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Extension E-Newsletter

Extension E-News

Greetings for May, 2011

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

Extension Colleagues:

In the last six weeks we have experienced some of the most volatile spring weather in history across the southeastern United States. In Georgia, tornadoes, high winds and hail caused great damage to communities/businesses across north Georgia with the most severe damage being reported in 26 counties including Dade, Walker, Catoosa, Floyd, Gordon, Pickens, Bartow, Cherokee, Polk, Heard, Coweta, Troup, Meriwether, Harris, Spalding, Lamar, Upson, Monroe, Jasper, Newton, Morgan, Greene, Lumpkin, White, Habersham and Rabun counties. Our Extension colleagues across the southern U.S. are working together to address the needs of families and agricultural businesses damaged by these storms. This tragedy allowed us to evaluate our disaster plans for employees/counties offices. Within 12 hours after the storms cleared, Greg Price informed me all employees in counties with damage had called in to report their status and to request assistance as needed. Thanks to all of our employees for their efforts to assist clientele in their communities and neighbors in surrounding counties/states. Now we turn our attention to south Georgia and the drought situation. Currently 22 counties in southeast Georgia fall into the classification of severe drought. An additional 26 counties in southeast Georgia will soon move to this classification in the absence of a rain event this week.

On Friday, May 13th we celebrated the end of another academic session with graduation ceremonies for both the University and The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. This year, my nephew was one of our CAES graduates and many of my family members gathered in Athens to celebrate this milestone in Kyle's life. I am impressed with the young people graduating from CAES and how well prepared they are to go on to the next phase of their life. I just wish the job opportunities were more abundant for them. When any of our students ask for advice about the job market right now, I encourage them to consider graduate school or internships. The economic recovery is happening but it is slow. The job market is still tight. A year from now, the job market will most likely be improved and a graduate degree or experience as an intern will certainly help one be more competitive in the job market. I am certainly looking forward to the opportunity to hire some of these bright young graduates seeking careers in Extension!

At the time of this writing, the Extension state budget situation for FY12 has been clarified and work continues on development of the FY12 federal budget. Our cuts for next year are reduced from those proposed back in January in the Governor's original budget proposal (from an additional 8 percent to 7.2 percent). We have made final plans to deal with these cuts and will soon move to implement the changes necessary for the reduced budget. Vacant positions, additional retirements, additional reductions in operating, phasing out many of our current rehires and a limited number of layoffs will all be used as part of our strategy to deal with these cuts to CAES. As soon as we receive approval for implementation of the plan, Dean Angle will provide details on the impact of the cuts to all faculty and staff. Look for an email/Wimba session announcing the impacts of our budget cuts from Dean Angle early next week.

In this issue of Extension E-News:

  • Tony Tyson provides a review of the ACCG meeting in Savannah and discusses interactions with county commissioners;
  • Arch Smith writes on the importance of 4-H volunteers;
  • Elizabeth Andress writes about "The Season for Fresh Food;" and
  • Steve Brown writes an interesting article about sustainability in agriculture.
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County Operations

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

Several of us recently attended the annual meeting of the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia in Savannah. As usual, this was a great opportunity to interact with county commissioners, county managers and administrators from across the state. And, we got great feedback from many of them and had a few interesting conversations along the way.

Thanks in large part to the joint liaison position between ACCG and Extension currently held by Jeff Christie, our partnership with ACCG continues to grow. The Georgia Association of County Agricultural Agents sponsored the annual Farmhouse where they fed the commissioners a variety of Georgia grown products. This is always one of the highlights of the conference. For the past several years, Extension has had a large exhibit (at no cost!) at the entrance to the Farmhouse. This exhibit allows us to visit with the commissioners as they stand in line to enter the Farmhouse and provides a great marketing opportunity.

As I said earlier, we had a few interesting conversations. Overwhelmingly, the feedback we get from commissioners and county managers is positive. They like to brag about their county agents and Extension staff and they often warn us not to try to take their agents away! Unfortunately, some counties have lost agent positions in the past year, and many commissioners are unhappy about it. Some don't like our new tier system – particularly those who were assigned a lower tier and don't qualify for an agent in the current plan. Consequently, several administrators (particularly district directors) heard an earful.

This is exactly the type of response we had hoped for. It tells us they value our programs and they put a high value on having a strong Extension program in their county. Now, if we are to be successful in recovering some of our losses, we must capitalize on this passion. The solution to our problem is really quite simple – we need more people. We have lost around 90 county agent positions in the past three years, and with current staffing levels, we will not be able to serve counties as we have in the past.

There are some hopeful signs that we have turned the corner and that state tax collections will continue to improve. We must capitalize on the relationships we have at the local level and our partnerships with organizations like ACCG to get the message to our state legislators. It will take many voices at the local level to convince them that an investment in University of Georgia Cooperative Extension is a sound investment in our local communities and the future of our state.

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Agriculture and Natural Resources

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

Ok, I admit it. The "sustainability" movement in agriculture makes me uncomfortable at times. I'll bet most of you seasoned ANR folks out there understand what I'm talking about. Unfortunately, the concept of sustainability has been poorly defined and intertwined with organic agriculture, and more recently, the locally grown movement. Nothing against those parts of agriculture, but to me, agricultural sustainability has to be bigger than that.

It's unfortunate that most of us in the ag business get labeled as pro or con sustainability when no one really even knows what it means. Julia Gaskins in the college's department of biological and agricultural engineering is making progress in defining sustainability with the help of a planning grant from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program. With input from stakeholders, Julia is identifying indicators of sustainability in Georgia's agricultural systems and ultimately forming a consensus on common goals. Although the details may vary from person to person, we ALL want sustainability. We all want agriculture to remain a viable industry in Georgia and we all want to preserve the quality of life that rural agriculture offers. There is much more to do, but if we can come to a consensus about what we want agriculture to look like in the future, I'm confident that CAES can make significant contributions to that goal.

We have to avoid getting caught up in trying to label specific agricultural practices as either sustainable or not and think in terms of long-term economic stability, rural economic development, improved quality of life, and less dependency on inputs, over which we have no control of availability or costs. Craig Kvien in the college's department of crop and soil sciences is making the concept of sustainability come to life with the Future Farmstead Project in Tifton. Construction will begin this fall on a farm home that will have near zero net energy consumption. The home will be an electronic control center for operations all over the farm, thereby increasing efficiency, increasing use of real-time information, and promoting better management decisions. This will give future farmers a better chance to be profitable year in and year out and will give future farm families an opportunity for a quality rural life. Future farms can certainly be positioned to capitalize on markets for organic foods and local food systems, but regardless of the marketing strategy, farms have to be sustainable. I'm all for that.

The harsh reality of our world is that agriculture has to find a way to feed 8, 9 or even 10 billion people on this planet during the careers of our youngest employees. Mineral deposits are being depleted, fossil fuels are getting more expensive, urbanization continues to gobble up our best land, and soils continue to wash out to sea. We have no choice but to figure this out. The concept of sustainability has been viewed by some (yes, even me) as the pie-in-the-sky ranting of over-zealous environmentalists and uninformed tree-huggers. Those types are still out there, and continue to distract us from the real issues, but agricultural sustainability is serious business and history will judge us on how well we meet the challenge. As we enter another production season, I hope that we can look beyond the daily challenges and think about the future. We should be leaders in helping our clientele to not only survive, but to mold the future and maintain an agricultural legacy they will be proud to leave to future generations.

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Family and Consumer Sciences

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

The Season for Fresh Food

I participated in a thesis defense in foods and nutrition recently about evaluating produce quality at the point of sale for the consumer. I was reminded quite a few times how consumer decisions about whether to buy produce or not involve quality perceptions. I was also reminded how these decisions relate to the value they perceive receiving related to the cost. The choices in fresh produce that consumers are presented with vary widely by store type and location. Challenges abound in consumer education to assist with management of resources including the food dollar. As consumer concerns and interests in diet and nutrition, food safety, quality and costs of goods shift, so can their interests in buying certain foods. Consumer food and nutrition educators play an important role in helping people make safe and nutritious choices with their food dollars, and this in turn can help maintain consumer satisfaction with their food supply.

The International Food Information Council found in their 2011 Food & Health Survey that for Americans, the cost of food is increasingly becoming as important as taste. Taste still remains the top consideration (87 percent), but 79 percent of consumers say price impacts their decision when selecting which foods and beverages to purchase. This is a six percent increase from 2010 and a 15 percent increase since 2006. According to this newest survey, healthfulness of foods (66 percent), convenience (58 percent) and sustainability (52 percent) play good size roles in consumer decision making. But no other motivator than price rose so quickly over the past five years. In our field of education, we have to always remember families and individuals will continue to benefit from and hopefully value help in resource management and meeting food and health needs.

It is apparent in reading all types of media and moving around our neighborhoods that more people are choosing to grow their own gardens and preserve some of their own food supply than in the past couple of decades. The motivations for personal gardening cover a spectrum of reasons and beliefs, as do those for participating in community gardens. We also could see incentive in participating in community gardening efforts. Community gardens present a way to reach already-formed groups in your neighborhoods with food preservation, nutrition and food buying information and programs. A fall 2010 survey sent to one company's e-newsletter database revealed that 80 percent of those respondents canning fruits and vegetables get their produce from their own garden and 42 percent from the local farmer's market. The survey also showed that 62 percent of respondents canned tomatoes and 52 percent canned berry jams. While you still need to find out what your own audiences are interested in, this may provide some guidance for workshop offerings as well as media work. Remember also that our foods and food preservation programming provides natural opportunities for collaborations among FACS, ANR and 4-H. (Just please remember to also associate your reports with Home Food Preservation in FACS so our efforts can be retrieved and counted!)

So far in 2011, a look into Georgia Counts reveals that we have already started to provide food preservation programs early in the season. Several public programs on canning and food preservation have been reported in the metro Atlanta area, Savannah, Forsyth, Carrollton, Athens, Americus and Moultrie. Jackie Ogden has provided free introductory workshops in collaboration with Master Gardener programs on gardening. Extension agents (Kisha Faulk, Emily Harper and Rosalind Swainson) in metro Atlanta held a collaborative ANR-FACS series, Garden to Table, in several locations in April. Gardening methods and food preservation were both taught. Lisa Jordan and Janet Hollingsworth provided a train-the-trainer workshop on freezing fruits and vegetables for Georgia Department of Community Health WIC Farmers' Markets personnel. Helen Carter distributed food preservation information at a health fair. Others provided newspaper and radio features to their local outlets. Opportunities are plentiful for collaborations and creative thinking for ways to teach our subject matter as well as market our programs to groups while interest in this content is very high. The reports I found in Georgia Counts are great for early season and I am sure we will see many more entries throughout this summer as I listen to and read your plans.
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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

Georgia 4-H has used volunteers to assist Extension paid staff to deliver 4-H educational programs for many years. Volunteers are an integral part of 4-H program delivery. Several years ago we developed chaperone certification and shooting sports certification programs to ensure the safety of 4-H’ers, reduce our liability, provide tools for our adults to perform these tasks and increase participation in 4-H Project S.A.F.E. activities and overall volunteer participation.

Approximately eighteen months ago, we introduced a plan to offer more certification training for wildlife judging, forestry judging, cotton boll and consumer jamboree, and 4-H horse programs. We offered certification for wildlife and forestry judging during State 4-H Council in 2010 and saw an increase in participation in these contests in the fall. During the 2012 4-H Year (Fall of 2011), all 4-H Wildlife and Forestry Teams must be led by a certified coach to compete. Cotton boll/consumer jamboree and horse judging will follow in future years.

Why are we expanding our 4-H Volunteer Certification Programs beyond chaperone training and 4-H Project S.A.F.E.? There are three primary reasons.

  1. With the reduction in the number of county staff available to deliver 4-H programs we are able to continue to offer these educational programs and paid county staff can use their time to focus on the five core 4-H program areas.
  2. Certified volunteer training programs help ensure 4-H programs offer similar content and provide a better understanding of procedures related to a particular program.
  3. By using more certified volunteers we are able to offer 4-H educational programs to more 4-H youths.

Some have asked, "Why do county paid staff have to be certified in a particular program area, even though someone may have been coaching a judging team for 15 years?."

We want to guarantee that everyone has the most current information available and we as paid staff cannot require a volunteer to do something that we have not been trained to do. Additionally, we have the opportunity to meet the needs requested by both staff and volunteers in providing training to better serve our youths.

Jenny Jordan has served as the 4-H Volunteer Coordinator for Georgia 4-H for many years. Jenny has researched Georgia 4-H volunteerism and compiled the following facts and information about 4-H volunteers.

  • More than 7,900 volunteers, 5,500 screened volunteers and 4,000 chaperone-trained volunteers are enrolled in Georgia 4-H. Counties reported more than 21,000 volunteer contacts during the past year.
  • In a recent survey, counties varied in the numbers of 4-H volunteers from as many as more than 100 to as few as two or three. These counties, in the same research study, listed volunteer roles as everything from educational program delivery, to chaperoning and assisting in county offices. The primary roles counties indicated volunteers fill are chaperoning. Volunteers evenly self-reported chaperoning and educational programs as the roles they most often perform.
  • Orientation and training are integral parts of a volunteer management plan. They are as important as identifying roles and recruiting volunteers. Training provides volunteers (and staff) with the tools they need to perform their roles and the understanding to do so confidently. A research study of more than 120 volunteers and 60 faculty indicated that 99 percent of volunteers feel prepared to fill the roles required as a volunteer. This preparation comes from training, web resources, onsite training, individual consultation, handbooks and other materials.
  • 4-H educational programming has unique components including content knowledge (information and facts concerning the content of the program), context knowledge (information and background concerning 4-H and youth development philosophy and theory) as well as policy, guidelines and rules that may affect the educational program or competition. Volunteers and staff bring varying expectations and experiences to their roles. In the case of 4-H educational program and competitive events, both may have experiences to formulate an understanding of content and/or context.
  • Research indicates that volunteers, in general, want clear expectations for training and implementing programming and expect that if a staff member is performing a task he/she would have had similar training.
  • 4-H Chaperone Training is undergoing a new format. Rather than a video-based workshop, a multimedia digital program is being developed to view online. This enables each county, regardless of staffing patterns, to easily prepare chaperones for 4-H programs and provide consistent high quality training. The program will include a test and evaluation to determine an individual’s readiness to serve as a chaperone. Training will be required of volunteers and staff who chaperone youth in overnight settings, are key leaders for charter 4-H clubs or are S.A.F.E. coaches.

We welcome your feedback on our volunteer training programs, and we know that we can do a better job of 4-H program delivery and increase participation through the expanded use of certified 4-H volunteers.

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Personnel actions since April 1, 2011

New Hires

  • Butts County—Karen Johnson, County Secretary, 3/31/11
  • Hart County—Amber Belanger, PA, 5/2/11
  • Lincoln County—Christa Padgett, County Extension Associate, 4/1/11

Part-time Positions:

  • Bamboo Farm & Coastal Gardens—Katie Charron, Utility Worker I, 4/15/11
  • Greene County—William Mathews, PA, 4/14/11
  • SE District Office—Sherri Thompson, PA, 4/12/11
  • SE District Office—Hannah Lynch, PA 4-H (Student Worker), 4/18/11

Temporary Positions:

  • Berrien County—Justin Lanier, EPS ANR (Summer Intern, 12 weeks), 5/19/11
  • Mitchell County—Justin Pollock, EPS ANR (Summer Intern, 12 weeks), 5/12/11
  • Tift County—Ellie Weeks, EPS 4-H (Summer Intern, 12 weeks), 5/12/11

Retiree/Rehires

  • White County—Michael Harris, CEA, part-time, 4/1/11
  • Wilkes County—Frank Watson, CEA, part-time, moved from McDuffie County, 3/1/11

Transfers/Position Changes

  • Butts County—Bonnie McLeroy, CEA, moved from PA, 3/1/11
  • Hall County—Michael Wheeler, CEA County Coordinator, moved from Gilmer County, 4/1/11
  • McDuffie County—Rick Smith, CEA, moved from Wilkes County, 3/1/11
  • Montgomery County—Jennifer Miller, CEC-ANR/4-H, transferred from Wheeler County, CEA-4-H, 4/1/11
  • Northeast District Office—Norman McGlohon, NE District Extension Director, moved from NE District Ag PDC, 4/1/11
  • Oconee County—Monte Stephens, CEA County Coordinator, moved from Lincoln County, 4/1/11
  • Southwest District Office—Sue Cromer, title change to Administrative Associate II, 5/1/11
  • Twiggs County—Roosevelt McWilliams, CEC-ANR, transferred from Burke County, CEA-ANR/4-H, 4/1/11
  • Twiggs County—Alison Sheffield, PA part-time, to County Secretary, 4/14/11
  • Wheeler County—Susan Ward, PA part-time, to County Secretary, 4/28/11

Retirements

  • Lamar County—Dimple Forrest, Secretary, 4/1/11

Departures

  • Clarke County—Betty Sabbatth, PA EFNEP, 5/3/11
  • DeKalb County—Jackson Millsaps, Weatherization CEPA, 4/29/11
  • Fayette County—Craig Gross, 4-H Agent, 4/11/11
  • Glascock County—Martha Jackson, PA, 4/20/11
  • Glynn County—Angela Campbell, PA part-time, 4/27/11
  • Hancock County—Greg Glover, CEA, 4/19/11
  • Hart County—Lenora Ramsey, PA, 3/30/11
  • Morgan County—Debra Sires, PA, 4/28/11
  • Northeast District Office—John Parks, Retire-Rehire District Director, 3/31/11
  • Pike/Lamar Counties—Tommy Tyler, ANR Agent, 4/29/11
  • Richmond County—Crystal Ware, PA EFNEP, 5/9/11
  • Rockdale County—Shivone Wilson, 4-H Agent, 4/29/11
  • SE District Office—Jenna Campbell, PA part-time, 4/7/11
  • Sumter County—Mary Shores, CEPA EFNEP, 4/1/11
  • Worth County—Rusty Harris, CEC/CEA ANR, 5/13/11
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