Extension ExPress, January 2023
As I was leaving one of the six public listening sessions we recently hosted throughout the state, a participant offered me high praise for our team of University of Idaho Extension educators, describing them as “encouragers.” It was one of many comments voiced during the meetings confirming our clientele value the quality of our programs and personnel. The listening sessions – hosted from November through mid-December in Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Twin Falls, Caldwell, Lewiston and Coeur d’Alene – will help us assess how the public views our performance. Feedback from the sessions will guide revisions to our comprehensive plan, which was last updated in 2017. Though we have yet to pore through the data, one major opportunity for improvement has already emerged. These listening sessions draw our greatest supporters, yet participants at every meeting were surprised to learn of programs of great interest they hadn’t previously heard about. We must promote ourselves better if we are to reach our potential, understanding we can’t help people if they’re not aware of what we’re doing.
We were generally pleased by turnout at the listening sessions, especially at the Caldwell and Lewiston meetings. We drew a diverse group of participants, which included 4-H youth, state lawmakers, county commissioners, mayors, public health officials, librarians, school teachers, farmers, ranchers, Master Gardeners and others. Our patrons encouraged us to emphasize virtual formats, in addition to hosting events in person, to make our programming more convenient and accessible. For example, our succession planning and farm management courses are taught online, and children from throughout the state convene digitally with our Extension educators to learn culinary skills through Kids in the Kitchen. We’ve even moved our popular Master Gardener program online, making it available to gardeners statewide. We’ve also been thrilled by our in-person impacts. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, our direct contacts with the public dropped precipitously, spurring concerns that people would forget about us and that our programs would never fully recover. Instead, our direct contacts have rebounded well above pre-COVID numbers. In 2020, our direct contacts dropped to 255,000 from 435,000 during the priory year. In 2022, direct contacts rose to nearly 482,000.
The sessions confirmed there’s an excitement surrounding our 4-H program, which has used federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 funds to fill several new positions. Stakeholders have been thrilled to see 4-H moving beyond programs traditionally associated with county fairs and into more STEM-based content, such as robotics and coding. The public also values our emphasis on traditional agriculture, including education to help farmers and ranchers of all sizes, and even hobby food producers. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of efforts to help people address physical and mental health challenges, and our stakeholders let us know they’ve appreciated our health-related programs. We’ve erected billboards throughout the state raising awareness of resources to help farmers and ranchers cope with stress and depression. We’ve also started discussions in small communities to identify ways to address the problem of depression in rural America, offering mini grants toward implementing manageable solutions. Our Extension Collaboration on Immunization and Teaching (EXCITE) program is dispelling myths about vaccinations and is sending teams to large dairies and other businesses that employ a large percentage of Hispanic workers to get shots in arms. EXCITE, which is conducted in partnership with local health districts, furthers another goal our stakeholders have set for us – working in collaboration with community partners to maximize our return on investment and avoid duplicating efforts. We’re heartened by the positive feedback we’ve already received, as well as the public’s strong engagement in the listening sessions. We still have much more information to glean, however, and welcome anyone who couldn’t make it to a listening session to complete a survey about the direction of UI Extension.
Associate Dean and Director
University of Idaho Extension
Northern District Welcomes New Director
Rusty Gosz is reminded of the longevity of Cooperative Extension and the broad audience it serves when he looks at one of his favorite family photographs, featuring two living relatives separated by 105 years.
Gosz, who worked for the past 17 years at Oklahoma State University, became University of Idaho Extension’s northern district director on Dec. 12, replacing interim Director Jim Church, who retired. The photo shows Juanita O’Reilly — his grandmother who will turn 106 in May — holding Gosz’s infant grandson, Johnny.
O’Reilly, who still lives on the family farm in Potlatch, was born in 1917, just three years after the passage of the Smith-Lever Act, which established a national Cooperative Extension Service extending outreach programs to educate rural Americans through land-grant universities.
“Here’s the span of Extension,” Gosz said. “The way she gathered information and interacted with extension faculty was very different from the way Johnny will, but Extension is no less critical today than it was 105 years ago — I'd argue even more important.”
Gosz grew up in New Mexico and earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science production and a master’s degree in beef cattle breeding and genetics from OSU. After completing his master’s degree, he held jobs in the industry for several years — first with a large feed and animal health company and later managing the Farmers Cooperative Association’s five locations.
“I learned a lot in those years, which set me up to return to OSU,” Gosz said. “I knew I wanted to be in agriculture and I liked working with people.”
Gosz was active in 4-H throughout his childhood and has a deep appreciation for the life skills the youth development program fosters. Working at his alma mater afforded him the opportunity to be heavily involved in both 4-H and FFA at the state and national level. His emphasis was on youth livestock activities, especially livestock judging.
“In Oklahoma, culturally showing livestock is more important than high school football: Between 70,000 and 80,000 students show livestock in Oklahoma,” Gosz said.
Gosz also appreciated the teamwork at OSU, where he had a lead role in organizing the nation’s largest youth livestock show, the Oklahoma Youth Expo.
Gosz is pleased to start the next chapter in his career as an administrator with UI Extension — drawing from his skills and background to help meet the needs of his northern district team.
“I’ve grown in my understanding of team building; that’s really what I value,” Gosz said.
Gosz will meet personnel throughout his district’s 10 counties in the coming weeks. He vows he’ll follow the “85-15 rule” to help him learn from those around him — listening 85% of the time and speaking 15% of the time.
“They are doing a great job of hearing and seeing the needs of those communities. Even if it means pivoting direction, they’re going to meet those needs,” Gosz said. “I want to be with bar-raisers and that’s what I sense from the group up here.”
Moving to northern Idaho brings Gosz closer to family, including O’Reilly and his uncle, who now runs the farm where he and his relatives have long gathered for holiday and summer reunions. His father also lives nearby.
Gosz and his wife of 28 years, Heather, have eight children — four sons and four daughters. Four of the children still live at home and will be moving to Moscow. His family enjoys spending time outdoors and recreating in the mountains.
EXCITE Delivers Health Fair to Dairy
Si-Ellen Farms has a history of bringing vaccination clinics to its large dairy in Jerome to make it as convenient as possible for workers to protect themselves from illness.
On Nov. 17, University of Idaho Extension helped the agribusiness take the remote clinic concept a step further, providing the staff and resources to host a comprehensive health fair where workers got a break from their daily routines and enjoyed snacks, drinks, Chobani yogurt and free lunch from a taco truck.
The day-long health fair was made possible by a new UI Extension program that aims to improve health outcomes and boost immunization rates among Hispanic agricultural workers in 10 southwest and southcentral Idaho counties. It launched in June 2021, funded by a two-year, $200,000 competitive grant through Extension Collaborative on Immunization Teaching and Engagement (EXCITE). An interagency agreement between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture created EXCITE to address health disparities among rural and other underserved communities.
UI Extension’s EXCITE team has now hosted 19 clinics, including five clinics at other businesses, one clinic at the Idaho Potato Conference in Pocatello last January and a series of weekly clinics at the Mexican Consulate in Boise. Si-Ellen Farms, however, was the first employer to request the program’s recently expanded model of a mini health fair. The Extension team has marketed these clinics to agriculture businesses throughout the southwest and southcentral regions and expects to schedule more through April 2023.
“It’s nice to have the clinic because employees won’t always go out of the way to get vaccinated. If we have a clinic where they’re working, it’s convenient for them to get it,” said Katrina Arizpe, Si-Ellen Farms’ human resources director. “It’s not the first clinic we’ve held. We’ve had success with clinics, so we continue to do this for our employees and their families.”
More than 120 Si-Ellen workers participated in the fair, and many opted to receive vaccinations for COVID-19, influenza, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. South Central Public Health District provided the vaccine doses. Participants also received blood pressure screenings, along with doctor referrals if numbers were too high. UI Extension staff with Eat Smart Idaho were available to answer questions about nutrition.
Extension educator Mario de Haro-Marti , Gooding County, offered mandatory safety and immunization presentations, both in Spanish and English. In addition to providing an overview of proper safety etiquette for agricultural laborers, he also made a strong case for getting vaccinated.
“They say prevention is worth a pound of cure. In this case to me it’s worth a ton of cure because vaccines are cheap, easy to access and are very effective,” Marti told a group of Si-Ellen dairy workers. “Compared to what happens if you get the disease and you are not vaccinate for it, it makes no sense not to have it. We vaccinate for our cows for a bunch of diseases.”
CDC recognized Extension programs would make great partners in getting more adults vaccinated and allaying misconceptions about vaccines, given that Extension offices are in most counties and Extension educators are trusted professionals.
“We aren’t trying to change somebody’s mind about vaccines. Our purpose is to serve the folks who have questions and want to have a conversation with someone they trust,” said Lindsey McConnell-Soong, manager of UI Extension’s EXCITE program. “With that we have seen a difference.”
UI Extension initially received nearly $25,000 from CDC in April 2021 to educate the public about the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine, emphasizing Hispanics in the 10-county area of southwest and southcentral Idaho. The initial funding set the stage for UI Extension to receive the larger grant.
“We recognized people had a lot of questions still and a lot of hesitance, and what was making the difference that we saw was the ability to sit down and have a conversation and get information one on one from somebody they trusted,” McConnell-Soong said.
The UI Extension EXCITE team underwent training with clinical pharmacy personnel from Idaho State University’s College of Pharmacy. The staff continue to participate in webinars twice per month with CDC and the national EXCITE team to stay current with training.
This season’s clinics will span through April.
Program Brings Gardens in the Classroom
Two University of Idaho Extension educators in Twin Falls County have the answer for elementary school teachers who wish to offer first-hand lessons in gardening despite Idaho’s growing season occurring mostly during summer break.
In January 2022, Andy West, who specializes in horticulture, and Siew Guan Lee, a registered dietitian and family and consumer sciences educator, helped kindergarten and elementary school teachers throughout the Twin Falls area set up classroom gardens.
Each participating classroom received two pots, soil, a grow light, a watering can and seeds for raising spinach and lettuce mixes.
“Here’s the problem with trying to put a garden in schools. Nobody wants to do it because it’s in the off-season,” West said. “I thought, ‘If nobody wants to do it and there’s all of this funding out there, what if we put the garden in the classroom?’”
The classroom gardens project sprung out of a $44,000 Community Transformative Grant that UI Extension received from the city of Twin Falls to start community gardens. UI Extension hired Master Gardener Carl Jacobia to routinely check on the community gardens established throughout Twin Falls. Jacobia has also been visiting the classroom gardens to answer questions and assess progress.
West suggested classroom gardens to his grant committee when members encouraged him to focus more attention on schools. They set up their initial classroom gardens using unallocated funding from the Twin Falls grant. Chobani subsequently awarded them a $7,500 gift to continue the classroom gardens during the current school year. As part of Chobani’s greater mission, the company is continuously focused on leaving the planet in a better place, which includes donating to organizations and projects it feels passionate about in its hometown community.
Eat Smart Idaho, which is a UI Extension program providing nutrition and physical activity education to low-income residents, has received $4,300 through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education grant to further expand classroom gardens. Lee oversees Eat Smart Idaho for the Magic Valley area.
West’s approach has been a hit with Twin Falls School District No. 411. From January through May, students at four participating district elementary schools, including every classroom at Bickel Elementary School, raised 60 pots of leafy greens.
Lee supplemented West’s horticultural instruction with lessons on nutrition and food preparation provided by Eat Smart Idaho.
The Eat Smart Idaho team made green smoothies from the spinach the students raised, giving each child a 2-ounce taste, as well as encouragement to continue trying creative preparations for leafy greens at home.
“Definitely they liked it. Some kids asked for more,” Lee said. “In general, they all just want to try it just because it’s something they grew in their garden. If you grow your own food and make something out of it, chances are you will at least try it.”
During fall, West and Lee helped start gardens in 19 elementary and kindergarten classrooms in the Twin Falls School District. They planted a variety of herbs. Lee has worked closely with the nutrition director for the Twin Falls School District, Lyllia McGlochlin, who recently incorporated the students’ herbs into spaghetti for a special school lunch.
“They said they could taste the fresh herbs. They were all very excited,” said McGlochlin, who plans to add students’ herbs to pizza in December. “I think it connects gardening and herbs to what goes into their food.”
Lee has been teaching the students how to dry fresh herbs and has challenged them to think about which herbs lend flavor to other meals they eat. Her lessons have been impactful.
“I spoke to 393 kids this fall and out of those 393 kids only two kids knew what herbs are,” Lee said.
The older students involved in this year’s classroom garden project will all receive their own kits to start growing indoor gardens at home. The younger children will be given “I Tried It” stickers acknowledging they sampled produce they raised themselves.
School districts in other parts of the state have begun inquiring about how to participate in the classroom gardening program. To help spread the concept, West and Lee are developing a publication including instructions and curriculum for teachers to access.
“We’re hoping to get it out there so other educators can take this program and start it in their area,” West said. “We’re looking to move it nationwide, too.”
Rusty Gosz, who worked for the past 17 years at Oklahoma State University, became University of Idaho Extension’s Northern District director on Dec. 12, replacing interim Director Jim Church, who retired.View Profile
Brad Stokes is the new University of Idaho horticulture Extension educator for Canyon County. He started the position on Dec. 12, transitioning from his previous role as the agriculture/4H educator in Elmore County.View Profile
Pat Hatzenbuehler, a University of Idaho Extension agricultural economist based in Twin Falls, has been chosen as Idaho’s contact for the new Agricultural Finance, Tax and Asset Protection program (AgFTAP), which was created under the federal Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Hatzenbuehler will help connect farmers and ranchers to educational resources and specialized experts for agricultural tax issues.View Profile
Teresa Balderrama was selected as the 4-H associate Extension educator in Kooenai County. She served as the Kootenai County 4-H program coordinator for many years.View Profile
Food and Your Family (BUL 1027)
Including children in the kitchen and in the process of cooking is great family time and can help with children’s development. “Food and Your Family” includes tips, recipes, resources and more to help introduce your children to nourishing food and the joys of preparing it. The University of Idaho Extension bulletin is authored by Megan Follet and Victoria Wilk, both graduate students in the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences; Annie J. Roe, a UI Extension specialist and director of Eat Smart Idaho; and Michelle McGuire, director of the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences.
- Heritage Orchard Conference | Monthly | Online
The Heritage Orchard Conference provides a variety of presentations ranging from heritage fruit exploration to apple identification.
- Preserve at Home | Weekly | Online
Preserve at Home is a six-week course that starts Jan. 19. Learn how to safely can, dry or freeze your garden’s bounty.
- Master Gardener Course | Weekly | Twin Falls | Online
Join the Southern Idaho Master Gardeners for an interactive learning experience designed to teach the many aspects of horticulture through 40 hours of class instruction, hosted from 1-4 p.m. on Wednesdays from Jan. 25-April 26.
- Cereal School | Feb. 7, Burley; Feb. 8, Poatello; Feb. 9, Idaho Falls and St. Anthony; Feb. 10, Grace and Preston
Learn the latest research in cereals. Contact Justin Hatch at 208-547-3205.
- QuickBooks for Farming and Ranching | Weekly | Online
Contact Ron Patterson at 208-529-1390 about this four-week course about QuickBooks management software.
Take a survey, offered in both English and Spanish, to help establish the direction of future University of Idaho Extension programming.
Visit the UI Extension calendar for a complete listing of upcoming events offered online and across the state.
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