Pugliese finds fulfillment in helping others at Bartow County Extension Office
by Marie Nesmith
May 28, 2012 | 2033 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bartow County Extension Coordinator Paul Pugliese joined the Bartow County Extension team June 1, 2011.
SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Bartow County Extension Coordinator Paul Pugliese joined the Bartow County Extension team June 1, 2011. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
As the Bartow County Extension Coordinator, Paul Pugliese has found a fulfilling line of work in which he can give back to his community. After serving as the agriculture and natural resources agent for the Cherokee County Extension for five years, the Kingston resident returned to his home county and 4-H office in 2011.

"I joined the Bartow County Extension team exactly one year ago, on June 1, 2011," he said. "Prior to transferring to Bartow County, I had worked as a County Extension Agent in Cherokee County for five years. Before that, I worked for the Georgia Department of Agriculture Plant Protection Division as a program manager for three years in Atlanta. My main reason for wanting to work in Bartow County is because this is my hometown and I always knew that I wanted to give back to the community where I grew up.

"My background, my education, my previous jobs and work experiences have all prepared me well to become an Extension educator. In college, I knew very early on that this was ultimately the direction my career was going and that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. For me, my job isn't really work, it's almost second nature for me -- what I was meant to do. Helping people and teaching people is more than a job, it's about giving back to your community and enriching the lives of those around you. I think what makes me love my job, is that, I have a passion for and fulfillment from the work that I do."

Name: Paul Pugliese

Occupation/Title: Bartow County Extension Coordinator/Agriculture & Natural Resources Agent

City of residence: Kingston

Family: Married to Marcy McElveen for nine wonderful years.

Education: I graduated from Cass High School in 1998. I also attended Adairsville Middle and High School before the county redistricted. In 2001, I graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Berry College, where I majored in Horticulture and minored in Biology. In 2003, I graduated from the University of Georgia with a master's degree in Plant Protection and Pest Management, with an emphasis in Plant Pathology.

Age: I'm only 31, but already starting to turn a distinguished gray around the edges.

Q: What do you enjoy most about working at the Bartow County Extension Office?

A: One of the fun parts of being an Extension Agent is that every day is different and every day provides an opportunity to learn something new. Being a good Extension Agent is all about knowing where to find the answer because you quickly find out that you don't know everything and you really know less than what you thought you did. I believe the secret of being a good county extension agent is having the humble attitude that you really never could know everything about agriculture. Agriculture is such a broad discipline and it's always a fun challenge to work with such a diverse group of clients.

Q: What drew you into this line of work?

A: I grew up on a first generation, family-owned and operated beef cattle farm in Kingston, Ga. We raised Hereford and Angus cattle, raised hay and timber. My maternal grandfather and my father were farmers their entire lives. As a child, I was always out in the yard helping my father with the farm or vegetable garden and whenever I had a chance, I was saving money to buy from a seed catalog and planting something new to see what I could grow. In high school, I was active in Scouting and became an Eagle Scout, which cultured my love of the great outdoors. I was also active in Bartow County 4-H and Mastered in Plant & Soil Science at Project Achievement. I grew up with County Extension Agents Kathy Floyd, Greg Bowman and Ed Hornyak -- all excellent agents. My older sister, Vickie Martin, was a 4-H agent in Hart and Stevens counties for several years. Being an educator is in my blood -- my mom, Ellen, dad, Harry, and sister are all teachers in our family. So, it was only natural that I would have the desire to become an educator in my chosen field.

Q: What are the responsibilities of your position?

A: As an Extension Coordinator, I'm the county department head for all University of Georgia Cooperative Extension programs and services in Bartow County, which includes three main program areas: 4-H & Youth Development, Agriculture & Natural Resources and Family & Consumer Sciences. As an Extension Agent, I'm primarily responsible for providing basic services such as soil testing, water testing, forage testing, insect and plant disease diagnostics, and plant/weed identifications. Providing these basic services to the community comprises the majority of my daily routine.

I'm also responsible for providing community education and outreach programs related to agriculture and natural resources based on local needs. These include hosting annual meetings and timely updates on the production of major agricultural crops in Bartow County, such as cotton, soybeans, corn, livestock, pastures/forages, equine, turfgrass, nurseries/greenhouses and vegetables. The combined value of agriculture production in Bartow County is annually estimated at $83 million dollars. Many of the educational programs we offer provide continuing education units that are required for farmers and agribusinesses to maintain their licenses and certifications through the Georgia Department of Agriculture. We also provide agriculture and natural resource programs for home consumers by training and certifying Georgia Master Gardener Extension volunteers. Ultimately, Extension is the only source of current, research-based information for our agriculture and natural resource industries. Agriculture is decentralized and we are the research and training arms of the largest industry in Georgia.

Q: What is the majority of your calls from the public about, and what is the most unusual question?

A: I can truly say that I use my college degree every day on the job. My daily office routine involves identifying several insect, plant disease, weed and turfgrass samples every day. My training in plant pathology, entomology, weed science and horticulture is very practical for handling the majority of our clients' questions. It's basically like being a plant doctor.

To an outsider, many questions we get at the Extension office would likely be categorized as unusual. Some of the routine questions that I answer involve insects and plant diseases that might seem alien to the casual observer. Here are just a few things that might fall into this category: slime molds, bacterial slime flux, lichens, black knot disease, phytoplasmas, cankers and heart rots of trees, land planarians, kudzu bugs, Boxelder bugs, and springtails. Do a quick Internet search on any one of these creatures and you might be surprised what's out there. We also get a lot of nuisance wildlife calls, such as chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons, opossums, snakes, armadillos, moles, voles, vultures, woodpeckers and bats that get into all kinds of places and trouble that they shouldn't. To me, these are not at all unusual; they're just a part of nature's diversity that's all around us.

Q: What is your greatest professional and/or personal achievement?

A: Being able to do what I love, which is teach people to appreciate and conserve our agricultural and natural resources.

Q: How would you describe yourself in three words?

A: Hardworking, passionate and well-rounded.

Q: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

A: I'm a pianist and occasionally play for our local church. I also love to play chess.

Q: What is the best advice you have ever received?

A: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?

A: Outside of Extension, I enjoy hiking, camping, mountain biking and gardening. My wife and I built a house two years ago on the family farm in Kingston, Ga., and enjoy traveling to see state and national parks, botanical gardens, and have an appreciation of the great outdoors and nature in general.

Q: Where is your favorite place to be in Bartow County?

A: On our family farm -- in my garden.