By LYDIA BERGLAR
After four and a half years as Dade County’s UGA Extension Agent, Sarah Dyer said farewell to the role to make more time for her family and Dyer Livestock. “We thought long and hard about this decision. It was a combination of the businesses growing, becoming a mama, and not having enough time to do all of it,” said Dyer.
In addition to her work with the extension office, Dyer is also known as one half of Dyer Livestock along with her husband, Jeremy. She explained, “Our businesses in the last few years have really taken off. Jeremy has been selling quarter, half, and whole animals for years, and we started selling retail beef by the cut in 2020. That has snowballed into a much larger responsibility. Also, Jeremy transitioned from selling show cattle to selling show goats, so we travel a lot with that.”
Dyer also wanted to spend more time with her young daughter, so she and Jeremy made the decision for her to say farewell to the extension role. “Extension is near and dear to my heart,” said Dyer. “I’ll still get to attend and support their programs.”
Dyer said, “The best thing that came out of my time at extension was getting ingrained in the community. I’m from Florida, but Jeremy’s from here. The community welcomed me with open arms, knowing I was marrying into that family. They thought so highly of his dad, Ted, who held the extension agent position for 20 years.”
She believes that the extension program is valuable because it brings university research out to communities far away from the school. “The latest and greatest information about farming and agricultural production that’s developed through research at the university is brought to community members through extension agents. Extension agents translate that information to farmers so they can improve their operations, and the same with homeowners about the latest and greatest varieties for vegetable gardens or pesticide cautions and recommendations.”
Thinking back to January 2019 when she joined the extension office, Dyer said, “What made me feel confident and comfortable in the role was the welcomingness of the community. I encourage Dade County to welcome the next person with open arms, knowing that there’s a lot of pressure from multiple sides in that position. Also, support the team that’s still there. Laura Beth Cunningham has gotten the 4-H program back to what it used to be. She took the bull by the horns to add so many more opportunities for kids.”
Twanna Sue Peters, the administrative assistant, also keeps the office running, handles soil tests for residents, and answers questions.
Rebecca Thomas from Chattooga County Extension is serving as interim county extension coordinator for Dade while the search for Dyer’s replacement and another agent begins. Thomas reported, “Our goal is to have two extension agents in Dade County. We’ll have some open positions posted later this summer or early fall.”
Thomas and Dyer both noted that the university searches for agents who are a good fit for each community. Thomas said, “We look at the needs and the farm gate value [of the county]. We look for individuals who have expertise [in the areas prevalent in the county].”
In her time as the extension agent, Dyer is most proud of the Dade Agriculture Developing Excellence (D.A.D.E.) Grass Class program, a 12-month forage management series. She said, “We had a specialist from the university speak to our farmers about what they need to be doing in their pastures and hay fields given the time of year. By starting that program, I felt like I was able to fill the role that extension agents were created to do.”
Dyer also enjoyed helping with the 4-H program as 4-H personally impacted her youth. “4-H is what changed my life. It provided an opportunity to go to college and a career path for me. If 4-Hers are involved in a judging team, that provides college scholarships. It provides so many enrichment activities.”
She explained, “Given what my husband and I do, I oversaw the livestock show team. We hauled a lot of equipment and animals for 4-H families. We hosted the State of Dade Lamb & Goat Classic and the Magic in the Mountains Winter Classic, both started in collaboration with the Ted G. Dyer Memorial Fund – a youth livestock scholarship fund.” This memorial scholarship will continue to serve 4-H in honor of Ted.
Dyer is proud of the State of Dade show in particular because, “The show brought people from multiple states from as far as Pennsylvania to Dade County. Not just are we going out to these shows, but we’ve built this network across the country providing national exposure to our county’s livestock industry.”
She continued, “I also oversaw the chick to chicken project. We revamped that program in the last couple of years. I also oversaw livestock judging and poultry judging. As Laura came on, she was very interested in poultry. We collaborated on the chick to chicken and I handed off the poultry judging team. She’s taking all of that and running with it at this point.”
Dyer noted that extension agents can be pressured to seek promotion. She explained, “Because extension agents are also faculty members of a university, there can be expectations to follow the path of promotion that takes them out of the county. The university wants us to get state and national reputations for our expertise.”
Dyer, however, found the most joy from serving Dade County rather than seeking promotion. She said, “I felt like I met needs that were waiting to be met in my community. I’m just proud of being able to bring information and specialists to Dade County.”