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
In an effort to expand enrollment in Georgia 4-H, Berrien County 4-H Agent along with a team of agents around the state worked in partnership with Georgia 4-H State Staff to create an online enrollment method. This method was especially timely during the pandemic and helped staff to enroll over 13,000 4-H youth in just two months after its release.
4-H Enrollment has traditionally been collected at the beginning of each school year using a paper enrollment card for each 4-H member. Due to many schools becoming one to one with technology or schools encouraging student use of personal technology, many counties across the state wanted a way to collect enrollment data without paper cards. Some counties had already created a variety of digital forms (Google Forms, Qualtrics, etc) to acquire the data and needed a way to upload that data to Georgia 4-H’s online enrollment system. During this time, the COVID-19 pandemic also hit, making it difficult to reach 4-H’ers for programming as well as enrollment other than in a virtual format.
A committee was formed to discuss the best approach to enroll paperless as well as import enrollment data gathered for Georgia 4-H’s online enrollment system. The committee discussed the necessary student information to enroll and the advantages and disadvantages for implementation. A system was created that would allow spreadsheet data to be uploaded. Additionally, a digital enrollment card was created that integrated into the existing online enrollment system, giving all Georgia counties an interface to enroll students online. Through this system, a unique county weblink to access the enrollment card is created and shared, giving parents or youth the opportunity to enroll at home or at school. This system also allowed 4-H staff to review online enrollment entries to verify information or edit information if incorrect.
During the time the committee met, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. As the new school year approached a variety of options for students to return for education emerged (virtual, face to face, hybrid, etc.). 4-H programs scrambled to determine where and how to meet 4-H’ers if school doors were shuttered to them. The new digital enrollment card has enabled county 4-H programs to gather 4-H enrollment information effectively and efficiently. Some counties that see students face to face used the online interface to lessen the amount of contact in class. So far, over 13,000 4-H’ers have been enrolled with the new online options. Nearly 200 youth in Berrien County enrolled using the online enrollment option. It is expected that this new method will be used going forward to expand the reach and connection with 4-H’ers across the state.
AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL RESOURCES
Peanut maturity clinics were held in Berrien County at 4 separate locations and also on an 'as-needed' basis. The county agent worked with 65 farmers to check 380 samples during the 2020 growing season. By helping farmers not dig too early, the county agent helped prevent over $4 million in yield loss.
Berrien County typically grows about 19,000 acres of peanuts with an economic value over $17 million. The exact date when peanuts should be dug has been a question farmers want answered for some time now, due to their indeterminate growth habit and difficulty being able to tell a peanut pods maturity. Due to this, peanut hull scraping, or ‘blasting’, is an important tool that has been developed to allow extension agents help growers decide on a more accurate date to dig peanuts.
The county agent coordinated clinics to be held at four separate locations during the peanut growing season. Clinics occurred each week during September and October. The county agent also checked peanuts on an ‘on call’ basis, meeting one on one with the client if their schedule did not fit with the clinics. Peanuts were checked by taking 220-250 peanuts and using a pressure washer to ‘blast’ the outer hull off. Immature peanuts will be a yellow color and will progress to black as they mature. Cooperative Extension has developed a peanut board that helps county agents sort these peanuts and determine the correct digging date (by looking at how these peanuts are progressing from yellow to black in color). Other factors such as peanut oil development, vine condition and future weather patterns also play a role in helping make digging recommendations.
During the 2020 growing season the Berrien County Agent checked 380 peanut samples for maturity. The Berrien County Agent checked samples brought to him by 65 local farmers and consultants. According to the National Peanut Research Lab, a 30% yield loss may occur if peanuts are dug three weeks too early. At the county yield of 4,200 pounds an acre, this yield loss can be up to 1,260 pounds. Given a $0.20 price per pound, this results in a loss of $267 an acre. Across the 19,000 acres that are typically planted in Berrien County, this would be a loss of close to 24 million pounds and a loss of over $4.7 million.