Making A Difference in Our County
University of Georgia Cooperative Extension is working hard for its constituents. The following are examples of Extension’s impact in the county over the past year.
4-H Youth Development
The Banks County 4-H program provides fun and educational activities including experiential learning and in-school program delivery. The Banks County 4-H program allows 4-H members to acquire knowledge and develop life skills that will allow them to become self-directing, productive, and contributing members of society.
In 2020, 661 youth were enrolled in the Banks County 4-H program. Banks County 4-H staff members met with all fourth, fifth, and sixth-grade classrooms once a month during the school year. Banks County 4-H youth also have an opportunity to participate in 4-H beyond the classroom. Youth in grades fourth through twelfth are invited to participate in extracurricular 4-H specialty clubs that include Cotton Boll and Consumer Judging Team, SAFE Archery Team, Livestock Show Team, County Council, and Service Clovers.
Active Banks County 4-H members are also involved in Project Achievement for which students choose a project area of interest, research the topic, and write and give a presentation. Through Project Achievement, youth develop leadership, public speaking, creativity, and other skills. In 2020, 11 Junior and Senior Banks County 4-H’ers (grades seven through twelve) competed at Rock Eagle 4-H Center in March, where six 4-H’ers received individual awards for their respective projects. One of the Senior 4-H’ers placed first in their project, allowing him to advance to State Congress where he had a chance to earn Master 4-H status during the summer of 2020. In addition, eighteen Cloverleaf 4-H’ers (grades four through six) competed in the Virtual Cloverleaf Project Achievement Competition in November, where thirteen of them received individual awards for their respective projects.
Agricultural and Natural Resources
Agriculture is one of the largest economic contributors in Banks County, contributing approximately 132 million dollars according to the FarmGate Report. By far the largest contributor is the poultry industry accounting for 117 million of that total, making Banks county a top 10 poultry county in the state. This value is primarily driven by the commercial broiler and both hatching and table egg industry in the county. Beef cattle is second in value to the county, contributing over 6 million dollars in FarmGate value. Other major contributors include hay production and honeybees.
Lab services and diagnostics are one of the core resources provided by Cooperative Extension. In 2020, 174 soil samples, 24 water samples, 36 forage and hay samples, and 16 animal waste samples have been submitted from Banks County. These test results and consultations are essential for producers to identify areas that need improvement to create a more efficient and profitable system.
The COVID-19 pandemic dominated 2020 and brought many unique challenges to the agriculture industry. Falling commodity prices and disrupted supply chains caused major fluctuation in areas of demand, shifting from the food service industry to grocery stores. Coupled with labor shortages in the packing industry, this caused a sharp drop in prices and demand for both poultry and beef. Producers looked for alternative marketing programs as well as support programs through USDA. The county agent worked hard to connect producers to alternative marketing options and support programs such as CFAP to help offset the dip in commodity prices. Future plans have been made to help producers add value to their calf crop through management practices as well as participating in value added programs like BQA.