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
Hart County ranks in the top five counties in the state in Farm Gate Value over the last 15 years. This is due primarily to the poultry industry. Even with all this agricultural value, young people still don't understand where their food comes from. GENYouth Insights (2020) found only 21% of youth surveyed said they know where the food they eat comes from with 40% stating they know little to nothing at all about food origination.
The Hart County 4-H Agent wanted to expand the knowledge of our young people in the area of agriculture. One event that we were able to get in before the Covid-19 shut down was the "Crunch 4 Lunch" Event at Hartwell Elementary School to celebrate Georgia Apple Day. The Hart County 4-H Agent put together a 15 minute presentation that was presented to each grade level at the end of their lunch time. The presentation included information on how apple trees rely on pollinators to create the apples, what apple trees look like in various stages of production, the importance of apples to Georgia and where they are grown, nutritional information and lots of apple fun facts. As each class existed the lunchroom they were encouraged to evaluate what they had learned during the presentation by dropping an apple token into one of three boxes: 1) I learned nothing new today about apples, 2) I learned 1-2 new things about apples, or 3) I learned 3 or more things about apples. About 560 students and adults from Pre-K to 5th grade were part of the lesson. Approximately 87.5% learned something from the information presented--22.5% learned 1-2 new things and 65.15% learned 3 or more things from the presentation. Kids asked several questions while exiting the program and wanted to look at the pictures more closely as they left. Many made comments that they didn't know apple trees started with flowers and how pretty they were in bloom.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
According to the 2019 Georgia Farm Gate Value Report for Hart County, hay and forage crops account for approximately $4.8 million of the local economy and cover more that 18,000 acres in the county. Many Hart County producers test their hay, but are very informed on how to improve their current forage quality, specifically nitrate levels. Management of nitrate levels is essential as nitrate levels exceeding 4,500 ppm can be toxic to cattle. If nitrate levels in hay reach this toxic level, the hay is useless for the farmer and the time and money put into growing it is gone and many have to then buy hay to feed their cattle.
After observing the heavy reliance on poultry litter and the lack of hay management education tailored to the environment of this county, the Hart County ANR Agent put together a couple of presentations to help farmers better manage their crop and understand all the environmental factors that can affect it. He presented a "Soil Fertility" presentation to the Hart County Cattleman's meeting which had 27 participants. At the beginning of the Covid-19 shut down, he recorded a talk about "Forage Land Use" and uploaded it to Facebook where it reached over 681 people with 64 people engaging with the video. In response to these presentations, Hart County Extension had an 18% increase in forage testing from the past year, ranking 2nd in the state for testing. One particular cattle farmer made some adjustments after the programs and as advised by the ANR Agent. By making slight adjustments the farmer was able to save his hay, get a second cutting, and save approximately $1000 he would have had to spend if he had to buy hay to feed his cattle the rest of the season.