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.
Family and Consumer Sciences
One goal of the Gilmer FACS Extension program was to help residents manage chronic disease such as heart disease. One way to combat this was through partnership with a local health center in 2019 to offer a program aimed at helping patients with high blood pressure by providing nutrition education. Through four eight-week series, 84 participants completed the program. Of those participants, 66% reduced or stabilized blood pressure and heart rate. Additionally 70% reduced their weight with a combined weight loss of 270 pounds. Future programming efforts include continued work in chronic disease management, financial literacy and food safety programs.
Gilmer County also hosts nutrition education programming for low-income residents through Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed). In 2019, 164 low-income participants enrolled in Food Talk classes and completed 716 hours of education. Survey information noted all participants gained the confidence to practice one or more healthy, food-related behaviors.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
The Gilmer County Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) program serves farmers and homeowners by providing information on safe pesticide use, pest and disease management, home gardening, small farm startups, crop and pasture management, water quality, and land use decisions. Additionally, Master Gardener Extension Volunteers (MGEVs), with their horticultural expertise and passion for serving the public, immensely help the Extension office further its educational influence within the community. Key MGEV service projects include the Ellijay Farmers Market, teaching at the Boys and Girls Club, a demonstration garden at the Gilmer County Library, and hands-on educational workshops.Since the arrival of the county’s new ANR agent in September, assisting growers with pest and disease management has been a top priority. Numerous large- and small-scale operations benefited from on-site consultations, including a Gilmer County corn producer who was named a State Winner in the 2019 Georgia Corn Yield Contest. Upon arrival, the ANR agent began conducting field research to assist local wine grape producers identify Pierce’s Disease and resistant strains of powdery mildew in their vineyards. Many local producers will use results from this research to modify vineyard-management techniques and reduce disease levels.
4-H Youth Development
Gilmer County 4-H educational programming develops essential life skills. The primary focus in 2019 was STEM-related careers and soft-skill development. According to the Department of Labor, young people preparing to enter the workforce are lacking in soft skills including communication, enthusiasm and attitude, teamwork, networking, problem solving and critical thinking, and professionalism. Gilmer County 4-H delivered programs meant to engage and excite students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. All fourth and fifth grade students participated in hands-on STEM lessons. Middle and high school clubs engaged in leadership and career-related soft skill development utilizing the “Manners Worth Millions” curriculum. Students had the opportunity to explore future career opportunities available to them and chose a field of interest to research and prepare a presentation. Of students surveyed, 40.59% responded that they agree or strongly agree they would like a career involving science, 50% would like to study science after high school, 93% responded that they learned new things about science in 4-H, 62% responded that 4-H is a place where you’re encouraged to plan for your future, and 83% indicated that they feel more comfortable speaking in front of others because of Project Achievement. 4-H Career Programs assist students in exploring a variety of careers and encourages them to make decisions about their future career pathways.