South Georgia 4-H members learned the importance of water conservation during the 4-H20 Camp’s stop at the University of Georgia’s C.M. Stripling Irrigation Research Park (SIRP) in Camilla, Georgia, on Wednesday, June 14.
The presenters, including several UGA faculty and staff, introduced approximately 100 students to the various ways water is used in agriculture. During all three days of this year’s camp, including Thursday’s last stop at a water park, Water World, in Dothan, Alabama, presenters taught children to conserve water, a valuable natural resource.
“Our main goal is to help kids gain a better understanding of the importance of water in this region, where it is so pivotal to the success of our farmers,” said Calvin Perry, SIRP superintendent. “Because of the role agriculture plays in our state, south Georgia is a major user of water. We can all be more conservative and more efficient.”
On Wednesday, the students heard from UGA Cooperative Extension specialist Gary Hawkins, who discussed water resource management, and Mitchell County, Georgia, 4-H member Kyle Hamilton, who talked about solar power and pumping water for agricultural purposes. Extension irrigation specialist Wes Porter discussed irrigation in agricultural crops while emphasizing water efficiency.
Other speakers included UGA Extension 4-H Specialist Melanie Biersmith; Mitchell County Family and Consumer Sciences agent Sylvia Davis; and Mitchell County 4-H program assistant Debra Cox.
The Mitchell County Extension office started 4-H20 Camp in 2008 amid growing concerns over water use in south Georgia. Since then, the camp has grown tremendously and attracts participation from other counties and other states.
“We started the 4-H2O Camp 10 years ago in the wake of the water wars with Georgia, Florida and Alabama,” said Jennifer Grogan, Mitchell County Extension coordinator and 4-H agent. “Because of Mitchell County's place in the agricultural world, we wanted our youth to understand why it is important to save water.”
Water is also an important resource for animals in the ecosystem, a message that Nick Fuhrman, also known as “Ranger Nick,” emphasized to the students. Fuhrman, an associate professor in UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, allowed the students to see and interact with many of the animals he uses as teaching tools on the “Ranger Nick” segments of the “Georgia Farm Monitor” television show.
“Having Ranger Nick here with his animals shows the 4-H’ers that we’re not the only ones using water. Water conservation is extremely important to the future of these animals, and I’m glad he was able to be here to emphasize that point,” Perry said.
The 4-H students participated in different water conservation activities at SIRP. They made snow cones from ice, created a mural and played in water under a center irrigation pivot.
The 4-H2O Camp began on Tuesday, June 13, at Gin Creek in Colquitt County, Georgia.
(Michael Pannell is a Young Scholars Program intern on the UGA Tifton campus.)