The Oconee County Cooperative Extension started the new year in a new home. They have moved to the J. Phil Campbell Sr. Natural Resource Conservation Center, which has been operated by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences as a research and education center since August 2012.
The staff moved into about 4,000 square feet in the main building of the agricultural experiment station on Experiment Station Road and Government Station Road in Watkinsville.
For the past several decades, Oconee’s Extension staff has worked out of a converted ranch-style house behind the Oconee County courthouse, which left limited room for workshops, meetings and office space. The new space will allow them to host more training activities, youth programs and work in a more functional office area.
“Oconee County is very pleased to cooperate with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Science to house the Oconee County Extension office in this location,” said Oconee County Commission Chairman Melvin Davis. “This facility will provide the adults and 4-H youth with a better facility to house the offices as well as for conducting adult and 4-H youth programs for our citizens.”
In early 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced they would close the J. Phil Campbell Sr. Natural Resource Conservation Center. In August UGA administrators signed an agreement to transfer management of the Campbell facility to the university.
Farm Superintendent Eric Elsner, his farm management staff and the Oconee County Extension staffers are the first UGA employees to move their offices to the 1,070-acre facility since the university took over operations there last summer.
“Our goal is to rebuild the Campbell facility as a center of excellence for research, teaching, and Extension in agriculture and natural resource management,” said Harald Scherm, assistant dean for research for the college. “Hosting the Oconee County Extension office at the center is the first step toward building a synergistic team of research and Extension scientists at the facility to address critical issues related to sustainable crop and animal production systems, soil protection, and water quality and conservation.”
In addition to the Oconee County Extension office, plans for the center include a Piedmont Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Partnership, the college’s Sustainable Grazing Systems Program, and a wide-array of Extension, teaching and research activities at the interface of agriculture and natural resource management.