For over a century, Purdue Extension has partnered with Indiana farmers, families, and communities.
Purdue Extension’s next century will continue to be rooted in partnerships that serve Indiana. We will collaborate in new and ever-evolving ways to address the challenges we face. While things change, our commitment to our communities and stakeholders remains the same.
We will continue to bring the science, technology and resources to all 92 counties as Indiana’s educational partner for life and as an extension of the world class institution we represent: Purdue University.
This year’s Extension Impact Report features stories that highlight partnerships that have served our state’s producers, supported residents in becoming healthier, built more resilient communities and prepared Indiana’s youth to take that first step to their giant leap.
Partnerships make Indiana stronger. And the partnerships Hoosiers have with Purdue Extension number in the thousands, from one-onone and small group interactions to 4-H, in which over 163,000 Indiana youth are involved each year.
To those who have joined and supported these partnerships, thank you. Our state benefits because of what we accomplish together.
I invite all our readers to reach out to your local Purdue Extension County office to learn and connect with available resources and to initiate new partnerships in your communities. Purdue Extension is Indiana’s trusted Educational Partner for life—yesterday, today.Henderson Director, Purdue Extension Senior Associate Dean, Purdue College of Agriculture
Pictured: Indiana 4-H’er with 4-H beef cattle project; Songlin Fei,
TO INDIANA 4-H: A PARTNER IN PUBLIC EDUCATION
Diana Dickerson, a veteran family and consumer sciences teacher at Mooresville High School, has long observed that even some of her academically sound students lacked “soft skills” to land and keep a job.
The state of Indiana agreed, replacing standardized testing at the high school level with Graduation Pathways. It requires students to have employability documentation in addition to traditional credits, explains Christen Owens, Mooresville’s assistant principal in charge of curriculum. Many acquire these skills — communication, professionalism and punctuality, for example — through sports or a job as verified by their coach or employer.
“Diana’s kids didn’t have something like that in or outside of high school, so there was a gap,” Owens says. “The Purdue Extension materials really spoke to those exact skills.”
Starting in 2021, Dickerson used her fifth-period prep time and Purdue Extension’s Work Ready curriculum as the basis for a six-week course called Pioneer Pathways. Work Ready teaches skills necessary to increase the number of qualified applicants for U.S. job openings.
In the past two academic years, 26 Mooresville seniors who likely would not have graduated received their diplomas. “It was definitely beneficial for those students,” Owens says.
Extension educators statewide adapt the curriculum for both high school and adult audiences. Dickerson chose topics that best served her seniors, including money management and employment basics.
“This may sound minimal or obvious, but a lot of the kids don’t understand professionalism, even dressing for an interview — that you can’t wear things you wear in the [school] hallways,” she says.
Dickerson also covered social media etiquette and how an individual’s virtual presence can affect their real-life reputation. “That one is an eye-opener,” she says.
“They needed to learn teamwork skills,” she adds. “Without a job or club, a lot of these kids are a little shy and need to be able to work with others. Or they lack ability or initiative to go out and find a job when there are jobs available.”
Partnering with public high schools, Purdue Extension’s Work Ready curriculum can help Indiana students graduate on time and be better prepared for their next steps in employment, enlistment or education. “This is relevant and immediately usable information,” Dickerson says. “This is what they’re hungry for.”
PURDUE ON THE FARM
When it comes to improving soil health on Indiana cropland, it takes a village — or at the very least, a partnership.
The Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative (CCSI), an 11-year-old outreach and education program of the Indiana Conservation Partnership, brings together eight agencies and organizations, including Purdue Extension, that share a commitment to conservation in Indiana.
“We like to say the practices we promote are science-based and farmer-proven,” says CCSI Director Lisa Holscher.
Its partnership with CCSI aligns with Extension’s Purdue On The Farm program, which connects Purdue Extension with its clients and partners through four activities — survey, field monitoring, demonstration, and on-farm research.
CCSI offers a Purdue-based curriculum ranging from introductory soil health to advanced training on timely topics. CCSI staff also support the partnership behind the scenes, “freeing up a partner to do their work as a local Extension agriculture and natural resources educator, or a Soil and Water Conservation District technician or a NRCS district conservationist,” Holscher says. “We work across partners, and we all work together.”
CCSI hired its former agronomist Joe Rorick in 2015 through Purdue agronomy. Rorick is now the on-farm sustainability research and project coordinator for
the Indiana Soybean Alliance (ISA) and Indiana Corn Marketing Council, and a member of CCSI’s oversight committee. His former role as CCSI agronomist and his current position are both part of Purdue Extension.
Rorick calls the CCSI partnership a “trifecta” that benefits everyone. “CCSI draws on resources available from all of the partners to deliver effective programming while helping all of those partners do what they do better,” he says.
“Purdue brings the science and communication. The ISA and Corn Marketing Council bring the farmers and funding for a fair amount of the research and on-farm programs. CCSI applies the science to improve soil health on Indiana cropland.” This level of cooperation, he adds, is far from common.
Another segment of Purdue On the Farm, on-farm demonstrations, allows Purdue Extension to engage directly with producers in areas they’re interested in, says John Scott, digital agriculture Extension coordinator.
Scott has been involved in on-farm demonstrations in the 10 north-central Indiana counties of the Wabash Heartland Innovation Network (WHIN). The result was a shared report that allows producers to see what’s taking place on nearby farm operations.
The work has put Scott on a tractor with a producer using a propane tank to flame-weed between rows of blue corn; and on a farm where the grower’s own experimentation with seeding rates
and late season fungicide application produced unanticipated results leading to changes in management practices and a closer relationship between the producer and Extension.
“Most of our farmers want to try new things,” he says. “They want to know, ‘How is it actually going to perform for me on my farm – this management style, hybrid, product or type of equipment?’ Our goal is to plug in. All we ask in exchange is that we can use what we learn for Extension purposes.’”
Scott emphasizes that these demonstrations do not produce publishable results; however, he thinks they can inform scientific research. “As we get more insight as to what our producers are interested in for their operations, I hope that helps lead to increased research in the areas where we’re seeing producer curiosity,” he says.
Another part of Purdue on the Farm already produces on-farm, university-grade research. “If a farmer asks for Purdue’s help in implementing a research trial, we’re there every step of the way,” says Dan Quinn, assistant professor of agronomy and Extension corn specialist. Many of Quinn’s Purdue graduate students conduct research on farmers’ fields.
“Being able to work with farmers and on farms makes our research more robust and accurate and helps drive our extension,” he says, noting that a research trial on 20 farms around the state is going to attract more attention than one small-plot experiment.
“It also helps the farmers,” Quinn says. “Doing research on their farm drives home the importance of that research in helping them make better decisions.” For example, Quinn has had farmers tell him they’d never change a certain practice — until he shared the results of trials on their own fields.
When Quinn started in his position, Holscher introduced him to farmers around the state. “Both CCSI and Indiana Corn do a good job of helping us get in touch with the right folks,” Quinn says. “They support us in the research area, too, whether on the conservation side or the production side.”
READY TO LEAD TOMORROW’S COMMUNITIES
For its participants, both lifelong and young, Indiana 4-H positively impacts lives.
The inaugural 4-H Day took place at the Indiana Statehouse on February 1, 2022, with a second group visiting in March. This event provides an opportunity for youth in grades 7-12 to learn about their state government by spending the day immersed in civic engagement and leadership. Attendees from across Indiana received tours of the statehouse, connected with senators and representatives, and served as student pages.
For Katelyn, 4-H Member from Knox County, civic engagement is a major draw of the program. She said, “In my county we run a recruitment program where the junior leaders go out and speak to local elementary schools. It’s a really fun engagement opportunity, because I get to speak to all different demographics. In our county, that ranges anywhere from very rural elementary schools to urban.”
Civic engagement is one of the pillars of the 4-H program, in addition to Healthy Living and STEM and Agriculture. National 4-H Council describes this pillar as a vehicle for creating well-informed citizens who actively engage in their communities and the world.
Representatives in attendance were impressed by the program. Terri Austin, former Indiana House
Representative, District 36, explained, “It gives many young people an opportunity to develop their leadership skills, their entrepreneurial skills. But I think what’s also really valuable is it gives them an opportunity to work with other young people from areas of the counties that they might never meet.”
Nora, state 4-H ambassador, hopes opportunities like this will help break stereotypes and inform communities about what 4-H can do for students. She said, “Indiana 4-H has led me to become a much better leader and break outside of my comfort zone. I’ve tried to take every opportunity I can to grow in my leadership skills.”
Indiana 4-H ambassadors proudly wear their green jackets with Indiana State Senator Jean Leising and Casey Mull, Purdue Extension assistant director and program leader for 4-H Youth Development.
CREATING HEALTHY CONNECTIONS IN
It is important for our students to understand the importance of their engagement at all levels of government because youth are impacted by all legislative decisions from education to taxes.”
—Jean Leising, Indiana State Senator, District 42
“What I appreciate about Purdue Extension is that even when it’s not directly in their realm, they know who to connect you to and are willing to help make that connection,” says Ashley Caceres, bilingual healthcare navigator at Jackson County United Way.
Caceres joins Molly Marshall, Purdue Extension Jackson County health and human sciences educator, and representatives from numerous organizations at Healthy Jackson County (HJC), a health coalition. HJC works to create a culture of health and wellness in the community through policies, education, system and environmental changes.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Schneck Medical Center, a key leader in HJC, identified that there was a disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases among the Jackson County Latinx population. While continuing to meet virtually, HJC members created the Hispanic Health Taskforce with a goal of decreasing cases through prevention education.
Caceres explains that the Purdue Extension partnership was crucial in enabling the group to create accessible COVID-19 educational materials. Marshall connected HJC with the Juntos 4-H site coordinator in Jackson County, Iveth Vasquez, who made sure educational materials were available for all reading levels and assisted with the first vaccine clinic that reached over 100 people.
Other efforts Caceres explained included recruiting student volunteers and translating handwashing instructions into multiple languages including Spanish and Chuj, a Mayan language spoken by indigenous peoples in Guatemala. Caceres says that this is a fast-growing population in the area.
In the past year alone, a total of 363 vaccinations were administered. Caceres adds, “Everyone that’s a part of the taskforce genuinely wants to get things done. Everything we talk about has an actionable step and actionable result.”
“Building and strengthening community relationships is exactly what Extension educators are aiming to do through healthy living coalitions. Coalitions are a powerful way to utilize resources efficiently and bring together community partners to address specific health needs,” says Marshall.
HJC successfully completed a Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP). Marshall says the CHIP completion provided a strong community application for additional funding including a $2.5 million Health Issues and Challenges Grant awarded from the Indiana Department of Health in 2022. Grant funds will be used to improve and expand public health initiatives including nutrition education, access to healthy food and greenspaces, and health screenings.
EXPANDING THE SBDC
Say you have a small dairy in Indiana, and you want to update your milking machines. Or you’re a farmer, processor or value-added agricultural manufacturer wanting to modernize your equipment or expand your operation.
You’re very good at what you do, but you don’t have a business background, and you need a business plan. You’re unsure where and how to get a loan or grant. You may need crop yield projections or information about exporting commodities.
An advisor from the Indiana Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Agribusiness Initiative can help. The service is one on one, confidential and free. And beginning this year, your advisor might also be a Purdue Extension educator.
A s a new partner in the Agribusiness Initiative, Purdue Extension strengthens a well-established program. “We’ve done one-on-one advising in the SBDC for all kinds of small businesses, from widget factories to restaurants, for years,” says its director, Monty Henderson. “But the SBDCs recognized that most of our clients are non-ag.”
In cooperation with the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA), the SBDCs invited Purdue Extension to help extend its distinctive advising model to agricultural businesses, largely using existing resources, Henderson says.
Since leaders announced the initiative in March 2022, Henderson — also an employee of the Purdue Center for Regional Development — has trained nine E xtension staff as new advisors. They join about 80 advisors already working across the state.
Farms are powerful economic generators. With the state Department of Agriculture and Purdue Extension, we have agriculture covered here in Indiana with two powerful partners who know it well.”— MONTY HENDERSON SBDC Agribusiness Initiative Director
The educators bring diverse agricultural specialties to the advising team. In addition to their training and professionalism, their commitment to public service makes them a good fit.
They meet with clients in their area of expertise, bringing Purdue-sourced tools and resources to help people make good decisions. One important role is to reinforce business plans and strategies and loan requests with real facts and data, he adds.
The partnership recognizes agriculture’s value to rural communities. “Farms are powerful economic generators,” says Henderson, a lifelong farmer. “With the state Department of Agriculture and Purdue Extension, we have agriculture covered here in Indiana with two powerful partners who know it well.”
ADDRESSING HOUSING NEEDS
IN RURAL INDIANA
As Indiana communities seek to increase quality of life and long-term economic growth, limited availability of a diverse supply of housing options continues to emerge as a significant barrier.
Purdue Extension’s Community Development Program led a comprehensive assessment of housing in collaboration with Partnership Parke County, county leaders, businesses and residents through a community-wide survey, focus groups and data analysis. The effort culminated in a housing summit, during which the findings of the study were presented, state and local experts shared resources, and the Purdue team garnered additional feedback for its final report.
“Data collection and analysis have been key to providing insight into our current landscape. Purdue Extension has further assisted our residents and us by bringing in the state and federal partners needed to educate the public and open the door for discussion,” adds Cyndi Todd, executive director for Partnership Parke County, the Economic Development Office for Parke County.
In Parke County, the survey revealed that average housing and transportation costs combined equaled 57 percent of income, highlighting a significant need for more accessible housing.
“By bringing together local, state and federal resources including the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, USDA Rural Development, Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, and a local lender - Purdue Extension and Partnership Parke County are positioning the community to effectively develop and implement housing-related strategies,” says Michael Wilcox, assistant director and program leader for Purdue Extension’s Community Development Program.
Since the survey was completed, Partnership Parke County hosted a public housing summit to share the data and receive community input. As a result of the summit, USDA Rural Development reached out to Parke County for ongoing discussions on utility infrastructure expansion with financial assistance, a necessary step before development can proceed.
Regional Purdue Extension educator Dan Walker (left) and Purdue Extension Hendricks County agriculture and natural resources and community development educator Jeff Pell (right) work with housing summit participants in collaboration with Partnership Parke County.
WITH NEW TOOLS
Sam Gettinger, owner of Gettinger Family Custom Meats in New Palestine and Rushville, says the stress of working in the meat packing industry finally caught up with him in 2018. He was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease after a flare up put him in the hospital for over two weeks. Still, he couldn’t see the toll the daily stress was taking on him until a doctor conducted a probing scope inside his body.
“The first thing the doctor asked was, ‘How much do you work?’,” Gettinger recalls. “When the doctor looks inside of you and can tell that things aren’t right due to the stress and anxiety, that’s a major eye opener.”
Concerns from agriculture and natural resource educators regarding the mental health decline of the agricultural community prompted the Purdue Extension Farm Stress Team to form and initiate conversations with farmers and their families.
Angela Sorg, Extension educator and Farm Stress Team co-leader, says their first priority was to organize training to help others identify mental health concerns, such as signs of stress, anxiety or suicidal thoughts. But, in order to reach the agriculture community, Sorg says she needed farmers and others entrenched in the industry to join her in their educational efforts.
The Purdue Extension Farm Stress Team partnered with the Indiana Meat Packers Association to provide area members, like Gettinger, with funding for training, information, newsletters and resources to support mental health.
Darla Kiesel, co-owner of Dewig Meats in Indiana and president of the American Association of Meat Processors, says farmers and agricultural industry workers have so much piled on their plates every day that it can be difficult to see the point at when help and intervention is needed. One of the things the Farm Stress Program teaches, Kiesel said, is identifying that moment when the weight of one’s plate becomes too heavy to carry alone.
“We constantly talk about our meat packers as a family, because that’s exactly what we are. I can go to any of my fellow meat packers and talk to them about how our business is running or issues we’re facing, and there isn’t really anyone else besides them who will understand,” Kiesel says. “Through these organizations and belonging, we can identify others just like us and know that we aren’t alone, and there is someone there to lean on.”
Kiesel says it’s not uncommon to see meat packers throughout the state coming together to work as a team and help one another out when tragedy strikes. After a fire at an Indiana plant, other Indiana Meat Packer members joined together to support production. The tools the Farm Stress Program provides complement the strong family atmosphere to support members in challenging situations.
Tonya Short, Farm Stress Team co-leader and E xtension educator, has worked alongside Sorg to obtain two National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) grants to advance the Farm
Stress Team as a leader in agricultural mental health support. The grants have helped the team create a stronger statewide effort and play a role in the newly formed 988 suicide and crisis hotline.
Educating therapists on the situations farmers encounter is a large part of the puzzle, Sorg says, to keeping someone on the path of continued help.
“If a farmer comes to me and is finally asking for therapy, I want to make sure I am referring them to someone who understands the specific and unique needs of the farming community, because it’s a culture,” Sorg explains. “The way they have to do therapy is different, the time they are working with is different, the way they get paid is different. Everything about a farmer’s life is different compared to someone who works a job where they punch a clock and go home.”
Stress and health concerns caused Gettinger to step back and reevaluate his career as a meat packer. He now enjoys the freedom of an adjusted business plan that allows him to find more time for life outside of work, like helping his daughters prepare to show their 4-H projects.
READY TO LAUNCH
TO PREPARE FOR TOMORROW’S
From the depths of Earth’s soil to outer space, Indiana 4-H is providing youth opportunities to explore new passions and build upon existing skills.
In collaboration with Arizona State University, University of Illinois, and University of Florida, Indiana 4-H received a grant from the International Space Station National Laboratory (ISSNL) in partnership with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS). Through the 4-H Multi-State Space Exploration Consortium grant, 12 youth from each state were selected to participate in the first Higher Orbits “Go for Launch! 4-H in Space!” event hosted at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Higher Orbits aims to increase students’ interests in science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM). The participating teens learned from Michelle Lucas, Founder and CEO of the Higher Orbits
Foundation and Purdue University graduate, and Astronaut Jim “JR” Reilly. Reilly gave them a tour of the space shuttle, Atlantis, answered questions and shared what considerations are important for living on the moon and Mars.
“This trip was a once in a life time opportunity for our 4-H’ers,” said Rebecca Holbert, Vermillion County extension director and 4-H youth development educator who coordinated the trip.
4-H’ers were split into teams with one member from each state and given a mission to design and present an experiment related to space exploration that would fit in a 128 cubic inch box. Experiments ranged from composting processes to supplementing protein from various sources.
“Our team deliberated for a while on what we would like to test in our experiment. Ultimately, Astronaut Reilly’s accounts of how challenging it is for astronauts to maintain appropriate levels of protein led us to our project,” said Williams.
A requirement of the grant was that attendees would teach about space and space exploration in their communities with a goal of reaching 100 youth. The Indiana team has reached 214 additional youth via the Teens as Teachers Space track, with future teaching sessions scheduled.
“Our future is bright with our Indiana 4-H leaders! This group of youth represented Indiana, their respective counties and their families well,” said Holbert.
Our future is bright with our Indiana 4-H leaders! This group of youth represented Indiana, their respective counties and their families well.”— REBECCA HOLBERT Vermillion County Extension Director and 4-H Youth Development Educator
Nolan Williams, Vermillion County 4-H alumnus and first year engineering student at Purdue University, was on the multistate winning team whose experiment will be conducted on the International Space Station in 2023. The experiment will test the efficiency of Spirulina growth under different lighting conditions in space with a goal of feeding astronauts on future expeditions.
Spirulina, an organism that grows in both fresh and salt water, is a type of cyanobacteria, often referred to as blue-green algae, that can produce energy from sunlight via photosynthesis. A single tablespoon of dried spirulina powder contains four grams of protein and is packed with other nutrients.
“The entire experience was inspiring. It was great to see the amazing creativity from everyone in the other projects along with visiting the Kennedy Space Center and meeting Astronaut Reilly. It helped me realize what I wanted to do specifically in engineering,” added Williams. “One day, I want to be an astronaut. My first small step is finishing my first year at Purdue with a good GPA.”
The multistate winning team’s experiment of Spirulina growth in space will be tested on the International Space Station in 2023. From left to right: Celine Torkzad, Florida 4-H, Krish Nangia, Illinois 4-H, Nolan Williams, Indiana 4-H, Cove Searle, Arizona 4-H.
The Indiana 4-H Higher Orbits team pictured with Astronaut Jim “JR” Reilly.
OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES ABOUND
Ranked as first in the nation for commercial duck production, second in production of layer and table eggs and third for turkeys raised, Indiana is home to a large population of America’s poultry. That means that poultry owners, who own small to large flocks, are challenged with widespread Avian influenza virus (AIV) outbreaks.
AIV infects wild and domestic bird species and spreads through manure, vehicles, water and potentially other methods. Unfortunately, highly pathogenic subtypes are often fatal and flocks need to be depopulated to stop the spread. AIV was first detected in Indiana in a commercial turkey facility in Dubois County in January 2016 and again in February 2022.
Denise Derrer Spears, Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH) communication director, says Kenneth Eck, Purdue Extension Dubois County agriculture and natural resources educator and Extension liaison for BOAH, and other Purdue Extension educators were especially helpful in reaching poultry farmers during recent outbreaks. “Purdue Extension echoed BOAH’s message about what to look for in small backyard flocks, and when and how to report possible outbreaks. Extension also helped us identify people who own poultry so we could reach out proactively.”
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service requested a Purdue Extension led manure management committee that eventually set the policy for composting infected birds. This policy is still used for AIV outbreaks across the U.S.
In what eventually become a template to use during the 2022 outbreak, Eck prepared neutral sites for animal disaster staff, including BOAH, to work. He reached out to area farmers to keep them informed, connected the Indiana Department of Animal Health with local entities providing mental health resources, informed the general public on basic food safety questions related to poultry products and shared his response efforts with other educators across the state.
“When a farmer discovers a disease outbreak, it is stressful as they not only consider the financial repercussions but they also care about the animals affected. As an Extension Educator, I can talk to producers individually to help them understand the process better,” said Eck.
Seeking to meet the public’s need for fresh, healthy food, Indiana’s urban agriculturalists are looking to Purdue Extension for educational support. Nathan Shoaf, Purdue Extension urban agriculture state coordinator, and Laura Ingwell, assistant professor of fruit and vegetable pest management, provide outreach in the areas of urban soil health, environmental contamination, small-scale crop production, plant disease, and pest identification and management.
In 2022, the team recorded:
• 70 percent increase in farmer calls and consultations regarding urban soil contamination, remediation, and small-scale specialty crop production
• 67 percent increase in farmer requests for on-farm visits
• 50 percent increase in urban agriculturalists inquiries about pest management along with seeing their pest practices spread among farmers
• Purdue Extension is a PARTNER in three climate-smart commodity grants awarded by the USDA totaling $155 million. Efforts will help family forest owners and farmers practice climate-smart forestry and agriculture in Indiana.
Purdue Extension has trained staff in all 92 Indiana counties to be responsive to agriculture emergencies like Avian influenza outbreaks.”
— KENNETH ECK Purdue Extension Dubois County agriculture and natural resources educator
Nutrition is one of many concepts that Indiana 4-H teaches to help youth prepare for their future.
• Taking Action to Address Substance Use in Communities (TASC), a collaboration between Purdue Extension, Purdue School of Nursing, University of Illinois Extension, and Ohio State University Extension, is an INTERDISCIPLINARY PROGRAM developed for extension educators to lead coalitions through the process of fostering robust community-based recovery-oriented systems of care.
• Purdue Extension is EQUIPPING EMPLOYEES ACROSS INDUSTRIES with tools to understand and address mental health needs through the Compassion & Resilience Education at Work curriculum.
• INDIANA 4-H IS A PARTNER in public education to support youth in their next steps for employment, enlistment or post-secondary education.