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Extension E-Newsletter

Extension E-News

Greetings for March, 2012

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

Extension Colleagues:

It appears that Mother Nature is ready to officially declare Spring 2012 is here! The landscape in Athens is popping with color after the recent rains and warm temperatures. A benefit of this job is that as I travel across the state, I get to witness spring unfold from south to north….and it looks like this spring is going to be early and beautiful.

Late February and March have been an active time for CAES and UGA Cooperative Extension. The CAES strategic planning process has been in high gear with many of the regional data gathering meetings taking place over the last six weeks. You can read an update on this activity in a report from Laura Perry Johnson posted later in this newsletter.

Last week I participated in the National Extension Directors Association annual meeting where much of the discussion focused on two issues. The first was best practices used to communicate the value of Extension programming to funding partners. The bottom line on this discussion is that Extension administrators across the nation continue to face very challenging fiscal restraints. Scarce resources at the local, state and national levels put Extension programs in jeopardy from three directions. It is most important that we communicate the value of our programs at all three levels. Sound familiar to you?

The second issue widely discussed was the proposed new overarching leadership structure for National 4-H Council, National 4-H Headquarters and the state 4-H programs. After much debate, the decision was made to elect five Extension directors and five state 4-H program leaders from across the nation to work together with National Council and National Headquarters to design this administrative structure. I will stay engaged with this national discussion and keep you posted on developments.

We have been closely following budget development processes for both our state and federal budgets in recent weeks. On the state side, the process is not yet complete and will not be finalized until later this month. However, there are some positive signs. The state revenue figures are up again, stretching a positive trend into 19 months! This week the FY 13 state budget passed out of the house and includes four faculty positions as well as funding for major renovations and equipment funds for Agricultural Experiment Stations and funding for additional cabins at Rock Eagle. We are MOST appreciative of this show of support from our legislators. The senate version of our state budget is due out soon. The federal budget situation is still unclear and we will most likely not have any clarification until after the upcoming November elections. Early indications are calling for significant cuts to agricultural programs. So, my best advice at this time is to stay calm, stay focused on your work and stay tuned for more information on our ever-changing budget situations.

In closing, I would like to ask for your cooperation on the issue of tag lines or symbols under your signature in your workplace written communications (letters, emails, newsletters). Please review your automatic signature and remove symbols and text that are not directly UGA Extension related. Please remember, in these workplace communications you are a representative of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension and the communication must be professional in appearance and the message appropriate for the wide and diverse audiences we serve. I am very appreciative of your cooperation on this issue

In this issue of Extension E-News:

  • Tony Tyson reminds county offices of the importance of putting forth a good first impression,
  • Arch Smith provides an update on many 4-H awards, grants and activities,
  • Laurie Cantrell reports on several FCS programs that bring local foods to areas and people who do not have easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables,
  • Steve Brown announces, and praises, the farmers who won this year's Governor's Environmental Stewardship Award and
  • Laura Perry Johnson reports on the progress of the college's strategic planning process.
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County Operations

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

What Does Your Office Say About You?

This article is directed primarily to those of you who work in a county Extension office, although the topics I'm discussing could apply to anyone. Our county offices are very public places. We host hundreds of thousands of citizens every year. For many people, this is the only University of Georgia office they will ever visit. You may be saying to yourself, "This is a county office, not a University of Georgia office." I would counter that it is both. Yes, county office space is provided by the county, as spelled out in the memorandum of understanding (MOU) that we have with the county government. It is a county owned (or leased) building, but it houses the programs of UGA Cooperative Extension. Therefore, it should present a positive image of both the county and the university.

Many of you do a very good job maintaining a professional appearance for your office, but to be perfectly honest, some of you need to give it a little more attention. I realize not all county offices are created equal. Some of you are housed in very nice, modern buildings and some are in buildings that don't lend themselves well to the image we would like to project. Some things are not within our control. My only request is that you make the best of what you have to work with.

We are in and out of our offices every day and we tend not to notice things that could be off-putting to a first-time visitor. I encourage you to take the time to look at your office with "new eyes." What kind of impression would someone get if they were visiting for the first time? Does it look like the kind of place that houses professionals who are the very best at what they do?

I don't have the space here to address this topic in great detail, but here is a quick checklist that might be helpful.

  1. What does a client see when they walk in your front door? Is the office clean and uncluttered?
  2. What kinds of materials are displayed in your common areas? Do they represent who we are?
  3. If possible, there should be no boxes or other items stored in the public areas of our offices, especially in the reception area. I realize storage space is a problem in some offices.
  4. What does the outside of your office look like? Does it need a coat of paint? Is the landscape attractive and well-manicured? After all, we are the experts on landscape maintenance!
  5. Are there adequate signs for people to be able to find your office easily?
  6. When someone arrives in your office, is there someone there to greet them and assist them? If not, are there clear directions or do they have to look around to find someone?
  7. Is there comfortable seating if a client has to wait?

This is not a comprehensive list by any means, but hopefully it's enough to get you started. I would encourage you to take this on as a team project and work together to make sure we are putting our best foot forward. I guess you could call it spring cleaning!

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Agriculture and Natural Resources

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

Governor's Environmental Stewardship Award

A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of helping judge the Governor's Environmental Stewardship Award. This award is given to a landowner that has demonstrated an exemplary commitment to conservation. Five regional winners had already been identified and our charge was to select an overall state winner. We actually visited all five farms and saw firsthand the accomplishments of the regional winners. I wish everyone that has ever criticized agriculture for environmental damage could see the dedication of these five to not only make a living off the land, but to leave it better than they found it.

The world population continues to grow. Urbanization continues to gobble up productive farmland. Yields have to continue to rise to compensate for the reduction in acres. Taking care of farmland is not something that is optional anymore. Conservation of our land and water is paramount to our future on this planet. Let's admit it. Agriculture in the past has taken its toll on the land. The lack of conservation programs in the 1800's left the Piedmont region of Georgia devoid of topsoil. In the past, animal agriculture contributed to a decline in water quality in Georgia. But all Georgians need to understand the commitment of modern agriculture to not only do no harm, but implement programs that leave the land in better shape for our children than we found it. Our partners at the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Georgia Soil and Water Commission have done a great job administering these programs and Cooperative Extension has done its part in an educational role.

Congratulations to this year's winner of the Governor's Environmental Stewardship Award, Chris Hopkins from Lyons, Georgia. Many of you will remember Chris as a former ANR agent in Toombs County. Despite working full time jobs, Chris and his wife Marilynn have been able to start a farming operation from scratch, something that is very difficult to do these days. What began with 50 acres of rented land has grown to 600 acres of leased and owned land. Chris has worked to implement new technology and conservation practices throughout his entire operation since its beginning.

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Family and Consumer Sciences

Laurie CantrellLaurie Cantrell, Interim FACS State Program Leader, 912/681-0179, lcantrel@uga.edu

Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Promoting Sustainable Agriculture and Local Food Systems

According to USDA Deputy Secretary Merrigan, supporting local and regional food systems to strengthen American agriculture promotes sustainable agricultural practices and spurs economic opportunity in rural communities. Sustainable agriculture emphasizes production and marketing practices that are profitable, environmentally sound, and improve the quality of life for farmers, farm workers and the community. The demand for local foods has increased rapidly in Georgia and across the nation. One of the strongest indications has been an increase in the number of farmers markets. Over the last five years, farmers markets in Georgia have increased by nearly 600 percent. (http://www.sustainagga.org) Georgia Extension is addressing this issue through a variety of projects and FCS plays an integral role in many of these. Several are highlighted in this article.

Menia Chester, Extension FCS agent, in partnership with other county agents and departments, took the lead in creating the Fulton Fresh mobile farmers market in an effort to reduce health disparities in Fulton County. The mobile farmers market delivers fresh produce from local farmers to residents living in communities designated as "food deserts," large geographic areas where mainstream grocery stores are scarce or missing. Living in unhealthy food environments, where fast food or unhealthy foods are more available than freshly grown foods, leaves communities at risk for obesity and diabetes as well as other chronic diseases. In order to receive fresh produce, residents must register to participate in a nutrition class. They receive easy-to-follow recipes and other health information along with their vegetables. In Menia's words, "The program is about teaching people how to get back to basics in order to reduce the effect of chronic diseases and obesity related to unhealthy eating."

In Rockdale County, Cindee Sweda collaborated with the Senior Center in starting the Senior Farmers Market program. Each eligible senior receives $20 in vouchers to use at local farmers markets. Extension presents nutrition information on fruits and vegetables as part of the SFMP requirements. She also schedules and hosts training for the local growers enabling them to take the vouchers and get reimbursed. The farmers benefit from the added income and the seniors have an opportunity to acquire fresh vegetables and fruits. The county Extension office also hosted Family Day at the Farmers Market, a family event during the summer to promote the importance of fruits and vegetables in the diet. 4-H provides an obstacle course and presentations and food demonstrations by 4-H'ers. Master Gardeners host a plant clinic and are available to answer questions. FACS has displays and answers questions on home food preservation and selection and storage of vegetables and fruits.

With the goals of increasing agricultural awareness and improving access to fresh, healthy food, Terri Black and the Burke County Extension staff collaborate with USDA Rural Development, USDA NRCS, community leaders, local producers, and housing managers to develop a mobile Farmers Market. The market will target local housing complexes and will make regular stops to provide families with fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. The Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development has designed a survey that will be used among housing residents to determine the schedule, products offered, and preferred payment methods.

As more raw produce is eaten in the U.S., there have been more cases of foodborne illness associated with it. Small to medium farms that typically supply organic and locally grown produce may not have the training, the personnel or the resources to develop food safety plans. This puts consumers at risk. Enhancing the Safety of Locally Grown Produce Through Research and Extension is a USDA grant-funded project that combines expertise from FCS Extension and CAES researchers. This project, led by Extension Foods Specialist Judy Harrison is a multi-state collaboration with Virginia Tech and Clemson University. The team has examined current practices on farms and in farmers markets that could pose a food safety risk and lead to foodborne illness outbreaks. This research will result in two curriculum packages for Extension agents from Georgia, Virginia and South Carolina to use in training farmers and farmers market managers.

Local foods systems have the potential to positively impact local communities, businesses and farmers while increasing consumers' access to safe and healthy food. FCS agents and specialists are involved in almost every aspect of the local foods movement from helping consumers make healthy decisions to supporting their local food economy.

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4-H and Youth Development

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


4-H Update: From Rock Eagle to Washington and Bookmarks to Salad Bars

This past weekend we completed the last of four Junior/Senior Project Achievement contests at Rock Eagle 4-H Center. Project Achievement is one of our base core programs for 4-H and the positive benefit of continuing that competition through middle school and high school is evident from some of the wonderful portfolios and demonstrations presented by our senior 4-H members. Winners from the four district contests will compete at State 4-H Congress the week of July 24-27 when state project winners will be named.

We want to especially thank all the Extension specialists in Ag and Family and Consumer Sciences that helped judge the competition. We also appreciate the county Extension Ag agents and FACS agents that assisted with judging and helped young people prepare their portfolios and demonstrations.

Laura Waters shared that three UGA Collegiate 4-H'ers attended National Ag Day in Washington, DC, March 6-8. Josh Paine, Mary Alice Jasperse, and Karen Stubbs, all CAES seniors, were selected based on their leadership abilities and their intent to pursue careers in agriculture. While in Washington, the students attended workshops focused on communication, government relations, and public policy with other representatives from Collegiate 4-H, Collegiate FFA, Agricultural Futures of America and other agriculture-related student organizations from across the country. During National Ag Day, our students enjoyed breakfast at the USDA and met with the USDA Chief of Staff Krysta Harden. They then travelled to the Capitol to meet with members of Congress from Georgia and were treated to a "Mix-and-Mingle" luncheon in the House Office building, where they were able to continue conversations with elected officials and their peers from other states.

National Ag Day recognizes and celebrates the abundance provided by agriculture. Every year, producers, agricultural associations, corporations, universities, government agencies and countless others across America join together to recognize the contributions of agriculture. Ag Day is organized by the Agriculture Council of America, a nonprofit organization composed of leaders in the agricultural, food and fiber community, dedicated to increasing the public's awareness of agriculture's role in modern society.

Don Floyd, president and CEO of National 4-H Council, announced the recipients of the 2012 Health Rocks! state institutionalization grants on behalf of 4-H National Headquarters and the collaboration between National 4-H Council and Altria. Congratulations are extended to the University of Georgia 4-H program and principal investigator, Cheryl Varnadoe, ($100,000). Other members of the state Health Rocks team include Laura Waters, Marilyn Poole, Mandy Marable, Judy Ashley, Dinah Rowe, Sonya Jones, Susan Yearwood and 4-H'ers Tess Hammock, Gracie Rowe, Ryan Rose, Kaleb Hewitt, Menley Creekmore and Rachel Deuel. Last year, the Georgia 4-H Health Rocks program reached a total of 10,448 youth with 10 contact hours each of Health Rocks! programing and involved more than 30 counties across the state.

Cheryl Varnadoe informed me that two Georgia schools were named winners of salad bars for their cafeterias through the "Raise the (Salad) Bar" contest. The winners were Grove High School in Savannah with an entry by 4-H'er Byron Childs and Gray Elementary School in Gray with an entry from Ms. Marva Cleveland. The contest was presented by Dole Food Company, Inc., in partnership with Georgia Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle's Healthy Kids Georgia program and Georgia 4-H. To win, students and/or school personnel submitted an essay or video on how their school is working to meet Georgia's health education standards.

The Bookmark 4 Health Contest, sponsored by Lt. Governor Casey Cagle's Healthy Kids Georgia program, Scholastic, Georgia 4-H, and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, encouraged students in Georgia elementary schools to draw bookmarks depicting "Be The Healthiest You Can Be" on one side and "My School Helps Us Eat Healthy and Be Active" on the other. Three Georgia elementary schools won a 250-book library about healthy living for their school from Scholastic along with prizes for the bookmark artist. Winners were recognized at the Capitol this week and were as follows: Colham Ferry Elementary, Oconee County, Isabel Miller; Auburn Elementary School, Barrow County, Elayjah Smith; and Black's Mill Elementary School, Dawson County, Chris Ledesma. Congratulations to these winners and to all the counties who promoted and entered these contests!

This past weekend at Northeast District Project Achievement, I heard an inspiring story of two 4-H'ers who have belonged to 4-H since they were in the fifth grade, have mastered in their project work and certainly will gain a level of independence as they continue their education. They have also learned the essential element of generosity. Garrett Hibbs and Bennett Guthrie, two Oconee County 4-H'ers, decided they would walk to Rock Eagle for Project Achievement. They left the Oconee County Extension Office on Thursday afternoon after school, camped out along the way, and resumed their walk on Friday morning. The purpose of their endeavor was to raise money for one of their fellow Oconee County 4-H'ers, Colton Lowder. Colton is an active 4-H'er who is battling leukemia. Bennett and Garrett wanted to do something to help raise money for "Relay For Life" in honor of Colton and support the fight against cancer. I believe this is great evidence that 4-H is making impact.

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CAES Strategic Planning

Laura Perry JohnsonLaura Perry Johnson, Co-Chair of CAES Strategic Planning Committee, 229/386-3414, lpj4h@uga.edu

Data, Data Everywhere

The data collection phase of our strategic planning process has come to a close and "Wow!" did we get some data! We were excited by the amount and quality of the data we collected from very diverse sources and are convinced this will make our plan strong and relevant. Jean Bertrand and I would like to thank everyone on behalf of our committee for your engagement and input.

Here are some stats to give you an idea of the scope of what we collected:

  • 8 sessions with employees – 262 participants
  • 7 sessions with stakeholders – 227 participants
  • 15 departmental faculty meetings – 166 participants
  • 68 individual interviews with key decision makers and elected officials
  • A total of 723 face-to-face contacts

We also had on-line surveys available (same questions as the face-to-face meeting). Here are the responses we got:

  • 58 graduate students
  • 93 undergraduate students
  • 77 alumni
  • 33 faculty and staff
  • 23 stakeholders
  • 284 additional responses total for a total of more than 1,00 people providing input

Now the several million dollar question is – What do we do with all of this data? The committee promised we would record and read every word of the input generated and we did. We met last week for an intensive two-day conference. We read and sorted through volumes of data and have begun the process of distilling, refining and sorting out common themes. It is interesting to be a part of the process and also to stand back and reflect on the process. Everything we learned about strategic planning said if we follow process, clarity will follow and it is beginning to happen. It is amazing to see that common themes are emerging across the very diverse groups we sought input from.

I am sure your next question is, "When will we hear some specifics?" The committee is working hard to share the raw data and summaries of what we collected with you very soon. We are transcribing the notes from last week and when that is done, we will be able to post them and the raw data to the website for everyone to read. The dean said from the beginning this would be a very transparent process and we want to share as much as we can. If there is anyone out there (not on the committee) that reads all the raw data – call me and I will get you a prize! It is mindboggling how much information there is and this is a testament to the passion and commitment our employees and stakeholders feel to the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

The committee will meet again for two days in April to refine the themes the data has identified. After this meeting we should have general goals and directions as well as more specific micro-goals or strategies as to how we reach the goals. Please stay tuned to our website www.caesplan.caes.uga.edu for progress and information. Our deadline to have a draft of the plan to Dean Angle is June 1. We will continue to keep you abreast of our progress.

Thank you again for your interest and participation in the process!

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Personnel actions since February 14, 2012

New Hires

  • Clinch County – Ashlee Henderson, County Secretary, 3/1/12
  • Glascock County – Candice Hadden, CEPA, started in February
  • Dawson & Lumpkin Counties - Alan MacAllister, Pulic Service Rep, 3/1/12

Part-time Positions:

  • Muscogee County – Erica Randall, 4-H Program Assistant, 2/9/12
  • Glynn County - Bethany, Presten, Part-time Program Assistant, 2/23/12

Retiree/Rehires

  • Tattnall County – Reid Torrance, retired County Extension Coordinator ANR, rehired to Vidalia Onion & Vegetable Research Center Coordinator / Area Onion Agent, 2/1/12

Transfers/Position Changes

  • Tattnall County – Cliff Riner, position changed from County Extension Agent ANR to Interim County Extension Coordinator ANR, 2/01/12
  • Wayne County – Terri English, position changed from County Secretary to County Extension Associate – Resource Manager, 2/01/12
  • Wayne County – Donna Harris, position changed from Program Assistant to County Extension Associate 4-H, 2/01/12

Departures

  • Jefferson County – Jim Crawford, County Extension Coordinator ANR, 2/1/12
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