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Extension E-Newsletter

Extension E-News

Greetings for February, 2011

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

Extension Colleagues:

Winter 2011 will definitely be remembered. Record low temperatures, days with ice and/or snow on the ground, days of cancelled school and a number of weather- related traffic accidents will go down in the Georgia weather history books. The patchy severe winter weather continues to disrupt or at least inconvenience day-to-day life for our colleagues working in the most northern part of the state. I like the snow, but I am officially ready for spring.

The first six weeks of 2011 have certainly been very active and interesting. Our new governor and Georgia legislators are convened in Atlanta debating tough issues and working to resolve these issues in an extremely tight fiscal environment. CAES administration, faculty, students, 4-Hers and supporters have had many contacts with many legislators during this time at the Georgia Agribusiness Breakfast, CAES Legislative Reception, 4-H Day at the Capitol, in personal visits to legislative offices and in testimony before legislative committees. We need to continue to work closely with our legislators, keep them informed about our current budget challenges and communicate the impact of any additional budget reductions to our college. Thanks for your assistance at the local level and keep up the good work.

Also, during the last six weeks CAES hosted 2011 Georgia Ag Forecast sessions in Gainesville, Tifton, Statesboro, Carrollton and Macon with great participation from the agricultural community and record attendance at many locations. And, we completed six weeks of training opportunities for agents and staff in our 2011 Virtual Winter School.

A few highlights since the last issue of Extension E-News and preview of upcoming activities are as follows:

  • State revenue figures for January 2011 continue on a positive trend for the eighth continuous month! Despite interruption of retail sales due to snow days, January state revenues are up by over 8 percent.
  • District directors continue the process of screening, interviewing and filling high-priority county Extension agent positions. Employees moving to new positions include Menia Chester-Fulton County CEC; Greg Bowman-Gordon County CEC; and Hope Warren- Cobb County CEC. Also, Shane Curry- Appling CEA-ANR; Gary Brown-Laurens CEA-4-H; Rad Yager-Mitchell CEC; and Emily Reed-Crisp CEA 4-H. Stay tuned for additional announcements of employees taking on new responsibilities in the near future.
  • A screening committee for the Northeast District director position has recommended two candidates. Dr. Judy Hibbs and Mr. Norman McGlohon will present seminars and complete the interview process in late February.
  • Three candidates will interview for the position of dean of College of Family and Consumer Sciences. Go to http://www.fcs.uga.edu/college/jobs_dean_search.html for information on each candidate and details of the interview schedule.

I close this issue of Extension E-News by asking for your help. In response to recent organizational changes to Extension, CAES administration has asked the Office of Communications and Technology Services to help maximize the impact of existing Extension resources. As a result, OCTS is currently making changes to the Extension web presence to make content more accessible, transparent, and user-friendly. Specifically, internal and external users will be able to easily locate web content by topic, to find and contact their county offices, and, in the coming months, to register for Extension events. Additionally, changes to the site will highlight news, publications, and research, academic, and youth programs related to Extension. Our goal is to make it easy for users to find the information they need, and to clearly demonstrate the value Extension brings to the university and to the people of Georgia.

Decisions about changes to our Extension web presence are being based on conversations with CAES stakeholders, including administration, Extension agents, web content providers, department heads, and faculty members. We've listened to your input about how to improve the Extension site, and we want to keep listening to you. The improved Extension site is set to launch March 31, but we'll continue to ask for your feedback during the project. If you have questions, concerns, or suggestions about enhancing Extension online, please go to: http://intranet.caes.uga.edu/coextopr/extensionRedesignFeedback.html

We look forward to getting your input.

 

In this issue of Extension E-News:

  • Tony Tyson reflects on the time our ExTEND participants spent in Atlanta with legislators, the Georgia Department of Agriculture and ACCG;
  • Arch Smith reviews the activities of our 4-H program including District Project Achievement sessions and 4-H Day at the Capitol; 
  • Elizabeth Andress writes on "The Human Dimension to Agriculture"; and,
  • Steve Brown discusses the increased interest in the locally grown food initiative and his thoughts on Extension's role in this initiative.
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County Operations

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

Random Thoughts from Atlanta

Last week I was in Atlanta most of the week for the final session of our ExTEND Leadership Academy. This session was focused on public policy and we planned a number of activities in Atlanta revolving around this theme. The class members participated in the Georgia Agribusiness Council Legislative Breakfast where they heard from Governor Deal, Lt. Governor Cagle and several leaders in the House and Senate. They sat in on a portion of Dean Angle's CAES Advisory Council and participated in the CAES legislative reception. They also visited with Billy Skaggs and other officials at the Georgia Department of Agriculture and spent almost a whole day visiting with leaders in the House and Senate including Senator John Bulloch, Senator Jack Hill, Rep. Terry England, Rep. Tom McCall, Rep. Ellis Black, and new Representatives Susan Holmes and Rick Jasperse. And, they visited the headquarters of the Association County Commissioners of Georgia and heard from, among others, Executive Director Ross King. Finally, the week wrapped up with a discussion on working with elected officials led by Laura Meadows of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

As I reflect on our week, several messages stuck with me. I list them here in no particular order:

  • Our state is still in a dire budget situation. Tax revenues are improving, but we can expect at least another year of austere budgets.
  • We continue to have a lot of support in the legislature. And we have some great friends who were recently elected as freshmen legislators.
  • Even though more and more legislators will be located in the metro area, much of the influential leadership still resides in the rural parts of the state. This is particularly true on the all-important appropriations committees.
  • We must do a better job of telling our story and advocating for our budgets. Our friends in the rural parts of the state tend to know us well and appreciate what we do. We need to continue to find ways to reach the large number of metro-area legislators who tend to know less about us.
  • We need to work harder at building personal relationships with decision makers at the local level, both county officials and state officials. Several legislators recommended scheduling lunch appointments with them. But, they said we need to do so when they are back home in the communities and not during the session when they tend to be very busy.
  • We have a great College Advisory Council whose members are well connected and are not shy about advocating for us.
  • There are great changes occurring at the Georgia Department of Agriculture. With Gary Black as commissioner and Billy Skaggs as chief operating officer, we have a great opportunity to build closer working relationships with the department that will be mutually beneficial to both organizations.
  • Our working relationship with ACCG is excellent thanks in large part to the liaison position held by Jeff Christie. They are a great partner with us in working with county governments.
  • County governments will continue to struggle for a while with budgets. They face declining revenues from property taxes and more unfunded mandates from state and federal government.

I could go on and on. We had outstanding visits with many influential leaders. Overall they were very complimentary of Cooperative Extension and the good work that you all do. Several of them were also very frank in their discussions about what they think we need to do to ensure our future support at the state and county level.

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Agriculture and Natural Resources

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

Local Food Movement Keeps Growing

I hope everyone was able to attend one of the recent Ag Forecast meetings. The theme this year was locally grown foods. I'm still struggling to figure out exactly where Extension fits into this phenomenal change in the public's attitude about food. I DO understand that local markets offer some great opportunities for Georgia growers. Russell Johnston of Johnston Dairy in Morgan County gave a great success story of how he modified his traditional family dairy into a dairy that sells an end product to local consumers. His insight and ingenuity was impressive and the value he has added to his product has been financially rewarding. I DO understand that when consumers buy Georgia ag products, the money stays in Georgia and our economy is stronger. These are both good reasons to support local food systems.

But isn't it ironic that over the last 50 years, Extension has worked hard to help our growers transition from local markets to a world market. Virtually all of our commodities experience international competition. Many have price fluctuations from international factors out of our control. We have also learned to take advantage of international markets. Georgia pecan sales to Asia are a great marketing success story. Now it seems a growing segment of the public would prefer that we turn around and go back the other direction.

What is the driving force behind the amazing consumer interest in local food? Many consumers seem to have lost faith in mass food production and distribution systems and seem to be more willing to put their confidence in the farmer down the highway rather than the mega food corporation. Several highly publicized food safety debacles have contributed to that loss of confidence, yet I'm not aware of any data that shows local food is any safer or more nutritious than that from traditional sources. The U.S. and world population is becoming more and more urbanized. Any reasonable definition of “local” makes it impossible to supply the variety of food products with which consumers are currently accustomed.

Before Extension starts singing the praises of local food production too loudly, we need to understand what the concept really means. If our goal is to make urban dwellers more aware of how food crops grow and to increase the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, we are absolutely onboard. If the goal is to develop local food systems that displace traditional production and distribution systems and reduce the carbon footprint of food transportation, we may be working ourselves into a huge conflict of interest.

We in Extension clearly have a responsibility to help producers be more successful, however they choose to market their commodities. But we also have a responsibility to help consumers understand how their food arrives at their grocery store or restaurant. Consumers need to understand that local food systems CANNOT provide them with coffee, tea and tropical fruits. And, they need to understand that Georgia-grown fruits and vegetables are seasonal. When it comes to a local foods diet, there will be no local fresh peaches in February!

I look forward to working with the new Georgia Department of Agriculture administration to better define our role in the development of local farmers' markets and community gardens. And, I am interested in your opinions on our role in local food systems. We DO have an important role, but we all need to be on the same page.

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Family and Consumer Sciences

Photo: Elizabeth AndressElizabeth Andress, Interim FACS State Program Leader, 706/542-4860, eandress@uga.edu

The Human Dimension of Agriculture

Part of the reorganization of USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture includes defining Family and Consumer Sciences. Under the new structure, Family and Consumer Sciences is defined as "the human dimension of agriculture." NIFA's Division of Family and Consumer Sciences is set to strengthen families, communities and the economy by focusing on the human dimensions of food and agriculture.

Family and Consumer Sciences advances NIFA's mission of leading food and agricultural sciences to create a better future for the nation and the world through strategic and effective collaborations among the nation's federal, state and local agencies. Out of the five thematic issues for NIFA-sponsored activities, three are core interest areas of family and consumer sciences — food safety, nutrition and childhood obesity, and global food security and hunger. NIFA's four institutes include an Institute of Food Safety and Nutrition, as well as an Institute of Youth, Family and Community, in which FCS educators play major roles in delivering USDA's agriculture programs.

Since its earliest days, Cooperative Extension has had predecessors of FCS agents helping to teach food selection, use, conservation and preservation. Home agents worked with garden programs, canning clubs and youth clubs. That legacy continues today and even is becoming a larger role that FCS agents can play in communities again after some decades of smaller interest in the country.

Newer dimensions to this human side of agriculture, the "use" side, are much stronger messages about food safety and nutrition than historic programs, but the goal is still the same — helping consumers and families obtain value, health and satisfaction from their food supply. As nutrition science developed, and USDA assumed a lead role in dietary guidance to the nation, Extension family educators stepped up. We helped promote nutritious and healthy lifestyles, continuing even when people stopped raising or growing their own food.

Fast forward to today's USDA goals in the Institute of Food Safety and Nutrition which are: ensuring a safe food supply, improving citizens' health through nutrition, reducing childhood obesity and improving food quality. There is still a strong human dimension to agriculture.

A large component of those early Extension foods programs was household economy and management, as well as community orientation to helping neighbors. Housing and community living have remained integrated components of Extension FCS throughout Extension's history.

Today, "housing and community living" is another defined program area for USDA. This area focuses on sustainable housing, foreclosure prevention, healthy homes, disaster preparedness and response, and even food security issues.

The FCS umbrella shows that issues facing individuals and families are interwoven and not isolated. Issues of family and community living aren’t just about food. They are about housing, family finances, food security within the community, as well as household, health and wellness, healthy relationships and educated consumers of goods including food.

I recently fielded several questions about our radon program and from people wanting their homes tested for this harmful gas. Several years ago, the Cooperative Extension network was recognized as a natural organizational structure to provide assistance in this area. Our Extension radon education programs are about protecting our homes and investments as well as our health.

We want the people living throughout Georgia to remain healthy and strong contributors to communities and the economy. The integrative nature of our profession recognizes that we can address nutrition and food safety in the household to promote health, but if the housing structure itself contains dangers to humans that promote cancer, then success in meeting goals of healthy living won't be as meaningful.

The Georgia Radon Education Program is a partnership funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency that includes the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences Extension, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and Southface Energy Institute. Five FCS educators are ready and able to assist with radon testing and education throughout the state. You can find your contact on this map: http://www.fcs.uga.edu/ext/housing/radon/images/radon_kit_distribution_map.pdf

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4-H and Youth Development

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

Last week, more than 550 Georgia 4-H members and volunteer leaders, program assistants and county Extension agents convened at the Georgia Freight Depot for Leadership Day and 4-H Day at the Capitol. The 4-H'ers enjoyed lunch along with several hundred adult leaders from across the state. Some of Georgia's outstanding political leaders, including Governor Nathan Deal, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, and Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Mike Beatty, addressed the delegation and inspired these young Georgians to develop their leadership skills. In addition to these dignitaries, 4-H'ers Helen Clark, Camden County; Jonathan Moss, Oglethorpe County; Maia Price, Spalding County; Amanda Starling, Effingham County; and Lillie Williams, Mitchell County, spoke to the group and shared how 4-H has helped develop their leadership skills. Two members of Clovers and Company, Gracie Rowe, Heard County and Rachel Grimsley, Seminole County, performed several numbers throughout the day. While we were in the Capitol, Senator Johnny Grant of Milledgeville and Representative Richard Smith of Columbus hosted the 21 4-H honorees (LaVonte Lovette, Jenkins County; Zack Smagur, Habersham County; Eve Dennis, Haralson County; Terrence Gibson, Appling County; Zack Hough, Grady County; Chelsie Restrepo, Bacon County; Helen Clark, Camden County; Camille Odom, Oconee County; Tyler Edgeman, Walker County; Casey Brannen, Tattnall County; Margo Braski, Houston County; William Walker, Turner County; Jacob Cliett, Brandon Ellerbee, and Royce Palmer, Terrell County; Michael Corbin, Rachel Harrison, Sarah Harrison, and T. J. Chesnut, Tift County; Ford Fincher, Madison County; and Tyler Beckett, Oconee County.)

Georgia 4-H President LaVonte Lovette of Jenkins County was invited to address both chambers of the General Assembly. A number of photos were taken during what seemed like thousands of photo ops throughout the day. Please be sure to visit the Georgia 4-H website to view the photos and read more about the 2011 4-H Leadership Day at the Capitol.

The Georgia 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees held their winter meeting in late January. We are extremely fortunate in Georgia to have a strong 4-H foundation that helps secure private funding to support our programs and facilities. Mary Ann Parsons, executive director of the foundation, reported that, even during these difficult economic times, our annual giving is up more than 20 percent through the first six months of this fiscal year. That report does not include more than one-half million dollars of in-kind contributions Georgia Power has made for the renovation of the Georgia Power Building at Rock Eagle, nor does it include the proceeds from the 2010 Georgia 4-H Gala. We appreciate the support that these political, business and community leaders from across the state provide to the Georgia 4-H program.

In addition, we had nearly 35 members of the Georgia 4-H Advisory Committee meet with us in Smarr, Ga. earlier this month. We sought their advice on ways to increase the use of volunteers through certification programs. 4-H faculty member Jenny Jordan presented a very interesting program on 4-H volunteerism. She reported that more people volunteer to help raise money than any other volunteer activity. I hear from county offices quite frequently that private funding is a critical need in our local programs, so perhaps one way we can improve the 4-H program is by involving more volunteers in our fund- development efforts on the local level.

4-H leaders are busy promoting camp. I learned that Stacey Ellison in Houston County bought plastic yard signs and placed them all around Houston County in Perry and Warner Robins that simply read "4-H Camp – Sign Up Now!" The signs also include the county Extension office website and phone number. What a great idea to generate interest in 4-H camp, and I understand their phone is ringing with parents and children expressing an interest in attending 4-H camp.

The following are some interesting facts about Georgia 4-H:

We had a 3 percent increase in portfolios submitted for junior/senior project achievement this year.

The chairman of the Board of Regents, Willis Potts, visited the Cloverleaf Project Achievement in Rome on Jan. 22. He shared his 4-H experiences and encouraged the 4-H'ers to stay active and stay in school.

Summer camp counselors for the summer of 2011 have now been selected and announced. We congratulate all these young people and look forward to all they will do this summer to help us with our summer camping program.

Congratulations to Zach Hall of Lowndes County. He was named a Citizenship Washington Focus program assistant for the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland, this summer.

Finally, one quick story. During 4-H Day at the Capitol on Feb. 7, while waiting for a photo opportunity, I saw a young 4-H'er with a blue ribbon and a small medallion around his neck. I assumed he had attended one of our area cloverleaf project achievements, so I asked "What was your project?" He answered "paleontology." I then asked "Did you go to project achievement at Rock Eagle?" and he said "No, I went to project achievement in DeKalb County." I then looked closely at his blue ribbon and medallion and it said "DeKalb County 4-H Project Achievement." It reminded me of what we've been saying about the value of good reporting because there is so much going on in 4-H at the county level that we need to lift up and report. So I encourage you to continue keeping good records on the young people that we're reaching. Obviously, this young man was very proud of the fact that he had won first in the paleontology project at DeKalb County Project Achievement. I hope he will be able to stay in 4-H so maybe we can help him improve his life skills, teach him something about healthy living, and help him understand the need for strong and viable agriculture in our state and nation.

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Personnel actions since January 1, 2011

New Hires

  • Jackson County—Teresa Edwards, Secretary, 1/6/11

Temporary Positions:

  • Northwest District—Jeremy Cheney, 4-H Program Assistant, 1/20/11
  • Wheeler County—Susan Ward, PA Temp, 1/31/11

County-Funded Positions

  • Macon County—Muqita Lumumba, CEPA 4-H, appointed 1/11/11
  • Terrell County—Brenda Spell, CEPA 4-H (19 hrs/week), appointed 2/1/11

Retiree/Rehires

  • Bacon County—John Ed Smith, CEC-ANR, 1/1/11
  • Barrow County—Britton West, CEC, 1/1/11
  • Bleckley County—Gordon Lee, CEA-ANR, 1/1/11
  • Charlton County—Terry Thigpen, CEC-ANR, 1/1/11
  • Lumpkin County—Greg Sheppard, CEC, 1/1/11
  • Washington County—Sidney Law, CEA-ANR, 1/1/11

Transfers/Position Changes

  • Colquitt County—Glenn Beard, CEA to CEC, 1/1/11
  • Crisp County—Tucker Price, CEA to CEC ANR, 3/1/11
  • Crisp County—Emily Reid, CEA 4-H, transfer from Dooly County, 3/1/11
  • Dougherty County—Roxie B. Price, CEA EFNEP, transfer from Brooks County, 1/1/11
  • Mitchell County—Rad Yager, CEA ANR, transfer from Dougherty County, 2/1/11
  • Peach County—Kate Whiting, CEA to CEC, 1/1/11
  • Sumter County—Bill Starr, CEA to CEC, 1/1/11
  • Terrell County—Jakyn Jennings, CEA to CEC, 1/1/11

Departures

  • Catoosa County—Kelly Vinblad, Secretary, 1/5/11
  • Clay/Quitman Counties—Carl Childree, CEC/CEA ANR, 1/14/11
  • Hall County—Billy Skaggs, CEC, 1/10/11
  • Houston County—Lori Sullivan, Secretary, 1/5/11
  • Terrell County—Rex Turner, CEA ANR, 1/6/11
  • White County—Joe Potter, CEC, 1/18/11
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