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.
The Cartersville Farmers Market was restructured to follow COVID-19 safety protocols. Only food and agricultural vendors were allowed to sell at the market this year. Market vendors reported an increase in total sales this season of $423,267 compared to $115,450 last year. The market has a new website, new logo, a new Instagram account with 2,349 followers, and increased Facebook followers to 6,223 people compared to 3,582 last year. The estimated customer count for the season increased to 35,400 people versus 23,350 last year.
Farmers markets play a vital role in providing access to fresh local produce. However, necessary social distancing measures during the pandemic are completely counterculture to the farmers market experience. Fulton County and Bartow County Extension provided an online educational program to help farmers, farmers market vendors, and market managers navigate operational adjustments during the COVID-19 pandemic. The online webinar was originally conducted for Bartow County Farmers market vendors and involved 52 attendees. Due to the overwhelming positive response, the webinar training was replicated for a state-wide audience. Delivered on April 30, 2020, the Farm to Fork: A food safety webinar was designed to address common food safety concerns facing farmers, farmers market managers and other food vendors. The hour-long webinar provided COVID-19 recommendations to keep workers and food safe, starting at the farm to selling at the market. General food safety practices from farm to market were also be discussed to enhance the safety of locally grown produce. Ninety-nine people attended the food safety training from across Georgia with 40 percent of registered attendees identifying as farmers, farmers market managers or volunteers, and food vendors. When asked to rate their knowledge level before and after the program, only 16.67 percent of respondents indicated that before the program they were extremely or very knowledgeable about the topics presented. After the program, 83 percent felt they were extremely or very knowledgeable about the information presented. Wrote one participant, “I received needed information I am confident is current and research-based that I can share with others.”
The Bartow County Extension office collaborates with Keep Bartow Beautiful to provide conservation education and outreach during local Arbor Day events. Keep Bartow Beautiful purchases 2,000 bare root tree seedlings every year from the Georgia Forestry Commission nursery in Byromville, Georgia, to be handed out to Bartow County residents. This year’s species selections were the ever popular native flowering dogwood, which produces clusters of red fruit that are eaten by many bird species; persimmon for fruit that attract a variety of wildlife; and crapemyrtle, both for flowers and for its attractive peeling bark, which is commonly used as a nest building material by birds. Each of these trees also support native pollinators such as hummingbirds and a variety of insects that are attracted to their flowers at different times of the year. Educational materials on each of these tree species were given to the public during the Arbor Day tree giveaway. Nearly 400 people received multiple trees during the Arbor Day events held on February 21, 2020. Trees were also donated to local schools in Bartow County. The Extension agent and Master Gardener Extension Volunteers assisted Kingston Elementary School with planting 16 persimmon trees in their outdoor classroom. The success of this annual event and other program partnerships with Keep Bartow Beautiful and the Bartow County Extension office led to a departmental merger this summer. On June 1st, Keep Bartow Beautiful was relocated to the Bartow County Extension office along with an interdepartmental transfer of two employees. Having Keep Bartow Beautiful located in the County Extension office will provide synergy for the many activities that are mutually beneficial to the organizations for many years to come.
In 2020, a worldwide pandemic was declared and left the population in home quarantine. In response, 4-H staff members were charged with delivering youth development programs and opportunities in a virtual format. Virtual summer activities were created to reach youth during the summer in a way that would encourage them to be active both inside and outside. Weekly activities were posted on our YouTube channel to reach young people through an accessible social media platform. 12 summer kits were distributed and a total of 21 youth participated. Social media impact from virtual activities: 497 members,48 posts and 106 followers,17 subscribers and 489 views. At the conclusion of summer activities, youth were asked a few questions:
- Clock & Chalk - What would you change about your day? - more family time and reading; less time on iPad.
- Let’s get Cooking - 100 % can correctly identify food groups using My Plate. 80% said they plan to make healthier food choices.
- Farm to Fork - 88 % learned something new about Georgia grown crops & livestock.
- Smarty Plants - 90% can identify garden benefits.
- Experiment station - 100 % created the science experiment.
- Twister, Twister - 60 % learned something new about weather and 50% enjoyed creating a tornado.
- Krafty building - 40 % were able to overcome challenges of building.
- Bird feeders - 75% learned about new birds and building recycled bird feeders.
Family and Consumer Sciences
Bartow County Family and Consumer Sciences continues to support the community with health, food safety and nutrition initiatives. UGA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) offers Food Talk nutrition education classes to enhance healthy eating behaviors including food resource management, food safety, food preparation, healthy weight management and physical activity. In the beginning of 2020, 116 SNAP eligible participants enrolled in the UGA SNAP-Ed Food Talk and Food Talk: Better U programs, while 125 participants enrolled in the Food Talk: Farmers Market program in Bartow County. There were also several outreach opportunities presented throughout the year of 2020, where over 450 potential participants were targeted via materials provided from the SNAP program to various facilities in Bartow County. Also in 2020, Bartow County continued to expand their reach by offering virtual classes despite the challenges from COVID-19.