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.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Jeff Davis County farmers plant more than 15,000 acres of cotton annually. About half of those acres are irrigated. The average irrigation cost is $7 per acre-inch for electric and $11 for diesel power. Eighty-eight percent of Georgia farmers use visible stress as their trigger for irrigation according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agriculture Statistics Service. By that point, the crop has already lost yield. Through research plots and educational meetings, the county agent increased farmer adoption of irrigation scheduling methods. Over the past two years, five farmers and one consultant were involved in the Agricultural Water Efficiency Team (AgWET) research program. This consisted of placing three water sensors in two cotton fields and scheduling irrigation based on the readings. Participating growers then watered a comparable field using their normal standards to compare. Meetings on water use and irrigation efficiency were held, reaching 41 people. When cooperators were asked to name what they learned from using moisture sensors, they said: “I learned more about how much of a difference soil type influences water needs from field to field — some don’t lose moisture as fast as you think. I saw that wilting does not always mean the field is dry.” Another stated that, “Seeing the sensors before and after an irrigation reinforced things that I had thought about planning ahead when watering.” One-hundred percent of participants said that they have changed the way they irrigate cotton as well as other crops by using the data the sensors provide. They also said that using the sensors reduced the number of times they watered and often changed the amount. Eliminating one irrigation event with this group of farmers saved, on average, 814,620 gallons of water and $270.
4-H Youth Development
Are leaders born or made? According to Colin Powell, the answer to this age-old question is that “Effective leaders are made, not born.” Leadership is defined as the action of leading a group of people or an organization. Youth need opportunities to both learn about and practice leadership in meaningful and authentic ways. In order to improve leadership opportunities for youth, the county agent offered Georgia 4-H Teen Leader training to certify members. Following training, the county agent offered numerous opportunities for youth to apply the skills that they learned, such as team building, conflict resolution, presentation skills, group leadership and taking on leadership roles and responsibilities. According to post-training survey results, 85 percent of participants agreed that they were more confident in their leadership abilities after their involvement in 4-H training and leadership experiences. Participants agreed (71 percent) that, after involvement in 4-H activities and training, they could initiate and lead groups of younger youths with confidence. One-hundred percent of youth agreed that they would seek and serve in leadership roles outside of 4-H because of the trainings and opportunities they experienced. When asked, trained leaders stated that their favorite aspect of serving as a 4-H leader was “learning to speak to a crowd,” “teaching others what I have been taught,” and “to be a good example to younger kids.” The Jeff Davis County 4-H Club continues to offer leadership training and opportunities for students to use the skills they have learned. Students have improved public speaking skills, leadership skills and self-confidence in leading others. Participants of the leadership program (50 percent) are pursuing other leadership opportunities as officers of other clubs, through community involvement and as student-council representatives within their school.