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.
CULTIVATING COLUMBIA COUNTY
Columbia County ranks No. 1 in Georgia farm gate value for Ornamental Horticulture, or the production of flowers and landscape plants. Last year, the Agriculture and Natural Resources agent made more than 23,000 contacts and 500 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 cover a range of topics, from weed control in turfgrass to organic gardening.
For those who desire intensive training, Master Gardener Extension Volunteer courses 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 Gardeners donated 4,522 hours to the community and the Extension office, worth a total value of $109,161, throughout 2019.
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, which causes 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 agent followed by a presentation by the coordinating Columbia County Department responsible for the prevention or oversight of the environmental matter.
Columbia County 4-H prides itself on building active citizens for our future. Community service projects accomplished in 2019 include collecting more than 700 pounds of soda pop tabs ($140) in support of Ronald McDonald House Charities, ringing the Salvation Army bell for six hours and collecting $1,500 for the organization, donating more than 400 food items to the county food pantry, and collecting more 300 items for the AWARE Wildlife Rescue Center. More than 200 4-H’ers participated in summer camp and another 175 participated in District Project Achievement.
DEVELOPING A STRONG COUNTY PARTNERSHIP
Columbia County 4-H’s 2019 fundraising efforts included raising more than $7,300 through the spring Vidalia onion fundraiser, with $2,800 being used towards summer camp scholarships and $1,600 raised towards the 4-H general fund through the fall pecan fundraiser. 4-H volunteers donated more than 3,800 hours of their time, equaling more than $95,600 worth of time. There are more than 2,800 active students in the Columbia County 4-H program. Through our partnership with the Columbia County Board of Education, the 4-H program conducts almost 200 monthly in-school club meetings in every elementary school in the county, as well as an additional six meetings focused for grades Kindergraten through 12th grade. 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, STEAM initiatives, and helps increase 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 each November. In 2019, 4-H provided more than 890 programs and club meetings, reaching more than 16,600 participants.