- Kolich, Heather Noelle
As Georgia entered a shelter-in-place state of emergency in March, 2020, Forsyth County Extension faculty and staff responded to the changing needs and concerns of clients. Moving to virtual education platforms, each program area offered live webinars, created on-demand videos, and published fact sheets and news articles to address issues of food security and safety, health and disease management, pest and landscape issues, agricultural efficiencies, and youth enrichment and engagement. Extension team members also utilized social media channels to keep clients informed of COVID-19 safety measures, relief programs, and coping activities.
As the novel coronavirus COVID-19 spread to pandemic proportions and the Governor of Georgia issued State of Emergency and Shelter-in-Place orders beginning on March 14, 2020, the needs and concerns of Forsyth County Extension clients shifted. Growing food at home rose in importance as grocery store shelves became bare. Personal safety and health management interests rose, especially among higher-risk populations. With curtailed services and rising unemployment, clients needed resources to gain self-sufficiency skills. And with shelter-in-place orders and closures of businesses and government buildings, they needed this information delivered to them at their homes.
Distance education and web-based platforms are delivery channels rarely used for Extension programming, which relies on demonstrations and education through face-to-face classes and interactions. In response to pandemic-related business shut-downs and cessation of traditional face-to-face Extension programming, however, every member of the Forsyth County Extension team learned new skills to continue providing clients with factual, research-based information across digital media channels. Forsyth County Extension’s response included short, on-demand YouTube webinars covering home gardening, food preservation, and youth education topics; weekly Facebook webinars on common landscape weeds and pests; factsheets; and social media posts to alert clients to the latest safety protocols, assistance programs, educational and entertaining Extension webinars from around the state, and general wellness activities. Forsyth County Extension agents also continued to offer traditional Extension classes through distance education channels.
Forsyth County Extension’s social media outreach and distance education programs produced the following impacts: Social media outreach Health and Safety: Beginning with a “Wash Your Paws” Facebook post on March 6, 2020, the UGA Extension Forsyth County Facebook page promoted 51 health and safety, food safety, general wellbeing, and emergency assistance activities, webinars, factsheets, and/or publications, with a reach of 7,194 and direct engagement of 530 clients. Gardening, Natural Resources, and Food Preservation: As people spent more time home individually and as families, Forsyth County Extension staff developed and delivered 40 food gardening, food preservation, landscape, and natural resources webinars through YouTube and Facebook, with a reach of 13,865 and direct engagement of 1,083 clients. In addition, 38 social media posts guiding clients to additional information and education in gardening, pest management, food preservation, and natural resources reached 6,534 clients with direct engagement of 701. Agriculture: Social media outreach to Forsyth County agricultural producers included 18 Facebook posts with information on USDA CFAP assistance, agribusiness webinars, and promotions for virtual beef and forage production courses. Total reach to this client audience was 1,998, with direct engagement of 119. Distance education outreach Forsyth County Extension Agents continued to offer popular classes and courses to clients through distance education platforms. The Family and Consumer Sciences agent transitioned the weekly diabetes prevention program, “Prevent T2,” which started in January as in-person classes, to a live, online class. Through 13 distance learning classes, six participants reported losing 22 pounds collectively with a weekly average of 425 minutes of physical activity for the group. The FACS agent also conducted single-session classes for adults and youth in meal preparation, food preservation, and home de-cluttering. From March to July, the FACS agent provided virtual face-to-face education to approximately 40 clients monthly. In September and October, the ANR agent coordinated a live, online offering of the Master Cattleman Program, providing virtual face-to-face classes to 40-50 Georgia cattle producers each week. After just six of the eight classes, participants were already showing behavior change or reporting the intent to change behavior. Eighty-one percent of survey respondents reported applying body condition scoring to at least some animals in their herd following the Improving Reproductive Management class. After the external parasite management class, 29 percent of responding class participants said they were examining their herds for Asian longhorned ticks, while 46 percent indicated that they intend to do so. Management practices such as these can improve herd health and profitability.
Health & Nutrition
- Year: 2020
- Geographic Scope: County
- County: Forsyth
- Location: College Station, Athens
- 4-H Youth
- Agriculture & Natural Resources
- Family and Consumer Sciences
- Adams, Beverly
- Haines, Heather
- Kennedy, Shannon Patricia
- Worley, Barbara