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 Youth Development
Georgia is one of the top states with the highest pregnancy rates among teens age 15-19. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health 2019 statistics, in Georgia 27.02 per 1000 girls aged 15-19 became pregnant. In Washington County the birth rate for girls aged 15-19 was 43 per 1000. This is higher than the state average. Beginning in 2013, Washington County 4-H focused on helping youth become more knowledgeable about making positive relationship choices, understanding consequences of having sex before marriage, developing good communication skills, and determining values to help prepare for future goals by offering a program called Relationship Smarts. Since then, over 2400 students have been reached. The majority of students who have participated in this program have gained confidence in establishing healthy relationships, reported they were very likely to use the skills learned, and overall found the program either helpful or very helpful. One student recently commented, “I think it will help me with my relationships and how I talk to people. Also, how to deal with certain situations that can be hard.”
Family and Consumer Sciences
The Washington County Family and Consumer Sciences Agent Georgeanne Cook provides programming that improves the health, wellness and financial capability of individuals and families served. Many consumers lost jobs and valuable resources through no fault of their own due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. More people established gardens or expanded their food plots out of initial fears of a possible food shortage. It is important that people precisely follow the proper steps and recipes when home canning to prevent botulism, a rare but potentially deadly illness produced by bacteria called Clostridium botulinum. FACS Agent created live webinars and virtual home food preservation classes that resulted in, 813 at risk consumers signing up to attend free Home Food Preservation classes; other similar events charge $15.00 a class. A cost savings of $12,195 for the consumer. There were 194 consumers attendees, with a cost savings of $2, 409 for the consumer. Overall, the Home Food Canning classes reached over 10,000 at risk consumers through social media.
Two people die of diabetes-related causes and 16 adults are newly diagnosed every 5 minutes in Georgia. Diabetes awareness and education classes are provided to all residents at no cost to the citizens thru face to face teaching, virtual conferences, and phone consultation. The travel cost savings of $70.20 to 274 clients if had to drive 60+ miles, adds up to $19,212.88 in savings impact to our clients. Agent is working to remove barriers and create a community where healthy choices are easy and available to all through Well Connected Communities supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Washington County agriculture continues to be strong. Row crop acreage is in the range of 13,000 to 14,000 acres, with peanuts, corn, and cotton leading the way. Soybeans and wheat are also produced locally. Cattle and timber are also very prevalent. In 2020, producers in Washington County were awarded regionally for top cotton quality, forage quality for the entire Southeastern United States, and corn yields for the National Corn yield contest. Producers in the county continue to produce quality products, and several have tapped into niche markets such as sesame production and NON-GMO grains. Peanuts continue to yield over 2 tons per acre. Our overall cotton yield is well over (2 bales) 1,000 lbs. of lint per acre. Cattle numbers continue to grow. The county has several producers that are backgrounding cattle and marketing truck load weights of similar weighted cattle. Vaccinating, weaning, and backgrounding cattle is a very good way to add value to an already good product. Washington County Extension continues to find ways for pesticide license holders to earn continuing education hours. License holders have been offered both virtual and face to face trainings that meet CDC guidelines. In 2020, Washington County’s Extension ANR agent was named Agent of the year by the Georgia Cattleman’s Association. We continue to submit a good number of soil, water, and feed samples. Entering 2021, I hope Washington County Extension can continue building good productive relationships in the community.