Juchems Receives Outstanding New Professional Award at ISU

It’s May and that means it is American Wetlands Month. Normally, I would want to try to make my argument once again about how landowners should consider giving wetlands a second look on their land. Wetlands are a key component to Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy (learn more in Jake Hansen’s blog post titled Iowa CREP Wetlands) and often when farmed aren’t profitable (Should prairie potholes and other wet areas be farmed?). I know there is a history between landowners, wetlands and government regulation that sticks in many craws. But if we care about a sustainable and healthy Iowa, we need to rethink those issues going forward. Wetlands have important jobs to do in Iowa.

Instead of writing that column, I am dedicating this space to Iowa Learning Farms staff member, Liz Juchems, for recently receiving an Iowa State University Professional and Scientific Outstanding New Professional Award. This award reflects Liz’s commitment to Iowa State, her professional reputation and her esteem among her peers.

I have known Liz since she began working for the Iowa Learning Farms in 2008 as a student hourly employee while a freshman at ISU, and have been fortunate to work with her as our events coordinator since 2013. If you have been to any ILF field days over the last four years, you have Liz to thank for their quality and effectiveness.

Liz joined the team at a time when the ILF and Water Rocks! programs were starting to see substantial growth. Liz assumed not only the responsibility for coordinating farmer field days, but also coordinating all incoming requests for Iowa Learning Farms/Water Rocks! community outreach events (school visits, camps, youth outdoor classrooms, farmers markets, festivals and more) that are received annually – no small task with hundreds of event requests each year.

Over the last four years, the Iowa Learning Farms and Water Rocks! programs have grown significantly and have become widely recognized flagship conservation programs across Iowa. This is due in large part to Liz’s tremendous ability to keep track of details and ensure positive, clear communication internally and externally. We now average 30+ field days and 200+ outreach events each year, reaching 20,000+ people each year in quality educational encounters across Iowa!

With Iowa Learning Farms, Liz has also been instrumental in taking on a leadership role with field research/demonstrations, data collection, communications and outreach delivery. Since her hiring in 2013, the field research/demonstration arm of the Iowa Learning Farms has seen significant expansion and diversification, thanks in large part to being awarded multiple new research/demonstration grants. Each of these funded proposals involved the establishment of different cover crop trials across Iowa, collectively adding 20 new field research/demonstration sites statewide. Liz took the reigns as the farmer liaison, coordinating all project details with participating farmer-partners and research farm staff, as well as coordinating field data collection efforts with Iowa Learning Farms staff and student interns, training her co-workers on the appropriate protocols to follow both in the field and in the lab to ensure successful data collection.

However, data collection is just one portion of the job –another major component is how that content is delivered to the general public, making often complex science, social science and economic data accessible to farmers, other conservation stakeholders and youth across the state. A good example of her work is the ILF publication series titled Talking With Your Tenant that offers talking points and relevant research findings about a number of different conservation practices. Liz has grown into the role of being one of our team’s key educators on conservation issues in the state of Iowa.

For these and so many other reasons, Liz is more than deserving of this prestigious university honor. Quite simply, she is excellent! We are grateful to have her as a member of our team. Congratulations, Liz!

Jacqueline Comito

Teaching the next generation about ag + environment

The past two summers, we have hosted the Water Rocks! Teacher Summit here at Iowa State University, as a professional development workshop for K-12 classroom educators from across the state. (Read more about it in an earlier blog post: Recap of Water Rocks! Summit, June 10-11, 2015.)

We’ve gotten numerous inquiries from non-formal educators, including 4-H and extension educators, SWCD youth outreach coordinators, watershed coordinators, naturalists, municipal/public works education personnel, scientists who frequently conduct youth outreach in the classroom, and STEM coordinators, expressing their interest in attending the Water Rocks! Summit.

We listened – while previous Water Rocks! Summits were exclusively for formal classroom teachers, the upcoming Water Rocks! Winter Summit is dedicated exclusively to you!

WinterSummitGraphic-ILFBlog

What is this Winter Summit all about?
This professional development workshop offers training on a multitude of interactive and hands-on educational lessons covering water, soil, agriculture, environmental science, and more. Scheduled for December 3, 2015, the Water Rocks! Winter Summit will cover a wide variety of topics including the water cycle, watersheds, connectedness of agriculture and the environment in Iowa, agricultural management practices, wetlands, biodiversity, and more. Music, videos, technology, and hands-on activities will be woven throughout!

How much does it cost?
The full cost of the Winter Summit is $595, which includes the WR! activity kit (valued at over $800), plus lunch and snacks during the day. Scholarships are available to qualified individuals/organizations.

What’s included in the WR! activity kit?
The Water Rocks! activity kit is chock full of original hands-on learning activities and games (We All Live in a Watershed, Habitat Hopscotch, Wetlands BINGO, Biodiversity JENGA, Dig Into Soil, What’s In Your (Storm)water?, and more) that can be used time and time again with Grades K-12. The complete kit is valued at over $800, and being offered at a reduced rate exclusively for WR! Winter Summit participants.

There are several people from our county/organization that would like to attend. Can we all come to the Summit? Do we each have to buy our own activity kit?
Multiple individuals from the same county office or local organization are encouraged to attend the Water Rocks! Summit together (up to 3 people on a team); please apply together so we know you are a team. In this case, only one shared Water Rocks! activity kit would be required.

Ready to apply?
Spaces are limited, so apply right away!  Financial assistance is available to qualified individuals/organizations; please apply by October 30, 2015 (THIS FRIDAY!) to be considered for scholarship assistance.

Ann Staudt

This cooperative project has been funded in part through the Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. Partners of Water Rocks! include Iowa Department of Natural Resources (United States Environmental Protection Agency), Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa Water Center, Iowa Learning Farms, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education, and personal gifts of support.

Conservation + Agriculture Learning Opportunities

I’ve heard many of our farmer-partners with Iowa Learning Farms talk about how practicing conservation is always a learning process, describing themselves as lifelong learners. That’s one of the reasons we host field days – an opportunity for farmers and landowners to learn from one another, as well as from scientists and researchers, about integrating conservation practices into their farming operations. We are currently finalizing details of our Iowa Learning Farms late fall field days/workshops – stay tuned for more field day information coming soon!

Beyond field days, another great learning opportunity can be found in conferences. There are quite a number of exciting conference opportunities coming up over the next few months…

Women, Food and Agriculture Network Annual Conference: Women Protecting Pollinators, Protecting Food
Nov. 6-7
Radisson Quad City Plaza/Davenport

Sustaining Our Iowa Land (SOIL): The Past, Present, and Future of Iowa’s Soil and Water Conservation Policy
Nov. 19-20
Drake University/Olmsted Center

Iowa/Minnesota Drainage Research Forum
(Pre-registration is required – not available the day of!)
Nov. 23
Cabela’s/Owatonna, MN

Integrated Crop Management Conference
Dec. 2-3
Iowa State University/Scheman Building

Ann Staudt