Making A Difference in Our County
We're working hard for the citizens we serve. Here are some examples of successful projects from the past year:
AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL RESOURCES
With their horticultural expertise and passion for serving the public, Master Gardener Extension Volunteers (MGEVs) help the Extension office further its educational influence within the community. This year, in cooperation with Fannin and Union counties, Towns County welcomed a new class of 18 MGEV trainees. In 2016, MGEVs and trainees maintained seven demonstration gardens in Union and Towns counties and manned “Ask a Master Gardener” booths at eight local fairs and farmers’ markets weekly throughout the growing season. They also planned four educational programs on pollinator health and native plants for youth and adults. MGEVs answered basic horticulture and entomology questions while working a help desk, and going on site visits with the Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension agent allowed them to hone their plant pathology and diagnostic skills. Both the trainees and established MGEVs contributed 3,676 volunteer hours in 2016, a value of over $86,000. The Towns County Extension office maintains strong connections with local community partners, such as the Georgia Mountain Research and Education Center, local U.S. Department of Agriculture departments, the U.S. Forest Service and the Georgia Forestry Commission. These partnerships help us to provide valuable programming, such as SepTIMBER Forestry Field Day, which over 70 people attended, and two hemlock treatment workshops for property owners. These programs helped further Towns County Extension’s forest health initiatives by promoting scouting for hemlock woolly adelgid and treating native hemlocks. These are incredibly important to the county because a large portion of its land is in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. Towns County maintained its standard corn and vegetable production meetings and held an informative session on high tunnel acquisition and maintenance. With the harsh and erratic mountain winters, it is essential that producers make informed decisions regarding their crops, and soil testing was promoted to maintain proper soil health. The use of best management practices in vegetable crop operations and proper high tunnel maintenance can extend the growing season by as much as two months, greatly increasing production and enhancing the livelihoods of producers.
4-H YOUTH DEVELOPMENT
Over 2016, Towns County 4-H has exemplified what it means to be a part of Georgia 4-H. The largest event of the year was the annual public-speaking contest, where fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students researched and developed speeches on topics of their choosing. They presented their speeches in front of their peers. Judges awarded first, second and third place ribbons to top-scoring students, who advanced to District Project Achievement. Out of the 34 Towns County competitors, nearly 80 percent placed in the top three in their respective categories. Fourth- through sixth-grade elected class officers helped lead the 4-H club meetings. At officers’ training, these students participated in team-building and leadership activities. Beyond in-school curriculum, students can be a part of learning groups and teams. Through participation in the Georgia 4-H Project S.A.F.E. (Shooting Awareness, Fun and Education) program, Towns County has active BB and air rifle teams. Students learn about the safe and responsible use of guns while also becoming master marksmen. Each team practices on a weekly basis and competes in district and state events. The student garden club is led by MGEVs from Union and Towns counties. Students participate in learning projects and regularly create garden-influenced crafts. The saddle-up club for students with a passion for horses and the equine industry meets weekly. Students study various topics on horses and develop presentations. This year the club participated in the state Horse Quiz Bowl. Towns County 4-H’ers also engage in community service projects.