In­side the Ex­ten­sion Of­fice

The Covington News - - Agriculture - By Sabas­tian Wee swee@cov­news.com

The Newton County Ex­ten­sion Of­fice, lo­cated in the ad­min­is­tra­tive build­ing at 1113 Usher Street, is mys­tery to some. Pro­vid­ing valu­able agri­cul­tural ed­u­ca­tion and com­mu­nity ser­vices, the ob­scure of­fice is of­ten mis­taken as the county’s phone direc­tory.

“We had a man call us ask­ing if we tested for STDs,” said Sec­re­tary Deb­bie Eunice. “We ended up hav­ing to re­fer him to the health depart­ment.”

The of­fice pri­mar­ily pro­vides free agri­cul­tural ed­u­ca­tion for the com­mu­nity. Its ser­vices typ­i­cally con­sist of, but are not limited to: soil fer­til­ity; for­age se­lec­tion and man­age­ment; us­ing agron­omy to help farm­ers pro­duce wheat, rye, oats, soy­beans and other crops; and as­sist­ing landown­ers with tim­ber max­i­miza­tion.

In ad­di­tion, the of­fice of­fers home vis­its to trou­bleshoot home­own­ers’ hor­ti­cul­ture con­cerns, mak­ing rec­om­men­da­tions for trees, flow­ers, shrubs and veg­etable gar­dens. By request, the agency can also trou­bleshoot other prob­lem ar­eas.

“Some may have in­sects in their crops, so we iden­tify the is­sues and make rec­om­men­da­tions on how to con­trol them,” said Newton County Ex­ten­sion agent and co­or­di­na­tor Ted Wynne. “We will also di­ag­nose the dis­eases to weigh their af­fect on the crops.”

The agency also per­forms wa­ter qual­ity test­ing, which tests well wa­ter for bac­te­rial con­tam­i­na­tion. If re­sults are in­con­clu­sive, the agency will visit the home to run cam­eras down the well and es­tab­lish if some­thing has fallen in­side.

“There was a lady who could not fig­ure out why there was such a high level of bac­te­rial con­tam­i­na­tion in her drink­ing wa­ter,” said Eunice. “We took a cam­era to her well and found a gi­ant wharf rat.”

The ex­ten­sion of­fice is part­nered with the Uni­ver­sity of Ge­or­gia’s Agri­cul­ture and En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ences. With a com­mit­ment to pub­lic ser­vice, eco­nomic devel­op­ment and tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance ac­tiv­i­ties, the land-grant col­lege is known to ad­dress the strate­gic and ed­u­ca­tional needs of Ge­or­gia’s cit­i­zens in “life-long learn­ing and pro­fes­sional ed­u­ca­tion.”

Us­ing a dig­i­tal di­ag­nos­tics sys­tem and net­work mi­cro­scope, dis­eases are pho­tographed and iden­ti­fied and sent to pathol­o­gists at UGA. Fur­ther tests are con­ducted to spec­ify the dis­eases and un­known agents. Rec­om­men­da­tions are then made for treat- ment. While the Ex­ten­sion Of­fice’s ser­vices are free, ad­di­tional test­ing done by UGA may ap­ply af­ford­able ser­vice charges.

“It has some real prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tions, even for doc­tors,” said Wynne. “I had a doc­tor bring in a spi­der which had bit a pa­tient. We iden­ti­fied it and de­ter­mined how harm­ful it was.”

If re­sults are un­able to be de­ter­mined at UGA, sam­ples are sent to other uni­ver­si­ties across the nation to make a di­ag­no­sis. Turn-around time for the com­plete process is typ­i­cally one week.

The Ex­ten­sion Of­fice also holds classes for lawn care com­pa­nies; these busi­nesses can re­ceive con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion cred­its from the class.

“I can go all week de­scrib­ing the things we do,” said Wynne. “From time to time, we will come across things we have never seen be­fore. One per­son came in the other day be­cause there were mush­rooms grow­ing in their bath­tub.”

Orig­i­nat­ing from the ex­ten­sion of­fice, the Mas­ter Gar­dener and 4-H pro­gram has made con­sid­er­able im­pacts on the com­mu­nity.

The Mas­ter Gar­dener pro­gram re­cently helped cre­ate the suc­cess­ful Por­terdale Com­mu­nity Gar­dens, which al­lows Newton County res­i­dents the op­por- tu­nity to main­tain a gar­den for $25 a plot.

The county’s 4-H pro­gram not only works with youth to de­velop life and lead­er­ship skills through their ev­ery­day in­ter­ests, but pro­vides com­mu­nity ser­vice like trash clean-ups and fundrais­ers for or­phan­ages. The or­ga­ni­za­tion also or­ga­nizes youth lead­er­ship pro­grams that send youths on trips to places in Ge­or­gia like Ty­bee Is­land, Jekyll Is­land, Fort­son and Wah­sega.

While mis­taken phone calls to the Ex­ten­sion Of­fice may con­tinue, the of­fice be­lieves their pri­mary goal of ser­vic­ing the com­mu­nity is met ev­ery­day.

“We try to help peo­ple when they call, even when they are call­ing for the wrong rea­sons,” said Eunice. “We have just made it our part to help peo­ple get to where they y need to g go.”

Brit­tany Thomas/The Cov­ing­ton News

Look closely: Newton County Ex­ten­sion co­or­di­na­tor Ted Wynne stud­ies a wa­ter sam­ple un­der a mi­cro­scope.

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