Hancock County residents learn land management tips at workshop

Published By: Russell Boone October 1, 2019

Marc Thomas (center), director of field operations for Fort Valley State University’s Cooperative Extension Program, listens to concerns voiced by Stan Smith (left) and C. W. Watkins (right) during the Managing Your Land for Profit Workshop in Sparta.

Landowners and small farmers recently packed the main sanctuary of the Warren Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Sparta seeking information about federal loan programs and services, estate planning and forestry management.

From 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., more than 70 people from Hancock and surrounding counties attended the Managing Your Land for Profit Workshop. Fort Valley State University’s Cooperative Extension Program, the University of Georgia’s (UGA’s) Warnell School of Forestry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Southern Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education (SARE) program and the U.S. Forest Service all partnered to sponsor the event.

Workshop attendees listened to presentations from representatives of FVSU’s Cooperative Extension program, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Georgia Forestry Commission, the U.S. Forestry Service and McClendon Law and Counseling LLC.

Topics of discussion ranged from meeting qualification standards of USDA cost-share programs to timber management and will and estate planning.

Marc Thomas, director of field operations for FVSU’s Cooperative Extension program, moderated the workshop. He said it is important that people attend land management workshops because forests play a key role in Georgia’s environment and contributed more than $21.3 billion to the state’s economy in 2017.

“The majority of forestland in this state is owned by private, non-industrial landowners,” Thomas said. “There are many programs and services funded by the USDA to assist these private landowners in sustaining their timber production. These workshops also provide information on accessing these programs’ services,” said the Extension field operations director.

Additionally, Thomas said the workshops provide information about estate planning, and with the proper estate plan in place, landowners can control how their estate is distributed and minimize the chance of family strife and legal battles.   

“I think the seminar has been very beneficial in bringing awareness to individuals in this county to do more with their property and the resources that are available,” said C.W. Watkins, a lifelong citizen of Sparta and a retired educator with more than 34 years of service in the Hancock County School System. “With this program provided by Fort Valley State, it is making us more aware of what we need to do, where we need to look and who we can contact when we need help to manage our resources.”

Thomas said more workshops are scheduled for the future based on available funding. The workshops are part of a program supported through a grant by the Southern (SARE) Program.

For more information about upcoming workshops, contact Thomas at (478) 825-6296 or thomasm@fvsu.edu.