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 is a driving economic force in Stephens County with an estimated farm-gate value of $52.1 million. The vast majority of agricultural production can be attributed to the thriving poultry and cattle industries in the county. Broiler production is particularly important, with a total farm-gate value of more than $27.5 million. Beef cattle production is also very important with a value of $9.1 million. Due to the thriving beef industry in Stephens County, hay production is also very prevalent with a value of more than $1.1 million. There are a total of 218 farms in Stephens County spanning 18,409 acres, with an average of 84 acres per farm.
The purpose of UGA Extension in Stephens County is to provide unbiased, research-based information to the agricultural producers, homeowners and businesses of Stephens County. Through university resources, the UGA Extension office is able to provide support in many different agricultural and natural resource topic areas. Some of the topics include soil fertility, proper water use, safe pesticide application, crop management, pasture management and home gardening. The Extension office also provides many testing services to the people of Stephens County. Soil, water and forage tests are routinely submitted to the soil and water laboratory for analyses. Effective weed identification, insect identification and plant-disease diagnosis are also routinely done by the county agent to ensure accurate recommendations to agricultural producers, homeowners and businesses. In-office consultations and on-farm visits are a vital part of connecting with the residents of Stephens County and helping them solve their agricultural and natural resource issues.
4-H Youth Development
Litter is one of the most visible and persistent environmental issues our community and towns are facing today. In Toccoa and Stephens County, the effects of litter and blight are seen throughout the county. It reduces the aesthetic appeal of our community, pollutes our water supply and decreases economic growth. Research shows that providing environmental education to youth at an early age will help discourage littering and create attentiveness to litter and abatement in our communities. Education and behavior change are essential to create a generation of environmental stewards of our world. To address this issue, the Stephens County 4-H agent presented an environmental education program in each fifth-grade 4-H class meeting. This curriculum focused on litter and pollution, decomposition and conservation. To enhance the information gained in the environmental education lessons, the Stephens County 4-H Club sponsored an antilitter poster contest for fifth-grade students. The students created an antilitter slogan and artwork to promote litter awareness. Changing attitudes and influencing behavior are most effective through education and experiential learning. Through a post-evaluation, 100 percent of 4-H members were more likely not to litter, saw litter as a problem in our community, and were motivated to share the knowledge gained with others. Changes in attitudes and behaviors are not limited to the 4-H’ers, but are transferred to their parents and peers.
FAMILY AND CONSUMER SCIENCES
The Stephens County 4-H agent addresses Family and Consumer Sciences areas of food safety, nutrition and child development to local citizens through weekly radio information segments, community home and health fairs, and informational brochures.