After serving as the agriculture and natural resources agent for the Cherokee County Extension for five years, Paul Pugliese has returned to his home county and 4-H office. On Wednesday, the Kingston resident joined the Bartow County Extension team, wanting to lend his expertise to those in his hometown.
"I grew up on a farm, first of all, just west of Cartersville," Pugliese said. "We have a small family farm with beef cattle, and we raise our own hay on the farm as well. So I've always been around agriculture growing up in the area. I was also involved in the 4-H program, growing up through the Extension Office here. ... Definitely the driving force behind me coming to Bartow County [was] being a lot closer to home and basically doing the same kind of job that I was doing in Cherokee County.
"[Bartow is] my home county. So it will be nice to give back to the community that I grew up in and get to re-know or re-learn some of the folks that are in the community. I feel like I've been out of the loop for the last 10 years, since I went to college and [started my career]. So it will be nice to re-connect with the community and be an asset to where I grew up."
With his background in horticulture, Bartow County Extension Coordinator Kathy Floyd said, Pugliese is known throughout Georgia as being an expert in the subject.
"We are excited because we have such a large ag base, but part of our agriculture income in this area comes from landscaping and those kinds of horticulture-related areas," she said. "And I think that Paul's expertise in that area will really help us expand some of our audience and bring some of those people in to take advantage of what the University Extension has to offer in terms of their professional improvement and keeping them updated to the latest findings through research and things that they can do to enhance their ability to do business and for the homeowners as well.
"He's young and he's enthusiastic, and his heart is in Extension. He was one of our 4-H'ers, so he's come up through this office. We're just real excited to have him here."
After graduating from Cass High School in 1998, Pugliese pursued a career in horticulture, obtaining a bachelor's degree in general horticulture at Berry College and a master's degree in plant protection and pest management at University of Georgia in 2001 and 2003, respectively. Following college, he was a lab technician for UGA's plant pathology lab in Griffin and then a division manager for the Georgia Department of Agriculture's plant inspection division for three years, before becoming an Extension agent with Cherokee County.
"Being a county Extension agent in many ways [is] being an educator," Pugliese said. "So one of the most rewarding things is being able to teach people new things about farming or gardening or landscaping. It doesn't matter what it is, we're always helping people. We're kind of like consultants in a way. We're a resource to the community. People come to us if they have a problem with their garden or their farm. We help them troubleshoot it and then we can provide them with recommendations on how to fix that problem.
"So it's very fulfilling in that regard. People, they end up saving time or saving money as a result of our recommendations. It's a fun and interesting job. Of course, it's challenging also. That's one of the things that I enjoy about it because agriculture is a very diverse discipline," he said, referring to various types of agriculture, ranging from livestock operations to growing ornamental flora and soybeans. "... Every day's a little bit different."
Coordinating the agriculture and natural resources programming for Bartow, Pugliese's duties will run the gamut, from working with farmers and homeowners to managing the Bartow County Master Gardeners and coaching a 4-H forestry judging team.
"[My] immediate goals [are] getting to know folks in the community and get settled into the office here," Pugliese said. "Eventually I would like to put together a couple of program development teams. One of the things that we do in Extension is we do try to reach out and do educational programs on a regular basis. So depending on what the needs are of Bartow County and the community, we'll have a team of volunteers that will help us direct the programs that they want to see in this county.
"It could be something as simple as a home gardening program or it could be equine management for horse owners or pasture management -- whatever the needs are [in] this community and again we'd like to utilize volunteers to help us deliver those programs. Of course, I would be teaching some of those and we could also bring in other Extension specialists and other agents from surrounding counties to help teach some of those programs depending on what the subject is."