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
On October 10, 2018, the lives of all 9,000 citizens in Seminole County were turned upside down as the powerful eye of Hurricane Michael swept north-northeast through Seminole County as a Category 3 storm, with sustained winds up to 115 miles per hour and gusts of up to 150 miles per hour, delivering destruction across the county. Hurricane Michael shocked the community with terrifying power, downing live oaks and pines and damaging hundreds of homes, uprooting acres of pecan trees and sweeping away the highly anticipated bountiful yields of the year’s harvest. The morning after the storm, 100% of Seminole County residents were without electrical power because of snapped poles and thousands of trees being blown onto lines and nearly every road in the county was blocked by fallen trees and/or debris. The farms and everything else took a severe beating. The damage was so widespread that the Georgia Agriculture Department estimates a $2 billion hit to the state’s economy.
Serving the citizens of Seminole County in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael was priority number one for UGA Extension agents Cindy Meadows and Andrew Warner. The economic value of their service is significant, however the social and emotional value to humanity is immeasurable.
In the weeks following the storm, Meadows and Warner provided an estimated 150 hours helping with recovery efforts in Seminole County. The breadth and depth of their leadership and service was incredible. They coordinated multiple tours for local, state and federal officials, including Emergency Management agencies, to assess agricultural and other damage from the storm. Additionally, they assisted with many tasks associated with the county government’s needs. They delivered meals to 150 members of the National Guard Army Reserves and to inmates conducting debris clean up; assisted neighbors with removing storm debris; delivered needed supplies throughout the county; provided cattle fence repair; assisted with clean up and temporary repair of the County Extension office grounds, roof and building ,and any other task asked of them.
Additionally, the Extension agents worked with Seminole County Young Farmers to host two educational meetings for growers, providing needed information to help farmers with everything from fence repair to updates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency. Warner continued supporting farmers and producers with federal disaster news, information and regional meetings.
4-H YOUTH DEVELOPMENTS
Meadows provided 4-H youth programming at the Extension office and in schools to help return a sense of normalcy to youth upon returning to school in early November. Meadows helped prepare more than 30 fourth through sixth graders to participate in 4-H Project Achievement, a competition that builds confidence and public speaking skills in youth. Seminole 4-H’ers traveled to Moultrie to compete, with 70% of participants earning first, second or third place awards. Meadows also conducted other life-skill building activities and service projects with youth and volunteers to help them participate in the recovery of Seminole County. From debris cleanup to pumpkin carving, college tours to state and region fair projects to 4-H youth leadership conferences at Rock Eagle 4-H Center and much more, Meadows and Warner engaged more than 370 youth in opportunities to help them continue to learn and grow amidst the daily struggles of hurricane recovery and loss.
As a result of these efforts, Seminole County’s local leadership selected Meadows and Warner as Co-Citizens of the Year for 2018. County Commissioner Jeff Braswell stated, “Our local extension office did a phenomenal job for us during the Hurricane Michael recovery process. Cindy and Andrew were always willing and ready to help provide meals for the responders, they picked up breakfast most every morning and provided other meals as well during that time. They were always available to provide transportation for those persons that needed to tour and evaluate the devastated areas. They were able to provide approximate numbers on the damage to local crops and livestock farms in the county. Their assistance was invaluable to those of us directly involved in the response to Hurricane Michael.”