Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

July 24, 2013

Extension agent grew into his job

VALDOSTA — As a kid, Jake Price went to work with his father.

Since his dad was a veterinarian who did a lot of work with cows and cow diseases, going to work with him meant going from farm to farm around Ashburn, where he grew up.

In doing so, he developed what would be a life-long interest in agriculture.

It’s what led him to work towards his degree in agriculture. In the summers, Price would work as an insect scout, going through cotton and peanut fields, searching for signs of an insect infestation. He would then work with the farmers and county extension agents, giving them the information they needed to determine if and when crops needed to be sprayed.

That work introduced him to county extension agents and to the work they do. When he finished college, Price started working as a county extension agent.

As part of the extension services offered by the University of Georgia’s College of Agriculture, county extension agents serve as a bridge.

“We bring all of the research to the community,” said Price. “We’re kind of the point of contact. People can talk to us instead of trying to track down a researcher ... It’s so broad, that it’s hard to explain what we do.”

Extension agents find themselves fielding questions from everyone from farmers to gardeners, landscapers to homeowners. Agents pull from a broad swath of research on a variety of agricultural topics.

Take cotton, for example.

There are hundreds of kinds of cotton seed. If you’re interested in growing cotton, how do you choose a seed?

Research.

University of Georgia researchers have researched cotton yields for South Georgia conditions, planting plots, harvesting them and calculating the yields.

“If you find one that yields 200 more pounds in the soil here, that’s a distinct advantage. It’s got more upside.”

Of course, after the research is done, it still needs to get into the hands of farmers. That’s why Price, and other extension agents like him across the state, plan meetings with farmers in the winter months before the growing season. They present research and answer questions.

They do the same thing for peanuts, corn and other popular Georgia crops.

And that’s just the crop itself. They do the same level of research on plant diseases, optimal soil conditions and insects that can threaten crops.

And that’s just farming. They also help landscapers, helping them control weeds and keeping yards healthy.

“It helps them do a better job for their clients.”

They work with homeowners as well, helping them understand their soil and their plants.

Any given day might find Price helping a farmer figure out if a new batch of weeds are a noxious threat, analyzing why fish are dying in a pond, helping 4-Hers prepare projects, talking with a homeowner about whether she needs to fumigate for termites or plowing through all the paperwork that comes with the job. Or, some days, all of that at once.

“It can be overwhelming sometimes, having a complete shift of thought from one thing to the other.”

Still, Price values the work, the chance to be on the front lines of agricultural research, to help people and to see kids grow through the 4-H program. And he’s busy, of course, researching satsumas, a type of tangerine that he thinks could be a good crop for the area.

“It’s sweet and easy to peel, but it has to have some cold weather, which is why they can’t grow it down in south Florida. I think it could be grown here ... and I think there’s some interest out there. People are always looking for something to do with a few acres.”

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