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Extension E-Newsletter

Extension E-News

Greetings for March 2010

Photo: Beverly SparksBeverly Sparks, Associate Dean for Extension, 706/542-3824, caesext@uga.edu

THE BUDGET CHALLENGES KEEP ON COMING ... The state budget reductions over the past two years have been difficult and we are now beginning to feel the full force of these cuts throughout our organization. Perhaps the fact cuts came in increments and we absorbed them by cutting operating and travel and returning vacant positions somewhat lessened or at least delayed the full realization of the impact of the decline in state dollars coming into Extension.

Don't get me wrong, the cuts have been painful and I am very proud of the way our administrative team has handled the situation. I am very proud of the innovative ways we have tightened our belts and reduced our reliance on travel funds and operating funds and still provided programming and services. And, I am most proud of the way our employees and our recent retiree/rehires have stepped up to help us continue to serve the citizens of this state.

On the other hand, I grow more and more concerned about the current strategy we have to delay expenditures on maintenance of our facilities and our technology infrastructure. I am also concerned about burn out with many of our employees. And, I am concerned about having adequate resources to support our remaining employees once the dust settles.

The events of the last couple of months have helped clarify our budgetary outlook. First, we all know the state revenue situation will turn around, but it now appears the climb out will be a long and slow process. Second, the governor's budget reflects significant additional cuts for all state agencies for the upcoming year (FY11). Currently, Extension's proposed cut would be an additional 18.5%, bringing our total cut to 29% over a two-year period. And finally, the proposed budget cut by UGA to the Board of Regents called for the elimination of our 4-H program, half of our county offices and educational/research facilities in Savannah, Blairsville, Camilla, Reidsville and Attapulgus as part of an additional $60 M cut to our university. At this point in time, much is still speculative about the cuts in the FY11 Extension budget, but clearly, CAES and Extension face another challenging fiscal environment for the coming year and the immediate future.

The good news is the events of the last two weeks also clarified our position as an organization with legislators, key stakeholders and our clientele. We have reaffirmed many great supporters in the Georgia General Assembly, the Georgia agribusiness community, the educational community and in the state's media outlets. It was humbling to witness the outpouring of support from our clientele…from Georgians from all parts of the state and all walks in life…as they communicated their concern about our proposed budget cuts through personal visits, phone calls, emails and letters. And we continue to work with our supporters to communicate the value of our programs and to ask for equitable treatment in budget cuts compared to "A" budget units in our university. Stay tuned for additional information as the process plays out.
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County Operations

Photo: Tony TysonTony Tyson, Director of Extension County Operations, 706/542-1060, coopext@uga.edu

REFINING THE COUNTY DELIVERY MODEL: As I write this, I am still trying to catch my breath from the events of the week of March 1, 2010. The outpouring of support for Cooperative Extension was truly gratifying and represents a strong confirmation that we make a huge difference in the lives of the people we serve. I believe the leaders at the university, at the Board of Regents and in the Georgia Generally Assembly heard that message loud and clear.

That said, the state of Georgia still faces a major budget crisis. Tax collections for February were down 9.9% from February last year (which was down 35% from the previous year). Georgia Cooperative Extension has already sustained a 20% cut in our state budget over the past two years. As a result, we currently have 77 vacant county agent positions that we are not able to fill. We also have several other vacant positions including some critical specialists, administrative positions and support staff. Thank goodness for all the retiree rehires who are helping us to fill the gap on some of these critical vacancies.

As we review comments from various economists and government officials it appears that recovery from the current economic crisis will take a while, maybe two or three years at best. Consequently, it is imperative that we develop a plan as to how we will continue to deliver excellent programs at the county level in a downsized environment.

Most people agree that Georgia Extension has the best possible model for county delivery of Extension programs. However, with almost 80 county agent vacancies, we cannot continue to do everything the way we are currently doing it. We don't know yet how many rehires we will be able to maintain into next year. That depends on the final outcome of the FY11 budget. We can't continue to ask our current workforce to do more with less. We are committed to the county delivery system and we realize that in order to continue the support we get from local governments, we must have a presence in the counties. We need the best thinking of each and every Extension employee to help us figure out the course ahead.

Beginning this month, we are initiating a process we will call a Review of County Operations. On March 11-12, 2010 a steering committee of 20 individuals convened at Rock Eagle to begin discussions as to how we will conduct this process. Our goal at this meeting will be to explore the facts relating to our current situation, define the issues to be addressed, and design a process to engage the entire organization in the process. In selecting the members of the steering committee, we tried to make sure that all program areas were adequately represented. We included agents as well as specialists and administrators. The meeting at Rock Eagle was facilitated by Sherri Lawless of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. One of our priorities as we move forward is to ensure that every Extension employee has the opportunity to provide meaningful input as we develop our plan. We will be following up after the meeting to give you more details as to how the process will work.

Unfortunately, our timeline is short. Our goal is to develop a plan by late summer, so we will be moving quickly. We will be asking for your assistance and we will need for everyone to take this seriously and to keep in mind what is best for the entire organization. We must move forward in one accord. If we resort to finger pointing and withdraw into our individual camps, the result will be detrimental to everyone. We have one of the strongest Extension programs in the country and our overriding goal is to keep it that way, and to be well positioned to grow when economic conditions improve.

For your information, I have included a list of the members of the steering committee for the Review of County Operations. Please contact one of these individuals if you have thoughts or ideas that you would like to share.

Steering Committee for Review of County Operations
Tony Tyson – Chair Steve Brown Ken Lewis
Lannie Lanier John Parks Greg Price
Arch Smith Jorge Atiles Sheldon Hammond
Laura Perry Johnson Laurie Cantrell Sidney Law
Kim Siebert Grace Garnier Jenny Jordan
Gail Hanula Dennis Hancock Travis Zetterower
Faith Peppers David Langston  
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Agriculture and Natural Resources

Photo: Steve Brown Steve Brown, ANR State Program Leader, 706/542-1060, astdext@uga.edu

21st CENTURY ANR PROGRAMMING: Recent events have been a grim reminder that some people just don't understand what we do. Those that don't understand agriculture or Extension sometimes jump to the conclusion that we are an archaic, inflexible organization that is nothing more than a holdover from a bygone time when people lived on farms. Of course, we know that's not true and our clientele know that's not true.

Now, more than ever, is time to aggressively counter this misperception. Modern agriculture runs on reliable, unbiased information and ANR programs have to change routinely to keep pace with the demand for that information. Extension has been pretty successful in keeping up with, and even being a step ahead of, a rapidly changing agricultural industry. Not only does our message have to keep up with those changes, our methods do as well. The following are some examples of how we are innovatively changing our methods in order to be more efficient and serve modern agricultural needs in Georgia.

The Web and electronic media in general have given our ANR agents new ways to communicate and even demonstrate agricultural information to our clientele. Several of our ANR agents have found it beneficial to produce electronic newsletters rather than, or in addition to, the traditional printed newsletters. For example, Rome Ethridge (Seminole County) has produced a very successful electronic newsletter for some time now. He includes photos of things he's seeing across the county that help his clientele be proactive. Buster Haddock (Randolph County) and Carl Childree (Clay and Quitman Counties) have recently initiated an electronic newsletter with links to videos they have posted to YouTube. In the first issue, they demonstrate how to count wheat tillers and discuss the timely subject of how to correctly apply nitrogen to wheat. Our ANR clientele are ready for these types of innovations and are responding positively.

We all know how important our specialists are in support of county ANR programs. These specialists are some of the best in the country, but they are stretched very thin. They have worked hard to keep up with the demand for county-level commodity production meetings, but the current level of time and money going into travel is not sustainable. For certain commodities we've implemented a different way of scheduling county meetings in order to be more efficient with our travel funds. Face-to-face county production meetings have and continue to be a great way to communicate with our clientele and no one is suggesting radical changes to that model. However, we need to always be looking for ways to be more efficient with our resources while still getting the job done.

Recently, Eric Prostko (Crop and Soil Sciences Department) and R.J. Byrne (Thomas County) teamed up to conduct the first county meeting where a specialist participated via electronic media. I'm told the meeting was very successful and the crowd interacted with Eric quite well. They were not intimidated by the technology and asked many questions. Admittedly, this experiment was with a small crowd and the human dynamics might be different with a bigger audience, but this was a great first try.

Patrick McCullough (Crop and Soil Sciences Department) has developed an iPhone application whereby users can access a wealth of turfgrass weed control information from anywhere they can get phone service. This innovation is catching on. The subscription application was released August 15, 2009 and 475 people have subscribed for $19.99 per year. The free application, which does not contain recommendations or premium content, was released in November and there have been about 1,500 downloads. Users represent 30 different countries. A Blackberry version released in December should further increase demand. All proceeds go to support UGA turfgrass research and Extension programs.

In order to keep up with an ever-changing agricultural industry, we must all continue to learn. Agent training is particularly important since our agents have to be knowledgeable in so many different subjects. Agent training programs have traditionally been face-to-face statewide or district level sessions requiring a lot of travel time and money. For some subject matter, this scenario will continue to be the best way to accomplish our goal. But during the past year, we have found that some types of agent training can be effectively accomplished online with great savings in time and money. As we become more familiar with the technology, we will learn more and more while seated at our desks.

Todd Hurt (Center for Urban Agriculture) and Jamie Hughs (OIT), worked together with Paul Pugliese (Cherokee County), Keith Mickler (Floyd County), Mary Carol Sheffield (Paulding County), Amanda Tedrow (Athens-Clarke County), Karol Kelly (Bibb County), and Louise Estabrook (North Fulton County) to install widget code on their local Web sites and set the desired preferences. While still in the experimental stage, many believe that this system will allow for much greater efficiency in load distribution of emails. By using a searchable, national database of answered questions, agents may actually spend less time answering common questions than the time they current spend on the phone. Email responses can be populated with a response from the database and then tailored to local needs.

We should never be afraid of change. In fact, we should be proud that we are flexible and able to adapt. We are not a static government entity that has outlived its usefulness. In times like these, we shouldn't be afraid to try something different. More change is coming and we better be ready.

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Family and Consumer Sciences

Photo: Jorge AtilesJorge Atiles, FACS State Program Leader, 706/542-4860, jhatiles@uga.edu

FOCUS ON OUTCOMES: Extension Family and Consumer Sciences state and county faculty are currently immersed in a Focus on Extension Outcomes process. The goal with this process is to focus on research-based programs that can generate positive behavioral impacts that can be documented and that add public value by addressing the most critical human-related needs in each county. Similar to the current system of agents selecting two issue areas for their plans of work, these focus outcomes will require in-depth programming and evaluation and will not preclude the county faculty from conducting programs in other outcomes and issue areas. County agents are currently engaged in seeking feedback from their county Extension leadership members in selecting/ranking the most critical outcomes they'd like to see addressed in the next FACS plan of work of the county. We look forward to greater, more focused impacts in the state that we can present to our stakeholders and all supporters of Extension. The menu of focus outcomes available to counties is included below:

  • The quality of child care in Georgia will improve
  • Georgians form and maintain healthy intimate partner relationships
  • Georgians will reduce their risk for foodborne illness
  • Georgians will preserve and store food safely
  • Georgians will achieve better health through selecting, purchasing and preparing healthful foods
  • Georgians will decrease morbidity from chronic disease through improved nutrition practices
  • Georgians will increase their savings and financial wealth
  • Georgians will raise their credit scores
  • Georgians will reduce exposure to indoor environmental hazards
  • Georgians will attain and maintain safe and affordable housing

FINANCIAL LITERACY: Great things are happening overall. Using a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, FACS Extension agents partnered with the Internal Revenue Service, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, Family Connection Partnership, Housing and Consumer Economics faculty and others to offer the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Tax returns have been filed in Athens (350), Dalton (125) and Moultrie (64), all free of charge. And the program is still offering its services.

ENERGY: Extension Natural Gas Educators are completing the scope of the project next month. We want to thank them for all of their efforts in making this a very successful program for natural gas consumers in the state.

Extension Weatherization Educators and monitors began their monitoring activities throughout the entire state last month. Weatherization assistance is a federally-funded program, administered in the state by the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority. Funds are made available to authorized not-for-profit organizations, such as community action agencies, to implement the energy improvements in homes. The Weatherization Assistance Program has been around since the mid 1970's and its mission is to reduce energy costs for low-income families, particularly for the elderly, people with disabilities, and children, while ensuring their health and safety.

CHILDREN: The Better Kid Care America eXtension Web site has launched, and the national team continues to add information and resources for child care providers and parents seeking child care.

About 70 teachers across Georgia are enrolled in the "Rockin' Around the Infant Classroom" training project. Participants are completing face-to-face and online training and are contributing to a social networking site. Four FACS agents are helping provide leadership for the project.

STRONG AFRICAN AMERICAN FAMILIES: Welcome to our two new hires in Coffee (Floyd Thompkins) and Crisp (Randy West) counties. This project will also cover Colquitt, Mitchell, Sumter, Tift, Turner and Ware counties.

SAFETY: H1N1, colds and flu, foodborne illnesses are out to get us! And FACS Extension and Georgia 4-H have teamed up to do something about it. Schools across Georgia have asked FACS Extension and 4-H to teach children how and when to wash their hands properly. The result is a new Wash Your Paws, Georgia! Hand washing Education Initiative. The campaign teaches six steps of proper hand washing as promoted by the National Sanitation Foundation as well as when to wash your hands as directed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FACS and 4-H agents throughout the state began offering the program in their communities in November. The program includes posters, a lesson guide for instructors, PowerPoint slides and message magnets to remind children to Wash Your Paws, Georgia! Thousands of posters have been distributed and used statewide. To date, evaluation data has been collected on more than 1,000 program participants.

Stay tuned for many more great things to come.

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4-H and Youth Development

Photo: Arch SmithArch Smith, Interim 4-H & Youth Development State Program Leader, 706/542-4H4H, asmith@uga.edu

The first few months of 2010 have been extremely busy for 4-H, and then to top it off, we learned that there was a proposal to eliminate 4-H. While the news was certainly disheartening, the rallying of support by 4-H alumni, volunteers, political supporters, friends and particularly the efforts of 4-H members themselves, was certainly heartwarming.

We should be extremely grateful to all those who have rallied in support of 4-H. The heartwarming stories that we have read brought tears to many eyes. We've been able to report the impact and quantity of our work through the collection of data from Georgia Counts, 4-H enrollment, 4-H event registration, and the Tufts study. It is obvious that the citizens of our state value the work we do and we should be proud. As we continue to look to the future, we need to make sure that we do an even better job of reporting, and capturing, the impact of our Georgia 4-H programs.

Many are aware that Lauren Ledbetter Griffeth has left the State 4-H Office and is now working with the University of Georgia Central Development Office. While we wish Lauren the best in her future endeavors with the university, we are disappointed that we lost this very talented member of the 4-H staff who contributed not only to the state 4-H program, but to the grant writing efforts of Extension specialists and county offices. We have approval to fill Lauren's position and a position announcement should be out within a few days.

We also are happy to welcome Marcus Eason as a member of the state 4-H staff. Marcus will be coordinating our Operation: Military Kids program, replacing Casey Mull. Casey is still the Georgia 4-H / Military liaison but 75% of Casey's time has been bought out by the Department of Defense and he is working on 4-H programming with the Air Force.

Despite the fact that there was a proposal to eliminate 4-H in Georgia, there are many positive things happening in the 4-H program. Our private and grant funding continues to increase with several large commitments coming from both public grant sources and private partners in the past few days. The most important thing about 4-H is the fact that we have the most talented group of 4-H agents, program assistants and volunteers who are helping 4-H youth develop positive life skills that will enable them to become productive citizens.

Thanks to all our 4-H agents, program assistants, other Extension staff, and volunteers who help keep Georgia 4-H the best in America.

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Personnel actions

New Hires

  • Baldwin County—Paula Herren, Secretary, 1/7/10
  • Plant Pathology—Stanley Evans, Research Tech, 2/1/10
  • Bibb County—Deborah Carriker, CEPA-ANR
  • Coweta County—Pamela Burkey, Secretary
  • Fulton County—Caprice Crawley, CEPA-4-H
  • Harris County—Linda Alford, CEPA-4-H
  • Rock Eagle—Persia Briones, Cafeteria Worker

Grant-Funded Positions

  • EFNEP:
    • DeKalb County—Lynda Flowers, EFNEP, CEPA-FACS, 3/1/10
  • Georgia Traffic Injury Prevention Institute:
    • Erin Medley, FACS, 1/5/10
  • Natural Gas Educator:
    • Deborah Phillips, FACS, 1/5/10
  • Strong African American Families:
    • Coffee County—Floyd Thompkins, FACS, 3/1/10
    • Crisp County—Randy West, FACS, 3/1/10
  • Weatherization Educators:
    • Andrew Tronolone, FACS, 1/5/10
    • Jill Vaughn, FACS, 1/5/10
    • Chatham County—Ray Johnson, FACS, 1/5/10
    • Clayton County—Chuck Rose, FACS, 1/5/10
    • DeKalb County—Barbara Collins, FACS, 1/5/10
    • Dodge County—Cynthia Jones, FACS, 1/5/10
    • Dodge County—Ronald Mullis, FACS, 1/5/10
    • Forsyth County—Jeremy Field, CEPA-FACS, 1/5/10
    • Fulton County—Lance Beaton, CEPA-FACS, 1/5/10
    • Tift County—Burt Calhoun, FACS, 1/5/10
    • Muscogee County—Tegrin Averett, FACS, 1/6/10
    • DeKalb County—Jackson Millsaps, CEPA-FACS, 1/7/10
    • Bartow County—Chesley Davis, FACS, 1/11/10
    • Bartow County—Joe Henshaw, CEPA-FACS, 1/19/10
    • Tattnall County—Joshua Lanier, FACS, 1/19/10

100% County Funded

  • Decatur County—Ward Cole, CEPA-4-H, 1/20/10

Retiree/Rehires

  • Cobb County—Steve Brady, CEA-ANR,
  • Meriwether/Troup County—Celeste Garrett, CEA-FACS
  • Coffee County—Eddie McGriff (49.5% time), CEC-ANR, 1/1/10
  • Columbia County—Charles Phillips, 1/1/10
  • Lincoln County—Martha Partridge, 1/1/10
  • Monroe County—John Pope, 1/1/10
  • Union County—Mickey Cummings, 1/1/10
  • Walton County—William Carlan, 1/1/10
  • Wayne County—Randy Franks from CEC-ANR to CEA-ANR, 1/1/10

Transfers

  • Clayton County—Gwen Williams from Prog Spec to CEA-4-H
  • Dodge County—Greg Slaughter from CEA-ANR to CEC-ANR, 1/1/10
  • Wayne County—Mark Frye from CEA-ANR to CEC-ANR, 1/1/10
  • Bryan County—Shanna Davis from CEA-4-H to Interim CEC-4-H, 2/1/10

Retirements

  • Murray County—Jewel Hedges, Secretary
  • Business Office—Nancy Mobley, GA Admin Assoc, 12/31/09
  • Bryan County—David Moulder, CEC-ANR, 1/31/10
  • Northeast District—John Parks, DED, 2/28/10
  • Ware County—E. Diane Dean, CEPA, 2/28/10

Terminations

  • Chattahoochee County—Dana Scott, CEPA-4-H
  • Harris County—Angela Hightower, CEPA-4-H
  • Feed & Env Water Lab—Christelle Christian, Lab Research Tech, 12/31/09
  • Cook County—Brandy Wilkes, CEA-4-H, 1/6/10
  • Washington County—Roger Harrison, Archway Professional, 1/15/10
  • Terrell County—Robin Jordan, Secretary, 1/26/10
  • Terrell County—Charles Lamb, CEC-ANR, 2/1/10
  • Webster County—Holly Minick, CEPA-4-H, 2/12/10
  • Thomas County—Amanda Carter, CEPA-4-H, 2/18/10
  • Ernestine Freeman, 4-H Housekeeper, 2/28/10
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