“Those programs that are geared toward farmers and agribusinesses indirectly benefit consumers by ensuring that they are using the best methods for producing safe, abundant and affordable food and fiber,” said Paul Pugliese, Bartow County Extension Office coordinator. “Our society takes for granted the modern conveniences of grocery stores and restaurants. Extension provides the research and education necessary to keep our farmers feeding a growing world population of over 7 billion people.”
Kicking off Monday in Rome with the 2013 Georgia Ag Forecast, the list of events includes a Bartow County Extension Office open house and a state conference as well as a series for the do-it-yourselfers from the Master Gardeners.
“Consumers that have an interest in home vegetable gardening and do-it-yourself landscaping can benefit by learning from certified Master Gardener Extension volunteers about the many services that we provide through the Bartow County Extension Office,” Pugliese said. “We provide research-based information from the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences specific to growing fruits, vegetables, lawns and landscape plants in Northwest Georgia. The information we provide is not biased toward trying to sell or endorse any products, which makes us a unique, local and reliable source.”
For Pugliese, who took over the office in January 2012, said the home lawn and garden series tops his list of seminar picks.
“These seminars will help educate consumers on how to save time and money and be better equipped to make informed decisions about their lawns, gardens or landscapes. We want consumers to take advantage of the vast amount of information and resources that we have available through our office,” he said. “Every day we see clients making common mistakes such as planting the wrong varieties or spraying the wrong chemicals, which can end up being very costly, frustrating or damaging to the environment. These mistakes could have been easily avoided just by contacting our office or referencing the many free publications and fact sheets we have available on these topics.
“There are so many misleading sources of information today from the Internet to junk mail, and ads on television that can confuse consumers. Knowing where to find the answer is half the battle. Knowing how to interpret and apply that information is the next step.”
While the Master Gardener series is useful, trained volunteers are available to assist residents every Monday and Wednesday at the county Extension Office, 320 W. Cherokee Ave. in Cartersville.
“We have some extremely dedicated and passionate volunteers that want to grow the program and reach out to the local community through more educational programs such as the upcoming lawn and garden seminar series and local ‘Ask a Master Gardener’ clinics,” Pugliese said.
Those interested in learning more about the program or becoming a Master Gardener Extension volunteer are encouraged to attend upcoming seminars and clinics.
“We also have a variety of diagnostic services that benefit farmers, agribusinesses and backyard gardeners such as soil testing, water testing, insect, weed and plant disease identification. We help clients make smart, environmentally friendly choices for their farms, lawns and gardens,” Pugliese added.
In March, the Upper Ocmulgee River RC&D Council Inc. and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Services will hold the first of three Georgia Multicultural Sustainable Agriculture conferences at the Clarence Brown Conference Center.
The theme of these conferences is “myConservationPad,” playing on the popular concept of gathering information through the use of apps on a computer tablet, according to a press release.
“Georgia has experienced a significant increase in ethnically and culturally diverse populations,” said Jerome Brown, District Conservation, USDANatural Resources Conservation Service in Lawrenceville. “At our first Multicultural Sustainable Agriculture Conference in July, the participants received an introduction to local, state and federal resources available to them. The goal of these conferences is to go a step further and provide tangible tools and resources that multicultural producers can begin utilizing immediately. We feel that the theme ‘myConservationPad’ and calling the training sessions ‘apps’ is a clever way of connecting the changing faces of farmers with changing practices in sustainable agriculture.”
According to the release, Cartersville’s conference will highlight poultry management, agri-tourism, how to start a farm, organic fruits and vegetables farming, and micro irrigation. Conference participants may attend sessions on how to become eligible and apply for USDA Farm Bill programs, developing a farm business plan, soil and plant resources, developing a successful conservation plan, risk management, best management practices, engineering design for your farm and how to grow international and ethnic foods.
Pugliese said the fact that Cartersville will host one of the three conferences highlights northwest Georgia’s thriving agriculture industry.
“The combined production value of agriculture in Bartow County is over $84 million dollars per year. This conference is a great opportunity for new, beginning and prospective farmers to network and learn more about current trends toward community supported agriculture and locally grown foods,” he said. “We have a tremendous potential to expand the number of small farm cooperatives, agri-tourism operations and farmer’s markets in northwest Georgia. This will give local entrepreneurs the foundation and tools to move forward in these ventures.”
Following in April, the Extension Office will host its first open house to provide information on services and opportunities through the agency.
“We want participants to see the full range of programs and services that we provide in the areas of 4-H Youth Development, Agriculture & Natural Resources, and Family & Consumer Sciences. We invite local youth, families, farmers and agribusinesses to explore what we do — there’s something for everyone, both young and old,” Pugliese said. As spring approaches, Pugliese said residents should take the time to learn something new.
“Take the time to learn something new every chance you get. If something didn’t work last year for your farm or garden, then find out why. Try a different approach this year with a new plant variety or a new technique,” he said. “Farming and gardening is a science that is constantly evolving and improving with new and better innovations.”