College-wide Navigational Links | Go to Local Content
Main Content |
Extension E-Newsletter

Extension E-News

Greetings for September, 2011

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

Extension Colleagues:

It's September and the activity level in Athens is in high gear! Students are falling into the routine of class and navigating campus and things are settling down to a "normal" hectic pace. It is the same for our college and for Extension. Our program management team recently attended the southern region Program Leadership Network (PLN) meeting in Fort Worth, Texas. At the same time and location, Extension administrators from all 1862 and 1890 land grant institutions in the southern region meet together in their annual meeting. You can rest assured there was much discussion on tight budgets, limited resources and how to work together to meet the needs of our clientele.

In addition, members of our program development team and Extension administration just wrapped up the event-packed 2011 Program Planning Week. This is the week where program and resource needs are discussed and all training opportunities for the upcoming year are decided. Needless to say, it is an intense week and always very informative. Last week I also addressed the Extension Retiree Association, celebrated the successes of our colleagues and friends at the CAES Alumni Annual Banquet and cheered on the Dawgs at South Campus Tailgate.

There is GREAT news to report.

  • State revenue figures for the month of August 2011 are up again (9.1 percent) and we are now comparing figures to positive increases from last year (August 2010 was up 12.7 percent).
  • District directors and their teams are working hard to fill high priority vacant agent positions.
  • Southeast District will soon have a new 4-H Program Development Coordinator — Congratulations to Kathy Baldwin!
  • Our own Billy Skaggs (we can still claim him as part of our Extension family) was recently recognized as one of the top 40 alumni less than 40 years of age at a special ceremony in Atlanta. Congratulations to Billy and his family.
  • The Association of Southern Region Extension Directors has elected me to fill a position on the 4-H National Council Board of Trustees. It is a real honor to be elected to serve on this prestigious board and I look forward to representing the southern region and Georgia 4-H.
  • And, on a personal note, my husband Allen has made a magnificent recovery from triple bypass heart surgery just six weeks ago. Yesterday when I arrived home he had been splitting firewood after a round of golf. It's absolutely amazing. Thanks again for the all the prayers.

In this issue of Extension E-News:

  • Tony Tyson hits the highlights of his official county operations update presentation at our Program Planning Week;
  • Arch Smith highlights participation in the camping program and Georgia 4-H Environmental Education programs for the 2010-2011 school year;
  • Elizabeth Andress shares some statistics on the poverty level in the U.S. and encourages FCS agents to target programs to those in need in their counties; and
  • Steve Brown's article entitled "Morale Matters" reminds us of the importance of keeping a positive focus on things. I read it twice!

I hope each of you has a great September. Go DAWGS!


County Operations

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

Extension by the Numbers

Each year, sometime around the middle of September, Extension leadership gathers in Athens for a whole week of planning. This annual event has the creative title of "Program Planning Week," and this year's meetings took place the week of September 12-16.

We usually kick off the week with a meeting of all program leadership to review the past year. As usual, I gave an update of county operations with a summary of how we have fared in terms of numbers of county faculty. This year's report was somewhat of a bad news/good news scenario. The following is a summary of some of the highlights of my presentation.

Numbers of Georgia County Agents as of August 31, 2011
  With State $ 100% Grant or County $ Totals
ANR 101.5 4 105.5
FACS 34.5 11 45.5
4-H 77.5 4 81.5
TOTALS 213.5 19 232.5

The bad news in these numbers is that we have lost about 20 additional county agents since this time last year and about 100 positions since the recession began three years ago. The good news is as we speak district directors are in the process of advertising and filling 14 or 15 high priority agent positions across the state. As a result, this year we are planning to conduct foundations training for new agents for the first time in two years! This is a good sign that hopefully we have turned the corner, and will enjoy better days ahead.

In addition to the numbers above, we now also have 18 new Extension associates. This is the new classification of exempt classified employees. Most of these employees will be 4-H associates and will provide leadership for county 4-H programs in certain counties. The remainder have at least part time responsibility as a resource manager and will soon receive training to be able to assist clients in lower tier counties with access to many of the resources and services that Extension offers. Some of the new Extension associates are long time employees who have been reclassified and some are new hires. We are excited for all of them and look forward to seeing the results of their contributions.

We still have 32 individuals who are retiree-rehires working in county offices to help us keep programs going. We appreciate their contributions. They allow us to bridge the gap with local programming until we are able to fill some of these positions with new employees. The bulk of funding for these rehires is coming from county resources, which is a testament to the value that county governments place in our organization.

Presidential Proclamation

It's not often that I walk into my office and find a copy of a Presidential Proclamation from the President of the United States. In early August I received such a document. It didn't have anything to do with any work that I had done, but it was given in honor of some of our agents and young people.

On July 17-23, Elbert and Madison County Family and Consumer Sciences agents Christa Campbell and Leigh Anne Aaron, Elbert County 4-H Program Assistant Valencia Thornton, UGA Children, Youth, and Families at Risk (CYFAR) Director Sharon Gibson and a team of FCS volunteers led a group of 22 high school teens on the 2011 Washington Experience. This was the second year for UGA CYFAR Teens As Planners. The TAP program teaches youths the role individuals can play in government. In 2010 the teens focused on service and environmental issues. The 2011 experience focused on citizenship and careers.

While in our nation's capital these 10th and 11th graders shared their stories with White House staff. Elbert and Madison County TAP Teams briefed the White House Office of Public Engagement/Young Americans on the TAP mission and the role that UGA Cooperative Extension plays in their lives. This was a great opportunity for these young people to engage leaders at the national level and learn about civic engagement. We are proud of all these students and commend Sharon, Christa, Leigh Anne and Valencia for their dedication to this effort.


Agriculture and Natural Resources

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

Morale Matters!

On September 16, 1981, a naïve kid reported to work as the new pesticide applicator training coordinator for Auburn University. Human resources explained to him that he would be eligible for federal retirement on September 16, 2011 (the day I am writing this column). The kid (me) couldn't even comprehend the year 2011. Retirement was the last thing on his mind. He had a wife and brand new daughter and was proud to have his job paying $17,500 (yes, per year). By the way, I'm not eligible for UGA health insurance after I retire, so you're stuck with me for a few more years.

I won't bore you with a nostalgic reflection of the enormous changes in agriculture and Extension I have witnessed. But indulge an old war horse the opportunity to make a few observations on morale. First, Extension workers are the most amazing group of people I've ever known. I've had opportunities to leave Extension throughout my career. I probably never had the opportunities for financial advancement that many of our employees have right now, but when opportunities came along, I just couldn't seem to pull the trigger. The number one reason was the quality of people that I worked with and the prestige that came along with being a part of that group.

Extension workers are by nature "glass half full" kind of folks. They endure long hours and low pay because they get a kick out of helping people. We all recognize this, but three years of budget cuts and no raises will challenge even the most positive attitudes. Some would argue that you can't get a feel for the pulse of this organization from Conner Hall, but I get out a lot and I talk to a lot of people by phone every day. My sense is that for the first couple of years of this budget mess, we held together pretty well. Budget woes may have even been a unifying factor for a while. We hung together and we did what we had to do in order to survive until better times. I sense that sentiment slipping away.

We are still a pretty big organization and it's difficult to generalize across the spectrum of personalities and economic situations included in our ranks. But in general, I would be as naïve as I was 30 years ago to not recognize that morale is a challenge for our organization right now. For a while longer, administration will be powerless to do the things it would take to really improve morale (raises, mass hiring and more raises), but it only makes things worse to ignore the fact that we have morale issues.

I've been around long enough to witness the ridicule that can be heaped upon an administrator that dares to be positive in the face of adversity. But I love this organization too much to totally ignore something that so seriously threatens our future. So, at great risk of ridicule, here goes.

Yes, times are tough, probably the toughest I've seen in my career. You are probably much more valuable to UGA and to the state of Georgia than you are being compensated for. You have probably taken on more responsibility during this recession for no additional compensation.

But…you should take pride in the fact that 1) you have a job in times when unemployment is rampant and 2) by virtue of the fact that you work for UGA, your job carries with it a degree of prestige and credibility that you won't find anywhere else. No, prestige doesn't pay the bills, but it does have value.

Take a hard look at the occupational stress in your life. How much is imposed on you by your employer and how much is self-imposed? If you're at the breaking point, back off, take a deep breath and resolve to make some adjustments. Self-motivation is great, but self-imposed stress CAN be reduced. No one expects you to solve all the world's problems. Take time for yourself and take time for your family. Times WILL get better and, while we may never return to what we once were, we CAN re-group into something even better. Find a way to have fun doing your job! Thank you for what you do. Our employees will always be our most valuable resource.


Family and Consumer Sciences

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

Families and Learning for Life

We just finished a week of reviewing in-service program offerings proposed for next year. There is a variety of programming that can assist families and individuals, and even small businesses, in Georgia facing the realities of tough economic and social times. And families in Georgia are facing some persisting realities of economic and personal challenges. Business and industry in Georgia also suffer from families being unable to manage their limited resources to maximum benefit for food, shelter, childcare and many other basic needs.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2010, median household income declined and the poverty rate increased compared to the year before. About 15.1 percent of Americans were living in poverty last year. This is the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate. For a two-parent family of four, the national poverty level is $21,756. Households in the Midwest, South and West experienced declines in real median income between 2009 and 2010. Since 2007, the year before the most recent recession, real median household income has declined 6.4 percent.

The poverty rate increased for children younger than 18 (from 20.7 percent in 2009 to 22.0 percent in 2010) and people 18 to 64 (from 12.9 percent in 2009 to 13.7 percent in 2010), while it was not statistically different for people 65 and older (9.0 percent). (

Within the almost 9.69 million people in Georgia, almost 15 percent were living below the poverty level in 2009. In addition to this statewide data, we need to know each of our own communities. In Athens-Clarke County, the poverty rate hit an estimated 39 percent in 2009. This is the poorest county in a metro area in the whole United States.

The number of people without health insurance coverage rose almost 1 million from 49.0 million in 2009 to 49.9 million in 2010. The percentage without coverage (16.3 percent) was not statistically different from the rate in 2009.

What else is happening with family life? Doubled-up households are defined as households that include at least one "additional" adult: a person 18 or older who is not enrolled in school and is not the householder, spouse or cohabiting partner of the householder. In spring 2007, prior to the recession, doubled-up households totaled 19.7 million. However, by spring 2011, the number of doubled-up households had increased by 2.0 million to 21.8 million (18.3 percent). In spring 2011, 5.9 million young adults age 25-34 (14.2 percent) resided in their parents' household, compared with 4.7 million (11.8 percent) before the recession.

I have not even reported on racial, ethnic and gender disparities that occur within these statistics. Cooperative Extension can assist families through education related to financial literacy, nutrition and food budgeting, housing safety and quality, prevention of illness through safe food handling, and relationships and quality child care. Our established programs in these areas are making a difference. We can intervene for the future with our programs for youth, such as those addressing health and nutrition behaviors and personal money management choices.

Many families and individuals don't know about the full extent of Cooperative Extension programs available through university county-based offices. Please get to know the status of and statistics about families in your communities and decide if you are doing all that you can to help bring university and other resources to families in need in Georgia. Market what you can do to all who will listen if only given the opportunity.


4-H and Youth Development

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

With the 2011-2012 school year well underway, county Extension agents, 4-H associates, and county Extension program assistants have begun 4-H club meetings. The in-school club meeting continues to be the most important element of the success of the Georgia 4-H program and is one of the five core programs required of all county programs.

Speaking of core programs, assignments for the 2012 4-H camping season have been made. We know that 4-H camp is also a very important part of our 4-H heritage and success in Georgia. During the summer of 2012, junior camp will be held at Burton 4-H Center. By popular demand from the young people who attended in 2011, senior camp will return to Rock Eagle 4-H Center. Wahsega 4-H Center will be the site of the wilderness challenge camp and cloverleaf camp will be held at every 4-H center with the exception of Burton 4-H Center.

During the 2010-2011 school year, Georgia 4-H Centers served almost 38,000 students through the 4-H Environmental Education Program. This was a 5 percent increase over the previous year. The EE program is a hands-on experiential learning opportunity for students in grades K-12. Melanie Biersmith and the EE staff at our five 4-H centers do an excellent job working with school systems from 80 different counties across the state that participate in the program each year. EE is successful because teachers and school administrators find value in programs that enhance classroom content and make the Georgia Performance Standards come to life. They also appreciate the relationships that are developed during field studies, including both peer relationships and student-teacher relationships. Recently, we heard how the relationships between county Extension offices and school systems can be strengthened through EE. In one particular county, an agent did not have access to fifth graders in one of the schools. However, after learning that the school participated in the Georgia 4-H Environmental Education program, the agent was able to use that "opening" to discuss also reaching fifth graders through in-school programming. The same doors can be opened if you are working with schools that are not currently using the EE program. Please share the value and excitement of the Georgia 4-H Environmental Education Program with public and private schools as well as with homeschooling families in your county to help them benefit from this high quality program.

You will continue to see changes and improvements at our 4-H centers. New windows were recently installed in all the dormitory rooms at Jekyll Island 4-H Center. This has already greatly increased the facility's energy efficiency. At Fortson 4-H Center we will be renovating the White House (the only dormitory at Fortson that has not been renovated since Georgia 4-H began operating the center in 2004). We appreciate the support of the Fortson Youth Training Center Board of Directors. Their financial support funds many of the improvements we've been able to make at the center. At Rock Eagle, construction of new cabins is underway. Cabin 30 will be completed later this fall thanks to the support of the Georgia Electric Membership Corporation and their 42 members across the state. In addition, a bid proposal will be put out before the end of September for the construction of five additional cabins at Rock Eagle to replace Cabins 25 thru 29. Once we know the actual cost of the construction, we will put out a bid for two or three cabins to be built later this year. We hope to have 11 new cabins on line at Rock Eagle by Sept. 1, 2012. Also, additional renovations will be made to Sutton Hall including the renovation of the two classrooms and the installation of new HVAC systems in the building.

I look forward to visiting with many of you at the 4-H Roundtable Discussions scheduled across the state over the next two months. I will visit with Extension staff members to discuss any issues related to Georgia 4-H. If you have not made plans to attend one of these roundtable discussions, please contact your 4-H PDC for more information. The discussions are set for the following dates:

  • Northwest District — September 19-20
  • Southwest District — September 26-27
  • Northeast District — October 17 and 20
  • Southeast District — November 14-15

We welcome Kathy Baldwin into the role of Southeast District 4-H PDC. Kathy has led an excellent 4-H program in Bleckley County for many years and we look forward to the great work she will accomplish as Southeast 4-H Program Development Coordinator.

During National 4-H Week, October 2-8, 2011, please plan to express your appreciation to your local and state funding representatives.


Personnel actions since August 1, 2011

New Hires

  • Burke County—Heather Savelle, CEA-4-H, 8/1/11
  • Carroll County—Cody Williams, 4-H Program Assistant, 7/29/11
  • Dougherty County—Christi Brown, Dougherty CEPA EFNEP, 8/22/11
  • Henry County—Kelly Brannen, 4-H Program Assistant, 8/25/11
  • Lowndes County—Lindsey Griffin, County Secretary, 9/29/11
  • Madison County—Adam Speir, Public Serv Rep, 9/1/11
  • Pickens County—Clarcy Kirby, CEAssociate, 9/1/11
  • Sumter County—Tejal Patel, 4-H VISTA, 8/15/11

Temporary Part-time Positions:

  • Crisp County—Dowdy White, CEPA 4-H Volunteer thru Work Study Program, 8/15/11
  • Tift County—Michael Goodman, CEPA 4-H, 9/22/11

County-Funded Positions

  • Bryan County—Madison Hendrix, PA part-time, 8/11/11
  • Bulloch County—Shameka Bethea, PA part-time, 8/15/11
  • Glynn County—Jana Vinson, PA part-time, 8/22/11
  • Ware County—Tatum Sikes, PA part-time, 8/1/11


  • Bartow County—Kathy Floyd, FACS Agent, 7/1/11
  • Carroll County—Bill Hodge, ANR Agent, 7/1/11
  • Troup/Meriwether—Celeste Garrett, FACS Agent, 7/1/11

Transfers/Position Changes

  • Lee County—Elaine Spencer, CEPA to CEAssociate, 8/1/11
  • Tift County—Burt Calhoun, Program Specialist II to Program Coordinator I, 8/15/11
  • Worth County—Melissa Norton, CEPA 4-H to CEAssociate 4-H, 9/1/11


  • Troup County—Elizabeth Thornton, 4-H Program Assistant, 8/31/11


  • Bacon County—Carolyn Pittman, PA part-time (County funded), 8/12/11
  • Bryan County—Becky Stewart, PA part-time (County funded), 8/11/11
  • Carroll County—Kathy Steed, 4-H Program Assistant, 7/8/11
  • Chattahoochee County—Carol Greer, 4-H Program Assistant, 8/24/11
  • Clinch County—Eileen Smith, Secretary, 9/21/11
  • Crawford County—Kim Gordon, County Secretary, 7/31/11
  • Crawford County—Chelsea Kerr, 4-H Program Assistant, 7/31/11
  • Dade County—Mechelle Berry, County Secretary, 7/31/11
  • Henry County—Katherine Gilbert, 4-H Program Assistant, 7/29/11
  • Muscogee County—Tammy Keith, 4-H Program Assistant, 8/24/11
  • Pike County—Sharon Carden, County Secretary, 7/28/11
  • Polk County—Pat Murray, 4-H Program Assistant, 8/16/11
  • Talbot County—Cheryl Trice, 4-H Program Assistant, 7/31/11
  • Walker County—Jessica Watkins, 4-H Program Assistant, 8/1/11