Hi, my name is Daniel Oliphant. I attend Liberty County High School and this summer I am participating in Liberty County’s Summer Youth Employment Program. Due to my interest in learning more about agriculture, I have been given the opportunity to work with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension. My supervisor is the Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent, Ashley Hoppers, from the Liberty County office.
During my first week, Ms. Ashley explained that UGA Cooperative Extension is a public service outreach unit of the University of Georgia, and there is an office in each of Georgia’s 159 counties. Staff members in these offices provide Georgians with free research-based information on material related to agriculture and the environment, lawns and home gardens, animals, community well-being, youth, family and much more.
Long ago, when modern forms of communication were non-existent, people did not have as much access to the latest, research-based information. Back in that era, agriculture was a huge part of people’s everyday lives; however, some methods of farming proved to be ineffective. Back then, people relied on Extension to bring new information to the public. Now, Extension is still relevant, and Agents are placed in all 159 counties across the state with a mission to educate, reach out, and extend a helping hand.
Luckily, I got the chance to experience what it is like working in an Extension office. Ms. Ashley let me tag along for some of her numerous site visits, which eventually became my personal favorite part of the job. During these visits, we go out to different locations across the county. The usual happenings included collecting research data, helping individuals in the community, and meeting with local farmers. One farmer particularly stood out to me: Mr. Herbert Stacy.
Mr. Stacy practices the agricultural techniques called aquaponics and hydroponics. Neither of these farming techniques involves growing plants in soil! This form of raising plant-life is uncommon, but is slowly becoming more popular. According to Ms. Ashley, “This is especially true in urban areas where space for growing vegetables is limited.”
Aquaponics is a farming method where fish and plants live together. The fish create a natural fertilizer for the plants and the plants, in turn, purify the water. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in water with a liquid fertilizer solution so that they receive all the nutrients that they need.
When I first learned about this new way of farming, I was perplexed by this innovative idea. A lot of you may be confused as well, so I asked Mr. Stacy to explain a little bit more about his unique garden. Some of the questions I asked are as follows:
Q: What are some of the challenges of owning an aquaponic/hydroponic garden?
A: “Cost of initial setup, labor, insects harmful to plants, and plant diseases.”
Q: Explain how agriculture will always be relevant.
A: “Humans have to eat something to sustain life…We must grow more efficiently to keep up with the growing pressures on farms. Also, with aquaponics, we can grow plants and raise fish safely and efficiently.”
Q: What made you interested in farming?
A: “I wanted to provide an alternative healthy lifestyle for me and my family. As more and more people found out about what I was doing it just got bigger and bigger. Now people come in begging for the vegetables.”
Q: What are the primary crops that you grow? What is the most popular?
A: “Greens, tomatoes, herbs, kale, peppers and cucumbers. The most popular are lettuce and tomatoes.”
Q: Where can people get your produce?
A: “They can of course get the vegetables here at Stacy’s Florist Inc., at some Farmers Markets and a few restaurants.”
Q: Any advice for people interested in gardening?
A: “It’s very easy to start with a small Hydroponic Kratky system, (least cost) and understand how to grow in water.”
Without the Summer Youth Employment Program, I may have never been given the opportunity to learn about Stacy’s Florist. The shop that I disregarded in the past every time I went to buy a refreshing drink from Parker’s is actually a house filled with wonders! I’d like to thank Herbert Stacy for allowing me to take a tour of his facility. You can visit his shop at 69 Old Sunbury Rd, Hinesville, GA 31313.
For more information about UGA Cooperative Extension in Liberty County, give us a call at 912-876-2133, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or come by the office. We’re located in the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hinesville at 100 Main Street.