University of Nevada, Reno Extension is engaged in Elko County communities, presenting research-based knowledge to address critical community needs in the areas of agriculture; children, youth and families; community and economic development; horticulture; health and nutrition; and natural resources. It is a county-state-federal partnership providing practical education to people, businesses and communities. Extension is a unit of the University’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources, and plays a vital role in fulfilling the University’s land-grant mission.

4-H Youth Development

In 2023, 279 young people participated in the Elko County 4-H Youth Development program. More than 77 youth and adult volunteers led clubs and project activities, teaching life skills. The 12 community and project clubs met in Elko, Clover Valley, Jiggs, Lamoille, Ruby Valley, Spring Creek, Starr Valley, Tuscarora and Wells.

In 2022, Elko County youth participated in the Nevada 4-H Evaluation, a survey designed to measure the impact of 4-H. The Experience scale measured participants on the essential elements of positive youth development. The highest mean response (3.8 on 4 point scale) was for three questions: “Is 4-H a place where you feel safe?” “Do you like to learn new things?” and “Do you try to learn from your mistakes?” Seventy-eight percent of the respondents indicated that “4-H is a place where it’s okay for them to make mistakes,” and 75% said they “are willing to work hard on something difficult.” Ninety-nine percent of the youth surveyed answered “yes” or “usually” to the question, “Is 4-H a place where you get to do things that you like?” These results indicate that the Nevada 4-H Youth Development Program is providing young people with opportunities to thrive, learn and grow.

4-H Health Rocks! 

4-H Health Rocks! applies 4 H’s successful Positive Youth Development model with life skill development and decision-making to reduce tobacco, alcohol, e-cigarette/vaping and drug use in young people. 4-H Health Rocks! instills confidence and communication skills necessary to make responsible decisions and develop the internal strength to resist risky behaviors. In 2022-2023 University of Nevada, Reno Extension collaborated with several community partners to teach Health Rocks! to Elko County youth. Communities in Schools invited Vicki Tybo, Elko County 4-H Professional, to teach 30 youth in three separate Adobe Middle School class periods for 10 weeks. Vicki also delivered a presentation to Elko High School students, parents, and teachers about the 4-H Health Rocks! program and 4-H curricula that focus on emotional well-being. Extension/4-H staffed booths at the Elko High School Mental Health Fair, Level Up for Health Fairs at Flagview Intermediate School in Elko, and Spring Creek Middle School, and Heroes Have Heart Celebration.

4-H Positive Youth Development Thriving Model

The 4-H Thriving model predicts that youth who participate in 4-H programs that provide a
high-quality developmental context will thrive, and thriving youth achieve key
developmental outcomes. 

High-quality 4-H program settings provide youth a place to belong, matter and explore their interests and passions (in 4-H we call these personal sparks). High-quality settings (4-H clubs, afterschool, in-school, special interest projects, countywide 4-H events, etc.) foster developmental relationships with youth. Developmental relationships are connections youth have with 4-H volunteers and staff and youth experience with other youth that express care, challenge growth, and share power. These components help ensure that 4-H programs provide a nourishing developmental context – a place where youth can belong and grow.

High-quality 4-H programs contribute to Positive Youth Development through the intentional promotion of social, emotional, cognitive and behavioral habits. In the 4-H Thriving Model this process of Positive Youth Development is described by seven indicators of thriving: Openness to challenge and discovery, growth mindset, hopeful purpose, pro-social orientation (youth demonstrate respect, honesty, responsibility, empathy and helping), transcendent awareness (youth are connected to something greater than the self that provides meaning and purpose in life and shapes everyday thoughts and
action), positive emotional outlook and self-regulation through goal setting and management.

Youth who experience high-quality developmental settings in 4-H with an emphasis on these key social-emotional skills achieve key positive youth development outcomes, including academic motivation and success, social competence, high personal standards, connection with others, personal responsibility, and contribution to others through leadership and civic engagement.

Youth who achieve positive developmental outcomes are more likely to also achieve long-term outcomes marked by vocational or academic success, civic engagement, employability and economic stability and happiness and well-being.

The 4-H Thriving Model is the theory of change for positive youth development in 4-H. The model illustrates the process of positive youth development in 4-H programs by connecting high-quality program settings to the promotion of youth thriving.

To bring the 4-H Thriving Model to Nevada, Jill Tingey, Extension Educator was selected as a state 4-H Thriving Model champion and Western Regional Network Chair. In this role she coordinated training for the Western Regional Champions, delivered one national workshop for the 4-H Positive Youth Development Foundations Academy for Early Career 4-H Professionals and one state workshop for Nevada 4-H professionals.

Strengthening Families

Heart & Hope Family Violence Intervention Program

Nevada ranks #3 in the nation for women killed by men due to domestic violence. In Elko County, 405 domestic violence victimizations occurred in 2017, with a rate of 7.7 per 1,000 persons which is much higher than the national rate of 4.5 per 1,000 persons. The 2012 Elko County Extension needs assessment indicated that domestic violence prevention is a high-priority issue for county residents. The Heart & Hope Family Violence Prevention Program provides Elko County families with resources and skills to strengthen relationships and reduce the risk of future violence.

Heart & Hope Family Violence Intervention Program targets parents and children who have experienced domestic violence. The program teaches communication, emotion identification and regulation, problem solving, healthy relationships, social/emotional skills, and strengthening families. Since 2015, 55 adults and 115 Elko County youth participated in the program. Julie Woodbury presented at the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Conference and the Hope Through Healing Fair at the Elko Band Gym.

Jill Tingey and Julie Woodbury were awarded an Extension Foundation $10,000 Acceleration grant to expand to other communities and sustain the current program. This grant has allowed the Heart & Hope team to focus on publishing the Heart & Hope children, youth and teen curriculum. The team revised the Heart & Hope website, https://extension.unr.edu/domestic-violence-intervention/default.aspx; redesigned three promotional pieces – a case statement, postcard, and flyer; presented 3 Extension Foundation webinars to a national audience; and wrote a digital feature story, https://connect.extension.org/blog/building-resilient-families-how-new-technologies-for-ag-extension-is-serving-the-heart-and-hope-program-from-the-university-of-nevada-reno. 

Domestic Violence High Risk Teams

In 2021 Elko County domestic violence calls for service increased by 8.3% compared to 2020. Coordinated community responses, involving multiple systems (e.g., law enforcement, criminal justice system, victim, and child services, etc.) that are victim-centered increase victim safety and participation in the criminal process, increase arrest and prosecution of the offender, and reduce recidivism. Law enforcement agencies that conduct victim danger risk assessments when responding to domestic violence calls prevent domestic violence fatalities. However, a coordinated community response structure must be in place to provide support for the victim.

In 2023 Extension received funding from the Nevada Attorney General’s Office to continue implementing a Domestic Violence High-Risk Team Model, establishing a victim-centered coordinated response system in Elko County. The grant paid for a part-time multidisciplinary team coordinator, Levanna Layton. Elko County funds were used for technical assistance from the Geiger Institute to provide training to the new coordinator and all Elko County law enforcement agencies, judges, district attorneys, and victim-systems and domestic violence advocates on the Model, lethality data collection, and working with domestic violence advocates.

The Elko County Sheriff’s Office, Elko Police Department, and West Wendover Police Department trained all of their respective officers on using the 11-item Danger Assessment-Law Enforcement questionnaire (lethality assessment). All five of the domestic violence advocates in Elko County have completed training on the Danger Assessment, a longer tool that helps advocates provide more support to victims. Levanna has convened the multidisciplinary team meetings each month to discuss high-risk cases, determine additional services for victims, and receive updates from the district attorney’s office on prosecution hearings and trials.

Agriculture & Horticuture

Elko County residents look to Extension for pesticide application safety education and certification as well as horticulture education. Extension assists clientele in identifying plants, weeds, and insects, diagnosing plant diseases and recommending actions homeowners can take to address plant, weed and insect problems. Community members can stop by the Extension office to see the pollinator demonstration garden. The Nevada Master Gardener program has expanded to rural areas. Community members interested in volunteering their time to educate the public about gardening participated in the Home Horticulture Certification program and the Master Gardener Certification program. Elko County has one Master Gardener. Elko County Extension offered the following agriculture, pesticide and horticulture classes in 2022-2023:

  • Home Horticulture Certification
  • Master Gardener Certification
  • Pesticide Application Safety
  • Cattlemen’s Update
  • Small Acreage Certification

Health & Nutrition

Radon

Extension's Radon Education Program educates Nevadans about the health risk posed by elevated levels of radon in the home. The program offers literature, maps, educational presentations and low-cost radon test kits. 

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that has no odor, color or taste, and comes from the soil. Radon gas moves through the soil into the air, where it harmlessly spreads in outdoor air or enters buildings through the foundation and becomes trapped inside. When it enters a building and gets trapped inside, high levels can cause lung cancer. Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. More than 21,000 Americans die of radon-related lung cancer each year.  Not everyone exposed to radon will get lung cancer, but the greater the radon level and the longer the exposure, the greater the risk of developing lung cancer. Many studies show extended periods of exposure to low levels of radon over a long period of time caused lung cancer. All homes, offices, schools and preschools should be tested for radon. 

Free radon test kits were offered to Elko County residents in January and February 2023. Chris Kelly, Nevada Radon Education Program Officer, delivered a community presentation at the Elko County Library and staffed a booth at the Elko Health Fair. Radon education is important for realtors because the Environmental Protection Agency and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend prospective home buyers should know the level of radon in any home they are considering purchasing. Realtors have a special role wherein they can educate their clients about the dangers of radon gas and recommend testing during real estate transactions. In 2023, 56 homes in Elko County were tested in a real estate transaction, 683 or 3.34% of homes were tested, and 46 homes were mitigated when homeowners found they had high radon levels.

Community Development

A team of Extension economic and community development faculty and staff published the Nevada Economic Assessment Project Socioeconomic Baseline Report for Elko County, Nevada and the Community Assets for Elko County, Nevada reports. The reports were produced for County Commissioners and other local, state and federal agencies with Elko County’s social, demographic, economic, and environmental trends. The purpose of the Nevada Economic Assessment Project (NEAP) publications is to provide community leaders with tools to assess local planning and economic development initiatives. These economic impact assessment models are located on Extension’s website, making it easier to find evidence-based data to analyze industries and activities associated with policy decisions. 

Natural Resources

Rangeland Management for Desired Outcomes

Paul Meiman, Rangeland Livestock and Wildlife Interactions Specialist, focused on outcome-based rangeland management. In FY2023, Meiman continued efforts to provide and contribute to formal presentations, informal presentations and hands-on field demonstrations related to cooperative rangeland monitoring, plant identification, livestock grazing management for riparian areas, virtual fencing and the management of invasive annual grasses.  After becoming aware of several locations in Elko County supporting a “new” invasive annual grass called ventenata, Meiman gave a series of presentations to increase awareness of this invasive plant in Elko County and throughout northern Nevada.  Meiman and 2 colleagues prepared an Extension special publication on ventenata that should be published and available in 2024. Meiman also accepted an invitation from the Winecup-Gamble Outcome-Based Collaborative Group to serve as their project coordinator. Meiman continues to be actively engaged in multiple collaborative group efforts related to rangeland management in Elko County. In FY 2023, Meiman also accepted an invitation to participate in a multi-state technology transfer effort focusing on the management of invasive annual grasses. This Invasive Annual Grass Tech Transfer Partnership began developing curricula for workshops to be delivered at three different levels throughout the western states. Meiman has already incorporated important partners and efforts from Elko County into this multi-state effort.  In FY 2023, Meiman also worked with a number of colleagues at UNR to draft extensive and substantive comments on the Proposed Rule Change from the Bureau of Land Management on Conservation and Landscape Health.  Those comments were submitted by Dean William Payne early in FY 24.  Meiman also responds to questions and requests for information on a wide variety of topics related to rangelands from residents of Elko County (and beyond). 

Baker-Tingey, J, Meiman, P. and Moore, P 2024, Elko County Annual Report | Fiscal Year 2022-2023, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno, County Reports

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