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Jeff Cook

After settling on the University of Georgia to finish up a degree, I got my M.P.P.P.M after completion of a Bachelor’s of Science in Plant Pathology. After that it was getting married and then off to work with Dow AgroSciences on their crop management team in Indianapolis, Indiana. It took me moving 11 hours away for the folks in Extension to forget who I was and offer me an interview for a County Agent position in Tattnall County.

I started in Tattnall County as the second Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent in January of 2000. While in Tattnall, my focus was agronomic crops, fruit and nuts. Being in one of the largest Vidalia onion producing counties means that you will do plenty of work on them. At the time, tomato spotted wilt virus was getting more and more common in peanut, tobacco and tomatoes so much of my time was devoted to ways of reducing the negative effects of this disease.

After a few moves and a few children I ended up in Taylor County working with a variety of commodities but especially focusing on peach, strawberry and cotton. 2010 was the year of the Tier system (we called it the ‘tear’ system) and that is how I ended up in both Taylor and Peach Counties as the ANR Agent.

At about that same time, an Area Peach Agent position was created. The Georgia peach industry is grown almost entirely within five counties surrounding Peach County. I assumed the role of Area Peach Agent in 2014, and have also been supporting the strawberry industry across the state since 2011.

As the Area Peach Agent, I conduct numerous meetings and trainings for peach growers and Extension agents. Because peaches and strawberries are specialty crops, I try to provide support to agents across the state that have those production systems in their counties. I also serve as the conference coordinator for the Peach and Strawberry sessions in Savannah at the Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference each year.

I manage a 6-acre research orchard on the campus of Fort Valley State University. To date, research has focused on: pruning and thinning to delay harvest, use of growth regulators to shift harvest dates, use/efficacy of foliar fertilizers, organic methods for control of peach tree borer, and new insecticides for the management of scale insects. Future work will focus on rootstock, planting methods, cover/companion crops and other items as determined by the peach industry in middle Georgia.

I have collaborated with peach specialists from multiple states, universities, and government agencies conducting both on farm research and demonstrations. Some of these include Fort Valley State University, USDA, Clemson University, North Carolina State University, and the University of Tennessee. I have also coordinated and presented at the Strawberry Educational Session at the annual Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference since 2011.

I was selected to sit on the stakeholder advisory panel for a brown marmorated stink bug grant that has approximately 15 collaborating universities and agencies across the country.

I have a good working relationship with the peach growers in Georgia as well as Extension specialists that support this industry. I seem to have made a name for myself in the arena of specialty fruit. I guess when people Google ‘Georgia Peaches’ I come up somewhere, because I have been featured in numerous newspapers (New Your Times, LA Times, Atlanta Journal, local), television (RFD TV, Weather Channel), and have been an editor and a source for material in UGA publications and popular press.