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
Franklin County has one of the highest farm gate values in the state. A great deal of that can be contributed to the poultry industry. Franklin County also ranks high in beef cattle and forage production. Many of the programs offered through UGA Cooperative Extension in Franklin County address issues that arise within the cattle industry, including beef quality assurance certification in 2020. Additional programs offered through the Extension office include home gardening meetings, corn and soybean production meeting, and beef production meetings. Issues-based programing is a main focus for UGA Extension, working with farmers to provide programing that meets the need of local production. The ANR agent works with university specialists to make an impact in the local community.
Utilizing university resources, the Extension office is able to provide answers for homeowners and farmers on many topics including, but not limited to, soil fertility, safe pesticide application, water usage, home gardening and crop and pasture management. Extension offices provide soil, forage and water testing through the Agricultural and Environmental Service Laboratory at UGA. Agents can also identify plants, insects, diseases and weeds, and give fertilization and pest management recommendations.
Programing in December of 2019 and March of 2020 outlined the opportunities for farmers to use composters to help with the mortality issues in poultry houses. These programs partnered with the local Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) staff to offer producer education on composting as a means of mortality management. The first program in December of 2019 was offered in Franklin County with NRCS, Georgia Department of Agriculture, and UGA Extension. Topics covered included nutrient management planning, mortality compositing, designing composting facilities, and regulations for mortality composting. Due to the success of this program the same program was offered in Elbert County in March 2020. A total of 87 producers and industry professionals attended the two educational opportunities.
After the completion of the programs the Franklin county Extension agent worked with 14 farms with in Franklin County, in the months following the programs to develop nutrient management plans as a way of appropriately applying poultry littler and compost to the soil in an environmental responsible manner. Farmers that took advantage of the program were able to apply for federal cost sharing grants called EQIP. EQIP provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, increased soil health and reduced soil erosion and sedimentation, improved or created wildlife habitat, and mitigation against increasing weather volatility. By working with the Local NRCS office and the Extension office farmers in Franklin County were able to get $1,742,259 in federal grants to construct stack houses with composters.
Although 2020 brought on many challenges in the way that we reach clients the UGA extension office remained available to assist the residents of franklin county throughout the year. Virtual programs as well as newsletters that are able to provide extension programming to the community. Testing Services continued with a drop of system during the height of the pandemic, the Extension office continued to process soil and water samples for the people of Franklin County.
4-H Youth Development
Franklin County 4-H offers a plethora of educational opportunities which aim to connect information learned in school, such as math, science, writing and social studies, to real-world applications. Students in fifth grade participate in monthly in-school club meetings which align directly with the state educational standards and focus on presenting information in a fun, hands-on way. Middle and high school students have the opportunity to participate in 4-H at the school during monthly club days. A homeschool program is also offered in the county and the current focus of this program has been on project achievement and youth development.
Franklin County 4-H youth have opportunity to participate in a wide range of activities including livestock exhibition, livestock judging, archery, poultry judging, cotton boll and consumer judging, Project Achievement and various community service projects. In addition to this, camp opportunities are offered at all formal Georgia 4-H centers and through day camps and farm days.
Franklin County 4-H’ers are strongly encouraged to become active members of their community by participating in leadership activities and community service, all while advocating for things they are passionate about.
Even in 2020 amidst the pandemic, Franklin County 4-H continued programming virtually over Zoom for the remainder of the school year and during the summer months. Georgia 4-H even held its annual Cloverleaf District Project Achievement competition virtually for the first time ever and it was a huge success; all Franklin County competitors placed 1st in their project areas even after the switch from in-person to a virtual format! We started getting some normalcy back once school started and 4-H was welcomed in the classrooms to start back club meetings from a safe distance and utilizing face masks.
Family and Consumer Sciences
Although Franklin 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, 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 Family and Consumer Sciences agents from surrounding counties. Often neighboring FACS agents are conducting programming that our county residents are welcome to attend.