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.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Agriculture pays approximately a quarter of Ben Hill County’s tax base, making it a significant contributor to all services produced for its citizens. Ben Hill County is proud of its agricultural strength, diversity, and history of excellent producers.
University of Georgia Extension extends lifelong learning through unbiased, research-based education, helping producers maximize profits and production while being good stewards of land and the environment. Production meetings are a major resource for agricultural programming in Ben Hill County. Through commodity-specific production meetings, producers learn about new technologies and recommendations for the coming year.
Due to the pandemic, our county office was closed to the public on March 16, 2020 and did not reopen until June 2020. This caused us to approach our mission from a different viewpoint. Actions were taken to deliver our services to our clientele as seamless as possible and we were successful.
Despite the pandemic the Ben Hill County Agriculture and Natural Resources area was able to conduct 14 Adult educational programs reaching 639 participants. 18 events reached 11,683 participants, while 8 different contributions to research was made working with local producers.
4-H Youth Development
Ben Hill County 4-H puts a strong emphasis on providing opportunities and experiences to develop leadership skills. One of the best ways to do this is through Ben Hill County’s Summer Day Camp program which is attended by rising 5th-7th graders. The 4-H teen leaders, which are rising 8th – 12th graders, receive valuable leadership experience by leading classes and activities.
Teen leaders are involved in event planning and teach classes that coordinate with their project work. They prepare the classes, and lead games, sports, and crafts. For the past seven years, the program has run similar to camp at Rock Eagle. Typically, at Ben Hill’s Summer Day Camp, campers are divided into three groups, each led by a teen leader counselor. Teen leaders are responsible for decorating their group’s area for the camp. There is competition among the groups and winners at the end of the three-day event get a small prize, along with bragging rights. The teen leaders not only get into it but learn a lot about working with younger campers and taking responsibility. The head teen leader for each group learns how to delegate and gains experience in leading peers. However, due to COVID, the 2020 Summer Day Camp was held virtually to reduce the risk of spread. Exploring nature and space was the theme for the camp. Guest speakers included personnel from the National Park Service and NASA. In addition, the camp creates a desire in the campers to be active in 4-H work and activities.
While COVID has hindered face-to-face programming in 2020, Ben Hill County 4-H has remained to keep all young people engaged through virtual meetings with special guests, virtual competition practices, Topic Tuesday events, and Funday Friday events. Throughout the school year, Ben Hill County 4-H has remained a strong partner for youth education as monthly lessons were taught virtually on topics such as healthy living, career development, and personal skill-building. In late 2020, the Ben Hill County Innovative STEM Club initiative began to promote science, technology, engineering, and math through hands-on activities including popsicle paddleboats, hovercrafts, snow creatures, bridge building, and more. Throughout its existence, Georgia 4-H has adapted quickly to provide the greatest impact to Georgia youth – this year was no different.