Ray Parker, Jr.’s lyrics* to the movie Ghostbusters say it all about the University of Georgia Extension service:
If there’s somethin’ strange in the neighborhood (invasive wildlife)
Who ya gonna call?
There’s somethin’ weird and it don’t look good (improper pesticide usage)
Who ya gonna call?
UGA Extension is this amazing service that exists to take care of, help you with, and inform you about a wide range of subjects. They can assist you with strange or problematic things in your yard, on your farm, in your home or within your family. When you need help with something, the Extension Service is better, more practical than and not nearly as kooky as Ghostbusters.
I first started using Extension services when I quit living in apartments and began living in houses. I had questions about things like how to protect young trees, identifying plants, and getting soil tested. Who are you going to call for help with these things? The internet is there, yes. Books are available on these topics, yes. But straight-up answers by someone whose job it is to help with these types of subjects is the daily work of the County Extension Agent and his or her staff.
Nathan Eason, the County Extension Coordinator for White County, has an office in Cleveland. He took time to talk with me about what he does, but much of what he told me is right there in one of the over 900 print and online informational brochures available through the Extension Service. If you know anything about the Extension Service, you associate it with agriculture, which of course was its original focus. But over the years, their outreach programs have expanded.to other service areas:
- Gardening & the Environment
- Food & Wellness
- Home, Family & Finances
- 4-H Youth Development
4-H may be your very first experience with Extension. In fifth grade, students begin attending and participating in 4-H programs that give them the opportunity to use their “head, heart, hands and health” to serve their club, community and country. Many attend Rock Eagle 4-H Center in Eatonton, GA, or one of the other five camps sponsored by the Extension Service. These camps provide some of the highest quality, lowest priced summer camping experiences for kids in the state. Check out 4-H at georgia4h.org
Nathan spoke about volunteering as an important element of the success of Extension actvities in a community. The Extension Service uses volunteers to support and assist with 4-H and other programs. From acting as a mentor to presenting online about a particular career to helping with a weekly farmer’s market, chances to volunteer in your community through Extension are varied and important. Learn about volunteer, internship or career opportunities at uga.edu/careers or call your local agent.
What is the Extension Service? It “was officially founded in 1914 through the Smith-Lever Act, a federal law that established and funded the Cooperative Extension System – a national network of educators who bring university-based research and knowledge to the public.” It is the dissemination of research-based information that makes the Extension Service unique. If your local agent does not know the answer or have the physical plant to address your concerns, he or she can turn to the staff at the University of Georgia College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences for answers. Learn more about the evolution of Extension services over the years at extension.uga.edu
At Art of Stone, we rely upon and value highly the wisdom and expertise offered by the Extension Service. I frequently call my agent, Clark MacAllister who serves Lumpkin and Dawson Counties, with questions about diseases, turf choices and care, or just to confirm that I am on the right path with a client. We use them for soil tests, and when I do not know the answer, I often refer clients to their local Extension.
When I asked Nathan what the one thing about the Extension Service that he wants you to know, his answer was immediate and animated. “That we exist!” In this day of multiple communication channels, it is hard to get the word out about all the Extension Service is and can do for you – working with youth in schools, helping with property needs, offering print and online publications that provide helpful tips and research. If you are reading this blog, you need to go out and find your Extension Service now! Get to know your agent and get involved in what they are doing your community.
One of the programs within the Extension Service that we will blog on at a later date is the Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program. I have been a Master Gardner since 2001 and while I use my training from that program every day, I may be one of those folks for whom this phrase holds true: Not all who are gardeners garden. Becoming a Master Gardener enriches your life and your community in so many ways. We will discuss this in the future, but if you can’t wait until then, visit extension.uga.edu/programs
So, back to Ray Parker Jr.’s lyrics. There may not be any ghosts in the neighborhood or at your house, but if you have questions or problems, there are research-based answers, programs and services in abundance at your local county Extension Service. Who you gonna call? UGA Extension! 1-800-ASK-UGA1 or extension.uga.edu