As a way to educate the public on what the service provides, Laura Giaccaglia, Bolivar County extension coordinator, invited civic leaders and volunteers to the local office in Cleveland on Monday to present the agency's annual report.
"We will start with an update of what we have going on here in the county," said Giaccaglia. "First we have Craig Hankins here with us today. He is the county's new Ag Agent that will begin on Jan. 1."
Hankins, a native of Rolling Fork, took center stage and provided guest with a brief introduction.
"I originally grew up in Sharkey County before moving to Starkville with my family, who still farms there," said Hankins.
After high school, Hankins continued his education at Mississippi State, where he received a bachelor's degree in ag engineering. He will finish his master's degree in agronomy in December.
The job of the county's ag agent is to provide hands on assistance to county producers by advising, instructing and assisting individuals and families engaged in agriculture, agricultural-related processes, or home economics activities.
Hankins new position is no small task considering that there are 401,603 cropland acres in the county and over 1,200 operating farms.
According to Giaccaglia, who has directed all the county programs solely for nearly a year now, the service submitted approximately 20 soil test analysis for clients this year, made numerous plant disease diagnosis, sent multiple insects to the MSU campus for identification, submitted weekly county crop reports, and conducted quarterly Private Applicator Trainings.
Giaccaglia said that in addition to the agriculture services offered by the agency, the Extension Service dedicates a lot of its time and resources to enabling county youth to become self-directing, productive and contributing adults in their community.
"Three thousand, three hundred and eighty-two youth were involved in Bolivar County's 4-H Program through special interest projects, enrichment programs, organized clubs and other 4-H activities," she continued. "Our 170 volunteers help teach youth, ages 5-18, life skills that they will need in order to become productive citizens."
Giaccaglia added that the county office worked hard to get computers donated to help the youth of the county excel and more than 100 youth and adults were certified in Hunter Safety Education.
As part of the 4-H livestock program, Giaccalia introduced Anna Claire Sykes to the audience.
Sykes, who is only hired by the agency during livestock season, is from Indianola and was a member of the Sunflower County 4-H program for 11 years.
"I think that 4-H and the livestock program really help the kids get out and get a sense of responsibility, leadership and accomplishment," said Sykes.
Last year the county 4-H animal projects included over 80 youth and 40 volunteers.
In addition to these services, the Extension Service provides a Master Gardener Program, which provide volunteer help and support to property owners and gardeners across the county.
There is also a Mississippi Homemaker Volunteers Program where a group of adults meet monthly with a mission to strength families through education and community involvement by offering education programs such as; budgeting and finance, estate planning, nutrition, health issues, literacy, leadership and community involvement.
"Last year, this group of 20 members provided nearly 800 hours of community service," Giaccaglia said.
Also included in the agency is a 30-member forestry program.
"Believe it or not, we do have some forest land in Bolivar County," Giaccaglia said with a chuckle.
This group promotes an understanding of forests and forests based industries including wildlife, provides and understanding of conservation and hosts quarterly educational meeting.
One thing that the Extension Service values above others is the promotion of locally, or state grown commodities.
"Coupled with our partnership with Delta Rice Promotions, Inc. and Mississippi Farm Bureau the Extension Service promotes Mississippi and USA grown rice by giving away 2,000 bags of USA rice away each year," she added. "We provide rice nutritional facts to over 2,000 adults, educate youth in rice production, host the Annual Rice Tasting Luncheon and have exhibits at various trade shows and local festivals."
In January 1888, the Mississippi Legislature established the State Agricultural Experiment Station to be located at the A&M College, later to become Mississippi State University, near Starkville.
In 1900 the legislature established the first branch experiment station in McNeil and the Mississippi State Extension Services was born.
For more than 100 years, the Mississippi State University Extension Service has provided research-based information, educational programs, and technology transfer focused on issues and needs of the people of Mississippi, enabling them to make informed decisions about their economic, social, and cultural well-being.