October 2019 // Volume 57 // Number 5
Hastening the Publication Process and October JOE Highlights
In "Hastening the Publication Process," I offer a bit of ironic advice to academic authors who want to get published as quickly as possible. In "October JOE Highlights," I describe several articles in the issue focused on the power of interconnectedness and its relationship to today's Extension work, and I give examples of other compelling topics that are covered.
Get Started or Unstuck: Four Elements of Successful Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Extension
Minnesota Extension needs to increase interdisciplinary collaboration across the organization to remain successful. Through interviews with associate deans and Extension educators, we investigated elements of existing interdisciplinary collaboration and recommended ways to approach such collaborations. Common themes identified were (a) the need to identify an issue requiring collaboration, (b) the need to define success, (c) the need to clarify expectations, and (d) the need to determine resources. Our findings can help Extension professionals get started, or unstuck, in the pursuit of successful interdisciplinary collaborations.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on “Get Started or Unstuck: Four Elements of Successful Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Extension”
The Problem with Teaching Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math as Inquiry Versus by Inquiry
4-H professionals implementing problem-based learning and other minimally guided instruction techniques in science, technology, engineering, and math education often do so with learners working in small groups, a strategy that allows learners to construct knowledge through social interactions. However, educators who implement these techniques without an understanding of human cognitive architecture risk confusing the teaching of a discipline as inquiry with the teaching of the discipline by inquiry. The assumption that knowledge is learned best through experience does not account for the difference between experts who are practicing a profession and students who are learning to practice a profession.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on “The Problem with Teaching Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math as Inquiry Versus by Inquiry”
Ideas at Work
Improving the Viability of New Farmers' Operations Through the Use of Profit Teams
Profit teams comprise multiple consultants engaged to support farmer decision making by holistically analyzing farm challenges. We tested the idea of using profit teams to help advanced beginning farmers, those who are beyond start-up but have been in business less than 10 years, address constraints to growing their businesses. These new entrepreneurs often have entered agriculture without a family farming history or a connection to Extension. We describe the processes of selecting farmers and administering teams, and we highlight significant improvements in quality of life, production, and profitability reported by 35 farmers. Our lessons learned may guide other educators and funders in developing profit teams for their beginning farmer clients.
Land-Based Learning: A Learning Paradigm for Building Community and Sustainable Farms
Mitigating complex problems is increasingly essential to sustaining life on Earth. Empowering current and future generations to address these problems requires rethinking traditional education approaches. This article serves as a primer for land-based learning—defined as a pedagogical approach in which learners collaborate with community members to implement place-based interventions within agricultural systems to increase the sustainability of their community. As an introduction to land-based learning, the article (a) describes critical checkpoints within land-based learning, (b) illuminates the role of Extension educators in facilitating land-based learning, and (c) introduces a case study of land-based learning in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Using Farmer Storytelling to Build Understanding of Our "New Weather Reality"
A storytelling session was successful in raising awareness and understanding of the types of changes in weather patterns farmers are experiencing in Maine, what impacts those changes are having on their operations, and the changes farmers are making in response. Using an outreach approach rooted in farmer stories allowed us to bypass the controversy that often surrounds topics related to climate change. Likewise, focusing on the farmers' experiences and avoiding corrective statements during this introductory session resulted in productive dialogue. We recommend replicating this approach within different agricultural sectors to increase understanding of sector-specific risks and strategies for adaptation.
Development of a Healthful Weight Management Nutrition Education Curriculum for Low-Income Adults
Food Talk: Better U (FTBU) is a healthful weight management curriculum developed by the University of Georgia's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) team. FTBU addresses the high burden of obesity among low-income Georgians by focusing on healthful weight management practices. Topics include practicing portion control, tracking dietary intake, setting goals, limiting added sugar, making small healthful behavior shifts, and implementing problem-solving strategies. Lesson structure includes sharing sessions, didactic lessons, cooking demonstrations, and physical activity. FTBU is based on needs assessment results and rigorous evaluation and thereby aligns with requirements outlined in current SNAP-Ed guidance materials. Other Extension SNAP-Ed providers may benefit from understanding the FTBU development and evaluation processes.
Tools of the Trade
Promising Practices for Leading Virtual Teams
Extension professionals are increasingly participating in virtual work. Leading these new virtual teams presents challenges to building relationships within the teams, establishing trust, and communicating effectively. As the national project leader of the Military Families Learning Network, I share promising practices developed over 8 years of virtual work delivering online professional development for professionals who assist military families, including Extension professionals.
Action Steps and Tools for Managing a Statewide Curriculum Development Process
Practical aspects of curriculum development, especially that involving multiple authors, often are overlooked, but they are critical to moving a curriculum from concept to finished product. The Ohio 4-H Camping Design Team developed a competency-model-based curriculum for training the state's 4-H teen camp counselors. The team incorporated action steps and associated management tools to facilitate the curriculum development process. Action steps included establishing a timeline, using a template, tracking progress, and conducting an internal review. The action steps and tools the team used can be replicated by others developing curricula, training programs, and other resources for Extension audiences.
Using Online Panels to Inform Extension Programming
Extension personnel are faced with measuring public stakeholder behavior, perceptions, and preferences so as to inform program development. At the same time, many are faced with a lack of the financial resources necessary for acquiring generalizable and statistically representative samples. To reconcile these challenges, our team purchased an online survey panel from Qualtrics. Throughout the process of gathering and analyzing data, our team gained insights that may be of interest to others considering the use of online survey panels to sample broad stakeholder populations. Additional findings related to survey design and implementation also provide guidance for those interested in using this sampling methodology.
Visual-Based Minimal-Text Food Safety Training Tools for Chinese-Speaking Food Service Workers
This article describes visual-based minimal-text food safety tools developed in Mandarin Chinese to educate Chinese-speaking food service workers about safe food handling practices. Ten posters and one PowerPoint presentation were developed, and their efficacy in conveying critical food safety messages was tested with Chinese-speaking food service workers in Iowa. Extension educators can use these tools for formal and informal food safety education, thereby contributing to protecting public health.
Experience Bees: Community Outreach Tool for Bee Conservation Efforts
Despite the importance of bees, there is a gap in the public's understanding of them. To help address this gap, we developed the outreach tool Experience Bees, a series of simple learning and hands-on activities to teach community members about bees and their importance in our landscapes. Program evaluation showed that participants learned about bees and were more willing to consider bees when planting their own gardens, demonstrating that a suite of simple activities can have a positive impact on people's knowledge of bees and their importance. We encourage readers to use our tool and replicate our methods or to design and implement similar projects to engage their audiences in pollinator conservation.
Correlating Project Learning Tree to 4-H Life Skills: Connections and Implications
To determine how Extension educators can use environmental education materials to develop life skills in youths, we correlated a national environmental education curriculum developed by Project Learning Tree (PLT) to the 4-H Life Skills Wheel. Youth development professionals can use the resulting correlations to determine which life skills the various PLT activities help develop. The correlation results also provide insights regarding how PLT activities help develop head, heart, and hands skills.
Engaging Residents in Participatory Photomapping and Readiness Conversations to Address the Rural Obesogenic Context
Extension engaged rural Idaho community stakeholders to assess local resources and readiness to address obesogenic contexts through use of the Extension tool HEAL MAPPS. Through participatory photomapping, focus group involvement, and a community readiness conversation, residents identified environmental resources and local efforts as supports for and barriers to healthful eating and active living. Findings indicated that the community was "vaguely aware" that rural obesity risk is a socioenvironmentally determined issue. Extension professionals using HEAL MAPPS effectively promoted new and shared knowledge of weight health resources among community members, enabled rural residents to have a voice in addressing the community context, and empowered community actions.
Extension as a Multilevel Bridging Organization: Supporting Networked Environmental Governance
Governmental and nongovernmental actors at different spatial and jurisdictional levels have information that can benefit natural resources management; however, barriers in communication and organizational culture often prevent information sharing and joint endeavors. Bridging entities, such as task forces or working groups, bring together potential stakeholders to pool expertise and stimulate shared learning. Using a network survey, interview data, and meeting minutes, we constructed a case study of task forces convened to stimulate management of the emerald ash borer, an invasive wood-boring beetle. We found that coordinated action among university and county Extension catalyzed bridging through visionary program design and network positioning.
Unlocking the Potential of Older Adult Volunteers: The Intergenerational Leadership Institute Model as a Resource for Bolstering Extension
The Intergenerational Leadership Institute (ILI) is a yearlong certificate training program developed by Pennsylvania State University for older adults (55-plus) seeking new lifelong learning and civic engagement experiences and opportunities to contribute to innovation and change in their communities. Data from participant surveys and observations of ILI-related training and program planning sessions indicate growth in participants' intergenerational programming and leadership skills in the context of translating intervention ideas into concrete plans and programs. This article describes the process and outcomes of ILI chapters in State College, Pennsylvania, and Montgomery County, Maryland, and tools and resources for assisting with program dissemination.
A Phenomenological Inquiry into Producers' Experiences Growing Organic Produce
Global population growth necessitates increasing food production while reducing the environmental impact of intensive agriculture. Organic production can address this need; however, organic producers lack the Extension support needed to advance their practice. Using phenomenological design, we explored how organic producers experience growing organically. We report factors relevant to producers' decision to grow organically, their experiences with adopting organic practices, and the alignment of their philosophical stances with the concept of growing organically. Participants would benefit from Extension programs targeted toward organic agriculture. We propose an Extension model to support producers in becoming more effective and efficient at growing organically.
Personal Connections: What Women in Sustainable Agriculture Value in Their Professional Development
We designed a national sustainable agriculture conference for women farmers and agricultural professionals to provide a supportive environment in which participants felt comfortable to learn, share, contribute, question, network, and make connections affecting their personal and professional lives. Through postconference and later retrospective evaluations, we identified key concepts that Extension professionals and others hosting agricultural events may consider when engaging women participants. Women in sustainable agriculture may prioritize choosing a conference, and are more likely to participate fully, when it is women focused. Women appreciate hands-on experiences and learning from experts and peers but value most the opportunity to connect with other women in similar circumstances.
Strengthening the 4-H Essential Elements of Positive Youth Development at Camp
Summer camp programs provide distinct opportunities for positive youth development through caring relationships and opportunities to build skills. To examine the extent to which youths experience the 4-H Essential Elements through 4-H camp programs, we administered the National 4-H Camping Research Consortium's Camp Context Questionnaire to youths (n = 776) across 20 camps. Results indicated some exposure to the Essential Elements. Although mean scores related to establishing relationships with caring adults were high, room for improvement existed in the areas of self-determination, belonging, and personal safety. The results enabled state and local staff to implement strategic decisions for future camp programs and may be of value to others managing 4-H camp programming.
Research in Brief
Extension-Led Training for Human Services Providers on Use of a Financial Empowerment Tool
We investigated the effectiveness of an Extension-led training for human services providers on Your Money, Your Goals: A Financial Empowerment Toolkit, a resource developed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Results from pretests, posttests, and focus group research indicate that participants significantly increased confidence in their ability to understand, access, and convey financial information. Recommendations include making adjustments to improve future trainings and addressing the need for additional financial literacy professional development. We offer lessons learned that Extension professionals can use to expand the reach of financial empowerment education and can apply to other trainings for professionals, regardless of discipline.
Poverty Simulations for Human Services Professionals: Impacts and Implications
We examined the program outcomes of a poverty simulation offered by Nebraska Extension. Using qualitative and quantitative data sets collected from 582 participants, we investigated their emotional, attitudinal, and learning outcomes. The overall findings suggest that poverty simulations can enable participants to empathize with people living in poverty, reduce their misconceptions about people living in poverty and about governmental support, and improve their awareness of financial hardship, economic difficulties, government programs, and community resources. We provide recommendations for poverty simulation implementation, such as more rigorous use of orientation, group discussion, and community resources.
Social Marketing–Enhanced Home Energy Education Encourages Adoption of Energy-Saving Practices
We developed a program centered on a social marketing–enhanced home energy education visit to encourage homeowner adoption of specific energy conservation measures. We randomly assigned 170 homeowners to an experimental condition that included energy education before an energy audit or a control condition that included only an energy audit. Participants in the experimental condition adopted more no-cost and low-cost one-time energy conservation changes, such as adjusting refrigerator/freezer temperatures and lowering hot water temperature. However, they did not invest more in home energy renovations or other costly changes, such as replacing inefficient appliances. We discuss implications of this experiment for enhancing effectiveness of Extension-based energy education programs.
Landowner Adoption of Water Quality Best Management Practices: Motivations and Barriers
To assist Extension professionals working in Texas's Little River Watershed with efforts to educate landowners about reducing amounts of bacteria there, we assessed motivations for and barriers to landowners' adopting best management practices (BMPs). We surveyed 275 landowners in the watershed. Respondents were at least somewhat familiar with nine of 11 identified BMPs. Additionally, they agreed that 10 of 13 listed factors were motivators for adopting BMPs and that six of 14 listed factors were barriers to adopting BMPs. Extension professionals can help landowners move through the innovation-decision process by targeting educational programming and materials to motivations for and barriers to adoption of such practices.
Using Risk Perceptions to Develop Effective Great Lakes Aquatic Invasive Species Outreach
We examined risk perceptions that aquatic-based recreation stakeholders in the Great Lakes region held about fish diseases, using viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) as our case study. Eighty-five percent of study participants knew nothing or very little about VHS. Regarding risks posed by VHS, participants overall were most concerned about risks to the environment and fishing. Additionally, greater than 75% were concerned about fish diseases, in general, affecting the Great Lakes or inland lakes. Outreach efforts can be enhanced by focusing on areas of greatest risk invasion; targeting boaters, paddlers, kayakers, and anglers; increasing awareness of and concern about fish diseases; and communicating actions boaters should take.
Mississippi Residents' Perceptions of Extension
A representative sample of Mississippi residents were asked about their knowledge and perceptions of the Mississippi State University (MSU) Extension Service through an online questionnaire. About half of the respondents were aware of MSU Extension, but fewer than one fifth had used MSU Extension resources. Respondents who were aware of MSU Extension had generally positive perceptions of MSU Extension's characteristics and believed those characteristics to be important. Like previous empirical and anecdotal evidence, these results support continued characterization of Extension as a "best-kept secret." There is a clear need to improve awareness of Extension and the resources it makes available to the public.
Analysis Identifies Need to Educate Wine Grape Growers on Crop Insurance Issues
A spatial analysis of variation in return on investment for crop insurance showed that West Coast wine grape growers are more inclined to use insurance to maximize short-term net returns than to protect against cash flow shortages. Growers would benefit from knowing that even if crop insurance does not maximize short-term net returns, it increases the revenue floor, thereby helping prevent cash flow shortages and vineyard failure. With crop insurance as the backbone of the U.S. agricultural safety net, an understanding of factors that drive variation in crop insurance participation can improve agricultural Extension agents' ability to offer programming on crop insurance issues. Additionally, agents can use publicly available data to replicate the analysis described in this article for other insured crops.
Developing Herd Health Education for and Assessing Risky Practices of Cow-Calf Producers
Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) is an often unrecognized problem in cow-calf herds. We describe a program we used to help producers identify and avoid practices that could increase their herds' risk for BRD. The greatest knowledge gains occurred for the topics of costs associated with BRD, BRD risks at the feedlot, and biosecurity measures. Through producer self-assessments, we found that the number of risky practices conducted by producers ranged from none to 22 per operation, averaging 10 per operation. Extension professionals should consider combining producer self-assessment with education on management as an effective strategy for informing producers of risks in their operations.
Exploration of Dairy Calf Management Practices and Educational Needs in Vermont
Proper calf care is important on dairy farms as management practices affect animal well-being and productivity as well as farm profitability. This article highlights areas of calf management needing improvement according to the results of a mixed-mode survey intended to provide a snapshot of calf management practices in Vermont. Areas for which improvement is needed aligned with farmers' identification of topics of interest and included calving management, nutrition (particularly neonatal feeding practices), and biosecurity (including vaccination). Extension professionals can draw on information about practices needing improvement and topics of interest to farmers to better position themselves to provide outreach tailored to the real and perceived needs of their clients.