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
Agriculture producers rely on timely Extension information to make informed production decisions. During the worldwide COVID 19 pandemic, University of Georgia Extension Agents needed to be able to present timely topics to row crop producers in their counties. Many aspects of production such as pest identification and management, weed management, disease identification and management, and fertilizer recommendations are critical to the agent/grower relations. Agents in the tri-county area of Screven, Jefferson and Burke found an alternative method to meet this challenge and assist the growers in these key decision points of production. Agents produced a series of in-field videos on issues growers were facing across these counties to provide this vital production information to growers on scouting their crops and to making informed management decisions. In addition, agents collaborated with the Southeast Research and Education Center (SEREC) in Midville, GA to develop and video the first SEREC Virtual Field Day. Having these videos available gives the agent a resource to forward to producers for information as questions arise in the future. This group of videos produced by the collaboration of Burke, Jefferson and Screven County Extension agents met the immediate needs of area farmers during the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic as they continue to provide pertinent information.
4-H Youth Development
4-H Impact: The Show Must Go On—Showing Livestock Virtually During a Global Pandemic
Young people who participate in livestock projects gain valuable knowledge and skills, leadership, and personal development. The livestock shows where youth exhibit their animals serves as the educational summit of the project experience and allows youth exhibitors to showcase the product of their labor and experiential learning. Experiential learning is an integral part of 4-H programming and allows youth to develop many essential life skills as they learn by doing.
March 2020 will be a month that most Americans will remember. That is when the COVID-19 pandemic emerged within the United States. Shortly thereafter, events and gatherings around the country began to get cancelled due to the health threat of COVID-19. On April 2, 2020 the Governor of Georgia issued a shelter in place order for the entire state of Georgia. Because of these events, all programs and events immediately were put on hold indefinitely. This included the cancellation of the 69th Annual Screven County Livestock Festival Shows.
The Annual Livestock Festival is the finale event for 4-H and FFA livestock exhibitors in Screven County and is an event that holds a lot of tradition for local community members. While the traditional show experience was not possible, Screven County 4-H Agent, Lauren Boykin, came up with a way to continue the tradition while still obeying the shelter in place mandate. Screven County quickly pivoted from a traditional in-person event to a fully virtual livestock festival to ensure that the show would go on.
A total of 50 exhibitors and 120 animals (28 goats, 41 lambs, 36 swine, and 15 beef cattle) were registered for the traditional livestock festival shows. Transitioning to the virtual show allowed registered livestock festival exhibitors to film and upload a video for showmanship and market classes for each species of animal being shown. Exhibitors were given detailed instructions and sample videos to follow in order to prepare virtual entries. The virtual show was scheduled to take place the same week as the originally planned in-person livestock shows. This would allow exhibitors to showcase their animals at prime market conditions. All video submissions and livestock information were collected online via Google Forms. All virtual entries were judged by a panel of out-of-state livestock judges and winners were announced virtually. Community members had the opportunity to view all video submissions in the same order as a traditional in-person livestock show. Results of each showmanship and market class were posted online for all exhibitors and community members to view. The virtual show allowed exhibitors the opportunity to complete their livestock projects and be evaluated without any members of the community leaving their homes during the state’s mandatory shelter-in-place order.
A total of 50 exhibitors and 116 animals (28 goats, 41 lambs, 34 swine, and 13 beef cattle) competed in the virtual livestock show. After the show was completed, it was noted that all 50 exhibitors participated and only 2 pigs and 2 beef cows did not submit species videos in their individual market classes. This marked 100 percent participation among exhibitors and 97 percent of registered animals that participated in the virtual versus traditional live show. A total of $20,000 worth of prize money and ribbons were distributed to exhibitors at a festival prize money award drive-thru event. Grand/Reserve Champion banners/rosettes and showmanship champion buckles were scheduled to be presented to individuals as a part of the Screven County Livestock Association Annual Meeting in November 2020. The comments leading up to the virtual livestock festival were skeptical and unsure about the ability of exhibitors to grasp the virtual concept. But after the show was completed, many exhibitors, their parents, and community members reached out to offer thanks and express gratitude for the ability to bring their youth livestock project to a close for the year. One livestock exhibitor stated, “The virtual show was very different from any other regular livestock show. It was harder than an in-person show because the camera was focused on one animal and one exhibitor at a time. Participating in the virtual show required a higher level of dedication and commitment and we were grateful that the leaders were willing to find a way for each exhibitor to bring our livestock projects to a close.” Participants were able to learn all of the normal livestock program lessons (hard work, dedication, sportsmanship, animal care, etc.), but this year a great deal of them learned the true meaning of perseverance, adaptability, and how to accept and give grace. During a time of significant uncertainty, the Screven County livestock community was able to come together and made sure that one thing was decided—the show must go on.
Family and Consumer Sciences
Although Screven County does not have a Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) agent based in the county Extension office, we strive to assist local residents with their questions. Common questions cover food safety, food preservation, dealing with mold and mildew, healthy meal planning, nutrition, family budgeting, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) resources and more. These issues and others are answered through a wide variety of free UGA Extension publications available at the county office and phone conferences with Family and Consumer Sciences agents from surrounding counties. Neighboring FACS agents often conduct programming that our county residents are welcome to attend. This year there have also been many virtual opportunities for training and participation regardless of the client’s location. Our office can provide information about programming in surrounding counties.