Irwin County’s farm gate value was $110 million in 2013, due in part to the work and advice of University of Georgia Extension agricultural agent Phillip Edwards.
“I love Extension, and I love what we do. It has made a big difference in this state for a long time,” Edwards said. “I’m proud to be able to continue that.”
Edwards’ main responsibility in Irwin County is assisting local farmers with high value crops like cotton, peanuts, corn and grapes. All are key crops in Irwin County, generating $213 million in agricultural output last year.
So what does Edwards say is the most gratifying part of his job when it comes to assisting farmers?
“I don’t know, it’s all pretty gratifying, maybe helping people find answers to questions that they have and find solutions to problems and helping them be profitable,” Edwards said. “I hope I do well with what I do. We take information and put it out here where the farmers can use it. A lot of times they’ll call with a question we don’t know the answer to. We have access to our (university) specialists, and they are a very important part in helping us do our job and do it to the best of our ability.”
Though Edwards has seen success as an Extension agent, it was not the career he envisioned growing up in DeKalb County. However, it was the right choice for a man whose initial dream was to be a landscape architect.
“I care about people. I care about getting them the right information,” said Edwards, who credits former agent Greg Tankersley for helping him transition to a career as a county agent. “It’s like the 4-H model, you learn by doing, and that’s how I learned to be a county agent — by learning from another experienced agent.”
Edwards has served in Extension since 1986. He started in Screven County, moved to Terrell County in 1987 and then to Irwin County in 1988.
Along with providing essential information to farmers, Edwards also plays a key role in research conducted by UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. He participates in cotton variety trials, peanut variety trials and corn variety trials in Irwin County.
His responsibilities also include a newsletter which was previously distributed three times per month but has transitioned into a blog. “I just try to inform people of some of the key things that are going on,” Edward said.
According to the UGA Farm Gate Value Report, in 2012 Irwin County produced 22,612 acres of peanuts, resulting in $25.7 million in farm gate value, and 35,032 acres of cotton, leading to $32 million in value. Irwin County also was the top grape producer in the state with 635 acres produced.
For more information or to contact Irwin County’s Extension office, go to www.caes.uga.edu/extension/irwin.