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
Jackson County 4-H continues to enrich students and volunteers through leadership, community outreach projects and public speaking. Project Achievement is one of the largest and most exciting, challenging and rewarding programs offered by Georgia 4-H. Students choose an area of interest, research a topic, then write and give an oral presentation. For Cloverleaf 4-H’ers, this process is about hands on learning, self-confidence and sharing knowledge. Competition begins at the school level in Jackson County, and students can then advance to the district level. At the school level, Jackson County had 415 competitors in 2019. The District level is hosted in our home county, with more than 700 in attendance in 2019. The Northeast District Competition in March included 10 counties with 339 students.
Our specialty clubs and camp seasons continue to thrive, including the Love of Llama club, which is the only of its kind in the state. The Jackson County BB Team attended Daisy Nationals in Arkansas with six 4-H’ers and placed 55th overall. With an increase in middle school youth, Jackson County attended Junior Conference at Rock Eagle 4-H Center with 15 students and tied for first place in the Northeast District for most attendees.
There are more than 1,280 active students in the 4-H program. In addition to in-school meetings and specialty clubs, Jackson County served an additional 5,150 students through community events.
With 166 adult volunteer leaders in the Jackson County program, volunteers served more than 4,000 hours in 2019, thus making Jackson County’s specialty clubs, community outreach programs and 4-H events a huge success.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
According to 2018 farm gate reports, Jackson County is ranked fifth in the state in hay production. With a farm sate value of $5,730,400, there are currently 19,000 acres in production. Following the drought years of 2015-2017, several Jackson County producers contacted the UGA Jackson County Extension agent after noting significant production losses and thinning of their Bermudagrass hayfields. Bermudagrass hay producers were looking to seize the opportunity to bring production and quality back to respectable levels.
The county agent worked with these producers one-on-one over the fall and winter of 2018-2019 and through the growing season in 2019 to improve soil fertility, weed control and the pressure of overseeding winter forages in Bermudagrass hayfields.
One Jackson County producer estimated his Bermudagrass coverage at 75% in August 2018 and at 95% coverage in August 2019. In 2019, the producer harvested four cuttings of hay compared to only to to three cuttings of hay in the previous two years. Production and quality were increased by producing weed-free hay and more frequent harvests. Relative Forage Quality (RFQ) was also increased to the point that this producer placed second in the Southeast Hay Contest, as well as first place in the Northeast Georgia Hay Contest.
More than 200 Jackson County forage producers were reached by the agent during the 2019 Bermudagrass growing season. Estimating that 50% of Jackson County’s hay crop is Bermudagrass, and an increase in production by 10% with proper soil fertility, an impact of more than $286,520 could be made across the county. The Extension agent helped multiple producers in 2019 increase production by more than 20% and educated others to help make plans for improvements in future years.