One goal: to feed the world
Published 11:12 am Wednesday 25 January 2023
Tracy K. Hall
We have a new lover from Sumter County. Chelsea Lopez serves as our Agriculture and Natural Resources Advisor for UGA and Sumter County. She’s quick to say she has big shoes to fill in stepping into a position once held by Bill Starr. She speaks to Bill frequently and describes him as a mentor who was “a refreshing person” for helping her introduce the Sumter County farmer’s ways.
Chelsea took over the post earlier this year. Your search for the right fit was lengthy. After graduating from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s degree and the University of Tennessee with her master’s degree, she searched long and hard to find her place in the farming world. She searched Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee. She took a liking to Georgia because the state views farming “as a way of life, not something that just goes on behind the scenes.” She also learns from a very diverse pool in our state, as our agricultural world is not limited to a specific task, culture, group of people or farm size.
Chelsea is passionate about education. However, like most good educators, she is just as passionate about learning. She sees those in our agricultural sector as great teachers. Speaking of people in our Ag community, she says, “They let you into their lives. Some of these farmers rely on me and I love that. I love being able to learn from them. Sumter County has been very hospitable, people are eager and excited to meet me.”
What does Chelsea do exactly? As a consultant, she sees herself as an educator. It is a link between the vast amount of information and research on agriculture and livestock and farmers or the public in general. She can talk about soil characteristics, how to get better yields, identify what causes less than fertile fields, what animals are best suited to land, and how to make the most impact with a good investment. She sees her preventive role as just as if not more important than showing up when there is a problem. She enjoys the idea of getting to know both our landscape and the farmer outside of the office. She is determined to build a trusted relationship with farmers before a need is identified, as she wants them to be a trusted source should an issue arise.
She strives to find her place in our farming community. Working in partnership is very important to her. She expects to learn from our residents and share what she has learned. Coming from a veterinary background, she takes on all aspects of the job to best serve in her new found place. In the state of Georgia, agriculture is our number one economic producer, so it knows it has an important calling. She also knows that our farmers are as diverse as the crops they grow. While we have older generations of farmers, there are also emerging farmers and she hopes to build a bridge between the two. One of the areas where she can be of help is in advancing technology and offering suggestions on how best to use the technology, regardless of what the farmer or rancher is used to using. She knows that farmers are “all family and close-knit, but also very individual and personal”. Just as every doctor has a certain style and attitude, so the farmer has a certain style and demeanor. Learning about these styles and the needs and benefits of each style is something that keeps them in mind.
She says she’s like a farmer in that she might go home tired but “can’t wait for tomorrow. We all have the same goal, to feed the world.”
There will be a meet and greet to get to know Chelsea. It will take place on Monday, January 30, 2023 at 5:00 p.m. at the Extension Office at 127 William Bowen Point in Americus. The Extension Office is located next to the Georgia State Patrol Building at HW 19. Welcome to Sumter County, Chelsea!