Extension Program Director from Australia Visits Iowa Learning Farms at ISU

July 8, 2019

Iowa Learning Farms announced that Michelle Young, director Sustainable Farms at Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, will be in Iowa during July to study the award-winning ILF programs. Leading the development of the first extension program for sustainable farming at ANU, she has crossed the globe seeking best practices and programs to aid in maximizing the growth of the program in its early years.


“I am tasked with building an extension program that will be a practical resource for up to 15,000 farmers in the box gum grassy woodlands of eastern Australia,” said Young. “In researching programs that we could adapt to our needs, I found the content and approaches at ILF to be very intriguing. I’m looking forward to seeing programs and materials in action during my visit.”


Sustainable Farms is a cross-disciplinary research project aiming to create an engaging farm-based outreach program to increase adoption of sustainable farming practices on the South West Slopes of Eastern Australia. Similar to the origins of ILF, the program grew out of needs identified through field research and engagement on the farm. ILF stresses farmer-to-farmer outreach and learning as a fundamental pillar of the extension effort. Young has similar goals for her program, and has already begun integrating some ILF materials and strategies.


“As a social scientist by training, I’ve helped shape this program to address the myriad needs and concerns of farmers which often extend well beyond which seed, method, or chemical to choose when it comes to conservation adoption,” said Dr. Jacqueline Comito, director of ILF. “I am looking forward to seeing our approach from Michelle’s eyes as well as learning the ways in which she wants to adopt our methods for her program in Australia.”


Young has extensive experience in social research, and immediately grasped the power of the differentiated approach to university extension services followed by ILF.


Her time in Iowa will be filled with first-hand exposure to ILF. Her itinerary includes visits to ISU research farms, opportunities to interact with ILF farmer partners, and tours of wildlife and conservation centers around the state. She will also participate in public events with the ILF Conservation Stations at a county fair and a farmers market. In addition, Young will deliver a lecture about Sustainable Farms as a part of information and idea sharing between the programs. And of course, there will be some fun, including an Iowa Cubs game and Fourth of July fireworks.


Young noted that she is excited to learn about ILF and Iowa, and is eager to continue to interact with her Iowa colleagues on ideas that can strengthen both programs.


To learn more about Iowa Learning Farms outreach and education programs, please visit us on the web at www.iowalearningfarms.org.