UGA Extension Office

Our Impact

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.


There are many ways we can incorporate health and nutrition education, environmental education, agricultural awareness, and food science into our experiential learning objectives at local schools. We share a common interest in connecting local schools to environmental, agricultural, and food experiences related to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) for enhancing student education.

The Bartow County Extension office is a proud STEM partner with the Bartow County School System (BCSS) and has worked closely with local schools to assist with their district and state STEM certification process over the last few years. Our long-term vision is to have a school garden at every school in Bartow County. Garden experiences improve healthy eating habits in children with lifelong implications for reducing obesity, reducing poverty, and increasing longevity. Likewise, there are countless STEM connections that a school garden can provide.

Beyond the benefit of student learning is our ability as school partners to help teachers facilitate hands-on learning opportunities inside and outside the classroom. Teachers have a lot on their plates juggling their normal classroom responsibilities and struggle finding the time to start a garden or a STEM club for their students. Bartow’s teachers are highly dedicated and motivated by the benefits of STEM based education—however, they cannot do this alone. Local partners can help teachers with finding resource experts, grants, volunteers, invited speakers, and provide training that teachers need. As an example, the majority of our students and teachers are now three generations removed from farming. The learning curve for growing a garden is fairly steep. The Bartow County Extension office has the expertise to mentor and guide teachers as they develop school gardens and related STEM clubs.

Since 2019, the Bartow County Extension office has observed a significant increase in requests for school garden support and STEM related programs at Bartow County schools. Subsequent meetings with local school superintendents in 2020 reinforced the need to hire another staff member to focus on these areas to help meet the needs of the community. A position was funded that had split responsibilities with 50% of the time focused on Agricultural Education and 50% Environmental Education. These responsibilities are complimentary and would be heavily focused on STEM disciplines at local schools. To meet the needs of the school system a Facebook page was developed, an e-newsletter was published, STEM Walks were conducted, and Master Gardener Extension Volunteers provided resources and in-kind support at local schools.

Bartow County Extension staff and Master Gardener Extension Volunteers have assisted with more than a dozen school gardens and related STEM clubs on numerous occasions at local schools on everything from planting vegetables, attracting pollinators and beneficial insects, to seed starting, soil science, and vermiculture (worm composting). Our office trains, certifies, and manages school garden Master Gardener Extension Volunteers to mentor and guide local schools. Master Gardeners and Extension staff have provided resources and in-kind support as follows:

1) Donated $4,320 dollars’ worth of plants, soil, and seeds to Bartow County Schools in 2021 and 2022. 2) Master Gardener Extension Volunteers grow and sell plants to offset the costs of these donations to schools. 3) Master Gardeners reported 1,971 volunteer hours for supporting local schools during the past two academic years with over 2,249 contacts. 4) We had 25 volunteers travel over 15,389 miles to support local school garden and STEM related programs during the last two academic years. 5) During the past two years, the estimated in-kind value of Master Gardener volunteer time and mileage to local schools is over $55,000 (based on the Independent Sector 2021 estimated value of each Georgia volunteer hour). 6) Invited STEM, career day, and garden club presentations by Extension staff totaled 92 teaching hours with over 3,042 contacts during the past two academic years.

The Bartow County Extension office provides a quarterly School Garden/STEM e-Newsletter through an email listserv for 393 Bartow County teachers. The Extension office also manages a Facebook Group: “School Gardens in Bartow County” to share all the exciting things happening with our school partnerships: This Facebook Group currently has 135 educators and volunteers that follow our posts. Facebook posts were viewed 3,933 times by group members in the past year.

Community partners observe classrooms and provide feedback to schools about STEM instruction and practices during STEM Walks as schools progress through the district and state STEM certification process. County Extension staff and volunteers were invited to attend 42 STEM Walks (147 observation hours) at local schools during the past two academic years. To date, Bartow County has eight elementary schools and four middle schools that are district STEM certified and one middle school that is state STEM certified.

On March 28, 2022, Bartow County Extension staff were Invited to speak at the Bartow STEM Innovation Academy for 30 teachers to discuss how our office can support K-12 STEM programs. We were able to share the local resources and expertise that we have available to help teachers develop STEM clubs such as 4-H AgriScience, Junior Master Gardeners, and Environmental Science clubs. Bartow Extension office resources were posted on the BCSS website for teachers to access as needed:

4-H Youth

Healthcare pathway students at Red Top Middle school participate in an annual field trip to a medical facility to learn more about the career pathway. Unfortunately, due to COVID, students were unable to visit medical facilities. The school coordinator reached out to the Bartow County Extension office to facilitate an animal science learning event that would closely resemble healthcare.

The UGA Beef Unit hosted Red Top Middle School’s 8th grade students at the Northwest Georgia Research and Education Center. Students learned herd management practices including feeding operations, pasture management, and facility operations. The core of the curriculum was the Level 2 4-H Veterinary Science project, “All System’s Go!” which has as its focus, developing a variety of skills related to the field of veterinary medicine for youth participants. As part of this program, youth learned important life concepts and a variety of skills a veterinarian must possess in order to be a successful. In addition, youth gained practical science skills such as how to read medication labels, administer vaccinations, learn to suture, and how to assess an animal’s vital signs. Additionally, youth acquired knowledge in biosecurity, importance of animal environment, and preventative medicine. Guest speakers contributed to equine science and healthcare career paths. UGA CAES Professor, Dr. Duberstein, gave a brief lecture on equine sciences to students. Nurse Practitioners answered student’s questions about the medical field.

In order to collect data on the knowledge gained by participants, an evaluation was given asking the 40 youth on the vet science sessions. 80% identified healthy environments. 60% documented the importance of biosecurity. 53% gained knowledge of record keeping in livestock. 50% learned the importance of vaccinations in herd management. 100% identified stress free environments. 16% learned methods to keep the food supply chain safe. 80% gained basic equine knowledge. Red Top Middle’s Vice Principal stated, “it was a fantastic field trip and I personally had a wonderful time and learned a lot!” Red Top Middle School Counselor and Career Coordinator said, “our kids came back telling everyone about what a great time they had and things they had learned.”

Family and Consumer Sciences

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that each year 1 in 6 Americans get sick from contaminated food or beverages and 3,000 die from foodborne illness. The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that foodborne illnesses cost the United States more than $15.6 billion each year. Since 2021, Bartow County Extension has been offering increased ServSafe classes due the to increased interest of fast and convenient food felt by the local foodservice industry.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a change to the foodservice industry and the people of Bartow County have adapted to the change. A study performed by the National Institute of Health found the most noticeable changes in the food industry include the explosive increase in home meal replacement, meal-kit consumption, online orders, take-out, and the use of drive-through restaurants. Foodservice establishments in the Bartow County community have felt and noticed the change as well. Along with this rapid change, there has been a noticeable influx with the demand of food trucks. According to the Industry Research Reports, the Food Truck industry has experienced a boom over the five years to 2021, primarily as a result of the surge in gastronomy (the practice or art of choosing, cooking, and eating good food) in the United States. In fact, the Food Truck industry has outpaced the broader food service sector during this period. With the increased demand and interest in gastronomy in Bartow County, Bartow County Extension has focused on strengthening the local food industry.

In December 2022, Bartow County Extension initially offered three ServSafe food safety classes for Bartow County Schools, Barnsley Resort Chefs, and other food service providers that prepare hundreds of meals daily. Due to increased interest in the ServSafe food safety classes, two additional classes were added to meet the demand. Along with increased advertisement on social media platforms and the local radio station, Bartow County Extension discusses food safety in weekly newspaper articles. The local Environmental Health Specialists also promote Bartow County Extension ServSafe Manager classes to potential clients. The ServSafe Food Protection Manger Class has been offered to many vendors of the Cartersville Farmers Market, whom have showed interest in foodservice and potential expansion of their businesses.

Bartow County Schools, local restaurants, and local churches serve thousands of meals daily. In 2022, Bartow County Extension trained 38 food handlers, from managers to volunteers, on how to handle and prepare food safely. One of the largest ServSafe classes held by Bartow County Extension was for 20 Bartow County School Nutrition managers and assistant managers. One successful class participant manages a volunteer kitchen for Cartersville First Presbyterian church, that provides free meals to the public. After passing the Manager Exam, he sought out Bartow County Extension for assistance in improving the church's kitchen design, as well as to sign up 13 volunteers for food safety trainings. All 13 passed and are running a fully staffed volunteer kitchen serving 50-100 Bartow county citizens a week with hot meals and take-home meals. Cartersville First Presbyterian church is one of the largest hot meals and take-home community-based churches in Cartersville, GA. 

Testimonials or comments include, "I have learned a lot about everything! First Time attending this class. Angelica did a very good Job!" - Bartow County School Nutrition manager.  "The First Presbyterian Church of Cartersville, Georgia has had a long running mission program to provide a weekly hot meal to members of the community who need food and fellowship. The Friendship Table closed during the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020 and 2021, and when we reopened in the summer of 2022, we found that we needed to improve our food safety program to meet the Atlanta Community Food Bank requirements before we invited the public back to our program. We contacted Angelica Bridges, Bartow County Family & Consumer Services Extension Agent to ask for her assistance. Over the past five months, Angelica has provided her expertise and assistance in making sure our program meets or exceeds the food health standards necessary to protect our clients. She has trained thirteen volunteers and certified them as SERVSAFE Food Handlers, as well as one SERVSAFE Food Manager. During the training, she has also provided excellent advice in helping us revamp food safety practices at the Presbyterian Church facilities. Her help and assistance through the Family and Community Services program at the Bartow County Extension office has been invaluable in ensuring that the Friendship Table program provides safe and healthy food for our clients." - First Presbyterian Church of Cartersville, GA, Friendship Table Coordinator.

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