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
During Georgia’s shelter-in-place order brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals were home seeking information on growing food crops. While an abundance of information was shared with the public on how to grow vegetables, resources on fruit production were scarce. Thus, the agent collaborated with UGA Extension colleagues and faulty from other universities to engage the public through the "Backyard Fruits Webinar Series," a 4-week online program that covered how to grow various small fruits and tree fruits across the Southeastern United States. The Series launched on May 13 and ran twice a week through June 5, 2020 for a total of eight sessions. Each session included approximately one hour of instruction coupled with a 20–30-minute question-and-answer session at the end. The agent served as both a presenter and program host. To improve accessibility, the program was offered during the lunch hour from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm EDT. Participants could register for any of the eight sessions that interested them at no cost.
Over the course of the program, 2,152 client contacts were made, 28 states were reached, and attendance ranged from 85 to 74 percent of those who registered, which was an average of about 269 participants per session. Certificates of Completion were furnished to 43 participants who attended all 8 sessions, many of which were educators who needed the professional development. Each session was recorded and uploaded to the UGA Extension YouTube Channel. After the program was completed, participants were invited to provide feedback. Regarding the overall management and delivery, 100% of the program participants reported that they were satisfied. When asked about the program being delivered online versus an in-person format, 84% of participants preferred the online learning option over in-person.
Additionally, 100% of the participants who attended all 8 sessions of the program reported they gained a better understanding of the major factors that impact successful backyard fruit production and planned on using the information presented throughout the program. Participants not only lauded the program’s content, citing “the presenters were very knowledgeable and gave excellent information,” but also its accessibility during a time where face-to-face interaction was not possible. One participant stated, “It was fabulous. The online platform is so much better for increasing public access!” Remote accessibility to the program proved a critical factor for the program's overall participation. Approximately 50% of program participants indicated that their attendance was in some way related to COVID-19, as one participant reported, “I was furloughed due to the virus and was looking to gain knowledge for enjoyment and purpose.”
The Series continues to benefit the public and has amassed 3,506 total views to date. Recordings are free and available for viewing on the UGA Extension YouTube Channel, with one participant stating “I watched the recorded version (on YouTube) of the Blackberry session that you presented. I found your presentation clear, well organized, and complete. The key aspect that made it so well done was its focus on the areas of interest to the homeowner. Thus, I give it an EXCELLENT rating. Thanks for your work on the Blackberry session and your efforts on organizing the entire webinar series.”
4-H Youth Development
Fannin County 4-H serves youth from grades 4th-12th through various program areas, including in-school monthly meetings, Project Achievement, and competitive judging teams. In 2020, Fannin County 4-H provided STEM and Civic Engagement programming through in-school monthly meetings to students in 4th and 5th grade in the Fannin County School System, reaching and enrolling 380 youth into Fannin County 4-H. Additionally, Fannin County 4-H empowers young people to explore their interests through specialty clubs, and in summer 2020 the first Virtual Arts and Crafts Club was established by two 4-H'ers. Two Senior 4-H'ers competed at Northeast Junior/Senior District Project Achievement, and Cloverleaf County Project Achievement was presented to the local school systems in preparation of 2021. In September, 4-H partnered with FFA to host the Fannin County Youth Fair, where eight 4-H'ers showed goats, chickens, and rabbits. One cloverleaf Fannin County 4-H'er showed his goat at the Georgia Junior National Livestock show in Perry, Georgia. At the end of a year in need of extra cheer, our fourth grade 4-H'ers learned about the value of community service and decorated over 150 holiday cards for assisted living and nursing homes in the Blue Ridge, GA area.
Family and Consumer Sciences
Although Fannin County does not have a Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) agent based in the county Extension office, we strive to assist local residents with their questions. Common questions cover food safety, food preservation, dealing with mold and mildew, healthy meal planning, nutrition, family budgeting, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) resources and more. These issues and others are answered through a wide variety of free UGA Extension publications available at the county office and phone conferences with FACS agents from surrounding counties. Often neighboring FACS agents conduct programming that our county residents are welcome to attend. Our office provides programming information to residents.