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 on the county over the past year.
4-H Youth Development
Jackson County 4-H collaborations with stakeholders are key to successfully meeting the needs of the community. Between 2021 and 2022, two such partnerships led to 484 Jackson County elementary students being directly impacted by nutrition and agricultural learning experiences.
Jackson County 4-H partnered with the College of Family and Consumer Science, and SNAP-Ed to determine which elementary school met the eligibility criteria for the pilot program. The agent worked with the Maysville Elementary administration to develop a yearlong program to promote healthy food choices for youth, families, and the community. The agent taught three new Food and Nutrition lessons to grades first – third that was designed to complement the two Georgia 4-H Friends Magazine: Farm to Fork and Nutrition and Healthy Living. The new lessons focused on Healthy Youth, Healthy Family, and Healthy Community and covered basic nutrition, MyPlate, food access, food security, food budgeting, and family meal preparation with an emphasis on Georgia agriculture and local food environments.
Jackson County 4-H partnered with West Jackson Elementary to provide hands-on real-world agricultural lessons. The agent worked with the teachers to determine an area of interest for the lower elementary grades. Through many of the school partnerships, a mini farm has been established including a small ruminant area that contains three boar goats, a rabbit enclosure, an aquaponic garden, a pollinator garden, and a laying hen area. The 1st-grade students were responsible for gathering eggs and distributing to students to take home. The agent collaborated with the 1st-grade teachers to deliver lessons on hatching eggs and eggs for consumption.
In 2022, 1365 youth were enrolled in Jackson County 4-H programs. Jackson County 4-H staff members met with fourth and fifth-grade classrooms once a month during the school year. 4-Her’s also participated in after-school activities and specialty clubs including several competition teams (Cotton Boll and Consumer Judging, Wildlife Judging, Poultry Judging, Land Judging, and Livestock Judging), all four SAFE programs (BB, Shotgun, .22. and Archery), teen leadership opportunities (4-H Day at the Capital, News Network, and “4-H Scoop” – podcast team), cooking clubs, and summer camping programs. efforts.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Jackson County ranks in the top 10 counties of hay production in Georgia according to the 2019 Farmgate report. In 2020, several Jackson County producers noted production decreases and changes in leaf pigment in alfalfa stands over the 2020 production season. The UGA Jackson County Extension Agent worked with these producers over the spring/summer of 2020 to improve soil fertility and weed control in alfalfa hayfields. Proper fertilization according to soil and plant tissue analyses, the use of pre/post-emergent herbicides, and the competition of other seasonal forages were explained to the producers. Sustainability and productivity of their alfalfa hayfield was their number one objective.
Alfalfa hay producers were looking forward to the opportunity to take production and quality to higher levels. Multiple producers contacted the UGA Jackson County Extension Agent with concerns of lower production and leaf pigment concerns that can point to nutrient deficiencies. Research shows that white spots on leaf margins followed by yellowing of leaves indicate potassium deficiencies.
The UGA Jackson County Extension Agent provided one-on-one education on 20 farm visits, assistance with more than a dozen samples including soil samples and plant tissue samples, and consultations from other alfalfa experts. The Extension Agent also supplied producers with published Extension bulletins specific to alfalfa. These communications were an opportunity to introduce producers to the UGA Georgia Forages website which provides research-based information on the most common forage questions in Georgia.
One Jackson County producer had a field that experienced yellowing leaves in March. This field had a pH above 7 (recommended to be 6.5-7 for alfalfa production) and needed 160 pounds of potash per acre. The producer applied the recommended potash, and no additional leaf chlorosis was noted on his 2020 alfalfa harvests.
Another producer had a field with a pH of 6.2 with a recommendation of 1.75 tons of limestone per acre to adjust the pH towards the goal of a pH of 7. The same field needed 190 pounds of potash according to the soil sample results. Plant tissue sample results did not show deficiencies but were used as another tool in checking the health of the alfalfa. Leaf pigmentation returned to normal following proper fertilization and pH adjustments.
Crop sustainability, production, and quality were increased by producing a weed-free nutritious hay harvest approximately every 28 days factoring in weather conditions. Alfalfa hay sample results all had above 150 Relative Forage Quality (RFQ) rankings and protein levels exceeding 21 percent. According to UGA forage quality guidelines, any RFQ ranking above 140 with protein levels exceeding 12 percent will exceed the recommended nutritional needs of production livestock.