I have never particularly liked change. Perhaps one of the worst days of my young life was when I entered the eighth grade. After attending Appling Elementary School for seven years and being taught by only four teachers for that entire time, I was petrified at the thought of moving on up to Harlem High with six teachers for the eighth grade alone.
New faces, changing classes, a mean P.E. teacher and a different lunch schedule just did not excite this young country boy in the least. Little did I know that traumatic experience was the beginning of a life full of changes.
Now I've learned to live with and understand that change is often a good thing. However, that knowledge hasn't really changed my attitude about stuff that just keeps on changing.
Back in the early 1970s, when I received my first appointment in The University of Georgia's Cooperative Extension Service, the agricultural world was scientifically advanced compared to many other industries of that day. Soil and leaf analysis results were used throughout agronomic and commercial horticultural production.
Chemistry was wide open in its development of new and more effective herbicides and insecticides to help farmers in their war with insects and weeds. Nematodes were running rampant in the soybean and cotton fields of our state and plant pathologists were hard at work studying their life cycles as they attempted to develop new and improved nematicides that would defeat the next strain of those microscopic critters.
While research scientists were busy discovering new and better ways and products, county agents were helping them do applied research on the new products and techniques. Once the tests had reached a verdict, those same county agents went about their appointed rounds in spreading the research-based findings to those who needed it. "Putting Knowledge to Work" was part of our letterhead and those who were worth their salt did just that.
Production meetings, radio shows, newspaper columns, farm visits, farm tours and newsletters were just a few of the ways that the message was spread. A lot of personal contact took place.
One of my early mentors and a dear friend, Bill Craven, made a comment once that stuck in the corner of my mind. Craven, a longtime county agent in rural Georgia and South Carolina, mused that the best public relations were private relations with the folks that we served. He went on to say that a county agent should know the name of the family dog on every farm in his county. I don't think that I ever accomplished that lofty goal, but I sure did agree with the philosophy behind it.
For the past three months, I have had the privilege to serve the good residents of Hall County as their county agent once again. Oh, it was very temporary and for a mere 12 hours each week, but it was an excellent experience. When I left a wonderful situation and the green fields of Walton County in 1992 to come to the hills and valleys of Hall, I in some ways dreaded the change.
I was so comfortable and secure. I knew just about everyone and loved that community. I was following Bob Lowe, who I deemed one of Georgia's finest, and he had developed quite a program. As I said earlier, often change is a good thing and Hall County was certainly a good change for me.
As I returned this past January, I was again following one of Georgia's best county agents.
Truly, Billy Skaggs had done well and accomplished much during his tenure. Very soon I also realized that times and things were a-changing in the world of Extension education.
While we certainly used computers during the last half of my career, they have now replaced so many items that were once staples around any county agent's office. While the phone still rings often, email requests have probably gone up twentyfold. My old county agent handbook that we once considered absolutely necessary is no more.
Another change just took place at the Hall County Extension Office. This one, in my humble opinion, is a good one. Michael Wheeler became our County Extension Coordinator today. He most recently served as county agent in Gilmer County and I'm glad he's coming our way. Yes, change can be good.
Michael moves back to the county of his youth, while this old country scribe moves back into his fulltime role as the Pop-Pop of Jack and Charlie. Oh yes, some change is definitely good.
Gene Anderson served as interim agriculture agent and county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension in Hall County, www.hallcounty.org/extension.