Sophia Rodriguez’s 4-H project hit close to home for the Liberty County, Georgia, senior.After her dad was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while serving in the military, Rodriguez, a fifth-year 4-H member and former Georgia 4-H State Board vice president, wanted to create a support system for military kids like herself.“Different people go through different things regardless of severity, and I wanted to create a support system to show the validity of their feelings,” Rodriguez said.She created Tie-Dye for Troops, a military youth program in Liberty County, where most of the 4-H members’ parents serve at Fort Stewart.In the program, Rodriguez and fellow 4-H leaders visit the base’s School Age Centers, where they teach children lessons on the importance of feelings, color and creativity.“We begin with asking kids simple questions they can easily answer, such as, ‘Do you like the color green?’ And they tell us whether or not they do and why,” she said. “Then we transition into a lesson on why it’s okay to feel or think certain ways.”One of the activities Rodriguez started was tie-dying pillowcases. She explained that colors can get messy and chaotic, but with time and patience they can make something beautiful.“I tell the students to squeeze their pillow whenever they feel alone,” Rodriguez said. “Because we made them together, I wanted it to serve as a reminder that we’re always there for them and that their feelings matter.”Rodriguez said that she loves being a part of something bigger than herself and showing students the importance of taking care of their mental health.“Contributing to the community is so important, and I loved every minute of helping the kids understand that it’s okay to ask for help,” she said.Kasey Bozeman, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension 4-H agent in Liberty County, said that Rodriguez goes above and beyond to make this program successful.“Sophia is an incredible leader, and she does a great job of leading this program while also managing to attend college classes, play sports and be involved in other clubs and organizations,” Bozeman said. “Having known Sophia for the past six years, I’ve seen her leadership skills flourish through her 4-H involvement. This is one of many projects she has led that impacted others. I’m incredibly honored and blessed to know her.”Rodriguez talks about her project at national conferences and workshops so that other military kids across the country can benefit from it.“While getting to share about my project has been awesome, the most rewarding part is getting to actually teach the lesson with military kids,” she said. “I know exactly what it is like for these kids — some days it can just be really hard. I hope my project is fun and exciting, but that it also leaves them with something tangible to remember to always be positive and have hope.”Other than being the creator of this military youth program, Rodriguez is a member of Georgia 4-H’s performing arts group Clovers and Company, a military ambassador and a Health Rocks! ambassador. She also competes in land judging, forestry judging and poultry judging.Rodriguez plans to attend UGA after she graduates from high school in the spring. She hopes to continue her journey with 4-H on the collegiate level while upholding the 4-H motto: “To make the best better.”Julie Jernigan is an intern at the UGA Tifton campus.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) plant breeders almost $1 million in grants this fiscal year to produce improved cotton and peanut varieties.These plant breeders have been tapped to make Georgia’s most profitable row crops more sustainable and productive.Searching for softer cotton Regents’ Professor Andrew Paterson, director of the Plant Genome Mapping Laboratory and member of the CAES Department of Crop and Soil Sciences and the Franklin College departments of Plant Biology and Genetics, and Peng Chee, his fellow crop and soil sciences professor, are pinpointing cotton genes that affect the length of cotton fibers.Longer fibers lead to softer cotton fabrics and a higher per-pound price for farmers.Paterson and Chee will focus on upland cotton, which is a common name for the cotton species most widely grown in the U.S. Georgia farmers grew more than 1 million acres and $967 million worth of upland cotton in 2016.Upland cotton typically produces cotton with short or medium fibers, and those fibers can be even shorter if the cotton plant is stressed. However, mutations of upland cotton created by the researchers produce longer fibers.Supported by a $490,000 NIFA grant, Paterson and Chee will map genes connected to superior fiber qualities in this mutated upland cotton. Eventually, they will incorporate those genes into cotton varieties known for their hardiness, productivity and efficiency.“The long-term goal of the proposed project is to enrich genetic diversity and accelerate the breeding progress in the elite gene pool of one the most economically important and genetically vulnerable major U.S. crops: cotton,” Paterson said.For more information on Paterson and Chee’s proposal, visit tinyurl.com/uplandcotton.Looking to the peanut’s rootsThe average American eats about 6 pounds of peanuts a year. To meet that demand, farmers in Georgia grow more than 700,000 acres of the state’s signature legume.For each of those acres, farmers invest between $500 and $770 into seeds, pesticides, irrigation and herbicides. Tapping into the resilience of the peanut’s wild ancestors should substantially bring down that per-acre price, said Soraya Leal-Bertioli, UGA senior research scientist.Bertioli, who worked with the international team of scientists that traced the evolution of the modern peanut to its wild ancestors in the Andes Mountains in 2016, received a $445,000 grant from NIFA to find the genetic traits that protected ancient peanuts from fungal and insect problems as well as other diseases.“In the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, hundreds of wild peanut populations were collected from the wild and deposited in the USDA seed bank,” she said. “Several studies show that these species carry resistance to pests and diseases that affect the peanut crop.”Most of these species have never been bred with modern varieties. By using modern techniques, Bertioli hopes to introduce these ancient, naturally-occurring resistance traits into modern lines of productive peanuts.Breeding peanut varieties with the resistance of their wild relatives that can keep up with modern production levels will allow farmers to produce peanuts with fewer chemicals at a lower cost.For more information on Bertioli’s proposal, visit tinyurl.com/sustainablepeanuts.
The 1993 film ‘Cool Runnings’ (AP Photo/File)The Jamaican bobsled team may be headed to another Olympics.The catch: It needs a lot of money, and it needs it fast.Olympic organizers said Saturday that Jamaica has qualified for the two-man competition at next month’s Sochi Games, though it remains unclear if the fledgling squad will get a chance to race. Funding is a serious problem and sled driver Winston Watts told The Associated Press on Saturday that he’s trying to raise as much as $80,000 in the next couple weeks to cover travel and equipment costs.“Right now,” Watts said, “we’re at zero.”They are certainly among the world’s most storied bobsled teams, and that has little to do with results. Jamaica first competed in Olympic bobsledding in 1988 at the Calgary Games, a story that inspired the “Cool Runnings” film. For a nation lacking bobsled tradition, or snowy winters, Jamaica has often fared quite well on the international circuits.It’s been 12 years since Jamaica has had a sled in the Olympics, with Watts finishing 28th at the Salt Lake City Games with Lascelles Brown — now a key part of Canada’s national team. Brown won a medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games, one where the Jamaicans were hoping to compete but were again thwarted by funding issues.Still, the 46-year-old Watts — who called himself “retired” from sliding for nearly a decade — has held on to hope of sliding again on the sport’s biggest stage.“We’re pretty good,” Watts said. “We’re not there with the rest of the world, of course. But we if had some more sources for funding, we’d have a better chance.”He started the season thinking he could get a four-man sled ready for Sochi, before quickly realizing that was too expensive. His focus then shifted to the two-man sled and by racing in a number of lower-tier events at tracks in Park City, Lake Placid and Calgary in recent months, Watts and brakeman Marvin Dixon piled up enough points to get into the Olympic mix.Sochi officials tweeted word Saturday that the Jamaicans were in, but the International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation — the sport’s governing body — is not expected to confirm before Sunday at the earliest how many nations qualified for the Olympic fields.Watts said he’s confident that Jamaica is qualified.“I’m not a person who likes to quit,” Watts said. “I put my heart into it and I know for a fact that people are going to help this team.”
Diane and Jeff PustVan Dorm Realty, located in West Olympia, has been selling homes for over 30 years. Now in its second generation of family-ownership, Jeff and Diane Pust are providing practical advice to Thurston County residents.Should I sell now is a question that Jeff Pust is frequently asked.“You can’t wait for the ‘right time’; it’s all relative,” answers Pust. “Yes, property values have gone down, but so have everyone else’s so there is the potential to buy a new home at a reduced price.”Pust adds that many Van Dorm clients are choosing to sell now because they see opportunities in the market.“For example, a client may choose to sell their current home because they notice a beautiful home in a price range that they could not have afforded a few years ago,” comments Pust.Alternatively, some folks are at a stage in life where their large home is too large. They are using this time as an opportunity to sell their large home, purchase a smaller more manageable home and using the difference to take advantage of another reduced price real estate purchase like a second home or investment property. “This would not have made financial sense a few years ago” notes Pust.Regardless, home owners are seeing the potential in the market that didn’t exist five years ago.Add in very low interest rates and suddenly it becomes a lucrative decision to sell your home. “Take advantage of phenomenal interest rates and good prices,” says Pust.Pust notes that there are signs that the housing market is turning.“It may be bold to say, but I believe that housing prices are on their way up. I anticipate that, at the end of the year, we will look back and say that housing prices turned this year,” remarks Pust.“If you are of the mindset that you are going to hold out until prices come back, then you need to remember that everyone else’s prices will also start to increase,” comments Pust. “When the market starts to turn, housing will go up, in general.”Pust compares the housing industry to all investment options. “If you look at your home as one part of your investment portfolio, then you should constantly be evaluating whether you can earn a better return on your investment. Perhaps now is the time to shift your money from one (home) investment to another,” summarizes Pust.Van Dorm Realty1530 Black Lake Blvd SW, Suite FOlympia, WA 98502360.943.3800 Facebook1Tweet0Pin0