designed to develop Extension educators' intercultural competence by involving them as mentors in an undergraduate agriculture study abroad program. Statements by the participating educators support increased ability to recognize and adapt to multiple frameworks, increased self-reflection, and enriched interactions and programming for their diverse communities.
Survey on Equine Parasite Control in the Midwestern and Southwestern United States
We conducted a survey to assess parasite control programs used by three groups of horse owners. The majority of those surveyed indicated that they received information on parasite control from veterinarians, with only 6% indicating reliance on Extension materials for such information. Most participants did not use fecal egg counts as part of their parasite control programs, and most were not aware of parasite resistance to anthelmintics. Our survey results highlight areas in which education for horse owners may be needed.