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

Extension E-News

Greetings for December 2012

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

Extension Colleagues:

We end 2012 with some challenging news regarding our state revenue figures. From Governor Deal's Website: "Gov. Nathan Deal announced today that Georgia's net tax collections for November totaled nearly $1.35 billion, which was a decrease of $(9) million, or -0.7 percent, compared to the same period last fiscal year. Through five months, however, net tax revenue collections are up $249.5 million, or 3.7 percent, compared to YTD November 2011." The 3.7 percent growth mentioned above is still below the 5 percent target the state was hoping to hit. Legislators, the governor and Chancellor Huckabee all warn us that 2013 will be another tough fiscal year and we will continue to face tight budgets. It will be important as we enter the legislative session in early January to stay involved with local legislators and up to date on developments in the state budget. Stay tuned.

Reflecting back on 2012, I would call this a year of rebuilding in UGA Cooperative Extension. We have been challenged with restrained budgets at both the state and local levels paired with an increase in demand for many of our programs. I extend sincere thanks to each of you for your persistence, your positive attitude and continued focus as we work to serve our clientele around this great state. Your creativity and resiliency is amazing.

I am counting our blessings for the progress made throughout the year and want to note a few highlights of our rebuilding in 2012:

  • Thanks to our district directors and county coordinators for the work to leverage our limited state and local funds to hire/replace agent positions. Our county agent numbers increased by 32 positions from 2011.
  • Thanks to our legislators, CAES administrative team and department heads for their support in filling new Extension specialist positions. We will soon have a new beef cattle specialist, a vegetable horticulturist, a small fruits specialist working in blueberries and peaches, and an irrigation specialist (jointly with Auburn University). The peanut entomologist position will also soon be filled and will carry an 80 percent research appointment and devote 20 percent of their time to Extension. We are also working with Clemson University on a shared position to assist the peach industry in both states.
  • Thanks to those within our organization who have been willing to step up into higher leadership positions. We made significant progress in identifying and hiring great individuals for two District director positions (Southeast-Joann Milam and Southwest District-Laura Perry Johnson) and were able to fill two program development coordinator positions (Bobby Smith-ANR coordinator for Northeast District and Melinda Miller-4-H coordinator for Southwest District). And, all around this state we have had numerous agents take on additional administrative duties as county Extension coordinator. Thank you!
  • Thanks also to our legislators for their support and to our many friends of 4-H for private donations to continue the building of new cabins/replacement of old cabins at Rock Eagle. Arch Smith tells me that by the end of 2013 we are on track to have 17 new cabins up and in operation.

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas has been particularly busy for me this year. I had the opportunity to assist Juli Fields, director of CAES Alumni Relations, in hosting 25 participants on a young alumni tour/educational visit to Cuba. On the trip we were able to explore the history and culture of Cuba, meet with organic farmers and visit the botanical gardens outside Havana. Also, I attended the annual meeting of Georgia Farm Bureau at Jekyll Island where GACAA hosted their annual Farm House Breakfast for attendees. This year the highlight of the event was being in the new conventions center. It is a fabulous facility and a great addition to Jekyll Island.

2012 Christmas photo of Extension administrators and staffAs we end 2012 and look forward to 2013, please take time for a much deserved break and spend some quality time with family and friends!

Happy holidays to all!

In this issue of Extension E-News:

  • Tony Tyson looks forward to new relationships with Georgia's newly-elected county commissioners;
  • Arch Smith looks back on the past year in Georgia 4-H;
  • Deborah Murray introduces our new interim EFNEP coordinator; and
  • Steve Brown reflects on rural America.

County Operations

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

New County Commissioners

The Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) held the Newly Elected Commissioners Conference Dec. 4-7 at the UGA Hotel and Conference Center in Athens. This year 217 newly-elected commissioners attended. On Wednesday evening, UGA Cooperative Extension participated in the Resource Reception for the new commissioners. We had our Extension exhibit there and I attended, along with Norman McGlohon and Greg Price. Jeff Christie facilitated our participation in this event.

Norman, Greg and I had the pleasure of visiting with many of the new commissioners from every corner of the state. I am pleased to report that there was a tremendous amount of interest in Extension among these newly-elected officials. In fact many of them sought us out to discuss the Extension program in their county and more than a few took pride in bragging on the Extension staff members in their county. Many also wanted to tell us about their 4-H experiences.

I have attended this event several times over the past few years, but I have never experienced the intense interest in Extension that I observed this year. We even had one new commission chairman (from a county where we have had a shaky relationship with the past chairman) let us know that one of the first things she planned to do was to sign the Extension Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which had not been signed by the county in several years!

Based on the experience we had with these new commissioners I am very optimistic about our relationship with local county government over the next few years. Of course, these positive attitudes toward Extension would not happen without the excellent work that county agents and staff members do in the counties where they work.

If you have new commissioners in your county I hope county coordinators have already or plan to shortly contact them to discuss the relationship between Cooperative Extension and county government. It's never too early to begin building those relationships.


Agriculture and Natural Resources

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

The political relevance of rural America

Perhaps at Christmas more than any other time, we Americans feel a connection to the land. There is a stereotypical image of going to a rural home at Christmastime to meet family and feast on the bountiful harvest of American agriculture. That Norman Rockwell scene may not be reality for everyone, but rural America does still exist and still provides a bountiful harvest.

Some of you may have seen Agriculture Secretary Vilsack's recent comments about rural America losing its relevance. At first, some may see this as a slap at rural America, but when you look at his comment in context, you will see that he is exactly right. As cities get bigger and small towns struggle to survive, we must recognize the fact that rural America is losing its political relevance. Elections are won in the cities, and even more alarming, public opinion on political issues is formed in the cities.

Ironically, as the political clout of rural America declines, the agricultural sector of our economy continues to thrive. Even in a weak economy, commodity prices remain strong, farmland values are tending to increase and agricultural commodities remain our strongest export. This certainly doesn't sound like a recipe for declining clout, does it?

In Georgia, we still have politicians that know and understand agriculture. But even in a strong agricultural state like Georgia, we must admit that agriculture's political clout is tenuous. A few key rural legislators protect our interests, even as an increasing percentage of them are concentrated around Atlanta. Cooperative Extension certainly serves all Georgians, including those in Atlanta. We are proud of our urban programs as well, but we were built on rural issues and rural Georgia will always be key to our survival.

For these reasons, the recent retirement of Senator John Bulloch is particularly disturbing. As a rural senator, John Bulloch has been a long-time supporter of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Although we may not have many politicians that understand us, we have been blessed with a few in powerful positions that did. Who can replace him? Who can keep us from losing our political relevance?


Family and Consumer Sciences

Deborah MurrayDeborah Murray, FACS State Program Leader, 706/542-4862,

Welcome New EFNEP Coordinator
We are pleased to announce that Dr. Vanessa da Silva has accepted the interim position as EFNEP coordinator. Working with Dr. Lynn Bailey, department chair, we found an excellent candidate to best meet our immediate demands associated with the position. Vanessa is assistant professor in our Department of Foods and Nutrition in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. Gail Hanula retired a few weeks ago and the EFNEP coordinator position has always been a faculty position in the college's Department of Foods and Nutrition and will continue to be so. Having that academic foundation is important to EFNEP and is one of the reasons we have had such a strong program here in Georgia. Her role as interim will be somewhat different, as the administration of the grant will remain with me working collaboratively with the department and Vanessa. The day-to-day personnel and administrative decision making will be handled by Laurie Cantrell, Janet Valente and myself.

Vanessa is passionate about nutrition outreach and will be an asset to our other foods and nutrition programs. Her office will be located in Hoke Smith Annex in Gail's former office and her start date will be Jan. 7. Welcome, Vanessa! We will initiate a national search to hire a replacement within the next year.

Georgia Extension to Train Haitian Agronomists
Dr. Elizabeth Andress, Extension specialist, and Dr. Judy Hibbs, Clarke County FACS agent and CEC, will travel to Haiti on Jan. 14-19, 2013, to conduct food preservation and nutrition training. The project is designed to help increase the capabilities of Haitian agronomists, who in turn will work with Haitian farmers throughout the Central Plateau and Northern Crescent of Haiti. They will be training teachers, who will then train local community members. The program is by Atlanta's League of Hope through a USAID grant.

Take Time to Hug Your Loved Ones
The recent school shooting tragedy really highlights the need for taking care of each other and focusing on the importance of family. Who would have thought young innocent children would be targeted in a mass school shooting? This holiday season make sure to enjoy the small pleasures of the holiday season and don't allow yourself to get too involved in the trappings of everything that goes with this type of holiday.


4-H and Youth Development

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

Georgia 4-H: A year in review

As another Christmas season approaches and we reflect on the past year, I recall many positive things that have happened in 4-H.

Georgia 4-H served more than 183,000 young people during the 2011-2012 program year.

Georgia 4-H members collected over 13,000 pounds of pop tabs and delivered them to Rock Eagle for Junior Conference in early November. Over the past 11 years, Georgia 4-H'ers have exhibited their generosity by donating more than $71,000 to Ronald McDonald Houses as a result of pop tab collections.

Georgia 4-H beamed with pride when several of our "family" members were recognized for their efforts.

Former Coffee County 4-H member Jennifer Nettles was recognized at the National 4-H Gala as the National Alumni Medallion Award Winner.

Diane Davies, founder of the Georgia 4-H Environmental Education Program, became the 13th Georgian to be inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame.

Former State 4-H officer and Master 4-H member Tess Hammock became the second young Georgian invited to serve on the National 4-H Council Board of Trustees. Georgia is well represented on the National Council Board of Trustees by Tess and Dr. Beverly Sparks.

We continue to make improvements at our 4-H centers by adding five new cabins at Rock Eagle and making improvements at the Fortson and Jekyll Island centers.

During 2012 Cooperative Extension hired many new county Extension agents, Extension associates and county Extension program assistants to provide quality educational programs.

Extension and 4-H continue to have strong public and product support. I was reminded of this on Dec. 6 when Mrs. Regena Whitaker, a longtime friend and supporter of Georgia 4-H, passed away. Mrs. Regena and her husband Robert began a community camping program in their backyard that later, with the help of many others, developed into what we now know as Fortson 4-H Center. Mrs. Regena was a friend to many and 4-H is better today because of her tireless dedication to the development of Fortson 4-H Center.

Most important to the success of Georgia 4-H are the efforts that each of you make throughout the year to provide positive youth development experiences for 4-H members. I especially appreciate hearing your stories about the difference you are making in the lives of young people. These are stories of children overcoming life's challenges by succeeding in their project work, in the show ring, on a stage or academically. Thanks to each of you for another successful year!

I hope each of you enjoys a happy holiday season with your family and friends and I look forward to working with you in 2013.


Personnel actions since November 1, 2012

New Hires

  • Irwin County—Glenda Williamson, Secretary, 12/6/12
  • Jenkins County—Karen Jenkins Looper, County Extension Associate-Resource Manager, 11/1/12
  • Lowndes County—Casey Meadows, VISTA, 12/1/12
  • Sumter County—Britney Johnson, VISTA, 12/1/12

Part-time Positions:

  • Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens—Fred Nussbaum, Program Assistant, 11/29/12
  • Heard County—Janie Dunn, Secretary, 11/19/12
  • Jeff Davis County—Cindy Woodcock, Program Assistant (County-funded), 11/5/12

Transfers/Position Changes

  • Berrien County—Patty Boyette, Secretary, transferred from Secretary in Cook County, 10/25/12
  • Chatham County—Mary Lewis, State 4-H Program Assistant, formerly PA Intern 4-H in Bulloch County, 11/19/12
  • Early County—Stephanie Benton, Secretary to 4-H Agent, 12/1/12
  • Telfair County—Laura Smith, Co. Extension Agent-FACS to Co. Extension Coordinator-FACS, 11/1/12


  • Berrien County—Tim Flanders, Retire/Rehire, 12/31/12
  • Cherokee County—Trudy Christopher, CEC, 11/30/12
  • Clay County—Peggy Gulledge, Secretary, 12/1/12
  • Dooly County—Chuck Ellis, Retire/Rehire, 12/31/12
  • Gwinnett County—Marlene Gillman, Secretary, 11/30/12
  • Gwinnett County—Patricia Smith, Secretary, 11/30/12
  • Gwinnett County—Kitty Shepard, Secretary, 11/30/12
  • Jenkins County—Lorene Blackburn, County Secretary, 11/30/12
  • Lanier/Clinch County—Elvin Andrews, ANR, 12/1/12
  • Muscogee County—Joanne Cavis, CEC, 11/30/12
  • Terrell County—David Wagner, Retire/Rehire, 12/31/12
  • Worth County—Brenda Jennings, Secretary, 12/31/12

Send your comments

Tell us what you think about the Extension E-Newsletter. Your opinions and comments are very important to us!