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 $52,160,015. 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 value of $27,557,165. Beef cattle production is also very important with a combined value of $15,380,848. There are 227 farms in Stephens County spanning 19,509 acres, with an average of 86 acres per farm.
Stephens County Extension Office provides unbiased, research-based information to the agricultural producers, homeowners and businesses of Stephens County. Through university resources, the Extension office is able to provide programming in many different agriculture and natural resources topic areas. Some of these topics include soil fertility, pasture management, livestock management and home gardening. Programming is done by the Agriculture and Natural Resources agent in a variety of seminars, workshops, field days and site visits. The Extension office also provides soil, water, forage and many other testing services to citizens. These results ensure community stakeholders receive accurate recommendations from the Extension office, making them more productive and profitable. Site visits by the county agent are also a vital part of connecting with the residents of Stephens County and helping them solve their agricultural and natural resources issues. Topics for site visits can include weed identification, insect identification, plant disease diagnosis, assessing soil fertility and more.
4-H YOUTH DEVELOPMENT
In an effort to educate and create awareness of the decline in the Monarch butterflies, the Stephens County 4-H program implemented a 4-H Environmental Science STEM program, “Gardening for Pollinators.” In the last two decades, monarch butterfly numbers have dropped 90%. The Monarch is the only butterfly in North America to fly south in the fall and complete a return migration in the spring. The program objective was to increase pollinator habitats in order to increase the survival of monarch butterflies. At the Stephens County Farm Tour, third graders learned about pollination, what pollinators are and their importance to our food supply. The 4-H agent created an experimental-gardening activity where students made “seed bombs” to take home to plant in their flower gardens to provide a food source for the monarch butterflies. The seed bombs contained native wildflower seeds and pulp made from recycled paper to attract pollinators. Stephens County 4-H reached an audience of approximately 400 third grade students and 45 adults at the Stephens County Farm Tour. To create community awareness, Stephens County 4-H collaborated with the Stephens County Chamber of Commerce, City of Toccoa, Keep Toccoa Stephens County Beautiful and Stephens County Soil and Water Conservation to design and plant a butterfly garden in downtown Toccoa. Approximately 15 volunteers and 20 4-H’ers created a butterfly garden. The garden is named “The Butterfly Station” and listed on the Rosalyn Carter Butterfly Trail. The phrase, “Think globally, act locally” applies to the combined efforts of both Gardening for Pollinators 4-H Environmental Science STEM programs.
FAMILY AND CONSUMER SCIENCES
The Stephens County Extension 4-H agent addresses the areas of food safety, nutrition and child development for local citizens through weekly radio information segments, community home and health fairs, and informational brochures.