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Extension E-Newsletter

Extension E-News

Greetings for June, 2011

Photo: Beverly SparksBeverly Sparks, Associate Dean for Extension, 706/542-3824,

Extension Colleagues:

My grandfather "Hoop" Hart spent most of his life in the dry lands of west Texas. In west Texas they spend considerable time talking about the weather. Hoop would often call my mom to report the weather, especially in the event of rain. His favorite report was of a "west Texas five-inch rain." And of course Hoop would be referring to one drop of rain every five inches! These days, I can certainly relate to my grandfather's sense of humor. The only rain for the past several weeks on my garden has been two "west Texas five-inch rains." Thanks to all our agents and specialists that work with growers and producers to handle the challenges of the drought that has a firm grip on most of Georgia.

News items since the last issue of Extension E-News:

At the end of May, Dean Angle announced final plans for CAES to deal with additional state budget cuts in 2012. Regrettably, our college plan includes the elimination of 18 additional positions and layoffs of the employees holding these positions. The past two years have been very difficult for the college as we have now lost more than 350 positions. It is with sincere gratitude that we extend best wishes to the employees impacted by these layoffs.

ExTEND group at the Capitol
ExTEND group at the Capitol

We celebrated the graduation of our first class of ExTEND (Transitioning Extension to New Dimensions) with a luncheon and celebration in Athens. Congratulations to the individuals completing this advanced leadership program. I certainly do appreciate the time and energy they devoted to ExTEND over the past 18 months and I know our organization will benefit from the investment.

Extension Academy for Professional Excellence
Extension Academy for Professional Excellence class

We kicked off the third class of our Extension Academy for Professional Excellence. The Extension Academy for Professional Excellenceprogram has provided leadership training to 53 Extension faculty since 2004. Our newest class has 27 participants and we look forward to working with these individuals to gain management/leadership skills and help them prepare for advancement within Extension.

Our OCTS colleagues have been hard at work developing a new web presence for Extension. In early July, Extension will publically release its new website. The goal of this project is to make Extension information easier to find and use for all of our client communities as well as for our own personnel. The changes you will notice include an updated visual design, content organized by topic rather than program area and enhanced information about each topic (including related publications, news stories, contacts, events, programs, etc.). Thus far, feedback from those that have previewed the new website has been extremely positive.

In this issue of Extension E-News:

  • Tony Tyson addresses the importance of customer service in our Extension work;
  • Arch Smith provides an update on the amazing growth in the 4-H program, particularly in the environmental education program and the shooting sports program;
  • Elizabeth Andress encourages FACS agents to search for new ways to collaborate and seek grant funds; and
  • Steve Brown gives us food for thought on climate change as it relates to food production.

Colleagues, please remember to take some rejuvenation time for you and your family/friends as we move through the summer months. Whether your idea of vacation is the beach, the mountains, the lake, camping, the Ritz Carlton, or staying home and catching up on projects, we all need time away from our jobs. Have a great summer and travel safely.


County Operations

Photo: Tony TysonTony Tyson, Director of Extension County Operations, 706/542-1060,

How are we treating our customers?

I recently received an email from a client who had visited a county Extension office seeking information, and wanted me to know how helpful the office staff was. This particular individual had contacted several other agencies and had received very little help. She stated that when she contacted the Extension office "it was like a breath of fresh air!" There were people there who were actually eager to help her with her problem.

Obviously, it makes my day when I receive this kind of feedback from clientele. All too often, our days seem to be consumed with handling problems. Especially now, we seem to be spending a lot of time talking to people who are unhappy about lack of staffing, particularly in our county offices.

We try to nurture a culture in Extension of being customer friendly, and for the most part we are very good at it. Usually when people call our offices, they actually get to talk to a real person. That in itself has become all too rare these days.

In these times when we are all trying to do way too much, we might have the tendency to forget about the basics of customer service. Unfortunately, we can't afford to. One of the reasons we have so much goodwill in communities across the state is because we have a history of being responsive to people's needs. This perception begins with the way the county secretary answers the phone or greets an individual who walks in the front door. But the responsibility doesn't end there. We must provide a timely response to people's needs and ensure that we give them accurate information. If we promise to deliver, we must then follow through on our promises. This is the responsibility of every Extension employee, from secretaries, program assistants and county agents to specialists, administrators and the technician who handles soil samples in the diagnostic lab.

Every once in a while, it pays to reflect and ask yourself, "have I done my best to serve those who depend on me?" We in Extension exist to serve the people who pay our salaries - the taxpayers of the state of Georgia. When we are no longer known for providing excellent customer service, we will have a difficult time finding people who will advocate for our programs. As long as I continue to receive emails like the one I got a few days ago, I can rest easy knowing that we are still committed to that goal.


Agriculture and Natural Resources

Photo: Steve Brown Steve Brown, ANR State Program Leader, 706/542-1060,

If it don't rain, it don't matter!

Such were the wise words of retired peanut agronomist and philosopher John Baldwin. I couldn't help but think of those words as I drove through South Georgia last week. We've survived droughts before but this one is particularly frustrating for two reasons. First, this one comes at planting time rather than the more common mid to late summer variety. Seems we can't even get seed in the ground for many of our row crops and those row crops that are up to a stand are requiring some expensive irrigation just to survive. Many growers were not able to plant prior to crop insurance deadlines and now must go without coverage or settle for reduced coverage. Second, it comes at a time of unprecedented commodity prices. Many growers have signed contracts to market commodities at prices their fathers never dreamed of, and now they are worried about being able to fill those contracts. Livestock producers are having to pay those high costs for feed and now have to watch their pastures dry up.

Such is the nature of agriculture. No matter how much land, equipment, labor and even irrigation you may have, it's still a very risky business. Weather is the great equalizer, and "if it don't rain, (or it rains too much or it's too hot or too cold) nothin' else matters." We often brag about having the most efficient food production and distribution system in the world (and I believe that to be true), but we often forget how fragile our ability to feed ourselves really is.

By itself, the current drought is certainly no indicator of future cataclysmic weather patterns. "Global warming" is a term that smacks of partisan politics and I don't even want to go there. Still, science is painting a strong picture that the more palatable term "climate change" is real. If we really are the champions of unbiased, research-based information as we often claim to be, we must at least consider the serious implications of climate change on our ability to produce food and fiber. Carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere are orders of magnitude higher than what can be detected in hundreds of thousands of years of ice records. We can argue about how that fact is affecting weather trends in Georgia, but if you ask a polar bear, he'll tell you the polar ice caps are melting.

The weather has always been variable and hard to predict. The sky is NOT falling. It WILL rain again and we WILL survive the 2011 crop season. But Ag Experiment Stations and Cooperative Extension need to start thinking about how we can maintain consistency in our food supply with more variable climatic conditions. What is our role in helping growers and the entire food chain prepare for climatic extremes? How can we help growers be better managers of risk and more likely to survive weather extremes? I challenge everyone to think about and to answer those questions in your area of specialty or your geographic area.


Family and Consumer Sciences

Photo: Elizabeth AndressElizabeth Andress, Interim FACS State Program Leader, 706/542-4860,

Collaborations that work

I've been hearing good news and thought-provoking comments lately about collaborations. For example, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension in Georgia is collaborating with the state's Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) to offer "Money Matters!- Basic Personal Finance for Aspiring Entrepreneurs." The comprehensive workshop will be offered at multiple locations across Georgia starting September 1. The four-hour workshop is designed to help individuals who would like to start a small business to improve personal financial management practices. The overall goal is improving access to business capital for entrepreneurs. A total of 28 workshops are planned in the first year for an estimated audience of more than 800 potential small business owners.

I attended an in-service meeting last year with Extension agents and monitors working for our weatherization program supported by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. We talked quite a bit about finding funding for future programs. I was interested in some of the thoughts that were generated and it seems appropriate that many in county Extension offices could also be stretched in our thinking to find local sources of soft money for projects. For example, some people connect with local charitable organizations like food banks or homeless programs. Volunteering as a good community citizen could lead to effective collaborations as mutual interests and abilities surface. Some foundations may only want to sponsor grant-funded programs in particular locations like a certain city or county. Ask around. In addition, nonprofits in your community may have access to granting opportunities that we do not. A food bank, church, or crisis center may have need of some programming you can offer to people trying to establish a new home or get by on very limited resources. Another organization may be the recipient of the grant, but able to write you into the grant for what you can provide to achieve the overall goals. There are also the more obvious collaborations and cooperative agreements such as working this time of year with farm market associations and organizations to provide food selection and use, food preservation and nutrition programs at organized community events.

An innovative collaboration that needs recognition is one in Fulton County. Menia Chester, CEC, and other Extension staff in Fulton County played an instrumental role in the "Fulton Fresh" mobile farmers market that debuted this month. Fulton Fresh has been created to deliver fresh produce from local farmers to residents living in communities where mainstream grocery stores are scarce or missing. Extension agents provide education about the importance of eating healthy and how to prepare tasty, healthy meals. This program's debut has generated a lot of media attention, also. Want to know more about it? Talk with Menia or others in the Fulton County office.

As we prepare to meet next month for our annual GEAFCS meeting, let's plan to share ideas that some of you have been working on for local grants. To be successful in today's funding environment, we need to help each other learn and stretch to create new opportunities. We are continuing to strive to spread the word about FCS to other statewide partners and generate some collaborative opportunities like with the SBDC and Georgia Department of Agriculture. Please think about and seek out local opportunities and funding sources for your local or area programs in the state. Family and Consumer Sciences has a lot to offer your communities and we all know we have to continually get the word out. Family and Consumer Sciences Extension in particular is in a unique position to help consumers understand the links among food production, food distribution, family food use and family economics, nutrition and health. We need healthy individuals, healthy family units, healthy homes and healthy mindsets and thinking to have the most viable communities and raise a healthier next generation.


4-H and Youth Development

Photo: Arch SmithArch Smith, 4-H & Youth Development State Program Leader, 706/542-4H4H,

The 2010-2011 school year has come to a close for most school systems in the state of Georgia. County Extension staff delivered in-school 4-H programs across the state in more than 5,000 school club meetings each month this year. In addition to in-school club meetings, the 4-H Environmental Education program, offered by our five 4-H Centers, reached more than 38,000 school students. Participation in the EE program was up almost 2,000 students over the school year 2009-2010. Melanie Biersmith who coordinates our 4-H Environmental Education program has developed a new promotional piece which many agents have already indicated they will share with their school systems. Please contact Melanie to request copies of these promotional aids to share with your local schools.

We have served more than 878,000 students since the EE program began in 1979. During the 2009-2010 program year, each of the more than 36,000 students in the program had almost 11 ½ contact hours while participating in science-based field study at one of the 4-H centers. The 4-H Environmental Education program has been a great success but most importantly it is another link with the UGA Cooperative Extension 4-H program to local school systems throughout our state. It also provides an opportunity to help sustain the operations of our 4-H centers by producing more than $50 million in revenue over the past 32 years.

In the May issue of Extension e-News I talked about the importance of having volunteers continue to help 4-H reach additional youth audiences. Each year 4-H Project S.A.F.E., the 4-H shooting sports program, uses certified volunteers to train and coach thousands of young people. When I went to Rock Eagle in 1988 as the coordinator of the 4-H center, Georgia 4-H had one 4-H Shooting Sports Weekend. All disciplines were shooting on the same weekend and 400 people attended the event in late May. This number included youths and adults. This year, 2,740 4-H members competed at the state contest in Shotgun/ Modified Trap, Sporting Clays, BB, Air Rifle, Air Pistol, .22 Rimfire, Indoor Archery, Trap and Skeet and Archery. The program has grown to the point that it now takes six weekends to conduct the state contest! This year, three of the six competitions were held at Rock Eagle 4-H Center while the other three shooting events were held at the Forest City Gun Club in Savannah, the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry, and the Meadows National Gun Club in Sparr. The growth of shooting sports has meant much to the continued success of Georgia 4-H and it has taught us an important lesson in the value of training and certification of volunteers and the many ways volunteers can support youth development in our state.

State 4-H Council represents the annual meeting of the Georgia 4-H program. Each county is asked to send four delegates to the council meeting. The 2011 meeting will be held June 24-26 at Rock Eagle 4-H Center. During this year's meeting, a couple of special activities will take place. Mr. Harold Darden, retired Associate State 4-H Leader Emeritus, will be our guest speaker and lead the Citizenship Ceremony. The ceremony is a long standing tradition of State 4-H Council and Mr. Darden actually planned and wrote the original script for the ceremony. Mr. Darden was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame in October 2010 and we thought it fitting that he be invited to lead the ceremony once again. The 91-year-old is excited about being a part of State 4-H Council.

We will also unveil a new portrait of Mr. P. H. Stone at State 4-H Council. Mr. Stone was director of the Black Extension Service from 1926 to 1955. Most of you have seen the photographs and portraits that hang in the lobby of the Talmadge Auditorium at Rock Eagle. Mr. Stone and Ms. Emmie Nelson are the only two individuals with portraits in the lobby who were neither directors of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service nor State 4-H Leaders. Mr. Stone was a pioneer and a leader in Extension work in Georgia. His portrait had deteriorated so we look forward to unveiling his new portrait. You are invited to join us for the program which is set for Sunday, June 26 at 11 a.m. in Rock Eagle's Talmadge Auditorium. Please come visit with Mr. Darden, view the unveiling of Mr. Stone's portrait, and experience the excitement of the election of the new State 4-H officers.


Personnel actions since May 1, 2011

New Hires

  • Chatham County—Judy Owens, PA EFNEP, 5/19/11
  • Coffee County—Jaimie Varnedore, Educational Program Specialist, 5/19/11
  • Hart County—Amber Belanger, PA, 5/2/11
  • Lowndes County—Jami Lyn Warburg, VISTA 4-H, 6/25/11

Temporary Positions:

  • Berrien County—Justin Lanier, EPS ANR (Summer Intern, 12 weeks), 5/19/11
  • Bibb County—Britney White (Summer Intern), 5/11/11
  • Clarke County—Sam Ingle (Intern), 6/1/11
  • Mitchell County—Justin Pollock, EPS ANR (Summer Intern, 12 weeks), 5/12/11
  • Morgan County—Kaylen Chambless (Intern), 6/2/11
  • Morgan County—Sarah Bolton (Intern), 5/15/11
  • Tift County—Ellie Weeks, EPS 4-H (Summer Intern, 12 weeks), 5/12/11

Transfers/Position Changes

  • Brooks County—Carol Smith, CEPA 4-H to CEAssociate 4-H, 7/1/11
  • Mitchell County—Debra Cox, CEPA 4-H to CEAssociate 4-H, 7/1/11
  • Schley County—Brenda Welch, Secretary to Resource Manager/CEAssociate 4-H, 7/1/11
  • Southwest District Office—Jolain Luke, Adm Asst I to Adm Associate II, 7/1/11
  • Worth County—Chris Tyson, CEAgent ANR to Acting CEC/CEAgent ANR, 5/16/11


  • Lowndes County—Calvin Willis, Ft. Valley CEAgent, 7/1/11


  • Clarke County—Betty Sabbatth, PA EFNEP, 5/3/11
  • Coweta County—Sandra Smith, 4-H Program Assistant, 5/18/11
  • DeKalb County—Anna Weaver, EFNEP Program Assistant, 5/26/11
  • DeKalb County—Felicia Marable-Williams, EFNEP Agent, 5/27/11
  • Richmond County—Crystal Ware, PA EFNEP, 5/9/11
  • Twiggs County—Alison Sheffield, County Secretary, 5/13/11
  • Worth County—Rusty Harris, CEC/CEAgent ANR, 5/13/11