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
The Echols County 4-H program offers a variety of activities for youth to participate in. We partner with the school system to offer in-school club meetings to students in fourth through eighth grades and provide hands-on learning opportunities that follow Georgia Performance Standards. Public speaking is an integral part of 4-H. Presenting a demonstration through Project Achievement gives youth important life skills like mastery and independence. This year, 15 students competed in public speaking competitions. Students in the sixth through 12th grades can participate in our modified trap shotgun program. In 2019, 13 students attended weekly practices and competitions for the shotgun team. 4-H also offers traditional livestock show programs in which 4-H members can exhibit hogs in local and state shows. In 2019, 21 students participated in the local show. Summer camp is offered to students of all grade levels at four different locations throughout Georgia. In 2019, 35 students attended summer camp. In addition to these activities, 4-H offers judging events. Three students practiced and competed at the 2019 Southwest District Forestry Judging Contest. We also offer leadership conferences to students in seventh through 12th grades throughout the year (Senior Fall Forum, Senior Conference, Junior Conference and State Council). By participating in community service projects, students learn the importance of giving to others and generosity, one of the essential elements of 4-H. Each year, we donate pop tabs and cans to Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
In 2017, vegetable production in Echols County was valued at $189,337,830 and, in Georgia, at $1,147,553,932. The high value of the Georgia vegetable industry comes with high input costs and high risks. Two of the biggest inputs are the fumigants used and the plants themselves. The plants need a seedbed free of weeds and nematodes as provided by the fumigant, but the fumigant has to be out of the seedbed before the transplants can be safely planted. A fumigant gas meter was purchased and placed in the Extension office for use with producers in Echols and surrounding counties to help protect growers’ investments. When producers start fumigating, there are many variables that determine when it is safe for them to plant. The fumigant level in the plastic bed has to be at a certain level or it could stunt or kill the plants. Soil type, soil moisture, temperature, type of plastic, fumigant and rate are all determining factors as to how long it takes the plastic bed to gas out. Most growers use a calendar to determine if enough time has passed for the beds to gas out, then wait on companies selling the fumigant to come out and check it using a fumigant gas meter. This process works well, but there are a limited number of companies and meters in our area, so wait times can sometimes be lengthy depending on the number of growers in South Georgia needing a plastic check and whether or not a field has to be checked more than once. With produce, you try to hit a planting window, allowing you to start picking when the market is high rather than when market prices are starting to go down. Being able to get in the field earlier allows producers the added security of hitting their target window.