Members of the quorum court were treated to a “Picnic on the Square” presented by Montgomery County 4-H members and county extension service before last Monday’s meeting.
Montgomery County 4-Hers served a picnic style meal for those in attendance before the meeting. Extension Officers then shared information with the JOPs about what the extension office and 4-H are doing to promote vitality in the county on several levels.
Agricultural Extension Agent Randy Black presented information about the 4-H Youth Development Impact in Montgomery County.
Montgomery County 4-H Program works with 230 area youth. This year they focused on developing skills that will benefit members in the STEM fields. STEM, which is short for Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, has become a force within our country with 8.8 million jobs in the U.S. falling into this category.
Black explained that STEM jobs require advanced education and training. Arkansas’s college attendance rate lags behind the national average of 66 percent. Montgomery County 4-H Clubs are working to encourage and prepare 4-Hers as they walk a path through the STEM programs available in Arkansas and abroad.
Black shifted the topic to agriculture and soil fertility. He shared that Montgomery County is home to 449 farms with 74,437 acres of land according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture. Cattle farming garners the lion’s share of the counties farming operations.
Black stated that one of the main tasks cattle farmers face is feeding their cattle. Producers spent a large portion of their time harvesting hay for winter feeding. He added that improvements in soil fertility will improve the quality while increasing the quantity of forages being produced for hay and grazing.
Black shared that he had made 70 site visits and held five demonstrations last year. Over 50 percent of those contacted stated they had gained knowledge in proper soil sampling and the proper time to fertilize. Eighty six percent stated they plan to start or increase the taking of soil samples, while 100 percent stated they plan to start or increase the use of fertilizer.
Home Extension Agent Amy Monk spoke on Community and Economic Development Impact and their efforts to boost voter engagement. She pointed out that many voters skip voting on ballot issues. She explained that ballot issues can be difficult to understand and many voters don’t feel they have time to properly research the issues.
The Extension Service set up voter displays in three locations to help distribute voter guides. Voter guides include a neutral summary of ballot issues, basic questions and answers regarding what the proposal would do. The voter guide also provided definitions of terms used in the proposals and it shared views from both sides of the issue. It also shared an example of what ballot titles would like on election day, a sheet to mark and take with you and chart highlighting differences between the two marijuana proposals on last year’s ballot.
Monk also discussed their family and consumer sciences efforts to impact family financial fitness.
The Montgomery County Extension Service did several things to help residents improve their financial fitness. One of the programs was an estate planning workshop. The workshop was a two session event which was attended by 47 people. They also taught a budgeting lesson to 89 high school students. They also attended a Get Real event for 51 high school students.
They also hosted a financial fair with exhibits addressing credit, saving, home equity, identity theft and impulse buying. They also promoted the AR529 program for college savings to 225 parents.
The quorum court discussed a sound system for the court room, but the issue was tabled until a later meeting.