Southwest Georgia District Extension Director Embraces New Job
Monday, May 23rd, 2016
Tim Varnedore’s 28-year experience working in University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, not to mention his youth as a 4-H’er spent on his family’s farm, has prepared him for his newest Extension position: Southwest District director.
Since 1987, Varnedore has worked as a county agent in Georgia’s Ben Hill, Crisp, Appling and Jeff Davis counties and, as of May 1, he is embracing his newest responsibilities in Tifton.
“I know this position carries huge accountability, and I welcome the opportunity. I understand we have had a lot of newly hired agents in the last few years. I’m hoping, with my experiences in different counties in different districts, that I have some insight that can help guide these men and women to successful careers with UGA Cooperative Extension,” Varnedore said. “I feel I can offer advice along the way to help them be successful.”
As district director, Varnedore supervises 41 Georgia counties that extend as far north as Taylor and Peach counties and as far east as Clinch County. He manages Agriculture and Natural Resources, 4-H Youth Development and Family and Consumer Sciences agents. Varnedore served as county extension coordinator in Jeff Davis County prior to arriving in Tifton.
“Mr. Varnedore understands the important relationship between the county extension office, local government and the local community. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience, and is well-prepared to lead our programs in this area of the state,” said Greg Price, director of extension county operations.
Varnedore was heavily influenced by agriculture as a child. He grew up on a family farm in Bacon County, Georgia, with parents who had eight chicken houses, raised cattle and hogs, and farmed row crops. He embraced farm life, and his many years as an ANR agent have taught him a love of the land and a special appreciation for farmers.
“Agriculture is a way of life in the South, and I do not think there is one person who is not touched by it in some way. Our extension programming is so very important to not only farmers and the ag industry, but to all of our citizens as it provides unbiased, research-based information that is taken directly back to the farm and home and put into practice,” Varnedore said.
Attending school in Bacon County, Varnedore was introduced to extension and 4-H and was receptive to the program’s message. He quickly became an active participant in the nationally renowned 4-H program, which was instrumental in Varnedore’s pursuit of his current career path.
“I loved the farm, loved the agricultural life, but the thing that extension and 4-H and my county agents taught me was that there was another world outside the county line. If it hadn’t been for them, I wouldn’t have ever seen the other side of that ‘Welcome to Bacon County’ sign. They carried me all over the state to livestock shows and other 4-H events,” Varnedore said.
That is the message that extension, specifically 4-H, offers to all young people, Varnedore said.
“If I had not been involved in 4-H and not had that interaction with my 4-H agents and later my county ag agents, where would I be today? I definitely would not be here,” he said. “I think there’s a lot that our agents can do, especially in regard to influencing our youth in a positive direction. In Jeff Davis [County] a few years ago, we had the state 4-H president (Oakley Perry) [living there.] That young man hardly ever left Jeff Davis County. Now he’s flying all over the country, going to different seminars, teaching and instructing at conferences on bullying. I have seen, firsthand, the influence that extension and county agents can have on young people.”
Varnedore oversees 75 agents along with nearly 100 support staff members with various specialties, in counties that specialize in different commodities and job responsibilities. He wants his agents and staff to stay on the forefront of technology, which is changing the way extension serves its clients.
“I want to see our agents stay abreast with what’s going on with the new technology that’s coming out so they can fully utilize it in their counties to fulfill Cooperative Extension’s mission,” Varnedore said.
Clint Thompson is public relations coordinator for the University of Georgia Tifton Campus.