Preparing Yourself for Black Swan Events

Learn to thrive despite, and perhaps because of, the unpredictable.

I was at the Celebration of Ag event last week and got a chance to enjoy the funny and engaging commentary of keynote speaker, John Phipps (Contributing Editor for Farm Journal & Top Producer magazines).

John talked about how we can survive and thrive through occurrences that are unexpected and extremely difficult to predict. He referred to them as Black Swan Events.

For example, who could have predicted the current value and consequences of land in Iowa? What about Hurricane Katrina? Who could have predicted the social implications of the internet and social media? Black Swan Events have long term and profound impacts on society. Even though we cannot prepare for these events, John emphasized the importance of building trust, and developing relationships.
That way, when life throws the unpredictable at us we have support, combined
strength in decision making, and pooled resources to draw from.

Speaking of unpredictable, after over 10 years in Des Moines I am back in Linn County and now the Director of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach for Linn County.

I am not an Iowa State University graduate, not a former 4-H club participant, not even a Master Gardner. This is no Black Swan Event folks. I am here because of a very customary and traditional principle, one I  have observed repeatedly throughout the years. If you plant a seed and ensure right conditions, it will grow. I know this to be true from my time spent with business owners trying to establish and grow their businesses. I’ve witnessed many a seed planted and sown with at-risk youth and their families through my years of non-profit experience. There is no greater feeling than being able to celebrate community growth. That is how I ended up back in Linn County and at ISU Extension and Outreach in Marion.

That is also why I am so excited about the future of our organization. ISU
Extension and Outreach helps take Iowa State’s education and research beyond
the borders of campus and provides education that makes a difference in Iowan’s
everyday lives. We provide practical, research-based information and education tailored to meet the needs of Iowans, needs we know firsthand. There is fertile ground here. This area is full of people who are hungry for knowledge, wanting to know how to take better care of their health, families, schools, communities and environment. I see great opportunity to focus our efforts towards ensuring that hunger is fed.

We are moving forward, ready to provide innovative, in-demand, relevant programming that acts in catalytic ways, encourages partnerships and deepens our community impact.

One of our newest offerings, the Homegrown Lifestyle  program, does just that by recognizing the demand for information on edible landscape design; soil and water conservation; growing and preserving your own food, fruits and wild crops; backyard poultry; beekeeping; grazing and ruminants; and wildlife management. It is a 12-week course for people living on a large lot or small acreage who want to take full advantage of their space to collect rainwater, make compost and learn how to grow small fruits and vegetables. If this interests you, I encourage you to join us on Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

This is just the beginning. Be sure to look for more innovative and educational programming from us. By utilizing Extension and Outreach resources, we can be better prepared for Black Swan Events and therefore thrive despite, and perhaps because of, the unpredictable. I am happy to back home and working to ensure the growth and the success of my hometown community.  

-Rachel Rockwell
ISU Extension & Outreach Linn County Director, Marion

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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