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
Increasing Financial Capability
Household finance in the rural South is incredibly dynamic with the highest rates of poverty and the highest number of persistently poor counties in the country. UGA Extension empowers individuals with the knowledge, skills and tools for effective management of financial resources for long-term well-being. The Wilkes County Extension Family and Consumer Sciences agent provided Virtual Income Tax Assistance (VITA), a free program that offers tax preparation and filing at no cost. Working with UGA’s undergraduate and graduate students in the financial planning program and teaching and research faculty, the agent was certified by the IRS to prepare many types of tax returns, including those claiming the earned income tax credit (EITC) and additional child tax credit (CTC). She coupled this service with several programs and training sessions to help people manage their finances. Of the 27 families that took advantage of the VITA program, there was a total of $26,041 received in federal refunds and $3,975 received in state refunds for Wilkes County residents. Regardless of the family’s circumstances and obligation to the IRS, of the families serviced, all received the impact of savings on tax preparation. The the families were given the opportunity to commit to saving through the online saving pledge. As a group, they saved a total of $7,012 through the Save Your Refund Campaign, an increase from $908 in 2019.
4-H Youth Development
Virtual Learning Experiences
In a rural county that closed schools due to a pandemic and normal academics reached limitations, Wilkes County Extension found a way to provide knowledge-based programming to continue the mission of teaching and educating people about the importance of Agriculture. Wilkes County 4-H decided to present virtual educational programs discussing various topics related to agriculture and 4-H, such as a pumpkin decorating contest based on book characters, Cotton Boll and Consumer Judging practices and contest, Land Judging practices, Precision Agriculture class program, using Google classroom for club meetings. Extension staff collaborated with County Government, local garden clubs, Soil and Water Conservation, public school system administrators and teachers as well as farmers to conduct lessons about agricultural commodities within our county. Some programs were soil and land, poultry, gardening, honey bees, cotton crops indoor scavenger hunt, story time reading aloud, introduction to 4-H and Project Achievement. Various teaching methods were used to educate through all virtual programming, group discussions, demonstration and flyers. Through these educational outlets over 625 youth in 2020 have been learned about agriculture awareness. Of these 625, 85 percent have shown an increase in knowledge of agriculture-related topics and 75 percent have stated they feel more familiar and comfortable with using technology as an educational tool for research and engagement.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Scouting Program for silage growers
In silage production, disease prevention, pest control, and protection of leaf matter is critically important to insuring maximum tonnage and feed values for cattle. In 2020, approximately 3,000 acres of corn and sorghum silage were grown to support approximately 1,300 dairy cattle and over 3,000 beef stocker cattle. Both corn and sorghum silage crops had major disease and pest problems during the 2020 growing season. The Wilkes County Extension agent conducted local county silage scouting programs weekly once crops were planted until the crops were harvested. The increased presence in growers' fields allowed for the Extension agent to collect valuable information that was then communicated to local silage growers. Increased knowledge of potential problems led to more timely applications of university recommendations for control. In total, the scouting program increased yield and resulted in actual grower savings of $3,425 through not recommending grower applications of pesticides. Growers who participated in the program rated the program as excellent and requested the Wilkes County Extension agent continue the program next year.