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.
FAMILY AND CONSUMER SCIENCES
The Sumter County Cooperative Extension Family and Consumer Science agent offered four ServSafe Certification training classes in 2019, with 39 participants earning certifications.
Also in 2019, the FACS agent collaborated with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to offer free tax preparation through the Virtual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Participating taxpayers learned about important tax deductions and credits and were offered financial education on budgeting and saving. Thirteen federal and state refunds were filed, bringing a total of $10,290 federal tax refunds and $2,377 state refunds to clients. It is estimated that Virtual VITA saved clients $3,900 in tax preparation and refund anticipation loan fees.
4-H YOUTH DEVELOPMENT
The Sumter County 4-H Club works collaboratively with local private, public and charter schools to provide youth development programming. Members of 4-H grow and work together with adults to develop life skills through innovative inclusion and leadership programs, various competitions, summer learning experiences, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities and specialty clubs. A total of 815 Sumter County 4-H’ers were enrolled in the club during 2019.
AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL RESOURCES
Commodity prices in 2019 have continued to be lower than in past years, therefore it is imperative for growers to try to maximize their economic gain by harvesting crops at optimal maturity. Sumter County’s chief economic driver is agriculture, and peanuts are one of the major driving forces of the county’s farm gate value, with approximately 50% of the county’s peanuts being grown for seed. In 2019 more than 15,000 acres of peanuts were planted in Sumter County. The value of a farmer’s peanuts is determined by the grade and the yield of the peanuts. It is critical to dig peanuts when optimal maturity is reached to maximize both the yield and grade of peanuts, which will result in maximum profits for producers. Sumter County’s Extension office conducts maturity evaluations for peanut producers in the area to optimize the date to dig individual fields of peanuts, and the Agriculture and Natural Resources agent assisted growers in making more than 215 harvest decisions in 2019. Producers take a representative sample — about 200 peanuts — from a field and bring them to the Extension office. The peanuts are then blasted using a pressure washer and turbo nozzle to remove the outer layer of the hull. The inner layer of the hull is then compared to a profile board to determine relative maturity with respect to days until optimum maturity. Research indicates that returns can be as much as $200 per acre higher with proper harvest timing, and research by scientists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service’s National Peanut Research Laboratory shows that digging three weeks too early or too late can result in a 20% reduction in yield potential. With an average yield of 4,800 pounds per acre, that could mean a potential loss of 960 pounds per acre. With 15,000 acres of peanuts in Sumter County, that would be a loss of more than 14.4 million pounds. That is an estimated value of $2.9 million, or about $200 per acre, that could potentially be lost due to harvesting too early or too late.