Extension ExPress, July 2023
Director’s Message: County Support for Extension Strong
Idaho counties are tremendous partners in helping University of Idaho Extension serve the public through research, education and learning activities, though they’re under no mandate to collaborate with us. Encouragingly, our county commissioners recently assured us they recognize the vital functions our personnel and programs serve in their communities and that we’re on track to help them address the most pressing challenges they face. They’ve also told us they couldn’t imagine life without their Extension educators.
This year, collective county contributions toward UI Extension surpassed $6 million for the first time. Our county, state and federal support helps us fund the Extension staff who brought in nearly $11 million in grants during the past year. We were fortunate that Idaho’s county commissioners convened in Moscow on June 7 for an annual meeting, during which I had the opportunity to share our past year’s accomplishments, as well as results of a survey of commissioners conducted for our recent needs assessment. Fifty-eight commissioners, representing a relatively even distribution of our districts, completed the survey. Sentiments voiced at the meeting reaffirmed the written survey results — Idaho commissioners place great value in UI Extension and recognize they get a great return on their investment.
I was joined in greeting the county leaders by our new 4-H youth development director, Angie Freel, who shared her exciting vision for growing the program. Commissioners understand the importance of 4-H in equipping youth with soft skills, such as relationship building, leadership and working well with others. In fact, one commissioner assured us 4-H makes such a profound difference in the lives of young people that investment in the program directly correlates with reduced county spending on juvenile justice.
I was pleased to hear that commissioners view several other existing Extension programs as essential. For example, the commissioners implored us to continue our strong focus on production agriculture, including small-acreage and hobby farms, given that people are becoming increasingly interested in knowing where their food comes from and producing food of their own. Our Cultivating Success program provides resources for small-scale and beginning farmers, and our Harvest Heroes program was Idaho’s first beginning farming and gardening program for military veterans.
The commissioners see great importance in the enterprise budgets produced under the leadership of Extension economists Brett Wilder and Patrick Hatzenbuehler. These reports, created in collaboration with industry, help producers track changes in input costs to make informed decisions. In 2022, the economists began involving CALS undergraduate students in producing the reports, providing students with important real-world experience.
Commissioners acknowledged that our estate planning programs offer producers a trusted resource to help them tackle a task that’s all too easy to put off but is, nonetheless, vital for keeping their family farms in production. As the commissioners noted, producers can save themselves a lot of money by working out details of their farm succession plans with us, thereby streamlining subsequent meetings with an attorney.
Commissioners prioritize retention of our Extension educators and were especially glad to hear that we increased Extension educator salaries during the past year. Emerging agricultural technologies is another area they’d like us to emphasize, believing Extension should be the go-to source of research and direction as farms move toward self-driving tractors and other innovations in precision agriculture. Other areas they identified as emerging needs for the next five years include workforce development, vocational and technical training programs, affordable housing and childcare.
We have a physical presence in almost every Idaho county and are uniquely positioned to help communities, ranging from our most remote rural farming towns to our largest urban centers, continue to thrive. It’s good to know our stakeholders recognize and appreciate these efforts. Their constructive feedback will help us remain relevant for years to come.
Associate Dean and Director
University of Idaho Extension
New 4-H Director
Angie Freel had 4-H kids before she had children of her own.
Freel, who recently became the new director of University of Idaho Extension 4-H Youth Development program, started her career in 4-H in 1996, when she took a position as a secretary at the University of Arkansas state 4-H office in Little Rock.
One year later, she jumped at the chance to work as a 4-H agent in White County, Arkansas.
Freel felt as proud as any parent helping her 4-H kids meet their potential.
“I had the opportunity to watch them grow through the experience of being in 4-H, and that’s because they had mentors at the club level, they had each other and they went to state and national events,” Freel said. “I would watch this kid who was scared to get up in front of a group of people and say anything get up and give a persuasive speech that had me crying at the end. It was really evident how good 4-H is for our communities.”
Later, Freel also got to witness her biological children — Brodie, Grayson and Ellis — experience the benefits of 4-H. She believes 4-H is unique in that it teaches leadership and public speaking skills to the entire family. Parents serve as volunteers and mentors to help run 4-H and get to attend their own state and national training events.
“We get to change lives literally every day,” Freel said.
Over the course of 18 years, she worked as a 4-H agent in four Arkansas counties, before being promoted to 4-H STEM coordinator in 2014. In 2018, she was asked to fill in as the interim associate department head over 4-H. In 2020, she was named University of Arkansas’ 4-H department head.
Freel earned a family and consumer sciences bachelor’s degree in 1996 from University of Central Arkansas. She also earned a pair of graduate degrees from University of Arkansas while employed there – a master’s degree in human development and family studies in 2004 and a doctorate in human resources and workforce development in 2020.
In her new position, she’s replaced James Lindstrom, who retired.
While attending national 4-H conferences on behalf of the University of Arkansas program, Freel was impressed by the camaraderie and teamwork she witnessed among the U of I group.
UI Extension has been an innovator in pushing the limits of 4-H content, and Freel looks forward to moving the program even further ahead. For example, U of I’s new “Learn Everywhere with 4-H” program was approved by the Idaho State Board of Education last fall and will offer extended learning opportunities for K-12 public school students. The program will focus on middle-schoolers starting this spring and will eventually award credits that will apply toward high school graduation outside of the classroom.
“To me that proves that there’s a really good relationship between the different entities outside of the university because it’s going to take a lot of different partnerships to make that happen,” Freel said.
Creative partnerships with AmeriCorps and the Juntos program, through which 4-H staff support academic success among Latinx youth in grades 8-12, also set Idaho 4-H apart, in Freel’s opinion. Furthermore, Freel is impressed by how the Idaho 4-H program is structured, with district leaders placed in each region of the state to be in closer proximity with county staff.
Freel is also excited about potentially sharing a couple of favorite programs with the Vandal community from her time in Arkansas. For example, “4-H Food Challenge” patterned after the Food Network show “Chopped,” challenges youth to make a nutritious meal using ingredients from a sack, and then to speak in detail about their creations.
Freel and her husband, Monty, who is a licensed home inspector, enjoy remodeling homes together. They have three children: Brodie, the youngest, is graduating from high school. Their son Grayson is a sophomore at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Their daughter, Ellis, is a junior at the University of Arkansas majoring in poultry science and accounting.
Freel appreciates the natural beauty of the Moscow campus, and she’s intrigued by the opportunities to participate in new outdoor activities.
She’s eager to try snowmobiling for the first time. She also plans to spend time hiking, biking, fly fishing and skiing. Moving to the West also brings her closer to her brother, who lives near Salt Lake City.
“I thought, ‘If I’m ever going to do something like this, now is the time because my youngest is about to graduate from high school,’” Freel said.
New Viral Threat
Two University of Idaho Extension crop experts are advising area growers to learn the symptoms of a soilborne disease affecting cereals that’s new this season to northern Idaho and is likely to pose a recurring nuisance heading forward.
Soilborne wheat mosaic virus (SBWMV), which is most common and damaging in fall-planted cereals such as wheat and barley, was first confirmed in the Pacific Northwest in 1994, when it surfaced in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It was found in Oregon’s Columbia Basin in 2005 and was first spotted in Washington in the Walla Walla area in 2009.
This spring, the disease was also found in Grant County, Washington and the Culdesac area of Nez Perce County, Idaho. In addition to the single Idaho field in which testing has proven the presence of SBWMV, area field agronomists saw symptoms leading them to suspect it infected a few other fields near Culdesac.
Kurt Schroeder, an Extension cropping systems agronomist based in Moscow, and Douglas Finkelnburg, an area Extension educator specializing in crop systems based in Nez Perce County, say cereal farmers in the region can best protect themselves by learning symptoms of SBWMV and testing any winter cereals that exhibit unusual symptoms next spring.
“At field days this summer we are going to help people understand how to scout for it,” Finkelnburg said. “If they can identify the disease, they can choose varieties that have resistance to plant in the fields that have the disease.”
SBWMV is transmitted mostly in soil by a fungus-like parasite, called Polymyxa graminis. It’s primarily spread from field to field via soil on tainted farm equipment, making good sanitation of machinery important for keeping it in check. The virus causes green and yellow mosaic patches that emerge on winter wheat in the spring, especially in damp, low-lying areas of a field. Infections often follow the direction of tillage, though it was spread sporadically in the field in the Culdesac area.
The virus replicates when cereals come out of winter dormancy at temperatures between 35 and 50 degrees. Once temperatures rise above the mid 60s, it can no longer replicate and new, normal plant tissue grows, but it leaves its mark by stunting plants, reducing plant tiller development and yield potential. The weather warmed shortly after the virus was found near Culdesac and the symptoms faded, making it impossible to adequately scout other fields.
Growers who plant a sensitive wheat variety can expect yield losses of 50% to 80% in heavily infested fields.
Schroeder suspects the virus has been around in Idaho for a while but has simply been confused with other crop stressors and diseases that cause similar symptoms, such as nitrogen deficiency.
“I’m sure if we start looking around, we’ll probably find more of it, at least in that local area,” Schroeder said.
Field agronomists who discovered the infestation contacted UI Extension upon realizing that something was wrong with the grain that didn’t fit other challenges or diseases they’d encountered. U of I sent the wheat samples for laboratory testing at Oregon State University and Washington State University, where scientists have more experience with the virus.
Schroeder and Finkelnburg plan to provide material to UI Extension plant pathologist James Woodhall to help him equip his Parma-based laboratory to test for the disease statewide.
The vector and virus can remain viable in soil for several years. Once it’s found, planting a resistant variety in that field is a grower’s primary recourse. Fumigation can be effective against the virus-laden vector, but it’s not a financially practical option for growers and is unlikely to completely eliminate the pathogen.
“You can’t rotate away from cereals for three or four years and come back. It’s still going to be there,” Finkelnburg said. “Sanitation and variety choice are your control practices.”
Fortunately, crop breeders have a couple of strong resistance genes at their disposal to breed crops capable of withstanding SBWMV. Several resistant varieties already exist, and Schroeder and Finkelnburg have also been reviewing literature to identify good options for Idaho growers to plant.
A few years ago, U of I released a resistant soft white winter wheat that’s adapted to northern Idaho conditions and may provide growers with a good option, called UI-WSU Huffman.
“The downside for north Idaho is this virus is not something we’ve kept close tabs on,” Schroeder said. “I think as this disease becomes more widespread there’s going to be more interest among the breeders to move toward more resistant varieties.”
Garden Tour Building Excitement
Cheryl Lyda can’t wait to share her secrets about budget gardening using reclaimed materials with likeminded souls in her southeast Idaho community.
The 76-year-old is one of many avid Pocatello and Chubbuck area gardeners who will participate Aug. 12 in the inaugural Edible Garden Tour, organized by University of Idaho Extension educator Kathryn Hickok, Bannock County.
Lyda can already see the much-anticipated event in her mind’s eye: She shows her guests the raised beds she made from salvaged fence lumber. The main attraction is the small greenhouse she personally constructed from scrapped wood-framed windows. Meanwhile, her great-granddaughter, who, as luck would have it, will be visiting that day, serves a platter of muffins made with garden zucchini.
The admission-free UI Extension self-guided tour promises to provide a platform for local gardeners of all skill levels to shine while tour participants glean ideas to hone their own green thumbs. Participants will receive a map of garden locations, along with descriptions of unique features at each one — such as raising produce in buckets, capturing rainwater for irrigation, creative approaches to composting, co-planting for pest control and pollinator patches to boost production. Lyda will highlight her talent for minimizing gardening costs.
“Everything in this garden I did not purchase. It’s all salvaged. On the cheap, I’ve been able to provide myself with exercise, getting out in the sun, doing something productive, feeding myself and cutting down on my grocery bill,” Lyda said. “As far as building a greenhouse, if that’s not proof that an old lady can do something, I don’t know what is.”
The tour, scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. MT, will also provide a venue for UI Extension to highlight many of its popular, related programs. Participants will be invited to bring sack lunches to the grounds of Marshall Public Library, 113 S. Garfield Ave., Pocatello, during a lunch break. Outside of the library, they’ll also get to taste a variety of heirloom tomatoes. Area Extension educator Ariel Agenbroad will demonstrate how to make a miniature garden inside of a salad bowl. Salad bowl gardens were a hit when Hickok led a recent lesson in building them at the Pocatello-Chubbuck Senior Activity Center.
UI Extension's Idaho Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer technical horticulture questions. Extension canning classes will be promoted, and youth with the Boys and Girls Club of Portneuf Valley who participated in a recent Extension gardening program will present four portable gardens they built. The portable gardens and the produce they contain will be donated to residents of a local low-income housing complex.
The Idaho State University Botany Club has agreed to host a table during lunch in the park, and the Pocatello Garden Club, which disbanded amid the COVID-19 pandemic, plans to relaunch in conjunction with the tour.
The garden tour also builds upon a residential gleaning project Hickok started last fall, when she invited Bannock County residents to donate excess fruit from trees in their yards. Area residents donated more than 200 pounds of fruit to the local food pantry. Hickok has received a grant to expand upon the gleaning project this fall and plans to use volunteers to help harvest the excess fruit. She also plans to invite Master Gardeners to offer pruning tips to help fruit donors improve the productivity and health of their trees.
“We have all of these interests and projects going and the beautiful thing is it’s all linking together,” Hickok said. “It raises awareness about all the programs Extension has. We’re extending our reach in Pocatello by introducing this.”
Hickok has already booked about 15 home produce gardens for the tour and is still accepting applications. Having moved to Idaho from California a little more than a year ago, Hickok leaned on neighbors for ideas on starting her own garden in a growing zone in which hail, late-season frost and strong winds can emerge from out of the blue to deal plants a blow.
“I want to promote people who may not be experts, but they are figuring it out as they go in this type of an environment,” Hickok said. “Anyone can do it, and this tour will demonstrate that.”
Anyone interested in participating in the tour or signing up to include a garden may contact Hickok at email@example.com or 208-236-7310.
University of Idaho Extension educators have been dispelling widely held myths about dementia and building patience and empathy toward people living with the common neurocognitive disorder through an ongoing pilot program.
UI Extension facilitates Dementia Friends sessions that each span about 90-minutes, offered both in-person and online, in partnership with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Department (IDHW-ADRD). After completing a session, offered at no charge to the public, each participant receives a certificate of completion.
The Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias program, housed within the IDHW Division of Public Health, holds the license to offer the program in Idaho and awarded UI Extension a $21,000 grant in February to launch the state’s Dementia Friends pilot. The pilot program, aimed at improving the lives of those who live with dementia by helping community members understand what dementia is and how it affects people, will wrap up in mid-June.
“A Dementia Friend is someone who after learning this information, they turn that understanding into action,” said Tasha Howard, a UI Extension educator based in Canyon County who is certified to teach Dementia Friends. “You set an action plan for yourself of how to be a Dementia Friend within your community, family and workplace.”
Dementia Friends was first started by the Alzheimer’s Society in the United Kingdom. Idaho has a separate Dementia Friends program for Native American tribes.
IDHW-ADRD trained the UI Extension trainers — Tasha Howard and Bridget Morrisroe-Aman in the southern district, Kathee Tifft and Kirstin Jensen in the northern district and Laura Sant and Leslee Blanch in the eastern district. They’ll remain certified indefinitely to host Dementia Friends sessions, and there are plans for IDHW-ADRD to train additional dementia champions to facilitate the program.
IDHW-ADRD hopes to find additional funds to continue it.
The information session includes an informational video and content explaining the differences between aging and dementia, as well as tips for communicating effectively with someone living with dementia. Participants learn that dementia is the general term for cognitive and memory loss severe enough to interfere with daily life, and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia.
“The information shared in a session is based on research. Part of Extension’s mission is to bring research and education into the community, and I think it fits perfectly with that,” Howard said.
Alzheimer’s is on the rise in Idaho, based largely on an increase in senior citizens moving into the state. The state is expected to have 33,000 people living with dementia by 2025, which would represent an increase of more than 22% from 2020, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Furthermore, the association found more than 65,000 unpaid caregivers aided Idaho residents living with Alzheimer’s in 2022.
Thus far, the Dementia Friends sessions have been popular among people living with a family member who has dementia, as well as those who are aging and wish to educate themselves on the early signs of dementia.
“There’s a lot of misinformation about dementia,” Howard said. "A lot of people think you can’t live a good quality of life if you have a dementia diagnosis, and a lot of people think somebody has dementia when they’re just getting older.”
As Howard learned through the program, it’s not unusual for a person to forget the reason for walking into a room, but it could be a sign of dementia if the person can’t recall where they are when they enter that room.
Based on her training, Howard, who has a grandparent with dementia, has become more patient and empathetic toward people who process facts slower than herself. Another point of emphasis taught in the program is to phrase words in a positive manner when dealing with those who have dementia. For example, tell them, “Let’s go here,” rather than, “Don’t go there.”
“The information we provide in a session, I’ve seen it really resonates emotionally,” Howard said. “In program evaluations, a lot of people are saying, ‘I never thought about it that way.’ They’re learning something new and they’re able to take that and put it into their life.”
Armed to Farm
Ron Kern’s Back Forty Farms in Nampa has carved a popular and profitable value-added niche, shipping freeze-dried vegetables and eggs directly to customers throughout the country.
Despite the early success he’s enjoyed since becoming a farmer in 2018, Kern was surprised at how much he still had to learn when he participated in a recent sustainable agriculture training program for military veterans, hosted at University of Idaho’s Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center.
UI Extension welcomed a group of 30 veterans and some of their spouses from April 24-28 for the state’s first Armed to Farm program. The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), which is a Butte, Montana, nonprofit organization, launched Armed to Farm in cooperation with USDA-Rural Development in 2013.
Nationwide, about 1,000 veterans from 45 states pursuing careers in agriculture have participated in the free, hands-on training. Training tracks are offered for beginning rural, urban and advanced farmers. More than 80% of alumni are still farming, and a third reported increasing production to supply new markets following their participation in Armed to Farm.
Kern, who was a U.S. Navy sonar technician, plans to make big changes to his farming practices based on lessons he learned through UI Extension’s delivery of Armed to Farm. For example, he intends to dispense with annual tillage to allow his garden’s soil structure to remain intact. He’s also learned how to use Google Earth maps to facilitate decision-making.
“I had expectations I would learn quite a bit, but I had no comprehension of the volume — the powerful material, the unbelievable speakers, the expertise — that was brought to this,” Kern said. “It would be fair to say I feel like I got a year-long, high-level college course in that week.”
NCAT approached UI Extension about collaborating on the event, funded through NCAT’s USDA Enhancing Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans Program grant in 2020, but the program was postponed due to COVID-19. NCAT also awarded UI Extension a $5,000 stipend to offset some travel and staff time. Additional funding from another nonprofit, Ranchin’ Vets, helped cover travel and lodging costs of participants, who came from throughout Idaho and parts of Oregon, Washington and Montana.
Idaho has a strong agricultural sector and is home to many veterans, and NCAT saw an opportunity to build upon existing U of I programs. UI Extension’s Cultivating Success program provides resources for small-scale and beginning farmers, and its Harvest Heroes was the state’s first farming and gardening program catering to veterans. Area Extension educators Ariel Agenbroad and Colette DePhelps, Cultivating Success program coordinator Mackenzie Lawrence and Harvest Heroes program manager Connie May worked closely with NCAT staff for several months developing content, planning field trips to witness course principles in action at local farms and organizing hands-on activities.
“The extensive planning paid off as one of the most seamless and interesting Armed to Farm programs I have organized,” said Tammy Howard, NCAT agriculture specialist and Mountain Plains and Pacific Northwest Armed to Farm coordinator. “Local partners are essential to the success of an impactful program for Armed to Farm participants.”
UI Extension has offered agricultural training and education to veterans and their families through Harvest Heroes for the past four years. Agenbroad, a regional Extension educator based in Boise, created Harvest Heroes with veteran Connie May in southern Idaho, where participants have typically been beginning, small-scale farmers, often focused on providing food for their own families. In northern Idaho, where UI Extension educator Iris Mayes, Latah County, oversees the program, participants have mostly been experienced, with larger acreages. Agenbroad has offered participants classroom instruction, followed by a year-long hands-on learning experience working in a community garden. Mayes has used webinars and workshops in teaching the northern Idaho program.
In Agenbroad’s view, the best aspect of Armed to Farm was that it helped veterans entering farming make connections with peers. Based on the experience, she hopes to prioritize helping veterans network with one another in future Extension programs.
“I want to think about ways to build in networking opportunities for veterans,” Agenbroad said. “I think providing that kind of connection is going to be really key as we engage our veteran audiences in the future.”
Extension and NCAT staff collaborated on teaching classroom lessons, assisted by experts from entities including USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, the Idaho State Department of Agriculture and AgWest Farm Credit. The Spokane, Washington, Soil and Water Conservation District sponsored a dinner celebrating women veteran farmers. Participants also spent time learning about the Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center’s soil, heritage orchard, pastured poultry operation and assisted in assembling a season-extending high tunnel.
Kern has been in steady communication with program participants who live in his area since the event and has offered them advice to improve their operations based on his own experience, including about using social media for marketing.
Kern ran one of the nation’s largest private investigation firms, growing it from an upstart based out of his parents’ basement to a company with 50 workers. He also started and sold a host of other successful companies before becoming a farmer.
“The suicide rate is so high among veterans, and not too far behind that is farmers,” Kern said. “I think the value of having people meet who already have a sense of community, that just makes the program go.”
Steve Love, UI Extension horticulture specialist and professor in the Department of Plant Sciences, retired June 30 after 38 years of service to U of I. He joined CALS in 1985 as an assistant research professor of crop science, eventually becoming the potato variety development specialist and superintendent of the Aberdeen Research and Extension Center. In 2005 he switched his focus to horticulture when he became the statewide urban horticulture specialist.View Profile
UI Extension Specialist Garth Taylor retired June 24 after nearly 25 years of service to U of I. Garth joined UI Extension in 1998 and has served as a specialist focused on agricultural economics.View Profile
Joel Packham, UI Extension educator, Cassia County, retired May 31 after 35 years of working with the university. Packham helped the university develop and implement programming to aid agricultural producers in estate and succession planning.View Profile
Regional 4-H Extension Educator Jim Wilson retired on Feb. 28 after 38 years of service to the University of Idaho. He joined UI Extension in 1984 as an Extension educator in Kootenai County. In 2015 he was promoted to regional 4-H youth development educator, providing leadership for program development and volunteer management in the northern district and statewide leadership for 4-H horse and shooting sports programs.View Profile
UI Extension Educator Terrell Sorensen retired on Feb. 28 after seven years of service to the University of Idaho. He served as the educator in Power County, focused on crops, water issues, farm and ranch management, and 4-H youth development. He joined UI Extension in 2015 following a 26 career with the Falls Irrigation District in American Falls.View Profile
Market Fresh in a Snap! (BUL1025)
Market Fresh in a Snap!, includes 35 tasty no-cook recipes, chosen from produce available at any Idaho farmers market. Along with delicious recipes, you’ll learn practical information about Idaho farmers markets, including which participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
- Your County Fair | July, August and September
Its fair season! Check the Idaho Fairs page to get dates and other information about your county's fair.
- U and I Together Series | July 11-Aug. 1 | Online
- Sagebrush Saturday at Rinker Rock Creek Ranch | July 14 and 15
July 14 lecture at Hailey Library Town Center West, July 15 activity meets at ranch’s East Fork Kiosk
- LCS Field Day | July 20 | Aberdeen Research and Extension Center
- UI Extension 2023 Cereals Field Day | July 26 | Tetonia Research and Extension Center
- Idaho States’ 4-H Summer Exchange | July 22-Aug. 17
Looking for host siblings ages 11-17
- UI Extension Pesticide Safety Education Program, 2023 Summer Series | Aug. 8, 15 and 22 | Online
- AmeriCorps Host Application Deadline | Aug. 15
Deadline to apply to host an AmeriCorps member from October 2023 through August 2024
Visit the UI Extension calendar for a complete listing of upcoming events offered online and across the state.
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