Life as a University of Georgia Extension agriculture and natural resources agent is never quiet for Jeff Cook. Despite serving farmers and homeowners with disparate needs and spread across two counties, Cook is always accessible and understands the impact he has on others.
Cook serves Taylor and Peach counties in middle Georgia, a task he's navigated for three years. He also acts as the advisor to the Georgia Strawberry Growers Association and as the middle Georgia peach area agent.
"Taylor County is huge, but it is not the largest when it comes to harvested row crop acres. Peach County is small in area, but it has a lot of pecans and other crops," said Cook, whose counties account for more than $75 million in farm gate value.
Today, farmers depend on Cook's expertise for the most up-to-date crop information and best land management practices. When he started, Cook didn't always feel confident providing his clients -- some of whom had been farming for decades -- with advice.
Cook didn't grow up on a farm, and he never considered a career in agriculture until he enrolled in a college botany class. That led him to a bachelor's degree in plant pathology and to a career with UGA Extension.
When Cook took his initial UGA Extension post in Tattnall County as an agriculture and natural resources agent, he learned by listening to the concerns of farmers and more seasoned agents. After 14 years on the job, Cook finds himself teaching others and mentoring younger agents.
"I now have the confidence that what I say is right," he said. "It takes years to build trust with farmers and agents."
Being able to help farmers and support the economy of two communities are the highlights of Cook's career. According to the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, Taylor County's annual farm gate value is $37.9 million and Peach County's is $37.7 million. Along with staying updated on commodity information, Cook hosts a local cable show in Taylor County, "Backyard Basics." The show features tips on topics such as gun safety, pruning and planting, and deer stand safety tips. The quick quips that make the show stand out are what attract viewers of all ages. One YouTube viewer remarked that Cook's show "is awesome! So many things to learn."
"I love what I do, and I love helping folks," Cook said.
Published December 1, 2014
Mack Jefferson Cook
Agriculture & Natural Resources
"I love what I do, and I love helping folks."
- Jeff Cook, ANR Agent for Taylor and Peach Counties