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What's your program's story?

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I am a daily reader of your programs' blogs, social media, newsletters and beyond. Recently, CFANS Extension has been involved with invasive species issues--aquatic and terrestrial--such as emerald ash borer and spotted wing drosophila. I witnessed the field work in backyard poultry production and agroforestry efforts. We have also been part of community emergency response programming due to the significant flooding, especially with our cropping systems.

Now, let's address the follow-up question our stakeholders sometimes wonder: so what? Great, Extension is conducting some trials and educational events--so what?

Let's add context to the work so stakeholders know how we make a difference for farms, forests, communities and ultimately Minnesota. What condition does programming change: economic, environmental or agronomic? Then consider, how can I communicate that condition change? In other words, what is your program's story?

When someone asks what you are doing lately, tell them about the events, products and/or trials. But keep going. Tell the story about why you do your work. Give examples.

Years ago as an Extension specialist, I made a regular habit of describing my manure management programs by how they could increase producers' yields and profitability while at the same time reducing the nitrate loading in streams and rivers that flow into the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico. The context and story illustrate why our work matters.

-Mike Schmitt

Promotion process success

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Congratulations to the specialists and educators who successfully went through the promotion process this past year in CFANS and Extension. I am impressed by the breadth and depth of documentation these individuals provided. In CFANS and the Center for Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, our work is conducive to meeting many of the requirements for promotion.

-Mike Schmitt


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Congratulations to our Extension educators who were honored by extension professional organizations including Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals (ANREP), Minnesota Association of Extension Agricultural Professionals (MAEAP), National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA), and National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS).

Honoree Organization Award/honor
David Bau MAEAP/NACAA First place - state and regional finalist, learning module/notebook, "2013 What is a Fair and Profitable Rental Agreement Master Handbook" / second place - state, publication, "2014 Farm Resource Guide" / third place - state, computer-generated graphics presentation with script, "2014 Winter Crops Days: Outlook for Corn, Soybeans and Rent"
Debra Botzek Linn NEAFCS Second place central region and third place national winner: Community Partnership Award / Continued Excellence honor
Kathy Brandt NEAFCS Food Safety Award - first place central region and second place national (along with Suzanne Driessen and Katherine Waters)
Suzanne Driessen NEAFCS Food Safety Award - first place central region and second place national (along with Kathy Brandt and Katherine Waters)
Angela Gupta ANREP Early Career Leadership Award
Emily Wilmes MAEAP/NACAA First place - state, audio recordings, "Fly Management for Dairy Cows"
Andrea Lorek Strauss ANREP Honorable Mention, Engaging Natural Resource Volunteers: From Education to Action poster
Julie Miedtke ANREP Long Publication Silver Award, Minnesota Harvester Handbook, along with David Wilsey
David Nicolai MAEAP/NACAA First place - state and regional finalist, video recording, "Herbicide Spray Drift"
Jill Sackett MAEAP/NACAA First place - state and regional finalist, program promotional piece, "Fall Cover Crop Field Day Flyer" / first place - state and regional finalist, fact sheet, "Prevented Plant Cover Crop Options"
Eli Sagor ANREP Long Publication Bronze Award for the Growing your Peer Learning Network: Tools and Tips for the Women Owning Woodlands Network (with four colleagues from other states)
Chuck Schwartau MAEAP/NACAA First place - state plus regional and national finalist, feature story, "How Healthy is the Employment Situation on Your Farm?" / Second place - state, computer-generated graphics presentation with script, "Would You Work for Yourself" / second place - state, program promotional piece, "Dairy Systems That Work - Summer Field Day" / first place - state and regional finalist, personal column, "It's Still Up To You To Get It Done" and "What Keeps Employees"
Liz Stahl MAEAP/NACAA First place - state plus regional and national finalist, computer-generated graphics presentation with script, "Pesticide Resistance in Crop Production" / first place - state and regional finalist, publication, "Control Volunteer Corn for Yield Protection and Corn Rootworm Management"


Faculty journal appearances

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Congratulations to the following specialists and educators from our Center who have had their work published in the last two months.

Buckley, F., Lopez-Villalobos, N., & Heins, B.J. (2014). Crossbreeding: Implications for dairy cow fertility and survival. Animal, pp.122-133.

Diffendorfer, J.E., Loomis, J.B., Ries, L., Oberhauser, K., Lopez-Hoffman, L., Semmens, D., Semmens, B., Butterfield, B., Bagstad, K., Goldstein, J., Wiederholt, R., Mattsson, B., & Thogmartin, W.E. (2014). National valuation of monarch butterflies indicates an untapped potential for incentive-based conservation. Conservation Letters, pp.253-262.

Endres, M.I., Lobeck-Luchterhand, K.M., Espejo, L.A., & Tucker, C.B. (2014). Evaluation of the sample needed to accurately estimate outcome-based measurements of dairy welfare on farm. Journal of Dairy Science, pp.3523-3530.

Guarino, H., Moura, J., Cox, R., Goyal, S., & Patnayak, D. (2014). Survival of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus in fresh pork. Acta Veterinaria Hungarica, pp.257-263.

Hachfeld, G.A. (2014). The Sponsorship Model: Leveraging Extension Program Funds, Building Local Community Collaborations. Journal of Extension.

Hurley, T.M., Rao, X., & Pardey, P.G. (2014). Re-examining the reported rates of return to food and agricultural research and development. American Journal of Agricultural Economics.

Impullitti, A.E. & Malvick, D.K. (2014). Anatomical response and infection of soybean during latent and pathogenic infection by type A and B of Phialophora gregata. PLoS ONE.

Kamanga-Sollo, E., Thornton, K.J., White, M.E., & Dayton, W.R. (2014). Role of G protein-coupled estrogen receptor-1, matrix metalloproteinases 2 and 9, and heparin binding epidermal growth factor-like growth factor in estradiol-17╬▓-stimulated bovine satellite cell proliferation. Domestic Animal Endocrinology, pp.20-26.

Kastendick, D.N., Palik, B.J., Zenner, E.K., Kolka, R.K., Blinn, C.R., & Kragthorpe, J.J. (2014). Regeneration responses in partially-harvested riparian management zones in northern Minnesota. Journal of Water Resource and Protection, pp.556-564.

Koch, R.L. & Pahs, T. (2014). Species composition, abundance, and seasonal dynamics of stink bugs (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae) in Minnesota soybean fields. Environmental Entomology.

Liu, P., Chen, C., Kerr, B.J., Weber, T.E., Johnston, L.J., & Shurson, G.C. (2014). Influence of thermally-oxidized vegetable oils and animal fats on growth performance, liver gene expression, and liver and serum cholesterol and triglycerides in young pigs. Journal of Animal Science, pp.2971-2979.

Liu, P., Kerr, B.J., Chen, C., Weber, T.E., Johnston, L.J. & Shurson, G.C. (2014). Influence of thermally-oxidized vegetable oils and animal fats on energy and nutrient digestibility in young pigs. Journal of Animal Science.

Lobeck-Luchterhand, K.M., Silva, P.R.B., Chebel, R.C., & Endres, M.I. (2014). Effect of prepartum grouping strategy on displacements from the feed bunk and feeding behavior of dairy cows. Journal of Dairy Science, pp.2800-2807.

Malima, G., Blomquist, R., Olson, K., & Schmitt, M. (2014). The Companion Village Project: an extension education tool for improving crop production. Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education.

Martinson, K.L., Coleman, R.C., Rendahl, A.K., Fang, Z., & McCue, M.E. (2014). Estimation of body weight and development of a body weight score for adult equids using morphometric measurements. Journal of Animal Science, pp.2230-2238.

Meloche, K.J., Kerr, B.J., Billor, N., Shurson, G.C. & Dozier, W.A. (2014). Validation of prediction equations for apparent metabolizable energy of corn distillers dried grains with solubles in broiler chicks. Poultry Science, pp.1428-1439.

Nigon, T.J., Mulla, D.J., Rosen, C.J., Cohen, Y., Alchanatis, V., & Rud, R. (2014). Evaluation of the nitrogen sufficiency index for use with high resolution, broadband aerial imagery in a commercial potato field. Precision Agriculture, pp.202-226.

Scholer, J. & Krischik, V. (2014). Chronic exposure of imidacloprid and clothianidin reduce queen survival, foraging, and nectar storing in colonies of bombus impatiens. PLoS ONE, p.3.

Woli, K.P., Fernández, F.G., Sawyer, J.E., Stamper, J.D., Mengel, D.B., Barker, D.W., & Hanna, M.H. (2014). Agronomic comparison of anhydrous ammonia applied with a high speed-low draft opener and conventional knife injection in corn. Agronomy Journal, pp.881-892.

Yost, M.A., Russelle, M.P., & Coulter, J.A. (2014). Field-specific fertilizer nitrogen requirements for first-year corn following alfalfa. Agronomy Journal, pp.645-658.

Yost, M.A., Morris, T.F., Russelle, M.P., & Coulter, J.A. (2014). Second-year corn after alfalfa often requires no fertilizer nitrogen. Agronomy Journal, pp.659-669.

Did we miss your publication? Let us know!

Employee transitions

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As of July 1, 2014, Jim Paulson, Extension educator in dairy, will be relocating to the Rochester Regional Extension Office from the Willmar Regional Extension Office. Jim's move strategically places him in a concentrated dairy area allowing him to interact more with dairy producers and industry professionals. The move will also result in greater programming opportunities and efficiencies within the dairy team.

-Krishona Martinson, program leader

Please join me in welcoming Andrea Rice to the Master Gardener volunteer program leadership team. Her main focus will be to provide teaching technology expertise to the development of Horticulture Continuum of Learning education experiences. Andrea brings experience from her most recent job as coordinator for the Maryland Beginning Farmer Success program at the University of Maryland. Her office will be at the Arboretum, and she starts on July 15.

-Tim Kenny, state director of Master Gardener program

Use evaluation data to tell your story

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When telling your program's story, use evaluation data to illustrate your program's value. In fact, this is essentially what you should do when asked for success stories for the Federal Report. Moreover, the three parts of a Federal Report success story (issue, what has been done and results) provide a useful framework to structure any story to communicate your program's scope, effectiveness and impact.

Learn about the types of evaluation data you can use to illustrate the three parts of a Federal Report success story.

1. Issue

  • Needs assessment data illustrate the problem your program addresses.

  • Data collection method: surveys, focus groups and key informant interviews that ask about interests, priorities and needs, secondary data

2. What has been done

  • Output data give an idea of scope of your program.

  • Data collection method: tracking number of events, counting number of participants, surveys to collect background information on participants

3. Results

  • Outcome data demonstrate your program's effectiveness. However, be sure to articulate how your outcomes can be linked to an impact of public value. Don't just say participants said they will change their behavior, but explain what that behavior is and how that potentially leads to a tangible impact, such as money saved or acres influenced. Personal stories or quotes can be used to make your results more meaningful.

  • Data collection method: surveys with pre-post retrospective questions (including follow-up surveys), survey questions or interviews on how new practices influenced participants' work, focus groups

The Center for Disease Control has a useful guide on how to tell a success story. (It is targeted for public health stories, but the ideas can be applied to our work too.)

Below are examples of how to use evaluation data from past Federal Reports.



One example of a community-based approach to forest management exists in Itasca County. With two million acres of rural forested land, the county hosts 45,000 residents and cabin owners.

Historically, the county averages 60 wildfires each year, and experts predict an increase in the frequency and intensity of fires. Access is an issue for rural fire trucks and emergency service vehicles. According to the Fed Gazette, estimates of the total cost of wildfires to landowners, investors and taxpayers range from 10 to 50 times the cost of fire suppression.

What has been done?
Through education to property owners and facilitation of nine sectors of public service in the county--including 18 rural fire departments--Extension helped mobilize the county to reduce risks from wildfire and improve the safety of Itasca County residents. In 2013, 276 property owners volunteered 19,891 hours to improve defensible space and remove hazardous materials around structures, improving access for emergency service vehicles.

The value for this in-kind contribution equals more than $440,000. In addition, property owners contributed 1,089 tons of hazardous fuel. Deer River Hired Hands, a local nonprofit, hauled materials to neighborhood consolidation sites where it was chipped and used for renewable energy at the Minnesota Power Rapids Energy Center in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

CROPS (2013)

Issue (Who cares and why)
In a highly scientific industry, producers need the newest information about crop and livestock production. One example is the need to examine and manage nitrogen content using recommended fertilizer nitrogen rates. With increasing costs for corn production and greater concern over environmental quality, it is critical that corn growers make sound decisions on purchased inputs. The most frequent and extreme cases of over-application of N in corn often occur in first and second year corn after alfalfa.

Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station researchers conducted a statistical analysis using 259 site years of data from the literature and recent research conducted in Minnesota. They surveyed alfalfa-corn growers in Minnesota to quantify the extent to which they have adopted alfalfa nitrogen credits.

What has been done?
During 2013, follow-up educational presentations on alfalfa nitrogen credits to corn were given at five Extension workshops and at a program sponsored by a commercial soil testing laboratory. These presentations were given to producers and agricultural professionals managing over 1.9 million acres of land.

According to participant evaluations, 55 percent of respondents said that they would modify future fertilizer nitrogen management for first year corn after alfalfa by much or very much. Assuming they reduce their applied or recommended fertilizer nitrogen rate by 40 pounds of fertilizer nitrogen per acre, and that first-year corn after alfalfa represents five percent of the cropland they manage or provide recommendations for, the educational presentation at these programs will cause growers to reduce fertilizer nitrogen use by 2.09 million pounds per year without reducing corn yield. This is an annual savings of $1.15 million at $0.55 per pound of fertilizer nitrogen. With this reduction in fertilizer nitrogen use, energy input to corn production will be reduced by 45.8 million mega joules per year.

MASTER NATURALISTS (2012 Federal Report)

Issue (Who cares and why)
With a significant percentage of its geography preserved in forests, waters and natural fields, organizations struggle to provide all needed environmental education and protection to Minnesota.

What has been done?
Master Naturalists work with and through organizations that are developing and delivering projects that educate and engage citizens and act to make a difference.

With an increased participant pool and more instructors, volunteers and organizations across the state made a stronger impact on Minnesota's land and water. According to the longitudinal study, organizations find Master Naturalist volunteers to be useful in the following ways:

1. Building a network or community invested in their organization.
2. Producing an improvement or outcome for their environmental center.
3. Increasing educational support and leadership.
4. Increasing general awareness of the environment in the community and for organizations.

As one example of an impact, an organization reported, "We were lucky enough to have a Master Naturalist volunteer design our butterfly garden, a project that would have not come to fruition without that particular volunteer."

-Whitney Meredith, evaluation specialist

Stories are the ultimate teaching tool. They entertain us while also helping us understand complex and nuanced information quickly. Most importantly, they can help us communicate the value Extension provides in Minnesota.

How can you identify stories to help describe your Extension work?

1. Find the problem and solution. Stories usually start with a problem/obstacle or something unexpected. They are followed by an "aha!" or a turning point--usually a solution provided by your programming.

2. Look in the everyday. Sometimes we don't recognize our own stories because we think "I'm just doing my job." Step back and remember Extension has a unique and powerful role in our state, and you are doing important work! There is a story to be told. Start with the cousins of stories--examples or anecdotes--and build from there.

3. Practice. Remember you are already telling stories in your everyday life, so start to notice them in all their forms and use them to communicate the value of your Extension programming.

In Extension, pairing stories with evaluation numbers helps us communicate our value.

-Maggie Frazier, writer/editor

Even before she began at Extension, Sally Noll began making connections with the turkey industry.

Sally Noll

Sally Noll

Her mentor, Paul Waibel, a professor in turkey nutrition at the time, insisted on it for his employees including Sally, who was working in his lab before she even began graduate school.

"He was good about making sure we interacted with industry, and I liked that contact," said Sally, Extension specialist.

After starting her Extension position, she worked with and was mentored in Extension programing by David Halvorson (Extension avian veterinarian) who provided her with a strong foundation in working with producers and areas of turkey production other than nutrition.

These connections, and her mentors' focus on the producer, have influenced Sally over the course of her nearly three-decade long career in Extension. Today, Sally continues to ensure her research and programming is applicable and useful to producers.

Many times, Sally's research findings, which are generally focused on nutrition and feeding, can be put to work by producers almost immediately. Starting in 2001 she began studying distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS), a byproduct of ethanol production. At that time distrust prevailed among producers about feeding it to their livestock. Even making it 10 percent of the feed seemed like a stretch. But it was becoming increasingly available and questions abounded.

Sally worked with her advisory group of nutritionists. Sally developed trials to determine how much DDGS could be added to the feed. The results were surprising: she found that depending on the age of the bird, they could easily have 20 percent or more of their feed in DDGS. This information was particularly invaluable in 2008, when feed prices shot up and there was not enough corn to go around.

"Here we are 13 years later, and now everyone knows about distillers grains," said Sally.

It's safe to say the Extension turkey program, led by Sally, is one of the reasons Minnesota is the number one turkey producing state in the country.

"It would be nice to take all the credit," joked Sally. "But there are a lot of reasons including teamwork with other U of M units, the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and the industry itself."

The entrepreneurial turkey Extension program includes Turkey Health School, which is an intensive two-day workshop held in conjunction with Rob Porter of the Diagnostic Lab in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Because this top-rated workshop is so hands-on, they limit the number of attendees to around 50 producers. In addition to her general speaking circuit, Sally leads the poultry portion of the Minnesota Nutrition Conference (the conference is now in its 75th year).

This spring, a producer commented that "[the industry] felt I knew them, and they trusted me to know their perspectives and communicate that in the University system," said Sally.

That's what Extension can do.

Build your career in Extension

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I recently had the privilege of attending the award ceremony for the Siehl Prize, which recognizes those who make significant contributions in feeding the world. The grand event was made even more special because one of this year's recipients was Dr. Mark Seeley--an Extension specialist who is truly one of us.

In accepting this award, Mark talked about his career in Extension and how proud he is to be part of Extension. It reminded me of watching delighted (and sometimes surprised) individuals accept the Dean's Award at Program Conference. Do you ever envision yourself as the recipient of a special honor? I have.

Consider the vision for your career. I hope you see yourself building your career in Extension to achieve your goals. Take advantage of the professional development funding you are all allocated to be a citizen of your professional societies. Be the scholar and/or leader you desire to be in your Extension position.

-Mike Schmitt

Many of you have expressed an interest in seeing other program teams' program business plans. Now you can view their program summaries on our Center's intranet. Take a look! Have an update? Let us know; we're happy to make changes.

CFANS Extension is pleased to announce the foods/food safety Extension educators will be part of our team on July 1. Food is an inherent component of most of our programming, and food issues are key throughout Extension. Joellen Feirtag, Extension specialist in food science, will be the program leader. We gladly welcome Joellen and Deb Botzek-Linn, Kathy Brandt, Suzanne Driessen, Glenyce Peterson-Vangsness and Connie Schwartau.

Save the date for Program Conference 2014

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The 2014 Extension Program Conference will be held October 6 to 8 at the Hilton Airport/Mall of America Hotel in Bloomington. This conference is designed for Extension faculty and offers learning opportunities on personal, programmatic and organizational topics. Program Conference is a valuable networking and professional development opportunity. We hope to see you there!

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