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Posted: September 21, 2013 7:50 p.m.

Road trip, simpler time, sweeter place

“A simpler time, a sweeter place, a lesson, a laugh, a father and a son,” reads the plaque below the statue of Andy and Opie in Mount Airy, N.C.

Or as you might better recognize the town, Mayberry.

En route to the national meeting of 4-H, agricultural, and family and consumer sciences extension professionals in Pittsburgh, Pa., this week, I and four other 4-H agents were excited to make a short side trip to the hometown of Andy Griffith.

Nestled among the many souvenir shops you can find a familiar-looking barbershop, or even spot Barney’s patrol car easing down the street.

I can almost see the street in black and white, just like my husband’s favorite episodes.

It reminds me why it’s so nice to take a road trip now and again with good friends who just happen to also be 4-H agents.

Many of our colleagues say they can’t imagine passing up the convenience of flying, but besides saving money, I find it also saves us a lot of headaches that come along with airports.

We passed up the metal detectors, parking arrangements and flight delays, and chose instead a simpler path to Pittsburgh.

We laughed, reminisced about camps and past conferences, made plans for programs together, and laughed some more.

I laughed so hard my stomach hurt as we headed home a week later.

Once at the conference, we participated in association business, networked with colleagues from across the United States, and learned in concurrent and poster sessions.

I was honored to be the lead author on a poster this year by my task force, working to assist colleagues with their 4-H marketing efforts.

Thankfully, we were only 10 minutes away by van instead of plane when I realized I’d left the poster behind! Our first keynote speaker, Dr. Lowell Catlett, also seemed to agree that our old-fashioned road trip was more beneficial.

The professor of agricultural economics and dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at New Mexico State University said those with “rich and deep social connections” are likely to live longer than their less-connected peers.

He cited research on the healing effects of social and physical connections with others, and even a study showing that married men live three years longer than their single counterparts.

I love the variety and high-energy pace of 4-H, but sometimes that makes it tough to really connect.

While it’s important to teach as many students as possible about public speaking, leadership and other 4-H lessons, it’s the long-term connections that make the difference for me each day.

I enjoy seeing the changes in youths as they develop from Cloverleaf 4-H’ers into strong, community-minded junior and senior 4-H members. I benefit from their youthful insight as well as the connections with their parents, who so often volunteer in our program.

And I so appreciate the rare chance to spend quality time with fellow 4-H professionals, getting a much-needed energy boost as we hit stride in this new 4-H year.

I can definitely attest to the rejuvenating qualities of a simple road trip with such great colleagues, including Rockdale County 4-H Agent Brittany Johnson.

This year, I was also honored to receive three national awards and three regional awards.

The geospatial technology class I developed and taught with Baldwin County 4-H agent Robbie Jones to middle-school 4-H campers earned one of only 25 national specialty awards, excellence in geospatial programs.

My column won national honors for the second time, one of only 18 communicator awards.

I was one of four Georgia agents earning the Achievement in Service Award.

But tomorrow, it’s back to the hustle and bustle, a busy week starting with officer training.

If you’re interested in hearing about the new beginner horse club, join us at the office on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. for an informational meeting.

We’re also gearing up for National 4-H Week in October, so let me know if your business, group or church would like to participate.

But for today, maybe take a minute to whistle a familiar tune, and remember a simpler time, a sweeter place. …

Terri Kimble Fullerton is the Newton County 4-H Agent through UGA Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at tkimble@uga.edu.

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