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
Columbia County ranks No. 1 in Georgia farm-gate value for ornamental horticulture, or the production of flowers and landscape plants. Last year, the UGA Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) agent made more than 19,000 contacts and 300 site visits related to homeowner horticulture. Of special interest, Columbia County Cultivators meetings foster an educational partnership with industry professionals and homeowners. The monthly meetings host UGA specialists and industry professionals and cover a range of topics, from weed control in turfgrass to organic gardening.
For those who desire intensive training, courses for Master Gardener Extension Volunteers are held biannually. The Master Gardener program is an 11-week class that covers a broad range of horticultural topics. The goal of the Master Gardener program is to educate horticulture enthusiasts so that they are equipped to volunteer and disseminate horticultural information to the public. The current Master Gardener graduating class was very productive. They donated 3,851 hours to the community and the Extension office, worth a total value of $92,963.14, throughout 2018.
Another special interest this past year was the Environment Matters workshop that provided public education for the environmental protection of natural water resources and Municipal Separate Storm Sewer system. This partnership program educated citizens about the effects of rain on hard, impervious surfaces that cause pollutants to make their way to natural water resources. Participants learned how landscape grasses and plantings help reduce pollutants from entering vital natural waters by slowing down water runoff and acting as a filter. The two-part structure of the program included an environmental presentation by the ANR agent followed by a presentation by the coordinating Columbia County department responsible for oversight of the environmental matter.
4-H Youth Development
Columbia County 4-H prides itself on building active citizens for our future. Some projects accomplished in 2018 include raising more than $6,000 for 4-H scholarships through Vidalia onion sales, $3,000 for 4-H general funds through Georgia-grown pecan sales, donating more than 1,100 pounds in soda can tabs in support of Ronald McDonald House Charities, ringing the Salvation Army bell for 64 hours, collecting $3,147 for the Salvation Army, and collecting more than 800 towels for pets and Columbia County Animal Control through the Towels for Tiggers program.
There are more than 2,800 active students in the Columbia County 4-H program. Through a partnership with the Columbia County Board of Education, the program is able to hold approximately 100 monthly club meetings in every elementary and middle school in the county. Monthly programs focus on leadership, citizenship, the environment and public speaking. Columbia County 4-H structures programming to provide experiential learning that complements the school curriculum and increases student writing-test scores. The 4-H staff also works in conjunction with the water and sewer department to implement a best management education plan for youth stormwater education. In 2018, Columbia County 4-H provided 88 programs for more than 2,800 students.