Special to the Citizen:
One of Janet Woodard’s biggest regrets from her childhood is not being involved in the county’s 4-H program in her hometown of Ocilla. In her role as Morgan County’s 4-H leader, Woodard makes sure local children don’t experience the same void.
“If I could turn back time, yep, it would have been better for me if I had been involved,” said Woodard, whose son Will, and daughter, Claire, are active in the Morgan County 4-H program. “I wouldn’t take anything for the experience they have had through 4-H.”
Why the strong feelings? Ever since Woodard arrived as the University of Georgia Extension 4-H agent in Morgan County in 2007, she has seen the impact the youth-based organization has had on her county’s youngsters. Morgan County’s 4-H program offers activities that appeal to children of all ages and backgrounds. It’s a big reason why there are approximately 650 in a program that Woodard terms “very active.” “Every fifth grader and every sixth grader in our county are members. We go into their classroom and offer a lesson that meets their standards for the class, and we also have a club meeting, which allows students to learn valuable leadership skills,” Woodard said.
Morgan County 4-H has traditional club days for 7th-12th graders. The local 4-H program offers shooting awareness, fun and education teams, including modified trap, archery and B.B.; judging teams, including dairy, horse, poultry and consumer judging; and different projects the students can choose from that best suit their interests.
“Last year we had two students, Constance Johnson and Jay Moon, who competed in dairy and milk science, and we had a dairy adventure day. They planned the day, led tours on two dairy farms and organized a cheese tasting,” said Woodard.
Cloverleaf students (4th-6th graders) can choose from 59 different projects that culminate in a presentation given during competitions at Rock Eagle 4-H Center in Eatonton. For the older youth, projects are more specialized. They have to be actively involved in the project year round, which includes creating a portfolio.
Woodard’s tenure in Morgan County is her second in Extension work, following 11 plus years in Jeff Davis County. Woodard graduated from ABAC and UGA with a home economics education degree and moved to Hazlehurst.
After almost a year, the local Extension agent moved away, leaving the position vacant. Thanks to some persuasion from fellow agent friends, Woodard pursued the Jeff Davis County agent opening.
“I have a lot of college friends who were active 4-H’ers. Several of them became Extension agents. When I moved to Hazlehurst, they were saying, ‘There’s a job open, you need to come and be an Extension agent with us. It’s a lot of fun.’ I followed that path when the opportunity came open, and I’ve never looked back,” she said.
So what’s the most gratifying part of her role in 4-H? “I’m a people person and I’m also an educator, so I get to work with people and I get to educate in a fun way. It’s definitely a fun job, but it’s also a busy job,” Woodard said. “I don’t get very much sleep.” For more information or to contact UGA Extension in Morgan County, see www.caes.uga.edu/extension/morgan/.