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
Lowndes County has one of the largest populations in southern Georgia at 119,000, and includes a mixture of urban agriculture and traditional agriculture. Traditional agriculture includes cotton, peanuts, soybeans, corn, wheat, hay, pasture, livestock and tobacco. Horticulture crops include pecans, vegetables, muscadines, blueberries, strawberries and, most recently, cold-hardy citrus. Forage and livestock issues have been addressed through programs, research and site visits. School gardens have been developed in all Valdosta elementary and middle schools by Agriculture and Natural Resources agents and Master Gardener Extension Volunteers. This program is run by the Fort Valley State University Extension agent. Lowndes County Extension continues to lead in the development of the new citrus industry through programming, research, site visits, grower consultations and invited presentations. Information generated by Lowndes Extension was used in the application for three Specialty Crop Block Grants to conduct citrus research in Georgia. The University of Georgia fruit pathologist received a grant to fund two years of study to monitor the devastating citrus greening disease in Georgia. A UGA plant pathology class has made a local Lowndes County citrus grower’s operation a stop on their disease tour for the fifth year in a row. Since an initial cold-hardy citrus meeting held in Lowndes County in 2013, the industry has grown from less than seven scattered acres of citrus to 2,000 acres. Two citrus processors and five new citrus nurseries have now emerged in Georgia. Agents continue to support Lowndes residents’ agricultural needs through personal interactions, phone calls, blogs, newspaper columns and programming for Master Gardeners and the green industry.
4-H Youth Development
Lowndes County 4-H has played an active role in teaching educational programming in the Lowndes County School System since the 1950s. Lowndes County 4-H Agent Lynn Hall and 4-H Program Assistants Sarah Baltzell and Grace Chauncey reach more than 1,300 elementary and middle school students through 56 club meetings each month. Lessons, which all correlate with state standards, include science, language arts, STEM activities and leadership skills. Additionally, more than 165 students are reached through after-school programs like Poultry Judging and Consumer Judging, as well as other after-school clubs. The 4-H Archery Club placed in the top five teams across the state and the Shotgun team continues to excel. Lowndes County 4-H volunteers started a new BB shooting sports team this last year and the club members are preparing for spring competitions. In preparation for the annual public speaking competition Project Achievement, 18 middle and high school students submitted portfolios of work that were created throughout the 2019 calendar year. At the county-level Project Achievement competition, 300 fourth, fifth and sixth grade 4-H’ers submitted essays. Fourth, fifth and sixth grade 4-H’ers are preparing essays to compete at the district competition held in Houston County. Project Achievement teaches youth writing skills, public speaking skills and independence. Members have written postcards to veterans, prepared appreciation bags for local law enforcement officers, collected pop tabs for the Georgia 4-H donation to Ronald McDonald House Charities, worked at the Second Harvest Food Bank boxing items for the elderly, and collected and sent items to military service members stationed overseas. Lowndes County 4-H 77 campers from fourth through 11th grade also participated in a variety of camping opportunities. One Senior 4-H’er competed at State 4-H Congress, earning Master 4-H’er status in the poultry category. Mastering is the highest honor that a 4-H’er can receive.