Dr. Freddie Waltz was recognized as the state young farmer advisor of the year at the state Young Farmer convention at the end of January.
Effingham County High School vocational supervisor Billy Hughes has known Waltz for approximately 20 years, back to when Hughes was a college student.
“I was a student in college, and I met him because he was an area teacher down in Tifton,” Hughes said. “When I became an ag teacher, I had to take a mechanics class under him for two weeks.”
Hughes described the qualities Waltz demonstrates in his position as young farmer advisor.
“Freddie is very particular, he’s very thorough,” Hughes said. “He plans extensively. He carries out his plans. When he gets something in his head, he likes to follow through with those plans. He is a person who is involved in the community, involved with the farmers. He listens to their needs, and then he tries to develop programs that help them out the most.”
Hughes said Waltz is very knowledgeable about agriculture, education and putting the two together for the farmers and for high school students also.
“He’s a young farmer teacher, which means his primary job is to work with the adults, but he also does a tremendous amount of work with our students,” he said.
“He’s very concerned about the community, and wants to be involved in the community. It doesn’t matter what you need him to do he always makes time to do it.”
Waltz teaches a class at the school in the mornings, and then has sessions for the young farmers in the evenings. Evonne Mobley, ECHS’ career, technical, agricultural education coordinator, said the attendance for the sessions Waltz provides is terrific.
“Anything ag related he’s involved with, whether it’s the extension service, fair committee or whatever,” Hughes said. “He’s always happy no matter what’s going on. He’s just got a good attitude about everything.”
Waltz, originally from South Carolina, has been the young farmer advisor in Effingham since 1997. He had advised a young farmer program in his home state and worked in many areas of agricultural education, but said once he decided to be an ag teacher, nothing changed his mind.
“When I was a little younger, before I got into ag in high school, I thought I wanted to go into animal science, veterinary, or animal husbandry,” he said.
Waltz credited his ag teacher in high school for the opportunities he got in the ag program and the leadership shown to him through the FFA.
“From the time I graduated from high school to the time I graduated from college teaching ag was what I wanted to do,” Waltz said
While at Clemson, Waltz spent two summers as an intern for the soil and water conservation service.
“I didn’t have to promise them that I would go to work for them, but it’s their program to introduce young guys into the soil and water conservation service, but it never changed my sights as far as what I wanted to do,” he said.
Waltz called his two summers working for the soil and water conservation service “pleasant,” and he calls on the group when he needs assistance.
Eventually, he got a master’s degree in animal science from Clemson and taught in South Carolina for another eight and a half years. He left to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of Missouri.
Waltz had become close to a Clemson professor who left to teach at the University of Missouri.
“The University of Missouri in the early ‘80s had a very strong teacher education program in ag education, and he and the department head gave me a real good recruitment song,” Waltz said. “So, I picked up lock, stock, barrel, family and everything and moved from to Columbia, Missouri, and went to work on a doctorate program.”
Waltz moved to Gainesville, Fla., after finishing the Ph.D. program at Missouri in 1982, to join the University of Florida faculty. After three years there, he moved to Fort Valley for a little more than a year and then to Tifton, where he was area adult teacher of agricultural mechanics for 10 years.
When he decided to move, the job here hadn’t been advertised.
“I came over this way looking to interview at Emanuel County; there was a young farmer teacher position open there,” Waltz said.
Waltz said he received a call from the principal at Effingham County High School asking if he was interested in working in Effingham. Waltz said he would be in the area and was asked to stop at the school if he had time.
When he got to the school, principal Harris Hinely, superintendent Michael Moore and Hughes met him at the front door.
“It turned out to be a full blown interview instead of just a casual visit,” Waltz said. “Before I left, they had convinced me that this is really where I wanted to be.”
Waltz said he went to the interview in Emanuel County, but was more impressed and pleased with what he saw in Effingham.
“I’ve been here since they haven’t been able to get rid of me,” he said. “It’s been a very pleasant relationship here.”
Waltz said he has been pleased with the support he has received while he has worked here.
“I’ve had very strong support from the administration,” Waltz said. “I’ve had very strong support from the community, from the farmers that I work with, and certainly within the school system from the principals and vocational supervisors that I’ve had. I think I’m working through the third vocational supervisor and the fifth principal.
“I’ve been allowed to do what my job description requires me, and that is to teach my one in-school class, and then be available to the community after 10 o’clock,” Waltz said. “There has never been any problem, any question about if I have spent my time appropriately. I’ve always felt that I’ve had that support from the administrations that has been needed for me to be effective in the community, and doing what I do.”
Waltz works with young farmer members on individual problems they may be facing and organizes approximately 20 classes a year for the farmers to attend.
“Generally I try to get an outside expert depending on the topic that they want,” he said. “I use an advisory council to identify topics that they would like to have discussed or talked about or like to have some additional information on.”
He said topics may include things such as pesticides, seed corn, fertilizer, market analysis, non-traditional crops and weather forecasting.
“One of the strong emphasis in our program and in our instructional program is to provide them with tools they can use that relates to risk management,” Waltz said. “That’s sort of a buzz word in agriculture, not only in ag education, but amongst farmers and amongst lending institutions. They want the farmers to be aware of the things they can do to manage their risk. Instead of just being a total gamble, there are certain things and decisions that they can make with the right information that can minimize some of the risk. That is something that we try to do, and try to emphasize in all of our meetings, and relate it to that in some way.”
Waltz said one of the classes focused on risk management was a session on long-range weather trends.
“We had a guy from the Southeast Consortium for Weather and Climate to come in and talk with us about long-range weather trends in terms of heating cycles and cooling cycles and hurricane cycles, El Nino, La Nina and the effects that that has on the cooling and heating of the south Pacific, and how that effects weather as it moves across the country,” Waltz said. “Certainly whenever it comes to planning and thinking about when’s the right time to plant, and how to follow the weather trends in terms of when rainfall is more likely to come than others it turned out to be a real informative class for them, and as well as me.”
The Young Farmers also provide scholarships to students from ECHS and South Effingham High School. They also take part in both schools FFA chapter banquets and assist with the livestock show at the county fair. The Young Farmers also raise funds for the Effingham County Fair livestock show and provide supplementary premiums to every student who shows an animal in the fair. They also have an annual scholarship auction.
Waltz said membership in young farmers has stayed approximately between 70 and 80 members each year that he has been in the county.
“We always have our core group that’s here every meeting,” he said. “We don’t expect every member to be at every meeting because every meeting is not of interest to everybody. We have a very diverse ag enterprises around here, from livestock to crops to fruit and vegetables to exotic animals to a lot of other things, too.”
Waltz said the meetings are designed around the diversity of the agricultural community and the majority of members attend between five and six meetings a year as they address their concerns. Waltz was proud of the young farmer group for the number of awards the group won at the state convention this year.
At the state convention, Effingham’s Young Farmers chapter won the region chapter award, the region chapter president’s award, the outstanding member award, the farm family applicant was a finalist, along Waltz’s advisor of the year honor.
“The state convention was a big highlight this year because Effingham County took home an award in just about everything,” he said.