2024 State 4-H .22 Silhouette Contest on March 23

The 2024 State 4-H 22 Silhouette Match on Saturday March 23 at Rock Eagle 4-H Center was a great event for all participants and coaches! Attendance rose 37% from last year’s program, with 67 4-H’ers from 10 counties across the state participating in morning and afternoon relays. Relay 1’s junior winners were Haley Zigan from Stephens County (1st), Jeannie Lane from Stephens County (2nd), and Hannah Henderson from Colquitt County (3rd). Relay 1’s senior winners were Bethany Shirley from Walton County (1st), Lucy Evans from Bartow County (2nd), and Noah Henderson from Colquitt County (3rd). Relay 2’s junior winners were Isabel Jones from Coweta County (1st), Walter McWaters (2nd), and Logan Conner from Wilcox County (3rd). Relay 2’s senior winners were Drake Hill from Jackson County (1st), Wes Mims from Colquitt County (2nd), and Judson Terry from Wilcox County (3rd). All of these successes would not be possible without the parents and coaches supporting and training these athletes, as well as the Rock Eagle staff who prepared the range and facilities for the event. Special thanks to Doug and Teresa Loftis for all their help in set up, scoring, and serving as Range Officers. They have been involved as 4-H volunteers in Colquitt County for 25 years! Their service as Range Officers for 22 Silhouette and the State 22 Rimfire Match for numerous years has been invaluable to Georgia 4-H.

-Lily Thomas

4-H’ers see leadership in action during Georgia 4-H Day at the Capitol

The gold dome of the Georgia Capitol was complemented with shades of green on Feb. 14 as 4-H youth and adult leaders joined elected officials for the largest Georgia 4-H Day at the Capitol on record.

With nearly 700 in attendance, outstanding 4-H’ers from counties across the state gathered to engage with legislators, observe leadership in action and learn about the civic process.

Civic engagement is one of three focus areas that Georgia 4-H teaches youth through in-school programming, after-school activities, project work and camps. A special partnership with Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation and the Georgia 4-H Foundation makes it possible for hundreds of Georgia 4-H’ers to “learn by doing” with the annual visit to the state Capitol to experience the civic process in real time.

District 20 Sen. Larry Walker and District 11 state Rep. Rick Jasperse hosted the 4-H delegation and Georgia 4-H President Thomas Holt addressed attendees on behalf of 173,500 students currently enrolled in Georgia 4-H. “This organization provides life-changing experiences for every 4-H’er,” Holt said. “This is all made possible by support from our elected officials and every stakeholder in the Georgia 4-H family.”

Empowering future civic leaders

County groups spent the morning exploring the Capitol building through tours and a scavenger hunt. Numerous 4-H agents arranged meetings with senators and representatives from their own districts, allowing 4-H’ers to ask questions and learn from their representatives in the Georgia legislature.

Georgia’s current slate of elected officials contains many 4-H alumni, parents and supporters who were thrilled to welcome students to the building where government comes to life.

The day concluded with a luncheon for students and legislators to celebrate the influence of Georgia 4-H. Rep. Jasperse encouraged 4-H’ers to become the next generation of leaders and Sen. Walker acknowledged 4-H honorees who have received state and national recognition for accomplishments over the past year.

Other speakers included Spalding County 4-H’er Winta Ykeallo, who shared the influence 4-H has had on her life; U.S. Department of Agriculture Senior Staff to the Secretary on Cooperative Extension Tyler Tucker; University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Dean and Director Nick T. Place, and CAES Associate Dean for Extension Laura Perry Johnson.

Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation invests in Georgia 4-H’ers by providing support for transportation, logistics and lunch during 4-H Day at the Capitol. The event, which is often the first visit to Atlanta for many students, makes an indelible mark on those who attend. Youth are empowered to become leaders of the future when they are given the opportunity to engage with present leaders.

Georgia 4-H enables youth to develop necessary life skills, positive relationships and community awareness. As the premiere youth leadership organization in the state, 4-H reaches hundreds of thousands of people annually through UGA Cooperative Extension offices and 4-H facilities.

For more information about how to get involved with 4-H in your community, contact your local UGA Extension office or visit georgia4h.org.

Georgia counties mark five years of wellness collaboration with UGA Extension

Three Georgia counties are healthier and happier thanks to five years of collaboration with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension to expand access to health and wellness programming through the Well Connected Communities (WCC) initiative. The initiative helps build diverse, multi-generational, cross-sector coalitions that can recognize and address systemic health inequities by intentionally forging connections, building capacity and taking action in these communities and across the Extension network.

The program, which is facilitated by UGA Extension in partnership with the National 4-H Council and with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, awarded grants in 2018 to Washington, Colquitt, and Calhoun counties to establish programming for residents through collaboration with local schools, organizations, government entities, youth and adults over the five-year grant period.

A foundational component of every WCC county plan, health coalitions in each county work together to assess and address challenges and needs specifically focused on health and wellness through Georgia 4-H and community programming. UGA Extension faculty and staff support the initiative by facilitating stakeholder efforts and helping to turn goals into reality.

Supporting community mental health needs

Since Washington County formed its coalition in 2018, people of all ages, vocations and backgrounds have worked together on WCC initiatives centered around mental health after the health coalition, with help from the UGA School of Pharmacy, identified mental health as a central issue for both youth and adults.

“The group was passionate about erasing the stigma surrounding mental health challenges and bringing this important issue to the forefront of the conversation,” said Georgeanne Cook, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension agent for Washington County. In May 2023, years of grassroots efforts culminated in a Mental Health Youth Summit at Washington County Middle School. The summit, in partnership with Mercer University, reached every eighth grader at the school, covering topics including anger management, anxiety, depression, suicide prevention and conflict resolution.

Washington County 4-H Agent Cindy Sheram worked with Cook to train volunteers to assist with the outreach programs. “Our partners all across the community make this work so successful,” Sheram said. “It is exciting that the volunteers chose mental health. Youth can understand that there is no stigma in asking for help.”

In addition to reaching youth, Washington County partners with the Family Connections organization to provide services for incarcerated adults through the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment program to empower those in the criminal justice system with mental health coping strategies.

In Colquitt County, the youth component of their coalition, called the “Teen Board,” chose to focus on supporting at-risk youth, especially those impacted by the foster care system. A recent project, Carnival for Care, provided a day of fun for children in foster care and their families. The carnival included resources and activities to support overall wellness for participants. Another program, called the Delightful Duffels initiative, provided brand-new luggage to youth in foster care.

In Colquitt County, 4-H Agent Valerie Bennett and Family and Consumer Sciences Agent Suzanne Williams lauded the benefits of WCC programming. “The grant projects have been instrumental in helping Valerie and I make connections and contacts in the community,” Williams said. “The needs assessment also helps guide our programming across the board.”

Partners for WCC in Colquitt County include local churches, foster care coalitions, the Department of Family and Child Services, Healthy Colquitt and UGA’s Archway Partnership. Archway also supports WCC in Washington County, as their mission dovetails with the statewide goal of improving lives for Georgians throughout the state.

Promoting physical health and social wellness

Nutrition, physical activity, tobacco prevention and social wellness were the critical needs identified in the Calhoun County needs assessment. The Healthier Together Calhoun coalition has undertaken high-impact projects including creating a wellness podcast and farmers market promotions and organizing regular community health fairs.

Calhoun 4-H Agent Shanda Ashley and Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent Luke Crosson are proud of the WCC successes in Calhoun County, including a recent program called Fruit on the Field, which provides fresh fruit to fans as part of a plan to offer healthier choices at the concession stand during sporting events.

“The community has a greater awareness of health because of this project,” Crosson said. “Kids are taking action and checking on each other. They really bonded at the True Leaders in Equity Institute last year.”

The True Leaders in Equity Institute is a National 4-H Council event for youth involved with WCC health coalitions that includes a weeklong conference in Washington, D.C., where youth develop skills and competencies in equity leadership and make connections to people, organizations and tools that can be helpful for their projects.

Since Georgia’s grant cycle began in 2018, Washington, Colquitt, and Calhoun counties have improved thousands of lives through the work of youth and adults united in the goal of improving community wellbeing. “The youth have a voice,” Cook said. “They see the importance of this work and they invite their friends.”

While the grant cycle ended in 2023, each county has plans to continue many of its initiatives.

Georgia 4-H empowers youth to become true leaders by developing necessary life skills, positive relationships and community awareness. As the premier youth leadership organization in the state, 4-H reaches hundreds of thousands of people annually through UGA Extension offices and 4-H facilities.

Georgia 4-H offers new Natural Resources Exploration Camp

A dozen 4-H’ers from around Georgia were the first explorers to experience Georgia 4-H’s newest summer program — Natural Resources Exploration Camp — to learn about wildlife, forestry, fisheries and other natural resources from University of Georgia faculty.

Hosted in conjunction with UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, the Natural Resources Exploration Camp offered participants a glimpse into the diverse professional and educational resources UGA offers while exploring career possibilities in the forestry and natural resource field. The unique camp combined environmental education with traditional camp activities including canoeing, fishing, swimming and campfires.

Faculty and staff from Warnell designed the curriculum for the camp, which is structured to provide opportunities to learn about Georgia’s animal populations and habitats, including real-world examples and practical applications of the lessons presented. Faculty and staff including Kris IrwinMichel KohlJay SheltonJames JohnsonNick FuhrmanAdam EdgeHolly Campbell and Triston Hansford were crucial to the success of the camp’s pilot week.

Campers spent two days on UGA’s Athens campus performing tree and wildlife identification, using trail cameras to learn about mammals in the area, flying drones, touring deer barns and aquaculture labs, setting up leaf litter traps in streams, and attending a session on herpetology.

At Rock Eagle 4-H Center, campers dissected owl pellets, went on an owl prowl, sampled fish and macroinvertebrates through electrofishing and seining, tracked wildlife using geographic information system (GIS) technology and telemetry, and building birdhouses and bee hotels. The UGA Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, part of the UGA Tifton campus, facilitated a workshop about invasive species.

Kasey BozemanUGA Cooperative Extension specialist for 4-H science programs, said the partnership with UGA faculty gives campers a college-level learning experience.

“It’s inspiring that Warnell’s expert faculty and staff chose to share their knowledge and passion with the next generation of scientists,” Bozeman said. “Perhaps now more than ever, research-based youth educational programs related to our natural resources are critical to our society’s success.”

The camp, open to 4-H’ers in ninth through 12th grades, was application based and 12 youth from 10 counties were selected to attend the camp’s inaugural session. Student feedback about the camp was overwhelmingly positive, said Bozeman, adding that Georgia 4-H hopes to continue the camp during the 2024 summer season.

“The 2023 Natural Resources Exploration Camp was an outstanding experience for all involved,” said Irwin, who serves as both associate dean for outreach and Extension senior public service associate at Warnell. “The camp would not have been possible without the leadership and logistical support provided by the Georgia 4-H faculty and staff. The success of the camp was also the result of a collaborative effort between 4-H and our school’s faculty.”

Georgia 4-H empowers youth to become true leaders by developing necessary life skills, positive relationships and community awareness. As the premier youth leadership organization in the state, 4-H reaches hundreds of thousands of people annually through UGA Extension offices and 4-H facilities.

For more information on Natural Resource Exploration Camp and other activities, contact your local UGA Extension office or visit georgia4h.org.

Venya Gunjal is Paving a Bright Path

Everyone is on their feet.

A moment before, a pin dropping from the speaker’s podium would have echoed throughout the chamber at the Georgia Capitol. Then 180 members of Georgia’s House of Representatives filled the room with thunderous applause as Venya Gunjal delivered her final word of thanks.

“I stand before you on behalf of more than 152,000 4-H’ers in Georgia,” Gunjal said during her address commemorating 4-H Day at the Capitol in February. After introducing herself as an 11th grader from Cobb County and a student of the STEM Magnet Program at Wheeler High School, she said, “4-H has been a driving force in exploring my passion for science since I gave my fifth-grade presentation on wind power. Seven years later, I continue to learn more about STEM through 4-H.”

Venya Gunjal (center) gathers with Brittani Lee, Cobb County Extension coordinator and 4-H agent, and Scott Shell, chair of the 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees.

Reiterating the impact 4-H has for her and 4-H’ers throughout the state, Gunjal continued, “Georgia 4-H builds the next generation of leaders by engaging young people with life-changing experiences in agriculture and STEM, healthy living and civic engagement. These opportunities are made possible by the dedication of volunteers, county agents and other adult leaders that make 4-H Georgia’s premier youth leadership program.”

Venya Gunjal, a Wheeler High School student, is the president of the 2022-23 Georgia 4-H State Board of Directors.

Elected by her peers during the annual 4-H business meeting known as State Council in June 2022, Gunjal’s campaign slogan encouraged delegates to “Vibe with Venya.” A thoughtful and patient leader, Gunjal’s good vibes garnered a commanding vote in her favor.

“I am honored to serve as the president of Georgia 4-H,” Gunjal said.

During her tenure as 4-H state president, she has piloted the nine-member 4-H State Board of Directors as they fulfill an important role in programming for one of the largest state 4-H programs in the nation.

She has been diligently preparing for this moment since she was 10 years old. Gunjal remembers the day in fifth grade when she joined 4-H during an in-school program conducted by the Cobb County 4-H agent with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

She was immediately hooked on 4-H Project Achievement, one of four core programs offered by Georgia 4-H. Participants choose a topic to research and prepare a demonstration about their chosen interest.

“Even back in fifth grade, I had a passion for STEM,” Gunjal said of her favorite 4-H activity. “When I joined 4-H, I discovered a second passion: talking about STEM!”

Project Achievement competitors ­­— from Cloverleaf and Junior 4-H’ers in fourth through eighth grades to Senior 4-H’ers in ninth through 12th grades — deliver presentations to judges.

Gunjal chose an environmental science project on wind power for her first competition. Since then, she has presented on topics including robotics, computer information technology, and nutrition for health and sports.

Those Project Achievement competitions laid the groundwork for Gunjal to gain confidence in herself, connect to her peers and form lifelong friendships. During her first trip to Rock Eagle 4-H Center as a seventh grader, she campaigned and was elected to the Northwest District Junior Board of Directors. Two years later, she was elected to serve Northwest District 4-H as a member of the Senior Board.

As a district 4-H officer, Gunjal received training that empowered her to assess and meet needs while leading by example, and she participated in Georgia 4-H’s ambassador programs, which prepare students to lead their own initiatives.

It was during these years that Gunjal found her voice and learned to use it in powerful ways.

She is an integral part of the Georgia chapter of the American Assimilation Helpline, a global, student-led organization that provides free one-on-one tutoring services to low-income, immigrant, refugee and homeless students with little or no access to educational resources.

As a 4-H STEM ambassador, Gunjal gained the tools to create positive change, founding a nonprofit group called STEAMPark Inc. to strengthen learning opportunities for elementary school students at Title I schools.

“Challenge motivates me, and innovation drives me,” Gunjal said while discussing her aspirations. She is grateful for her parents’ encouragement to seek both excellence and balance in her life.

“My dad reminds me that I don’t have to do everything,” she said during a video shoot for 4-H Day at the Capitol. Clad in her 4-H green blazer, she candidly shared how 4-H has opened doors for her and countless other youth since 1904.

As Georgia 4-H state president, Gunjal is the student leader of the organization dedicated to building the next generation of leaders, like herself.

She is committed to creating a 4-H experience for every young person that helps them find their spark, knowing that spark might lead them to meet a best friend, start a garden club, learn photography, show a lamb, or even speak in front of the Georgia General Assembly.

Those sparks make for a bright future for Gunjal and every Georgia 4-H’er.

With career dreams that include biochemistry or bioengineering and conducting STEM research to improve quality of life in the developing world, Gunjal follows the motto she has chosen for herself: “As she believes, she becomes.”

By Josie Smith

Chatham County senior 4-H’ers take first in state wildlife judging

Chatham County’s senior 4-H team won first place at the Georgia 4-H State Wildlife Judging contest at Rock Eagle 4-H Center on April 29, earning Master 4-H’er status for team members Jacob Allman, Derek Wangai, Jason Allman and Hayaat Labaran.

Wildlife judging takes the fun of 4-H to the outdoors as participants gain an appreciation for the world around them. The competition challenges participants to understand wildlife habitat management and how to preserve these valuable ecosystems.

Students also learn to interpret wildlife habitat from aerial photographs and to verbally communicate the reasoning for their decision-making process. Additionally, 4-H’ers study common wildlife food sources for identification purposes.

Faculty with the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and industry experts contribute to the curriculum used to train 4-H’ers and help provide youth with practical applications of the skills they learn.

Charlie Wurst, Georgia 4-H specialist for camping and natural resources, is grateful for the partnership with UGA.

“We would like to extend a special thanks to Dr. Michel Kohl, Extension wildlife specialist, and graduate students Jennifer Brown and Lavendar Harris for their assistance with facilitating the contest,” Wurst said. “Connecting 4-H’ers with their environment and with our natural resources is invaluable as we mentor Georgia’s youth to be stewards of their world.”

Chatham County 4-H will represent Georgia at the National Wildlife Habitat Education Program Contest in London, Kentucky, this July.

Winning Burke County junior 4-H wildlife judging team members The first-place junior team from Burke County included Macy Doyen, Mallery Wyrick, Emree Williams and Lucy Lane.
Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources researcher Michel Kohl and graduate assistants Jennifer Brown and Lavendar Harris pose with winning Burke County junior 4-H wildlife judging team members Macy Doyen, Mallery Wyrick, Emree Williams and Lucy Lane.

Nine counties sent 86 competitors to the state contest. Junior teams are made up of youth from fourth through eighth grades and senior teams are ninth through 12th grade 4-H’ers.

The first place junior team from Burke County included Macy Doyen, Mallery Wyrick, Emree Williams and Lucy Lane. Additional winners in the contest include second place senior team from Bleckley County. The second place junior team was Gwinnett County and the third place junior team was Cobb County.

The first place overall senior was Tony Gray from Burke County and the first place overall junior was Evelyn Hayes from Gwinnett County.

Georgia 4-H empowers youth to become true leaders by developing necessary life skills, positive relationships and community awareness. As the premier youth leadership organization in the state, 4-H reaches hundreds of thousands of people annually through UGA Cooperative Extension offices and 4-H facilities.

For more information about how to get involved with wildlife judging and Georgia 4-H, contact your local UGA Extension office or visit georgia4h.org

Georgia 4-H offers free camps for youth in military families

Georgia 4-H offers free camps for youth in military families

Dependents of military service members are invited to apply to attend two week-long camping experiences coordinated by University of Georgia Cooperative Extension’s 4-H program at no cost.

These summits are open to 13- to 18-year-old dependents of military members currently serving in active, guard and reserve components. Camp fees, including a transportation stipend, are covered through grant funds.

“These experiences offer military dependents an opportunity to build leadership and life skills in a high-adventure environment,” said Laura GossGeorgia 4-H military summer camps coordinator. “Youth have the opportunity to have fun while connecting with fellow teens to better understand their parent’s military service through targeted lessons, social interactions and service member volunteers. Youth gain independence, mastery and belonging.”

A 2022 Joint Extreme camper shared, “I think having this available for us is amazing and that the opportunity should continue to be available to kids even in the future to help build skills. It gives us a chance to be away from home in a safe way and learn, all while still being a great experience.” Another camper shared that the camp helped him “be better with the outdoors and less scared.”

UGA operates the residential summer camps through the Military Teen Adventure Camps initiative. The partnership between the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Office of Military Community and Family Policy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture is funded by the DOD through a cooperative grant agreement with Purdue University.

Georgia 4-H has coordinated military camping opportunities since 2010 at locations in Georgia, Colorado and Florida. This year all camps will occur at Georgia 4-H facilities. The full list of opportunities is as follows:

Joint Extreme Summit, June 18-23, 2023

Rock Eagle 4-H Center in Eatonton, Georgia
Open to all service branches
Ages 13-18

Joint Extreme Summit, June 25-30, 2023

Rock Eagle 4-H Center in Eatonton, Georgia
Open to all service branches
Ages 13-18

Interested applicants can learn more online at georgia4h.org. Applicants should carefully review the application instructions and deadlines.

Youth are supervised during the week by professional staff who are trained in youth development and camping protocol. Adult volunteers will aid paid camp staff and often include service members, spouses and family members. All paid and volunteer staff complete youth protection training and undergo a background investigation in accordance with UGA policies.

Camp fees, lodging, activities and on-site meals are all covered through the available grants. Information on travel support for participants will be provided to selected applicants.

Military spouses, current military members and retired military members are all encouraged to apply to serve as volunteers. Volunteers play a major role at these camps as they participate in activities, supervise youth, chaperone cabins and assist with workshops and classes.  Volunteers arrive one day prior to assist with youth arrival and to complete in-service training.

To apply to be an adult volunteer, download an application from the Georgia 4-H Volunteer for Military Programs page. To register for one of the camps, visit the Georgia 4-H Military Dependent Camps page. For more information, email milcamps@uga.edu.

Thomas F. Rodgers Administration Building named in honor of former 4-H leader

Thomas F. Rodgers Administration Building named in honor of former 4-H leader

Georgia 4-H dedicated the Thomas F. Rodgers Administration Building at Rock Eagle 4-H Center to honor former Georgia 4-H state leader Tom Rodgers for his years of service to 4-H and University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

Rodgers served as the leader of Georgia 4-H from 1978 to 1993 and championed the renovation of Rock Eagle 4-H Center during his tenure. Raising more than $2 million for the facility, he secured Rock Eagle’s continued status as a centerpiece of Georgia 4-H. Cabins, meeting spaces and support buildings were improved and expanded during the renovation, and revenue subsequently increased by 66%.

The March 29 dedication included reflections from current and former 4-H leaders and recognized Rodgers’ six-plus decades of impact. “Tom made decisions, took risks and garnered support that ultimately make it possible for us to still be standing on these grounds today,” said Sue Chapman, Georgia 4-H associate state leader.

The Thomas F. Rodgers Administration Building serves as a hub for operations and management for the nearly 1,500-acre campus in Eatonton.

“I am honored by this recognition, and it’s only possible because of the team of people I worked with during my career. They deserve the recognition too,” Rodgers said during the event.

The successful Georgia 4-H Environmental Education program was created under Rodgers’ leadership in partnership with former 4-H specialist Diane Davies. Since 1979, the program has served 1.2 million youth at all six 4-H centers across Georgia.

Additional highlights from Rodgers’ 4-H career include the establishment of Georgia 4-H Day at the Capitol, the acquisition and renovation of the Jekyll Island 4-H Center, and an 89% increase in Georgia 4-H Foundation endowment funds.

After 15 years in the state 4-H leader role, Rodgers was promoted to assistant director and head of county operations for UGA Extension, helping to supervise more than 800 agents, program assistants and support staff. He led the initiative that resulted in Extension agents being classified as UGA public service faculty.

Rodgers went on to serve as UGA’s vice president for public service and outreach and as associate dean of outreach and Extension in the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences before his retirement in 2004. Rodgers earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in animal science and agricultural economics from the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences before receiving a doctoral degree in education from North Carolina State University.

He was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame in 2011 and was awarded the Georgia 4-H Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004. Rodgers’ contributions to the success of Rock Eagle 4-H Center laid the groundwork for the success of Georgia 4-H to this day. The operational revenue from the center makes possible a large portion of current 4-H programming.

Georgia 4-H empowers youth to become future leaders by developing necessary life skills, positive relationships and community awareness. As the premier youth leadership organization in the state, 4-H reaches hundreds of thousands of people annually through UGA Extension offices and 4-H facilities.

For more information about Georgia 4-H, contact your local UGA Extension office or visit georgia4h.org.

Georgia 4-H pilots innovative ag tech program

Georgia 4-H pilots innovative ag tech program

High school 4-H’ers are bridging technology gaps in the agriculture community with Georgia’s new 4-H Ag Tech Changemakers program, part of the national 4-H Tech Changemakers initiative.

Students trained as 4-H Tech Changemakers create educational opportunities for adults to learn essential workforce-related technology. Georgia 4-H created the 4-H Ag Tech Changemakers program to expand the subject area coverage to include agriculture-specific skills, and youth take the skills they learn to provide outreach programming to their local farming communities.

University of Georgia precision agriculture specialists developed and facilitated comprehensive training to start the program year in September 2022. The two-day experience in Tifton equipped the students with knowledge of cutting-edge agricultural methods, programs and equipment. Topic areas include drones, soil sampling, digital pest and weed identification, sprayer calibration, irrigation scheduling apps, and GPS guidance aids.

The 25 members of the first 4-H Ag Tech Changemakers cohort are led by UGA Cooperative Extension county 4-H and Agriculture and Natural Resources agents in a unique partnership between the program areas. Nine counties including Houston, Toombs, Decatur, Peach, Worth, Pulaski, Emanuel, Jackson and Ben Hill are represented.

Since September, more than 1,500 adults have been reached through 28 events. Relationships are being fostered with local agriculture-based associations and Georgia Farm Bureau offices as students take the lead to connect with the workforce.

Pulaski County 4-H’ers hosted a workshop for 110 farmers and farm business owners and introduced attendees to free weed and pest identification mobile apps. Jackson County 4-H’ers presented a drone usage course to the Hall County Master Gardeners and provided operation tips and application ideas. Participants were rewarded with the opportunity to fly a drone on-site.

Grant funding for 4-H Tech Changemakers provides youth with equipment to use in their communities. All nine counties received state-of-the-art drones, tablets, sprayer calibrators and guidance aid systems that allow students to teach with a hands-on approach.

“We are thrilled to expand our existing Tech Changemaker programming into the agriculture sector with this new program,” said Katie Bowker, program coordinator for Georgia 4-H Tech Changemakers. “Agriculture is a huge industry in Georgia and we are eager to connect students with new ag technologies. In turn, we connect our communities with them as well.”

Wes Porter, associate professor and Extension specialist for precision agriculture and irrigation, led the effort to create the initial training for youth and agents. Contributing UGA faculty, staff and graduate students include Jason EdenfieldSeth McAllisterColeman ByersLisa BaxterCody MathisSavannah TannerSimerjeet VirkDaniel JacksonTriston Hansford and Jason Mallard.

National 4-H Council facilitates the 4-H Tech Changemakers Program. The 2022-23 grant cycle is Georgia’s fourth year participating in the program. “Feedback from these first few months of Ag Tech Changemakers programming has been overwhelmingly positive, and we are looking forward to continuing to expand this initiative in the next year,” said Bowker.

Georgia 4-H empowers youth to become true leaders by developing necessary life skills, positive relationships, and community awareness. As the premier youth leadership organization in the state, 4-H reaches hundreds of thousands of people annually through UGA Extension county offices and 4-H facilities.

Georgia 4-H wins big at Western National Roundup

Five Georgia counties found success at the Western National Roundup in Denver, including a first-place victory by Oconee County 4-H in the National Family and Consumer Science Bowl. The Western National Roundup is the highest level of competition for many 4-H livestock, horse, and family and consumer science events.

Oconee County team members Robie Lucas, Alyssa Haag, Leah Szczepanski and Lily Ann Smith buzzed in to win by answering questions about responsible consumer habits, popular products, healthy living and smart spending for the Family and Consumer Science bowl. Lucas also earned first place individual in the written essay portion of the competition.

Cobb County 4-H trotted into second place in the National Horse Judging Competition. Team members Savannah Bryant, Ansley Scheiblauer, Finn Johnson and Karma Kilfoyle studied equine anatomy, breeds and performance standards and used their knowledge to judge and rank classes of horses. Scheiblauer also placed first in the performance class individual portion of the contest.

Natalie Ross, a senior from Morgan County, competed individually in Horse Judging and placed fourth overall.

A second Cobb County team with team members Sandhya Rajesh, Kshitij Badve, Haya Fatmi and Stefan Saboura placed third in the National Consumer Decision Making contest. The event includes situational product-placement classes, verbal reason delivery and “Groupthink” activities. Consumer scenarios are presented with products and options as they relate to a hypothetical consumer and contestants rank products based on the given needs.

Madison County 4-H galloped into third place in the National Horse Quiz Bowl contest.  Team members Alyssa Goldman, Georgia Kane, Elise Sparks and Clayton Adams are junior experts in equine trivia subjects, including anatomy, genetics, health and proper care.

Gordon County 4-H corralled a fourth-place win in the National Livestock Judging contest, an event similar to Horse Judging that includes cattle, swine, shee, and goats.  Kylie Hurd, Hunter Petty, Rebekah McElrath and Katie Reynolds competed against 27 state teams ranging from Hawaii to Pennsylvania.  Petty placed first in the nation in the cattle portion of the contest and the team finished as Reserve Champions in cattle.

“We are so proud of these teams representing Georgia on the national stage,” said Carole Knight, University of Georgia Extension 4-H specialist for livestock programs. “They have been practicing their specialties for months, and sometimes years, in preparation for these moments, and their hard work paid off.”

Contests at the Western National Roundup encourage 4-H’ers to develop confidence, leadership and teamwork skills. Participating teams must qualify at their state’s top level of competition to secure an invitation to the event.

Georgia 4-H empowers youth to become true leaders by developing necessary life skills, positive relationships and community awareness. As the premier youth leadership organization in the state, 4-H reaches hundreds of thousands of people annually through UGA Extension offices and 4-H facilities.

For more information about how to get involved with Georgia 4-H, contact your local UGA county Extension Office or visit www.georgia4h.org.

-by Allison Barrett and Josie Smith