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
In 2020 Oconee County Agriculture has a farm gate value of 75 million dollars for commodities such as poultry, ornamental horticulture, forages and livestock etc. Local agriculture production continues to be in the forefront for being profitable and sustainable. Currently, agricultural programing highlights from extension program development team members continue to assist local farmers with beef cattle education with emphasis on managing forages – summer and winter annuals, genetic herd improvement and the beginning farmer program. In addition, Oconee Co. well water quality and testing is a significant issue in the county and many residents have benefited from testing (UGA Soil & Water Lab) with corrections being implemented to meet EPA standards. Furthermore, agricultural awareness education (Third grade Ag Day, Oconee Co. Business Expo, Livestock shows etc.) has done an excellent job in helping our local community in transition to understand that agricultural economy provides quality food and fiber to meet consumer needs, on the local, state and national levels.
Family and Consumer Sciences
Good nutrition is a key factor for older adults to maintain well-being and an independent, healthy lifestyle, and in recovering from an illness or an injury. Reasonably priced, wholesome foods are not always accessible to older adults because of the lack of transportation, health problems and disabilities, and the lack of food stores within close proximity for shopping. Food insecurity is influenced by multiple factors and impacts a person’s health, wellbeing, and quality of life. A 2016 report places Georgia ninth in the nation for the prevalence of food insecurity among people ages 60 and older. The number of older adults in Georgia who currently face the threat of hunger is more than 300,000. The Oconee County Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Senior Sense program provided approximately 1,500 pounds of fresh produce to twenty-one (21) low-income seniors.
Approximately 13 of the 21 households participated on a weekly basis by coming to the Bishop Community Center to receive a pre-packed bag of produce that was placed in their trunks or back seats. In addition to the weekly produce distribution, local churches and civic clubs provide boxes of non-perishable items, laundry baskets with cleaning supplies, and/or bags of personal items for each senior. All 21 households participate in the monthly distribution. Since May 2020 when the drive thru distribution began, approximately 1,500 pounds of produce valued at $4,875 has been provided from the Plant-A-Row garden. Produce includes tomatoes, green onions, bell peppers, banana peppers, jalapeño peppers, yellow squash, zucchini, okra, Irish potatoes, cucumbers, crowder peas, eggplant, sugar snap peas, green beans, sweet potatoes and herbs. A total of $3,150 has been received through the monthly donations. Based on USDA Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program data, it is estimated that program participants save approximately $20 each month by receiving fresh produce through the Senior Sense program. Master FACS volunteers logged 103 hours between May and October 2020 through 17 produce distributions. According to Independent Sector, the current estimated national value of each volunteer hour is $27.20. Therefore, these volunteers’ work is valued at approximately $2,800.
4-H Youth Development
Oconee County 4-H has had a record-breaking year and have truly shown what it means to “Learn by Doing.” Oconee County 4-H’ers have earned Master 4-H’er Status a total of 25 times within the past year. This is the highest honor a 4-H’er can achieve. 4-H’ers have earned Master 4-H Status in a variety of subject matters from Forestry Judging to Cotton Boll/Consumer Judging and Project Achievement and Scholarship. Master 4-H Status is awarded to 4-H’er who placed first in the State at a contest and showed their “true mastery” of subject.
Oconee County 4-H’ers have had an impact nationwide as well. Within the last year, five separate judging or quiz bowl teams qualified for National 4-H Contests and traveled across the country to represent Georgia 4-H against some of the best 4-H teams in the nation. From Weston, West Virginia to Denver, Colorado, Oconee County 4-H has had an impact. Four more 4-H’ers were selected to attend National 4-H Conference in Washington, D.C. to meet with elected officials and discuss how 4-H has prepared them to take on the challenges of tomorrow.
Over 500 5th and 6th Grade Oconee County 4-H’ers competed in our School Project Achievement Contest, where they presented on any topic for 4-6 minutes. An estimated 41 hours of unique and student-interest focused presentations were given over the course of the 2-week long contest. 4-H'ers represented 9 different public schools, private schools, and home school groups.
Oconee County 4-H was one of the leaders in 4-H Summer Camp participation over the past year. Two hundred and twenty-five attend 4-H Summer Cloverleaf Camp at Rock Eagle 4-H Center. Oconee County 5th and 6th Graders to camp and were one of the state leaders in participation. The sheer volume of students we took our week of camp contributed to the largest week of Summer Camp held at Rock Eagle, since they started keeping track of numbers officially, with just over 1100 total participants.