Pugliese gave the gathered community and business leaders an early morning overview on what the extension office does within the community and highlighted the importance agriculture still has within the county and Georgia as a whole.
“A lot of people kind of overlook that agriculture is still the No. 1 largest industry in the state of Georgia and it’s still a big part of Bartow County as well,” he said. “Just in Bartow County it’s a $92 million industry, and so it still has quite a bit of economic impact here and as soon as you get outside the city limits you realize it’s a big part of life in Bartow County.
“So it’s important we continue to maintain that balance between industry growth and rural growth in our county, and we’re lucky in Bartow County to have that balance and it improves our quality of life and our surroundings.”
Among the agricultural industries in Bartow County, poultry is the largest at $50 million, with livestock and equine production bringing in $16 million, horticulture $13 million and forestry and timber $1 million.
The extension office’s role within the community, Pugliese explained, is one that applies to farmers as well as private individuals.
“We got over 1,000 phone calls a year just in Bartow County on agriculture, farming, gardening type of questions. It can be everything from pasture management for livestock, beekeeping, to home garden questions, how to take care of my lawn. You name it. It doesn’t matter if I’m talking about a farmer with 1,000 acres of cotton or somebody who just has a small backyard with a lawn question,” he said. “... We also get a lot of emails. I get a couple of thousand emails a year. Not just from Bartow County, but a lot of surrounding counties that rely on us for help that may not have an ag agent. We’ve been going through a lot of budget struggles like a lot of other state agencies the last several years, so we’ve had some gaps in the surrounding counties. I’ve been trying to help out and manage some of those counties as far as the questions that are coming in.”
Aside from answering questions from the surrounding community, the extension office has three main programs, Pugliese said. Family and consumer sciences, agriculture and natural resources and 4-H Club programs are all offered through the office. The 4-H program, Pugliese added, is useful even for youth who are not considering a career in agriculture.
“Here in Bartow County we have a very strong 4-H program that is part of the extension. We have over 1,000 kids enrolled in the 4-H program here in Bartow County — just in Bartow County alone. ... This is a great opportunity,” He said. “It doesn’t have to be a child that’s interested in agriculture or farming nowadays. This is a great opportunity to teach kids life skills, whether it’s citizenship, leadership, community service, building those life skills, decision-making skills. There’s opportunities that they can get involved with, everything from consumer judging to livestock showing. ... So there’s a lot of opportunities where kids can learn about the environment and a big part of it is environmental education.”
Pugliese said he enjoyed his work as extension office coordinator. He assured the breakfast crowd he did not actually know the answers to every question himself, as he sometimes must consult other sources. Having UGA’s resources at hand is a major benefit, he believed.
“We can find the answer if we don’t know the answer and we give you science-based information. We’re not just trying to sell a product or being biased, whether it’s a pesticide or a chemical recommendation or a fertilizer recommendation. We’re telling you the science behind it and what you really need in that situation,” he said.
One situation Pugliese described involved tree care. He said topping out a tree and turning it into what he called “not much more than a telephone pole” is not a recognized method of tree care and will kill the tree.
“But unfortunately that’s the worst thing you can do to a tree. That type of topping, taking off those branches, that actually destroys the shape of the tree, shortens the life of the tree,” he said.
Referring to biology, Pugliese said the leaves lost when a tree is topped removes a tree’s food source. Fertilizer only adds nutrients to the soil, he explained. The leaves, though photosynthesis, provides a tree with the carbohydrates and sugars it needs to live. Removing those branches and leaves starves the tree, Pugliese explained, and it will likely be unable to recover.
Before moving on to answering questions from breakfast guests, Pugliese explained summer is the worst time to prune. Using bypass pruners, which give a clean cut, also is a best practice, he added.
“The worst time you can prune a tree, especially a pine tree, is right in the middle of summer. It’s already stressed. You open up some wounds in the middle of summer you’re more likely to draw in insects and other diseases,” Pugliese said. “The best time to prune is always in the winter, early spring. February, March is the ideal time to do the major pruning on any of your trees or shrubs,” he said.
The Adairville Council, part of the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce, hosts the Eggs and Issue Breakfast on the first Thursday of each month. For more information, contact the chamber at 770-382-1466.