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Changes in winter ISU Extension and Outreach programming

By Kriss Nelson - Farm News editor | Jan 5, 2021

By KRISS NELSON

editor@farm-news.com

Although plans for in-person meetings and programs are being changed to virtual presentations, people can still expect the same informative content from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

“There are all kinds of Extension activities still going on, it is just happening in different modes that it usually does,” said Angie Rieck-Hinz, Iowa State University Extension field agronomist. “Even though a lot of the programming that we normally do has either changed focus to be put online or is being delivered in different methods, there is still great opportunities to learn.”

Agronomy in the Field for Women in Agriculture

Rieck-Hinz said the Agronomy in the Field for Women in Agriculture program has been offered for the last six years. The program will be seeing some changes in 2021.

“We have had all kinds of women that join us from school teachers, to women on the farm who are managing farms — women who are obviously in partnership with a spouse or family to manage a farm and NRCS employees,” she said.

In the past, those winter sessions have been once a month via Zoom with a speaker presenting a specific topic and some time for question and answers.

That will be changing this year, however.

“We decided to change that a little bit,” said Rieck-Hinz. “This year we are doing what we call ‘Agronomy in the Field Book Club.’ If you are a female and you have joined our Agronomy in the Field Facebook page, once a week, we will post a topic based on a presentation on CropsTV. We will post pictures and comments about what we have heard. What we have learned about that presentation then provide questions to get the conversation going – get some engagement from our Facebook followers.”

Rieck-Hinz said by doing this, they are trying to have those conversations so women can learn from other women about agricultural practices; things that have worked for them, or things that haven’t worked.

“It’s really a discussion group for women in agriculture – a great place to get your questions answered and we have some good chats on there,” she said.

Although the presentation of the program has changed – the premise hasn’t.

“At this point, Agronomy in the Field is for women in ag. I would ask people to respect that,” said Rieck-Hinz. “It is meant to provide a safe place for women to have those discussions.”

CropsTV

“COVID has obviously put a wrench in our face to face Extension programming we normally do in the wintertime where we primarily see a good chunk of our farmers, agribusiness retailers, seed dealers and that is at our winter conferences and meetings like the Integrated Crop Management Conference – that’s 900 people there; Crop Advantage series at 14 locations around the state is close to 2,000 people, but because of COVID we couldn’t plan those face to face meeting this year.”

To help fill that void, ISU Extension and Outreach has adapted their winter programming to an element called CropsTV.

CropsTV is programming that is already in progress, but it is not too late to join.

CropsTV is a 10-week program that features 45 live presentations in addition to some on demand segments that are not being presented live.

Topics, Rieck-Hinz said, include agronomy, grain handling and storage, soil fertility, choosing hybrids, drought stress, tar spot and rootworm management.

A subscription cost of $45 gives you access to the live programming, which is offered every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 9 a.m. for one hour as well as a session on water quality at 1 p.m. on Wednesdays.

“If you can’t watch them live, you can go back and watch them on demand,” said Rieck-Hinz. “If you missed a talk, or there is just one or two that you wanted to see in particular, that is a great way to catch them when you have time to do it – at home, on your phone, on your laptop, desktop, iPad – whatever the case is. People really like it, you don’t have to travel. They can do this when they have time to do it.”

Rieck-Hinz said there is an added benefit to subscribing to CropsTV over attending a conference.

“You get to watch all 45 topics. If you were at a conference and you had breakout sessions, you wouldn’t be able to go to all of the sessions,” she said. “There is a much wider scope of material for you to access. There is a lot more opportunities to get information on a wide variety of topics.”

Along with the subscription is a weekly CropsTV Guide which will feature the topics of the week.

“It gives a feature on our presenters, puts in additional resources – if you are looking for more information on weed control, for example, we provide you a link to ISU herbicide and weed management guide that is published annually. It is a really good place to get a lot of different information,” said Rieck-Hinz.

Private pesticide applicators

Rieck-Hinz said Iowa State University Extension and Outreach annually provides training for over 15,000 private pesticide applicators in the state of Iowa.

“We do that in something like 270 – two hour workshops from the first of Dec. up until April 1,” she said. “While we have all those meetings planned, there are not a lot of face to face meetings happening.”

There are a couple of ways producers can meet their continuing education requirements for their private pesticide applicator certification.

Rieck-Hinz suggests to first contact your county’s ISU Extension office to find out what local opportunities are available.

“Some county offices are showing the DVDs for training. Some county offices are offering Zoom sessions. I am in one location with a live audience and I have other county offices online via Zoom to train people at those offices,” she said. “Those opportunities give our participants the ability to ask questions live, whereas if you are just watching that DVD you don’t have an option to ask any questions at least to a person on the other end.”

Rieck-Hinz said there is some possibility this month or next there will be training available online.

“We are hoping for either a training module format or maybe an online presentation to people at home who are at high risk and should be concerned about COVID,” she said. “We are working out all of the details. We just ask everybody to be patient and if you have any questions, call your county office or your Extension field agronomist. We will say right now, we are going to do everything we can to get everybody certified by April. 15.”

Keeping in touch

One of the positives about Crop Advantage or Integrated Pest Management Conferences, Rieck-Hinz said is the social aspect of meeting with other people.

“We as field agronomists and specialists like to talk to the farmer and hear what they are seeing and experiencing,” she said. “They like to talk to us one on one and get questions answered.”

Rieck-Hinz emphasized those opportunities for one on one conversations are still possible.

“It just needs to happen in a little different format,” she said. “It needs to happen with a phone call now, or an e-mail. We are still happy and still here to answer all of your questions. You’re just not going to see a lot of face to face for the time being.”

Rieck-Hinz said looking ahead, she is hopeful by spring, there will be more opportunities to do some of the programming outdoors which will allow for more social distancing.

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