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 producers rely on timely Extension information to make informed production decisions. During the worldwide COVID 19 pandemic, University of Georgia Extension Agents needed to be able to present timely topics to row crop producers in their counties. Many aspects of production such as pest identification and management, weed management, disease identification and management, and fertilizer recommendations are critical to the agent/grower relations. Agents in the tri-county area of Burke, Jefferson and Screven found an alternative method to meet this challenge and assist the growers with key production information. Agents produced a series of in-field videos on current issues facing growers providing vital production information related to scouting their crops and to making informed management decisions. Agents collaborated with the UGA Southeast Research and Education Center (SEREC) to produce the first SEREC Virtual Field Day. These videos are also a valuable resource for future educational use. This group of videos produced by the collaboration of Burke, Jefferson and Screven County Extension agents met the immediate needs of area farmers during the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic as they continue to provide pertinent information.
4-H Youth Development
The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the state of Georgia and the nation by closing public schools for the remainder of the 2020 school year. On March 18, 2020, Governor Kemp ordered all schools in Georgia to close. Students in Georgia public schools missed several weeks of school in order to prevent the spread of the virus on a widespread scale. After schools were closed, 4-H programs also had to alter programming plans due to Georgia 4-H’s role as a partner in public education. Georgia Extension Agents saw a need for 4-H lessons to be shared on an online platform so parents and students could have a resource for fun, educational learning opportunities.
Extension Agents in Banks, Burke, Morgan and Greene Counties partnered to create an online resource for students and parents to use during the pandemic. The first edition was published on March 18, 2020, the same day that Georgia's Governor ordered Georgia's schools to close, and the last edition was published on May 15, 2020, as schools were closing for the summer. This short-term project was meant to bridge the gap for students and parents who were suddenly thrust into new territory in hopes that enrichment could come in the way of hands-on, ready-to-use lessons. Subscribers received a newsletter each weekday, and each issue covered a different topic, including a brief recorded lesson, story time, activities and crafts for students ages 5-18, parent resources, and a snack recipe. Activities and community service projects could be completed at home with common household materials. Lessons covered a wide variety of Extension-related topics and encouraged students to seek out their local 4-H program and new interests.
The “Plugged into 4-H” online learning resource was used as a daily online educational tool for students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 40 daily lessons were created to serve students as a resource during the pandemic. The resources reached over 700 students across the nation and Canada. The resource not only allowed students to be involved with 4-H while in quarantine, but also helped 16 4-H professionals across the state share their lessons and service ideas to students across the nation. While we had over 700 registered through our system, we know our reach was much greater. Parents, teachers, and Extension professionals praised the program for the quick response to the COVID situation as well as the exposure to 4-H programs and the ability to reach different ages and kinds of learners. One parent stated, “As a family, we enjoyed participating in Plugged Into 4-H. The activities were fun, educational, and appealing. Our 4-year-old enjoyed watching the videos, reading books, and many of the crafts. We still like to practice the ‘float or sink’ activity with lot of different objects we find around the house. During a time of uncertainty when parents were trying to find educational programs to help their children while at home, this program was perfect.”
The program was also featured on the Georgia Farm Monitor (a TV program for state and national news related to Georgia’s largest industry-agriculture) as a successful program for students to learn about agriculture in an online learning platform. The lessons created will serve as a valuable resource for future programming.
Family and Consumer Sciences
Due to Covid-19 Pandemic, more people established gardens or expanded their existing plots earlier this year. With increased garden production yields, consumers wanted to learn to safely store the foods that they grew. It is important that people precisely follow the proper steps and recipes when home canning to prevent botulism, a rare but potentially deadly illness produced by bacteria called Clostridium botulinum. Since July of 2020, a small group of Family & Consumer Sciences (FACS) Agents, including the Burke County agent, have co-taught Home Food Preservation classes at the kitchen of Burke County UGA Extension Office in Waynesboro, Georgia. The group conducted live webinars and virtual training to help consumers learn more about home food preservation and processing methods, and to help ensure that these methods are completed correctly and safely. Nine virtual sessions were taught through Zoom, including boiling water canning, pressure canning, freezing foods, jam and jelly making, salsa making, pickling, apple products, and fermenting foods. Educational materials, recipes and websites were shared with participants who wanted to expand their knowledge. Promotion of these Home Food Preservation classes resulted in 194 consumers attending the free Home Food Preservation classes. Based on the number of views through the Extension Facebook page and other social media sites, it is evident that this information is being used and shared on other’s pages, influencing an even greater audience. Evaluations result in an 89% of participants supporting knowledge gain from attending the Home Food Preservation classes.