One goal: to feed the world

Published 11:12 am Wednesday, January 25, 2023

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Tracy K. Hall

We have new lover of Sumter County. Chelsea Lopez is serving us as UGA’s and Sumter County’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent. She is quick to say she has big shoes to fill as she is stepping into a position once held by Bill Starr. She speaks with Bill frequently and refers to him as a mentor who has been “a refreshing person” to help introduce her to the ways of the Sumter County farmer.

Chelsea took over the position at the beginning of the year. Her search for the right fit was an extensive one. After graduating University of Florida and with a bachelor’s degree, and the University of Tennessee with her master’s degree she had a far and wide search to find her place in the agricultural world. She searched Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee. She grew partial to Georgia because the state sees farming “as a way of life and not something that is just going on in the background.” She is also learning from a very diverse pool in our state as our agricultural world is not limited to one specific task, crop, group of people or size of operation.

Chelsea is passionate about educating. However, as most good educators are, she is equally passionate about learning. She sees those in our agricultural sector as great teachers. When speaking of people in our ag community she says, “They let you into their life. Some of these farmers rely on me and I love that. I love being able to learn from them. Sumter County has been very welcoming, the people are eager and excited to meet me.”

What does Chelsea do, exactly? As the extension agent she sees herself as an educator. She is a liaison between the vast amount of information and research on farming and ranching and the farmer or the public in general. She can speak on soil properties, how to get better yields, determine what is causing less than fruitful fields, speak on what animals are best suited to lands, and how to get the most impact with a good investment. She sees her preventative role as being just as, if not more significant than showing up when there is a problem. She enjoys the idea of being out of the office both learning our landscape as well as the farmer. She is determined to establish a trustworthy relationship with farmers before there is a need identified as she wants them to see her as a trusted source when a problem might come up.

She is eager to find her place in our agricultural community. She holds working in partnership as a high value. She expects to learn from our residents and share what she has learned. Having a veterinarian back ground, she is taking in all aspects of the job to best serve in her new found spot. In the State of Georgia, agricultural is our number one economic producer, so she knows she is entering an important vocation. She also knows that our farmers are as diverse as the crops they grow. While we have older generations of farmer, there are also upcoming farmers and she hopes to build a bridge between the two. One of the areas where she can be of help is in technological advances and making suggestions on how to best use technology no matter what the farmer or rancher may be used to employing. She knows farmers are “all a family and tight knit, but also very individualized and personal.” Just as every doctor has a particular style and demeanor, so does the farmer. Learning those styles and the needs and benefits of each style is something she keeps on the top of her mind.

She says she is much like a farmer, in that she may go home tired, but “can’t wait for tomorrow. We all have the same goal, to feed the world.”

A meet and greet will be held to get to know Chelsea. It will be on Monday, January 30, 2023 at 5pm at the extension office at 127 William Bowen Point in Americus. The extension office is located beside the Georgia State Patrol Building off of HW 19. Welcome to Sumter County, Chelsea!