Photos by Sherrié Raleigh

An exposition designed to better educate residents about the value of agriculture to the state, and to showcase potential careers in agritourism has earned Hart County a silver medal with just two projects to go to earn UGA’s Connected Resilient Community designation.

“The hope is to gain some interest from our youth to want to learn more and get involved in agriculture,” said Lindsey Ingle, executive director of the Hart County Chamber of Commerce and event organizer.

Agribusiness is consistently Georgia’s leading industry, and agriculture contributes significantly to the Hart County tax base. In 2020, Hart County’s agricultural production ranked sixth in the state with a total Farm Gate Value of $245 million. With agriculture a predominant sector of the economy, it is important for the community and its future workforce to learn about and understand its importance.

Through the CRC, Georgia communities partner with experts from UGA to complete three projects designed to increase their resiliency. The communities receive silver and gold medals after projects one and two, respectively, and a platinum medal after project three, signifying they have earned the CRC designation through extraordinary planning, collaboration and partnership with UGA to build a prosperous future.

The expo grew out of a 2020 site visit to Hart County, since 2008 a UGA Archway Partnership community. Students and faculty from UGA’s College of Environment and Design traveled to the county to explore opportunities for agritourism. Their recommendations included a tri-county fair, an agribusiness incubator and an agritourism trail throughout the county.

When Hart was selected for the CRC initiative, facilitated by the Archway Partnership, the community identified the expo as a project that would help them achieve the designation.

More than 700 people attended the event, which included about 40 exhibitors. Among them were the UGA Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, poultry scientists from the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, local farmers and businesses—all offering hands-on experiences.

“Most people are now two or three generations removed from farming,” said Brian Fleming, a member of the Hart County Farm Bureau and one of the expo’s organizers. “We wanted to remind and help educate them about where their food comes from and what goes into it, as well as the impact of the agriculture industry in Hart County.”

UGA President Jere W. Morehead announced the CRC program during the 2022 State of the University speech in January. Initially funded by the Office of the Provost, the CRC initiative later received a generous donation from the University of Georgia Foundation.

The inaugural CRC designation was presented to community leaders from Thomson-McDuffie County in April. At that time, Hart County and three other communities were selected for the program: Washington and Newton counties, and the City of Thomaston.