June 2007 // Volume 45 // Number 3

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Feature Articles

Strengthening Extension's Capacity to Conduct Public Issues Education Programs: Results of a National Needs Assessment
Singletary, Loretta; Smith, Marilyn; Hill, George; Daniels, Steven; Smutko, Steven; Ayres, Janet; Haaland, Kay
This article reports the results of a national survey of Extension professionals to assess their needs to acquire skills to conduct Public Issues Education (P.I.E.) programs. Survey respondents rated all 35 skill needs as either high or moderately high priorities regardless of their geographic region. Some differences in skill need priorities exist at the individual state level, however. These results illustrate a demand for professional development opportunities. While one national curriculum may suffice, professional development may be fine-tuned to address differences in individual states. Professional development may target beginner, intermediate, and advanced skill development levels, depending on individual state needs.

An Integrative Approach to Addressing Childhood Overweight: Inclusion of Parenting Information in Nutrition Education Programs
Ontai, Lenna L.; Williams, Shannon Tierney; Lamp, Cathi; Smith, Dorothy
Research indicates that child overweight stems from many sources, including parent-child interactions and parenting styles. Focus groups with nutrition educators were used to explore the need for parenting resources in nutrition education. Results revealed that both parents and educators see parenting and family interaction patterns as barriers to implementing changes in children's eating behaviors. Further, nutrition educators reported feeling unprepared to guide parents when making changes in children's nutrition. Discussion focuses on recommendations for providing parents and educators with researched-based information on child development and effective family interactions related to nutrition and health behaviors.

Reaching Fathers in Parent Education: Perceptions of Newsletter Value Among Fathers and Father Figures
Brotherson, Sean E.; Bouwhuis, Christopher J.
Does parent education pay attention to fathers and their perceptions of educational resources? Not often enough. The NDSU Extension Service developed a parenting newsletter for fathers of young children--Father Times. Findings focused on how fathers of children in kindergarten perceive and value the newsletter as a resource. Results showed that fathers: (1) appreciated the layout, readability, and usefulness of the newsletter; (2) valued the newsletter more highly than other formal sources of information; and (3) indicated the features and topics most valuable to them. A newsletter for fathers can be a unique resource for reaching fathers in parent education.

Communication Efforts of Florida Extension Agents During the 2004 Hurricane Season
Telg, Ricky; Irani, Tracy; Muegge, Melissa; Kistler, Mark; Place, Nick
The purpose of the study reported here was to examine what communication channels Florida's Extension faculty utilized during the 2004 hurricane season. A total of 208 people responded to the survey, for an overall response rate of 63.4%. Respondents indicated that they made slight to moderate use of news media channels. The most used and effective personal communication channels were word of mouth and telephones. The most used and effective mediated communication channel was flyers/print materials. Respondents did not believe that the general public or their own clientele groups were aware of Extension's disaster response efforts.

New Generation Grain Marketing Contracts: How Did Producers' Opinions and Usage Change Between 2003 and 2005?
Alexander, Corinne; Patrick, George; Reimer, Aaron
The focus of Extension in grain marketing is changing from price prediction and enhancement to evaluating marketing tools and managing risk. New generation grain marketing contracts (NGC) are a relatively new tool designed to help producers execute their marketing plans, the cornerstone of managing price risk. This article presents an analysis of a survey of Midwestern producers to learn who is most likely to use NGC, and whether opinions and use changed between 2003 and 2005. The findings suggest the primary benefit of NGC is marketing discipline, and operations with a higher debt-to-asset ratio are more likely to use NGC.

The New York City Watershed Model Forests Revisited Five Years Later: An Assessment of Successes, Failures, and Challenges for the Future
Germain, René H.; Munsell, John F.; Brazill, Kevin
The New York City Watershed Model Forests were established to demonstrate that working forested landscapes can be compatible with water quality. The Model Forests were designed to integrate education, research, and demonstration to a wide audience. Two of the four Model Forests are successful, serving the outreach and continuing education needs of forest stewards in the watershed. The other two Model Forests have confronted challenges stemming from the negative public perception of forest management. Explanations on successes and shortcomings, coupled with a survey analysis of model forest users, provide insight into the project's progression over the last 7 years.

Does Adding an Extra Educational Intervention Add Value? The DairyBeef Train-the-Trainers Program
Moore, Dale A.; Truscott, Marla L.; Kirk, John; Klingborg, Donald J.
Extension educators seek to facilitate change among their clientele through educational programs. However, some programs are more effective than others. In this study, a half-day trainers program in dairy quality assurance moved individuals from one stage of learning to another (evaluation to learning or to gaining experience). However, the addition of a single follow-up reminder and additional materials to help trainers teach more effectively did not result in greater use of the program materials to instruct dairy producers. Somewhere between a single reminder and multiple interventions lies a useful compromise to ensure adoption of training messages and taking action.

Research in Brief

4-H Youth Development Professionals' Perceptions of the Importance of and Their Current Level of Competence with Selected Volunteer Management Competencies
Schmiesing, Ryan J.; Safrit, R. Dale
The descriptive research reported here investigated Extension 4-H Youth Development professionals' perceptions of the importance of, and their current level of competence with, 127 selected contemporary volunteer management competencies organized into nine constructs. A census of NAE4-HA members was used to collect data using a Web-based questionnaire. While respondents indicated that all nine constructs were important in their management of volunteers, corresponding levels of competence were not as high. We conclude that a framework for professional development for NAE4-HA members related to the management of volunteers be developed and implemented focusing holistically on the nine volunteer management constructs.

Financial Management Education: Its Role in Changing Behavior
Osteen, Sissy; Muske, Glenn; Jones, Joyce
Managing personal finances is a crucial but difficult issue. Many writers are concerned about whether or not Americans are prepared to handle their finances as personal debt and bankruptcies grow. While some educators believe that financial education can improve a family's financial security, others question the effectiveness of such programs. The study reported here examined the results of Money 2000™ and its ability to influence behavior and financial preparedness. Participants made greater use of banks and less use of loan and check cashing services, increased savings, and decreased debt. The data supports financial literacy training as enhancing financial well-being.

Risk Management for Ag Families: Evaluation of an Integrated Educational Program for Producers on the Northern Plains
Nagler, Amy; Bastian, Christopher T.; Hewlett, John P.; Weigel, Randolph R.
This article analyzes the impact of a series of educational programs focusing on risk management for agricultural families structured as a series of short educational sessions coupled with hands-on learning activities. Responses of program participants to pre- and post-workshop questionnaires, series questionnaires, and a follow-up mail survey are analyzed using non-parametric statistics. Results indicate that this integrated format, focusing on areas of risk affecting agricultural family businesses, had a positive impact on knowledge levels and behavior. Overall, these results suggest this type of educational format may have merit as compared to more didactic approaches for delivering risk management education.

Convincing Oregon's Dairy Industry They Have a Problem with Phosphorus
Downing, Troy; French, Patrick; Peters, Amy; Higgs, Kathryn
Dairy nutritionists historically balanced milk cow rations for phosphorus at .45 to .5 % DM of the total ration. New studies have shown a high producing milk cow only requires a diet at .38% DM. Thirty-seven farms were studied to determine and compare P feeding levels in Oregon. The results of the project were then incorporated into educational programs. The average farm studied was over feeding by 18%. Eighty-nine percent of producers surveyed indicated this project increased their understanding of the problem we face as an industry. Approximately 50% of producers participating reduced P feeding on their farm.

Evaluating Extension Efforts Along Lake Ontario's Eastern Shore
Kuehn, Diane; Thompson, Molly
The Eastern Lake Ontario Dune and Wetland Area (ELODWA) is a 17-mile stretch of sand dunes, wetlands, and shoreline on the eastern coast of Lake Ontario in New York State. High visitor use of this fragile ecosystem has led to significant erosion of its dunes in the past. This article describes the multi-faceted Extension efforts that have been implemented in the ELODWA over the past two decades to reduce negative visitor impacts, and how these efforts have been evaluated. Results indicate that Extension efforts have been effective at reducing negative visitor impacts throughout most of the dune ecosystem.

Evaluation of Farmer- Versus Contractor-Installed Deer Fencing
Drake, David; Grande, John
A mailed survey and on-site evaluations were conducted to assess effectiveness of deer fencing based on self-installed versus contractor-installed fences. Ninety-five percent of survey respondents who self-installed their fence and 100% of respondents with contractor-installed fences perceived a reduction in deer damage. Most self-installed fences were improperly installed and used sub-par materials relative to contractor-installed fences. Self-installed deer fences may represent a significant cost-savings over a contractor-installed fence. However, savings may not be as dramatic as they first appear when considering that an improperly installed fence may reduce the fence's life span and provide less protection from deer depredation.

Modifying Beverage Choices of Preadolescents Through School-Based Nutrition Education
Roth-Yousey , Lori; Caskey, Mary; May, Jill; Reicks, Marla
The study reported here implemented and evaluated a school-based, classroom intervention to improve beverage choices of 3rd-5th grade children. Extension Nutrition Education Assistants provided six weekly classroom lessons and pre-post surveys to assess effectiveness. Fewer students reported usually consuming fruit drinks at breakfast, lunch, and in friends' homes and carbonated soft drinks at dinner after the intervention, while overall consumption of fruit drinks and carbonated soft drinks decreased. Reported availability of fruit drinks and carbonated soft drinks in the home was not changed. Further exploration of family and environmental barriers is necessary to influence healthful beverage selection.

Implications of Co-Residential Status for Parenting Programs Targeting Adolescent Mothers
Abell, Ellen; Moates, Kelly Dorr; Guarino, Anthony
When a teenager becomes a parent, what type of family living arrangements best support her parenting competence? Conventional wisdom suggests that the mother's family of origin would be the best arrangement, but contemporary adolescents do their parenting in a variety of situations. Results from the study reported here, examining mothers living in three different types of arrangements, suggest that living with a parenting partner of the same generational age as the mother supports more positive parenting attitudes. A strengths-based, youth development approach to parenting education for adolescents is discussed in which the interpersonal context of adolescent parenting is explicitly addressed.

Ideas at Work

4-H Delivery to Homeschool Audiences
Knutz, Mike
4-H Professionals can increase the scope of their program and meet the needs of a growing segment of youth in their community through outreach to homeschoolers. A 4-H Homeschool Program involves coordinating enrichment classes and field trips for homeschool families. 4-H membership has increased by 24% from 2003 to 2005 in Polk County, Oregon, and homeschoolers account for 43% of that increase. The number of 4-H volunteers has increased from the influx of homeschooling parents. This article gives the basics for implementing and delivering programming to homeschoolers, which can increase the overall size and scope of county 4-H programs.4-H Professionals can increase the scope of their program and meet the needs of a growing segment of youth in their community through outreach to homeschoolers. A 4-H Homeschool Program involves coordinating enrichment classes and field trips for homeschool families. 4-H membership has increased by 24% from 2003 to 2005 in Polk County, Oregon, and homeschoolers account for 43% of that increase. The number of 4-H volunteers has increased from the influx of homeschooling parents. This article gives the basics for implementing and delivering programming to homeschoolers, which can increase the overall size and scope of county 4-H programs.

4-H Teen Russian/American International Leadership (T.R.A.I.L.): The Use of Youth/Adult Partnerships in Global Education and Leadership Development
Torretta, Alayne
A youth/adult partnership model in the Teen Russian/American International Leadership program has had profound effects on American youths' global perspectives and leadership skills. Because of the healthy youth/adult partnership component of this program, American youth participants reported an increase in learning teamwork, problem solving, planning, communication, organization, and critical thinking skills. American youth felt their thoughts, ideas, and suggestions were taken seriously. Youth returned with a better understanding of problems and issues that affect people throughout the world, are more confident, are more willing to try new things, and see their own problems in a broader, more realistic context.

Exploring the Challenges for Extension Educators Working in Urban Communities
Webster, Nicole; Ingram, Patreese
This article provides Extension educators with a practical template of ideas and concepts to remember when working with urban audiences and communities. As communities begin to change, due to expansion and shifts in populations, so should the focus of Extension programming. In order to facilitate this process, there needs to be a greater source of information to help Extension educators achieve success in what could be unfamiliar territory. By providing practical techniques, the educator is aware of potential pitfalls and has information that will help ease the working relationship between all individuals, hopefully leading to a successful program.

Experiential Learning in Workforce Preparation--An Application for Success
Lobley, Jennifer; Peronto, Marjorie
The University of Maine Cooperative Extension collaborated with Cherryfield Foods, Inc. to create an innovative experiential training program that qualified youth to participate in the mechanical harvesting of wild blueberries. Youth who successfully completed the course were guaranteed summer employment with the company. This allowed youth to earn an income while applying and refining their newly acquired skills. Twenty-eight of the 31 youth trained were employed during subsequent blueberry harvest seasons, with no injuries reported. The success of this program resulted from the application of positive youth development principles coupled with an employment incentive.

Extension Master Gardeners: Helping the Homeless to Heal
Seals, Linda M.; Pierce, Cathy A.
Families with children are the fastest-growing sector of the homeless population. Loss of one's home, the conditions of shelter life, and the physical and sexual abuse that often precipitates homelessness result in psychological trauma and a diminished sense of self-efficacy and self-worth. This article describes the effects of participation in gardening activities led by Extension Master Gardeners on homeless women with children. Results show Master Gardeners can play an important role in helping homeless families mitigate the psychological trauma associated with homelessness and help homeless individuals develop a restored sense of dignity.

Teaching Livestock Producers to Use Handheld Computers
McCutcheon, Jefferson S.; Boyles, Stephen L.
Mandatory animal ID is a well-discussed topic among livestock producers. A national ID program will probably require animal records to be maintained in electronic format. A 2-day intensive training was held to help cattle producers become proficient in using a handheld computer for animal record keeping. On an end-of-meeting evaluation, 99% of the participants felt a handheld computer would make record keeping tasks easier. A follow-up survey was mailed 1 year after the program generated a 70% response rate. After one year, only 57% of the participants felt that the handheld computer made their record-keeping task easier.

Building the "Rust Fast Track System" for Identifying Asian Soybean Rust in Iowa
Robertson, Alison; Tylka, Gregory L.
Asian soybean rust is a serious soybean leaf disease not yet discovered in Iowa. There are common soybean leaf diseases that may be confused with Asian soybean rust. To achieve accurate and prompt identification of Asian soybean rust throughout the state, the Iowa Soybean Rust Fast Track system was created. This unique system makes use of hundreds of private agricultural professionals throughout Iowa and 40 Iowa State University Extension field personnel to filter out suspected soybean rust samples that are common soybean leaf diseases, thereby ensuring that the ISU Plant Disease clinic is not inundated with minor diseases of soybean.

Tools of the Trade

Effectiveness of a Gardening Newsletter
Coffin, Donna R.
Newsletters are a time-honored Extension method of disseminating research-based information to help clients live fuller, more productive lives. But are they as effective as we think they are? To find out, we surveyed home gardeners receiving a monthly garden newsletter from their county Extension office. The survey demonstrated that this newsletter, in its present format, (paper, and online in HTML and PDF) is meeting the needs of the target audience and has effectively fostered more sustainable gardening practices. The survey also demonstrated an interest among this audience in receiving electronic versions of newsletters in the future.

Developing and Using the Narrative-Story Simulation as a Teaching Tool
Lehtola, Carol J.
Activities in which participants work through real-world scenarios can enhance their ability to manage complex situations and can encourage implementation of risk management strategies and adoption of safety practices. Practical and credible information presented in a "hands-on" setting is engaging and memorable. This article shows how to develop and use one method for presenting such activities: the narrative-story simulation. Examples and sources of materials are given.

The Skillathon: Program Evaluation Can Be Fun!
Blalock, Lydia B.; Strieter, Linda
Extension professionals continue to look for innovative methods to evaluate programs, especially tools that capture improvements in skills but are not burdensome to participants. This article describes how an often-used educational activity, the skillathon, can be adapted easily for use as an assessment tool well suited for documenting skill changes. The authors used this technique successfully for 3 years with up to 35 special needs youth per session to assess skills learned in the RCE Youth Farmstand Program. Participants describe the skillathon assessment as "fun" and one of the "best" parts of the program!

Assessing Educational Materials Using Cognitive Interviews Can Improve and Support Lesson Design
Wenrich, Tionni R.; Brown, J. Lynne
We used cognitive interviews to assess the reactions of a sample of low-income men (n=4) and women (n=4) to a "model" nutrition education lesson designed to increase functional vegetable intake. Participant comments on the lesson's wording, slide titles, format, graphics, and message clarity and relevance enabled us to improve a functional vegetable lesson series from which the model lesson was drawn by simplifying unfamiliar wording and recipe instructions, using preferred slide titles and format, replacing problematic graphics, and clarifying advice on intake recommendations.

Volunteers' Perceptions of the Volunteer Management Practices of County Extension 4-H Educators
Sinasky, Megan; Bruce, Jacklyn
A quantitative study was conducted to collect preliminary information on volunteers' perceptions of the volunteer management skills and practices of Cooperative Extension educators. Findings included that volunteers were able to articulate that Extension educators: use a contingent reward style of management, enable volunteers to take the lead on projects and in committee work, and recognize and reward their volunteers in a way that celebrates the volunteer's unique characteristics and contributions. Recommendations include professional development for educators and volunteers to develop a variety of strong administrative skills.

Building Successful Partnerships for Technology Transfer
Monroe, Martha C.; McDonell, Lauren; Hermansen-Báez, L. Annie; Long, Alan J.; Zipperer, Wayne
As budgets for Cooperative Extension projects get tighter, many units are enticed to consider partnerships with agencies and organizations to continue to proactively deliver services. Our experience working with the USDA Forest Service in a partnership that involves joint staffing and funding for technology transfer and research projects enables us to offer specific advice on how to use this tool most effectively. Communication and planning are essential and should cover everything from who gets office keys to who hires temporary staff.

Innovation Is Key for Technology-Based Outreach
Jasinski, James R.
The Ohio State University (OSU) funded an outreach and engagement grant to design the Gardeners' Toolshed, a garden center kiosk. The kiosk represented a unique opportunity for OSU to introduce itself to the citizens of Ohio in the area of gardening and pest management. The kiosk is a touch-screen-enabled computer with specific content in 14 areas ranging from plants to water gardens. This project was piloted in a garden center in southwest Ohio for just over 1 year. A user survey revealed they were quite pleased with the overall user interface, appearance, and informational content of the kiosk.