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
Walker County agriculture supports an $81.9 million farm-gate value with tremendous crop diversity. Major crop commodities of poultry, beef and row crops combine with livestock including dairy, horses, sheep, goats and alpacas; and small fruits including apples, blueberries and muscadines. Numerous vegetables, greenhouse production, turfgrass, honeybees, timber, Christmas trees and other crops are produced on over 525 farms. UGA Extension in Walker County connects the agricultural community to current UGA and land-grant university research and production advancements to support the diverse crop clientele. In 2018, our office provided 270 laboratory testing services for soil, feed and forage, animal waste, and water quality. Results allow agricultural users to maintain crop and soil health, balance fertilizer and nutrient applications, and make knowledgeable decisions concerning plant, crop and livestock nutrient needs while protecting water quality and our environment. Water testing provides specific information, allowing clients to make knowledgeable, informed decisions concerning potential treatments. Our office serves each individual’s needs, discussing options one-on-one, based on site-specific laboratory results.
Pest management on the farm or at home is a common concern. Pesticide application is serious business. Our office strives to reach private and commercial applicators, property owners and residents with current changes in rules, labels, laws, application methods, pest alerts and cultural practices. Communication is critical to reaching agricultural and green industry clients engaged in pest management on sometimes short notice. We worked to broaden our communication networks. The year 2018 allowed Walker County Extension to celebrate the retirement of agricultural agent Norman Edwards in April and welcome Wade Hutcheson on September 1.
4-H Youth Development
Youth need opportunities to practice and assume leadership roles while building the life skills that lead to safe and healthy choices. Walker County 4-H members became leaders in the local community by teaching various lessons from the Underwriters Laboratories Safety Smart curriculum as well as the LifeSmarts OTC Medicine Safety Mentoring Project. Four students each had a part in teaching 15 separate classes, creating awareness flyers and a YouTube video, building an online survey, and evaluating each of the programs. Students ranging from elementary to high school were taught lessons on environmental stewardship. Elementary students were also taught lessons on being healthy and fit, being honest and real, travel safety, and online safety. Middle-school students were taught lessons on drug label awareness and medication safety. The general public was made aware of the dangers of over-the-counter medicines and participated in an online survey to gauge local knowledge of over-the-counter medicines. The youth leaders reported learning how to plan, implement and evaluate programs through this process. They also were able to practice speaking to school officials to secure permission to present lessons during school hours. Their comments included, “I learned how important it is to teach students about over-the-counter medicine safety. It was shocking to see how very few had never seen a drug label but also admitted to self-medicating themselves.” Student instruction yielded impact to 271 direct contacts and more than 1,980 indirect contacts.