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.
4-H Education Impact
Walker County 4-H, in collaboration with Walker County Schools, Chickamauga City Schools and Oakwood Christian Academy, has been able to offer standards-based supplemental lessons to over 1,300 students in the county. Walker County needs assessments are showing the need for more life-skills based programming. Walker County 4-H integrated financial literacy in all 7th grade in-school clubs and LifeSmarts in all 8th grade in-school clubs. Civic Education lessons were also taught in 4th grade classrooms.
Students in the local areas are lacking in opportunities to expand in their oral and written communications, therefore Walker County 4-H has continued to invest in the 4-H Project Achievement program. All 4-H youth have also participated in communication and public speaking education programs and events. 66 presented demonstrations on a district level in January/March and 722 presented illustrated talks in the classroom in November.
Walker County 4-H also collaborated with Rossville Reads on a youth literacy initiative as well as local Agriculture programs and businesses for 4-H livestock shows.
Expansion of 4-H Robotics prepares youth for STEM Future
Long-term employment projections show the growing STEM workforce is central to our economic vitality. Students that participate in robotics programs gain self-confidence and self-esteem with applicable knowledge of science and technology. The Walker County 4-H DawgBytes robotics competition team competed in four competitions including the 2022 VEX World Championships. 4-H Robotics Clubs allowed other 4-H members the opportunity for hands-on learning in robotics. End of the year evaluations showed 4-H’ers learned to follow design plans, make design changes, test ideas and solve problems, and how to communicate with others. 86-89% also stated they would like a career that involves using STEM.
Family and Consumer Sciences
Walker County Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) offers programs on healthy eating, as well as importance of regular physical activity, in efforts to improve knowledge on how nutrition and physical activity can improve health. EFNEP classes are held in partnership with local high schools and community organizations.
In 2022, UGA Extension Walker County EFNEP program assistant Rebecca Hamilton provided 705 educational sessions for youth (9th-12th grades) serving 126 youth and resulting in 67 graduates from the youth Teen Cuisine program. With those who completed the program, 96% of those reported to eat more fruits and veggies and drank fewer sugary beverages. Also, 66% reduced their risk of food-borne illness and 61% were more physically active.
Walker County adults also benefitted from ENEP classes in 2022. 227 educational sessions were conducted for adults serving 41 and graduating 25. When measuring success, in all areas, improvements to the following health behaviors have been made:
92% ate more fruit and veggies
88% compared food prices more often
76% were more physically active and
76% reduced the risk of food borne illness.
Participants reported they learned how to shop smart by reading labels for added sugars and foods high in sodium. They gained skills in planning meals and cooking more at home.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Educating farmers on agricultural best practices, providing current research-based information and resources is critical to improving agricultural production. Walker Extension ANR programs are as grass roots as our citizens. Rooted deep to support the $80 million farm gate value, 37 ANR programs and events reached 3,868 people with education and engagement.
Livestock is a major crop in Walker County and there is increasing interest in small ruminant, goat and sheep, production. The Master Small Ruminant program provided 17+ hours of classroom education to 14 participants from multiple counties. Participant evaluations show 74% greatly increased their knowledge. Walker youth exhibited goats, cattle and pigs over the year at many local shows and 14 youth showed their project at the Georgia Junior National Livestock Show.
The bigger ruminant, cattle, was supported by 9 monthly programs serving cattlemen in three counties along with site visits to assess forages, collect soil and forage samples. Our Agent is a member of the UGA HERD team assisting with the animals in the program being evaluated for reproductive development, feed efficiency and many other factors. The Calhoun HERD Field day engaged 58 NW GA cattlemen in improving forage quality to enhance livestock production. A Novel Endophyte Tall Fescue field day involved 22 growers in a full day of learning how to provide livestock a better bite of grass.
A 4-H Livestock project club was started with 5 months of learning and activities including a field trip to our local sheep dairy and creamery with youth learning about the milking and cheese making processes. Our agent presented small ruminant production to 175 high school youth as part of the Stockyard Field Day in Calhoun. We assisted 35 clients acquire an egg candling certificate.
Corn, cotton and soybeans are major row crops in NW GA. We assisted our colleagues in hosting the NW GA production meetings reaching 121 with the latest in production updates, pest management and pesticide stewardship for those crops. Ten Crop Progress reports each reached 110 growers with crop production news and pest status during the growing season.
The annual AG Festival celebrates Walker County’s rich agricultural heritage with an all-day event complete with demonstrations, exhibits, blue ribbon events, educational sessions, rabbit show, sheep and goat show which had a record number of exhibitors, 35.
AG Day for every 3rd grade student provided facts on agriculture commodities grown in Walker and Georgia along with 16 other exhibits. AG Safety day reached 80 6th graders with household chemical safety. Do you know what’s in the jar?
In partnership with North LaFayette Elementary School, the pollinator garden we helped NLES start in 2021, was expanded and 36 student scientists participated in the Great Georgia Pollinator Count increasing their awareness of pollinators, insects, plants and the contribution pollination makes to our daily life. Principal David Schwind comments, “All grade levels visit the pollinator garden almost every single day. It may be small in size but it is sustainable and impactful.”
Walker County citizen scientist participation in the pollinator count increased to 116 in 2022 compared to 5 in 2021 due to diligence in promotion and educating our public about the count and its’ importance.
We can’t forget our fondness for healthy, safe pets as our annual low-cost rabies clinic reached 632 cats and dogs for an annual rabies vaccine and saved citizens over $18,000.