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Feeling right at home
New Extension agent quickly welcomed in Effingham
abby and sam
Sam Ingram talks with Effingham Extension coordinator and 4-H agent Abby Smith. - photo by Photo by Paul Floeckher

A delivery came across Sam Ingram’s desk Wednesday, his second day as the agriculture and natural resources agent in the University of Georgia Extension Service’s Effingham County office.

A local exterminator came across a type of insect he hadn’t seen before, so he attached several of the bugs to a piece of adhesive tape and dropped it by the Extension office in Springfield. Using digital imaging, Ingram worked with Extension colleagues to identify the insect as a type of flying ant.

Earlier in the day, Ingram was asked about a type of plant someone found in their yard. He pinpointed it as a species of huckleberry.

“I never know what’s going to come across the desk or what I’m going to do on a day-to-day basis. It keeps it interesting,” Ingram said. “People say stuff comes across their desks; literally, things come across this desk. You’ll get hay, you’ll get bugs. You never know what.”

Ingram came to Effingham from the Jackson County Extension office, where he had worked since graduating from the University of Georgia in 2011 with a degree in animal science. He succeeds Bill Tyson, who returned to the Extension office in his native Bulloch County.

Ingram knows the agriculture in his new county is different from that of his previous one. Whereas beef cattle and poultry are big in Jackson County, he said, the bulk of Effingham’s producers are in row crops and timber. Effingham is among the top 10 counties in the state for forestry and timber products.

But while the types of production vary from county to county, Ingram’s role will remain largely the same. He will provide assistance and education to the producers in Georgia’s No. 1 industry, agriculture.

“I work for them, and I’m happy to help any way I can,” he said. “I’ll have to tailor my programs specifically to the county and what the county’s needs are. That’s what every county agent does.”

Ingram already has been impressed by Effingham’s hospitality. He made the rounds Wednesday morning visiting some of the county’s farmers, enjoying a lengthy chat at one stop.

“I drove up on their farm, knocked on their door, introduced myself and we talked for an hour like we had known each other for a couple years,” he said. “That’s what you expect from an area like Effingham, is just good people who are welcoming and have that rural background that you really want to be a part of.”

It was the type of environment in which Ingram grew up, on a 400-acre farm in Rome. He once envisioned becoming a “big-time farmer,” he said, but decided about midway through college he likely never would have the necessary capital to do that.

“So this was the next-best thing, to work with those guys,” Ingram said. “I’m very happy I went this route. I enjoy what I do, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

While Ingram will handle the agriculture side of the Effingham Extension office, county agent Abby Smith will continue to lead 4-H and the other youth programs. Smith also has added the title of Extension coordinator and will oversee the Effingham office’s budget and personnel.

“We are thrilled to have him join us,” Smith said of Ingram. “He comes with a good reputation and we’re excited about the possibilities he brings to Effingham and the programs that we can offer.”

Ingram said part of the appeal to working in Effingham was “the opportunity to move to an area where agriculture is still key.” However, he also had a much more personal reason to take the job — his wife Allyson, a Savannah native.

The couple married in March but had been living in different cities since she enrolled in South University’s physician assistant program in January. He made many a weekend trip to this area to visit her.

“I wasn’t down here full-time,” Ingram said with a smile, “but I knew the roads well.”