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
Eleven million school-age children are left alone and unsupervised in the hours after school. After-school programs are essential to keep kids safe, and they engage children in enriching activities during the out-of-school hours. According to the U.S. Department of Education, youth who do not participate in organized after-school programs are more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as substance abuse and they show poorer academic performance than children who are able to attend out-of-school programs. Johnson County is a low-income, rural area with many concerns for youth, making these programs extremely valuable.
With limited resources and enrichment opportunities available to Johnson County youth, more programs and services are needed to enable them to gain life skills and develop strong values, make educated and positive choices, and operate in an independent manner.
With these factors in mind, the Johnson County Extension 4-H agent stepped up the availability of after-school programming to provide a variety of safe and nurturing out-of-school programs for youth. Most of the programs that were developed were offered at no cost or with full or partial scholarship funds secured through local donations, 4-H fundraisers and grant programs.
In 2017-18, 69 out-of-school 4-H programs were provided both inside and outside the county. After-school programs reached a total of 989 youth (duplicates included) with classes in the areas of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), citizenship, leadership, community service and healthy lifestyles.
Following a two-day out-of-school event designed to enhance good decision-making skills, one fifth-grader said, “It helped me think about my future.” Ninety percent of the 27 youth agreed and, in a post-event survey, reported an increase in their understanding about how their choices will affect their future.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
In the larger scheme of Georgia agriculture, Johnson County is not the first county that comes to mind. Johnson County is bordered by larger and more populated areas. One should be careful forming opinions on what doesn’t meet the eye. The producers in Johnson County are fewer in numbers, but remain strong in the production of food and fiber. Agricultural producers in this county produce soybeans, corn, peanuts and cotton. There’s still a large presence of small grains here, despite a decline in other areas. Timber and cattle are still our two biggest commodities. Last year’s farm-gate report had brood cows estimated at 5,000 head and another 6,000 or more yearling cattle on feed. Some of these are preconditioning cattle that will go to feedlots elsewhere. It’s also becoming more common for cattle to be fed to harvest weights right here at home.
The timber acreage in the county remains strong. Last year’s farm-gate value showed timber sales in the county holding near $6 million. In conjunction with the acreage of harvested pine straw, pine trees and their by-products continue to build wealth for the citizens.
The agricultural presence has also helped build a strong list of businesses that support these producers. Mechanics, welders, oil companies, grain elevators and fertilizer businesses thrive in our community. Many students who graduate high school locally go right to work in the agricultural industry. A community that can provide workers to keep industries profitable seems like a well-oiled machine.