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
Gilmer County 4-H is focused on developing essential life skills for students in our school systems. For grades six through 12 in 2018, the program focused on developing healthy relationships, with the 4-H agent teaching six lessons from the Relationship Smarts 2.0 curriculum. Each lesson focused on communication, mutual respect, commitment, shared values, conflict management and how to recognize patterns of unhealthy relationships.
As a result of these lessons, 59 percent of the participants reported that they were very likely to use the skills learned. Programs for fourth and fifth grades focused on career awareness and healthy lifestyles. Gilmer County also had more than 150 students participate in public-speaking contests at the county and district level. These students explore an area of interest, develop a presentation, and present to a panel of judges and audience members. Because of their participation in Project Achievement, 80 percent of the students surveyed indicated that they are more comfortable speaking in front of people. 4-H continues to offer opportunities that enable students to become self-directing, productive and contributing members of society.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Agriculture is the lifeblood of Gilmer County. Poultry is the largest agricultural enterprise in the county, with more than 500 poultry facilities plus a processing plant. UGA Extension in Gilmer County has worked with local growers in the areas of ventilation, litter testing and pasture management. Agritourism is also an extremely important segment here. Apples have been the major attraction for many years, but now wine grapes and local vineyards are a growing aspect of our agriculture, and we’ve worked with both of these commodities in the areas of disease and insect control. Because apples are a fresh product, UGA Extension is also assisting growers with FSMA, the Food Safety Modernization Act. The Gilmer County Master Gardener Extension Volunteers promote UGA Extension and also improve the community with their projects such as the Ellijay Farmers Market, teaching at the Boys and Girls Club, a demonstration raised-bed garden, Make-N-Take workshops and other activities.
Family and Consumer Sciences
The Gilmer County Family and Consumer Sciences agent provides citizens with education in the areas of family, the home, finances, food, nutrition and more. For example, the Extension office offers a cancer-prevention cooking class as well as other classes on nutrition and money/budgeting where participants can learn about guarding against identity theft, tracking expenses, balancing a budget, boosting credit scores and ways to save money. Responses to surveys revealed that attendees were tracking their spending habits, trying to pay bills on time and asking why personal information is needed before giving it out. They also understood the significance of having a good credit history with one participant stating, “I learned it is important to build my credit for my future.”
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) offers classes including Food Talk, a six-week class series, or Food Talk: Better U, which is a four-week class series, to enhance healthy eating and lifestyle choices related to food resource management, food safety, food preparation, weight management and physical activity. In 2018, 105 low-income participants enrolled in Food Talk classes and completed 419 hours in class. According to survey information, all participants gained the confidence to practice one or more healthy, food-related behaviors.