Due to the implementation of social distancing, agriculture and natural resources (ANR) agents and program assistants, are relying on modern technology to communicate and educate their clients with Cooperative Extension programming.
Smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers allow agents to use methods such as ZOOM remote teleconferencing to substitute their visits or hold trainings.
“It is a different feel from going out to the field or to someone’s property to physically see the problem,” said Joshua Dawson, FVSU’s Extension agent for Lowndes County. “I have assisted farmers and homeowners in the past through email and texts, but never 100 percent telecommunication,” Dawson said.
The FVSU Extension agent added that he is learning how to use ZOOM and using it to provide programming to his clients and collaborate with various local, in state, out of state and federal agencies.
In addition, Titus Andrews, area Extension agent housed in Laurens County, said he is able to provide service to his clients with the use of his smartphone. Andrews said he tells his clients to take a picture of the problem or send him a text using their device. He said he then replies with a phone call, text or photograph to provide them with the needed information.
Bobby Solomon, FVSU Extension agent for Talbot County, said when he told his clients his visits were being halted due to the Coronavirus pandemic, some were disappointed, but understood due to the present circumstances.
Trent DeSue, one of Solomon’s clients, said he appreciates the service the FVSU agent is providing during the Coronavirus pandemic.
“I received great support from Fort Valley State University and my county Extension agent during this crisis,” said DeSue, who owns a farm in Talbotton where he grows watermelons and raises goats. “I’ve had access to online ZOOM sessions and seminars,” he said. He also said that Solomon is helpful, and he’s always avaliable by phone to answer all of his questions concerning his farm.
Solomon and his fellow ANR agents said relying on modern technology will make them more efficient in servicing clients in the future. “Using technology improves my efficiency by enabling me to utilize more flexible scheduling and achieve better work-life balance,” Solomon said.
Dr. Mark Latimore Jr., FVSU’s Extension administrator, commented on the agents efforts in providing service to their clients during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Since we’ve started teleworking, it has been a smooth transition. Through our county Extension agents and other field staff, we want to continue addressing the needs of all Georgians during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Latimore said.
For more information about FVSU’s Cooperative Extension Program, or upcoming virtual trainings call (478) 825-6296.