Winnebago County Happenings

October 2022

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Fall is in the Air

The outdoor garden seasoning is beginning to slow down. At this very moment, you might be up to your neck in delicious produce. If you grew a great deal more than you can handle, maybe you’ve made friends with your neighbors and are now sharing vegetables locally. If not, I’d recommend looking into preservation for those things that can be put up, whether canned, pickled or frozen. Whichever method you choose, you’ll probably be delighted when your future self in the cold throes of February when you rediscover a jar of garden goodies. My list this week is another batch of raspberry jam, pesto (bye bye basil as soon as the frost hits!), and more tomatoes transforming into soup/sauce/salsa.

If you’ve planted way more than you can handle, consider reaching out to your local school or food bank. School programs might be glad to use up a bushel of cucumbers on a pickling experiment.

Another option for over planting is to take what excess you have and give it back, whether that is to the chickens in your yard or just the local compost heap.

If you’d like help with giving food away, talking about how great your garden was this year, or have questions about anything related to plants, please contact me at

You can also call your local extension office if you’d prefer to speak over the phone. Happy harvest!

Stay Independent: A Healthy Aging Series (online)

Join us for a free, online six-week series on topics related to staying healthy and active as we age. If you have joined us in the past, we really appreciate your attendance and hope you gained valuable new information. If you were unable to join us, we welcome you to register at the following websites. We will present each topic at 10 am and at 3 pm for each of the days listed.

You can register for the series that best fits your schedule:

Looking forward to having you join us!

Amy Jones, Vera Stokes, Holly Van Heel and Jill Weber

Amy Jones MS RDN LD | Human Sciences

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Human Sciences Specialist, Food and Health

601 South Illinois Ave

Mason City IA 50401

Phone: 641-423-0844

Cell: 641-530-9244

Virtual Program Offers Tips for Parenting

Raising children has its challenges but it also can be a gratifying, surprising, hilarious adventure. Parents and caregivers can gain skills to better handle the challenges and enjoy the adventure, according to Malisa Rader, a human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

ACT Raising Safe Kids” teaches positive parenting skills to parents and caregivers of children from birth to age 8. The series of lessons is sponsored by ISU Extension and Outreach.

“Starting in October, we are bringing this educational offering to families in a virtual format,” said Rader, who specializes in family wellbeing. “It is what ISU Extension and Outreach has done for over 100 years – respond to the needs of Iowans where they are.”

In the series of lessons parents and caregivers will gain strategies for:

  • Dealing with children's difficult behaviors using developmentally appropriate responses.
  • Controlling their own anger.
  • Helping children control their anger.
  • Teaching children how to resolve conflicts without using violence.
  • Using positive discipline methods that fit the children's age.
  • Reducing the influence of media violence on children.

Participants will receive the ACT Parent Handbook, which includes sets of fact sheets with information on children's typical problem behaviors and outlines basic child development information. The handbook also includes handouts on anger management, positive discipline, media literacy and positive ways to resolve conflict.

The program is based on research that indicates that effective parenting is a critical factor to prevent youth behavior problems, said Rader.

Parents, foster parents, grandparents, primary caregivers and others in a parenting role are encouraged to attend one of the upcoming series scheduled for Tuesdays, Oct. 4 through Nov. 29 at 6:30-8:30 p.m. or Fridays, Oct. 7 through Dec. 9 at 1-3 p.m. Professionals working with families are encouraged to share this information with their clients.

The ACT Raising Safe Kids series consists of nine two-hour sessions. Cost is $40 per family. Financial scholarships are available if needed. To learn more or to register, visit or contact Malisa Rader at or 515-708-0622.

‘InterACT’ Program for Custodial and Foster Families Begins in October

Families are invited to participate in “InterACT,” a free workshop series hosted by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. The educational series is open to parents and other primary caregivers of all types (foster parents, grandparents, adoptive parents, etc.,) with children or grandchildren in third through sixth grade. The virtual sessions begin Oct. 9.

InterACT is based on the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy model, referred to as ACT, explained Malisa Rader, an ISU Extension and Outreach human sciences specialist in family wellbeing. InterACT aims to improve emotional and social wellbeing in custodial and foster families by teaching adults and children about personal values, mindfulness and self-acceptance.

“All parents benefit from an opportunity to learn tips and new strategies to relate with our children and enjoy being with them,” Rader said. “The InterACT program allows you to connect with other families in Iowa, as well as learn and practice new coping skills and parenting tools.”

Participating in the workshops can be a positive experience for children and adults, Rader said. Participants will learn how to build skills for being mindful, making decisions and developing positive attitudes. They will gain resources, support and practical tips to create and nurture rewarding relationships. Upon course completion, adult and youth participants will receive a gift card. Foster parent credit is available.

The online workshop series includes short videos and group discussions. Participants will partake in four live, virtual sessions via Zoom followed by reflective self-paced lessons. Youth live sessions are from 6-7 p.m. and adult live sessions are from 7:15-8:15 p.m. on the following dates:

  • Sunday, Oct. 9.
  • Sunday, Oct. 16.
  • Sunday, Oct. 23.
  • Sunday, Oct. 30.

For more information or to register, contact the project coordinators at or 515-957-1593. CYFAR is a collaborative research and education effort to increase positive outcomes for children, youth and families at risk.

Youth Mental Health First Aid Trainings Offered This Fall

AMES, Iowa – Iowa State University Extension and Outreach will provide Youth Mental Health First Aid trainings to strengthen rural communities and support youth during the new school year.

Youth mental health remains at the forefront of many people’s minds. Over the last few years, youth mental health challenges have continued to rise. In response, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach continues to provide Youth Mental Health First Aid trainings to community members statewide.

This program provides adults with tools they can use to identify when a youth (ages 6-18) in their life might be struggling with a mental health and/or substance use problem.

“Research shows that half of all mental illnesses begin by the age of 14 and 75% begin by age 25. Recovery from mental illness is possible and likely, but the sooner a person receives appropriate treatment, the better the outcome,” said Demi Johnson, behavioral health program specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach.

ISU Extension and Outreach will offer Youth Mental Health First Aid on Oct. 7 and Nov. 7, and both classes will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. via Zoom. All virtual classes require pre-registration and approximately two hours of pre-work. Private classes for groups of 15-30 participants are also available upon request.

The cost is $55. However, adults identifying as or working with farm families can register at no cost for any of these programs by using the code “AGPRO” when registering, thanks to current grant funding from the United States Department of Agriculture. To register, go to

Participants will learn how to connect youth to appropriate support and resources when necessary. A five-step action plan will be taught to guide participants through the process of reaching out and offering appropriate support.

“Everyone can benefit from taking a mental health first aid course. Learning more about mental health can help reduce the stigma associated with behavioral health problems. When we can recognize signs of trouble, we can help young people get the assistance they need,” said Johnson.

For more information, contact Demi Johnson at

Other resources

Iowa Concern, offered by ISU Extension and Outreach, provides confidential access to stress counselors and an attorney for legal education, as well as information and referral services for a wide variety of topics. With a toll-free phone number, live chat capabilities and a website, Iowa Concern services are available 24 hours a day, seven days per week at no charge. To reach Iowa Concern, call 800-447-1985; language interpretation services are available. Or visit the website,, to live chat with a stress counselor one-on-one in a secure environment. Or email an expert regarding legal, finance, stress or crisis and disaster issues.

Finding Answers Now. As Iowans deal with disruptions to their families and communities, this website at provides information to help you cope with concerns about stress and relationships, personal finance, and nutrition and wellness.

Project Recovery Iowa offers free virtual counseling and assistance for all Iowans needing support. Counselors are available 24/7. Iowans of all ages may join groups online to find support and learn creative strategies for coping with the effects of the pandemic. To request support, go to or call the Iowa Warm Line at 1-844-775-9276.

Webinars Address Food Safety for Food Entrepreneurs

Food entrepreneurs can learn about best practices related to food safety, food labeling, and cleaning and sanitation of food contact surfaces during a free webinar series this fall.

The series features extension food safety specialists from several land-grant universities and is made possible through a food safety outreach grant supported by USDA and the North Central Region Food Safety Extension Network. Register online to participate in one, two or all three webinars.

Dates, times, topics

Oct. 12, 12 p.m. CDT: Food Safety Basics. Planning for food safety helps to ensure the safety of your food products. Emily Marrison, Ohio State University, Betty Feng, Purdue University, and Morrine Omolo, University of Minnesota, will discuss how to protect your consumers and your business.

Oct. 26, 12 p.m. CDT: Cleaning and Sanitation Basics. Learn about the definition of cleaning and sanitization, and methods to clean and sanitize food contact surfaces from Shannon Coleman, Iowa State University, and Karen Fifield, Michigan State University.

Nov. 9, 12 p.m. CST: Food Labeling Basics. Learn about labeling your food products and FDA’s food package labeling requirements, including nutrition, ingredients, allergens and more from Julie Garden-Robinson, North Dakota State University, and Karen Blakeslee, Kansas State University.

For more information about the webinar series, contact Shannon Coleman,, or Karen Fifield,

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Save the Date: January 12, 2023 - Jolene is back! Bring your family!

It happens, far too often in family business. Promises are spoken and broken, facts are assumed, habits are hardened...and before we know it, we've got family fighting on the way to the funeral home. It's time we honor the family and do the business right! This value-packed, fun-filled workshop highlights the important work for successful transition. Tested tools are provided to help increase productivity, profitability, and peace of mind. From conversations to contracts, from assumptions to clarification, from complaints to celebrations, we will open eyes and save fighting on the way to the funeral home.

Please call 641-584-2261 to reserve your spot!

New Public-Private Partnership Seeks Iowa Farmers to Advance Nitrogen Fertilizer Recommendations

Research project uses on-farm data from hundreds of trials

AMES, Iowa – Iowa State University has partnered with agricultural service providers, Iowa farmers and their advisers to launch the Iowa Nitrogen Initiative – a first-of-its-kind public-private partnership that will leverage on-farm data to generate continuous improvements in resource use efficiency. The Iowa Nitrogen Initiative is currently recruiting Iowa farmers to join the network of on-farm trials.

Using the latest advances in precision agriculture, in close collaboration with Iowa farmers, the Iowa Nitrogen Initiative will deploy hundreds of on-farm, scientifically robust trials every year. Data from these trials will enable Iowa State scientists and engineers to apply the latest advances in super-computing and quantitative modeling to improve nitrogen fertilizer recommendations for the benefit of productivity, profitability and environmental performance.

“Iowa farmers depend on the best science when making decisions about crop inputs including nutrient management,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “I encourage farmers to consider participating in this important initiative that will deliver valuable data and recommendations from experts at Iowa State University.”

Nitrogen fertilizer is among the most critical inputs to crop productivity – and one of the costliest. When applied at the optimum rate, nitrogen boosts productivity and profitability while minimizing losses to the environment. However, the optimum rate is incredibly difficult to forecast and can vary by more than 100% from field-to-field and year-to-year.

Current nitrogen fertilizer recommendations do not address factors that contribute to this variability, such as weather or the multitude of decisions farmers must make each year like seed selection and soil management.

Participation and collaboration with Iowa farmers through the on-farm trials will make this project a success. Approximately 150 preliminary trials were conducted in 2022 and researchers seek to increase this number to over 400 for 2023.

Participating in the nitrogen trials is easy. Farmers commit to reserving a small portion of their farm field (four to seven acres) for a personalized variable rate nitrogen prescription. All other farming decisions, including the nitrogen application for the rest of the field, remain with the farmer.

“My farm participates in the Iowa Nitrogen Initiative trials, because I want to better understand the science behind what my corn crop needs and how I can improve water quality,” said Roger Zylstra who farms in Jasper County and chairs the Iowa Nutrient Research & Education Council. “Participation is easy since we already use yield monitors and variable rate nitrogen application.”

Researchers are seeking the help of Iowa farmers to meet their goal of 400 trials in 2023. The Iowa Nitrogen Initiative’s network of farmer participants enables researchers to gather data on real-world scenarios, develop decision support tools with input from the people who will use them, and return information to farmers about optimum rates on their farms. The trials can be included in any Iowa corn field – regardless of the management.

Farmers, certified crop advisers and custom fertilizer applicators interested in participating should contact Melissa Miller, project director for the Iowa Nitrogen Initiative, at or 515-567-0607. Learn more at

Winnebago County Extension and Outreach

Office Hours:

Monday-Thursday: 9:00am-4:30pm

Friday: CLOSED