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The common denominator of program success

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Over the past few months, I have met with numerous "official" program teams and with groups of local, regional, and departmental faculty. I have also read performance reviews. As I reflect on these formal and informal meetings and documents, I see each person's unique part in accomplishing programming.

Some are leaders (yet no one uses that word), some are do-ers who take care of the teaching and planning, and some are logistics folks who concentrate on implementation. It's no surprise that most folks can articulate their own roles better than another's!

I have witnessed many forms of programming success. When I ask county educators, regional educators, or specialists what led to success, many refer to a comprehensive and usually strategic thought process. This is especially true for the more successful or popular programs. You are all articulating your work and your success--and what you describe is at the core of the program business planning process, though it may take time to think of it that way.

Your programmatic strategies have a common denominator: program business planning.

Thanks for all you do!

-Mike Schmitt

Apply for Extension e-learning project support! Selected projects will receive a package of services from Extension Technology and central University resources as available. The support package provides a hands-on experience for the project team to be inspired, learn, practice, and collaborate for the design and development of online Extension programs and applications. Proposed e-learning tools and products can include apps, videos, lecture captures, podcasts, Moodle modules, and e-books.

Learn more about e-learning support and view the proposal requirements. The deadline for learning technology proposals is May 1.

Karen Oberhauser, professor in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology and Extension specialist, received a 2014 Wings Across the Americas Conservation Award in the communities in conservation category. For more than 20 years, Karen and the graduate students and staff members at the University of Minnesota Monarch Lab have served to link academic research with community outreach programs associated with monarch conservation. The migration is being threatened by habitat loss throughout the butterfly's range.

-Nate Meyer, program leader

Welcome, Joshua Stamper

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Joshua Stamper started as the new Extension irrigation specialist on March 26. This is a 100 percent Extension position and is joint with the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering. Joshua received his master of science degree in agronomy/soils from Kansas State University in 2009 and has been working at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture since 2011 as the state nutrient BMP technical coordinator. His office is in 227 Soils Building. Please stop by and welcome Joshua.

-Carl Rosen, head of Department of Soil, Water and Climate

Clint Schoeck departs

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Clint Schoeck, CFANS Extension accountant, will be leaving his position on April 11 to fill the accountant position in the College of Science & Engineering (School of Mathematics) on the East Bank. Clint came to Extension from the University of Minnesota, Duluth and has served as the CFANS Extension accountant since March 2012. Clint has been a great asset to Extension Finance & Planning and CFANS Extension teams and will be greatly missed. We wish him well in his new position and thank him for his contributions these past two years.

-Rick Konkol, finance manager, Extension Finance & Planning

Finance questions after April 11

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After Clint Schoeck's departure on April 11 (see notice), questions related to non-sponsored activities route through Rick Konkol and questions related to sponsored activities route through Mary Ann Keddie or Extension Grants Management Team. Educators will work with the same regional support staff and EFS document approvals would flow: departmental (Rick) and sponsored (Mary Ann).

Most of you use some type of end-of-workshop evaluation survey to gather feedback on your program, which is great! However, as you go into the spring and summer workshop season, take some time to ensure you're getting the most out of your surveys. The following are some questions to ask yourself as you review your surveys:
  1. Are you asking the right questions?
    • What information would help take your program to the next level?
    • What information about your program would really impress your stakeholders?
    • Are the questions providing useable and useful data?
    • Do you have the skills and time needed to analyze the data and use the results?
  2. Are you implementing the survey in the most effective way possible?
    • Are you distributing your survey at a strategic time so response rates are maximized?
    • If you're using a paper survey, does it fit on one page (front and back)?
    • Do you communicate to participants why completing the survey is important?
    • What incentives can you raffle off to increase response rate?
    • Are you using the right mode of survey distribution? Would using TurningPoint Clickers or a follow-up online survey to collect data make more sense than a paper survey?
  3. Is an end-of-workshop survey actually the method of data collection you should be using? Here are some alternatives:
    • Have participants interview each other.
    • Have participants identify goals. Collect their goals and follow up with them in a couple months to check their progress.
    • Post questions on the wall and have participants stick their answers on the wall with sticky notes.
    • Collect demographic data using Qualtrics on a tablet when they check in. This frees you up to use other data collection methods--and saves you from having to enter their information later.
  4. Have you sent your survey to me for feedback? Please don't hesitate to ask me to review it! (I prefer to get it at least a week before you need it ready.)
-Whitney Meredith, evaluation specialist

Recent updates to Extension's website template mean the layout automatically adjusts to suit your device. Check out extension.umn.edu on your smart phone or tablet (or just resize your browser window) and notice how the page changes: fewer images use less data, resized type is easier to read, and a single column minimizes resizing. This is known as responsive design. Now your audiences can easily browse the site, even in the garden or field.

With all of our websites now in a single template, it's easier to adapt our code to current technologies--leaving more time for content.

Katie Gallagher, communications designer

At age 16, he started a job on a research farm. On evenings and weekends he worked on his family's farm. At the end of the day, the hard work always felt worthwhile. Plus he knew he could make a career of it.

"I always knew with agriculture there would be jobs because people need to eat," said Andy Robinson, Extension potato agronomist.

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Andy Robinson

Andy continues his work in agriculture and research today, servicing potato growers in a joint U of M and NDSU appointment. In 2011 US potato production, North Dakota rated number six in the country, followed by Minnesota at number 7. Our potato growing region is unique in that a variety of potatoes are grown. The Red River Valley is famous for the red potato.

"We produce the most in the nation here in the Red River Valley," said Andy.

Herbicide interaction is one of the areas where Andy focuses research. Potatoes are sensitive to herbicides such as glyphosate, and low levels can reach potatoes from drift, inversion, or tank contamination. The herbicide travels through the plant to the tubers where it stays until the seed is planted in the spring.

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Candelabra formation of shoots due to herbicide interaction.

That's when the symptoms may appear, often in an erratic and slow emergence pattern. Other symptoms include bending, twisting and yellowing of leaves; multiple shoots from an eye; candelabra formation of shoots, prolific roots or reduced rooting, and/or enlarged shoots. These symptoms don't appear at the time of plant and glyphosate interaction--the problem comes with emergence the following year.

"Winter tests" help determine whether the seed is contaminated. While North Dakota and Minnesota are frozen solid, seed samples are sent to sunny Hawaii or Florida and planted. They are observed for symptoms. And yes, Andy was able to escape to Florida to walk the fields!

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Andy at a field day in Becker, MN.

Andy's Extension work helps educate producers on the key steps they can take to address issues with herbicide interactions. One critical step is to establish good communication--with neighbors and the seed supplier. Neighbors need to be aware of sensitive crops in the area before spraying herbicide. Of course, training pesticide applicators is related. Interviewing seed suppliers to learn whether they're implementing best practices will help protect the next crop.

Another recommendation is to plant wheat or barley borders around the potato field, which helps keep the potato plot farther away from potential drift. In the long run, this is a worthwhile step.

"As an Extension specialist, part of my job is to get that information out," Andy said.

What's next for this field? The challenge is how to improve output while reducing inputs. Potatoes use a good deal of water and nitrogen. Andy is looking at quantifying the agronomic value of new potato varieties that require less water and nitrogen. He is also excited about opportunities to use technology to reduce other inputs.

Looks like he'll continue to spend time in the field--working on research and education.

As you may recall, the county web pages were long overdue for an update. The pages launched early this year and continue to be implemented in phases; this is the first phase. After participating in training sessions, county educators--among others--have access to update county pages through the content management system (CMS). Take a look!

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Program success and credit or debit cards

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We've all experienced the frustration of seeing a "cash or check only" sign at a business. We all expect to be able to pay with a credit card. To that end, Extension is examining options to help programs accept credit/debit cards more widely.

One reason is our brand: our image is lowered when we do not offer basic conveniences to our audiences. The goal is to obtain payment so audiences focus on the value of the program. Thus, please do not charge a higher fee for credit/debit card use—or a lower fee for check or cash. As you may recall from Stephen Castleberry's presentation to our Center at Program Conference last fall, price is closely tied to brand.

Another reason is we, as an organization, need to spend less time handling money. It's true that credit cards charge us a fee; we accept this as the cost of doing business. Cash and check are not our preferred methods of payment!

Online registration facilitates accepting credit cards, and now Extension Technology has one portable swipe terminal that can be used for in-person transactions. This equipment will be available for loan beginning mid-March by contacting Erik Bremer. Each of the five Extension regions has one as well. More details will be forthcoming.

-Mike Schmitt

Faculty journal appearances

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Congratulations to the following faculty (in bold) from our Center who have had their work published since the start of 2014.


Bandrick, M., Ariza-Nieto, C., Baidoo, S.K., & Molitor, T.W. (2014). Colostral antibody-mediated and cell-mediated immunity contributes to innate and antigen-specific immunity in piglets. Developmental and Comparative Immunology, pp. 114-120.


Baker, J.M., Fassbinder, J., & Lamb, J.A. (2014). The impact of corn stover removal on N2O emission and soil respiration: an investigation with automated chambers. BioEnergy Research.


Bjorklund, E.A., Heins, B.J., DiCostanzo, A., & Chester-Jones, H. (2014). Growth, carcass characteristics, and profitability of organic versus conventional dairy beef steers. Journal of Dairy Science, pp. 1817-1827.


Bjorklund, E.A., Heins, B.J., DiCostanzo, A., & Chester-Jones, H. (2014). Fatty acid profiles, meat quality, and sensory attributes of organic versus conventional dairy beef steers. Journal of Dairy Science, pp. 1828-1834.


Casler, M.D. , Undersander, D.J., Papadopolous, Y.A., Bittman, S., Hunt, D., Mathison, R.D., Min, D.H., Robins, J.G., Cherney, J.H., Acharya, S.N., Belesky, D.P., Bowley, S.R., Coulman, B.E., Drapeau, R., Ehlke, N.J., Hall, M.H., Leep, R.H., Michaud, R., Rowsell, J., Shewmaker, G.E., Teutsch, C.D., & Coblentz, W.K. (2014). Sparse-flowering orchardgrass represents an improvement in forage quality during reproductive growth. Crop Science, pp. 421-429.


Johnson, J.M.F., Novak, J.M., Varvel, G.E., Stott, D.E., Osborne, S.L., Karlen, D.L., Lamb, J.A., Baker, J., & Adler, P.R. (2014). Crop residue mass needed to maintain soil organic carbon levels: can it be determined? BioEnergy Research.


Kaiser, D.E., Wiersma, J.J., & Anderson, J.A. (2014). Genotype and environment variation in elemental composition of spring wheat flag leaves. Agronomy Journal, pp. 324-336.


Karlen, D.L., Birrell, S.J., Johnson, J.M.F., Osborne, S.L., Schumacher, T.E., Varvel, G.E., Ferguson, R.B., Novak, J.M., Fredrick, J.R., Baker, J.M., Lamb, J.A., Adler, P.R., Roth, G.W., & Nafziger, E.D. (2014). Multilocation corn stover harvest effects on crop yields and nutrient removal. BioEnergy Research.


Scheffler, J.M., McCann, M.A., Greiner, S.P., Jiang, H., Hanigan, M.D., Bridges, G.A , Lake, S.L., & Gerrard, D.E. (2014). Early metabolic imprinting events increase marbling scores in fed cattle. Journal of Animal Science, pp. 320-324.


Song, R., Chen, C., Johnston, L.J., Kerr, B.J., Weber, T.E., & Shurson, G.C. (2014). Effects of feeding diets containing highly peroxidized distillers dried grains with solubles and increasing vitamin E levels to wean-finish pigs on growth performance, carcass characteristics, and pork fat composition. Journal of Animal Science, pp. 198-210.


Wilson, E.W., Rowntree, S.C., Suhre, J.J., Weidenbenner, N.H., Conley, S.P., Davis, V.M., Diers, B.W., Esker, P.D., Naeve, S.L., Specht, J.E., & Casteel, S.N. (2014). Genetic gain × management interactions in soybean: II. nitrogen utilization. Crop Science, pp. 340-348.


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