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 Wilkes County Family and Consumer Sciences Agent provided Virtual Income Tax Assistance (VITA), a free program that offers tax preparation and filing. The FACS agent received training to be certified by the IRS to prepare tax returns, including those claiming the earned income tax credit (EITC) and additional child tax credit (CTC). Beginning February 1, the agent kicked off the VITA program to benefit and serve 30 families, saving each an average of $300 for tax preparation. Ten families received the EITC benefit, totaling $10,157, five families received additional CTC, totaling $7,236. In total, 30 families received $28,811 in federal refunds and $6,418 in state refunds.
The FACS agent provided financial literacy programming to 13 adult Wilkes County residents and 17 Wilkes County high school seniors. The goal of the programming is to educate about credit, fraud prevention, managing expenses, saving, shopping skills, tax assistance and financial planning.
The FACS agent moderated individual focus groups with 18 Wilkes County residents on “Solar Energy Atlas: Solar Technology Adoption and The American Experience.” This project, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, seeks to understand the key motivations of everyday Americans on rooftop solar technology adoption based on social and economic aspects, and any potential benefit in low- and moderate-income households. The FACS Agent received $500 in professional development support for educational programming provided by the project.
4-H Youth Development
In a county where farming is a vital industry, students and teachers have struggled to help build the connection and bridge the gap of “farm-to-fork.” Teaching in an outdoor setting, industry and career specialists utilize curriculum and programming for the development of agriculture awareness throughout Wilkes County School System for all Kindergarten through third graders through a program called “No Child Left Inside.” Students learn about different agricultural commodities produced in the area. Community leaders, Extension staff and parents feel youth should know about the agricultural commodities produced and resources available in Wilkes County. It is important to utilize resources that are imperative to healthy living. During the sessions, students learn about making better choices and living a healthier lifestyle, as well as gaining knowledge about sustainability in the agriculture industry and exposure to agricultural career opportunities. Extension staff, working with collaborators, conducted research-based lessons relating to agricultural commodities including forestry, wildlife, gardening and honey bees, and students participated in an outdoor scavenger hunt, story station and MyPlate nutrition game designed to illustrate and emphasize the importance of agriculture. Skills learned are incorporated through snack tasting in classrooms, where students are exposed to different fruits and vegetables. A school garden has been established to grow wildflowers the students planted to aid the declining honey bee population. More than 480 youth participated in agriculture awareness programming, with 85% reporting increased knowledge of food sources and 60% responding that they would now make healthier decisions purchasing local foods. This program was 100% funded through county funds, school grants and gifts.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
The Wilkes County Agriculture and Natural Resources agent reported winter grain mites (WGM) causing issues in some winter forage fields throughout the county. WGM can cause severe yield losses in young growth forages. This pest is both light and temperature sensitive, so it is best to scout for WGM on cloudy days or at night, and when temperatures are between 45 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The agent researched the best methods for controls for the pest and recommended that producers a pyrethroid insecticide, making sure to read and follow label directions.