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Ashley Best serves community through hard work, dedication to agriculture
Ashley Best
Ashley Best (right) poses for a picture with Dally Lena, one of her two horses. - photo by Special Photo

NEWTON COUNTY –  As Newton County’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent and County Extension Coordinator through the University of Georgia’s Extension program, Ashley Best has devoted her life to educating the masses on the paramount necessity of agriculture in our community.

Ashley Best
Ashley Best - photo by Special Photo

“Agriculture and farmers make the world go around,” Best said. “Without agriculture, you would be naked and hungry and homeless.”

Best was an 18-month old growing up in Whitfield County when she rode her first horse. From that point on, her interest in agriculture has been resolute. 

At 15 years old, Best owned her first horse and, at the time she started driving, she found herself “always at the barn.”

“No matter the phase of life I am in, horses have always been a constant passion in my life,” Best said. 

Upon entering high school, Best ventured through different extracurriculars. She was a member of a travel softball team, cheerleading and even became the school’s mascot. Best stumbled across FFA after her tryout for the soccer team was to no avail. 

Best’s dream job was to be a veterinarian. So, she “dove in headfirst.” 

“I became the FFA president, showed dairy and beef cattle and created a new work-based learning program that was approved by the school system around working at various internships to explore all aspects of agriculture,” Best said. “I worked at a florist, a greenhouse, a horse barn, with a veterinarian, a local dairy and even shadowed my agriculture teacher. I learned that I, in fact, did not want to be a vet and that being an agriculture teacher would be even better as I could teach and explore all of those industries that I grew to love in my internship program.”

After high school, Best attended Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, where she earned her associate degree. Despite transferring to the University of Georgia to complete her undergraduate studies, Best stayed in Tifton at UGA’s satellite campus in the small town.

Best left her mark on the Tifton community by helping to start the UGA Tifton Recycling program, being an active member of the collegiate FFA and serving as a UGA Ambassador. She began working for the Crop and Soil Science department to gain experience in plant science.

Prior to her current job titles, Best taught high school agriculture for seven years. Her love of teaching led her to seek employment with UGA’s Cooperative Extension, becoming both the Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent and County Extension Coordinator in March 2020.

Through UGA’s Cooperative Extension, counties across the state are able to receive free, reliable, research-based information regarding subjects in the industry.

Working with homeowners, hay producers, beef cattlemen, fruit and vegetable producers, row croppers, business members, community groups and governments, Best translates the science of everyday living into information that is easily digestible and comprehensible for citizens.

“The relationships and exploring different agricultural industries are what mean the most to me,” Best said. “With every program or presentation that I do, getting to meet people in the community, whether it is a homeowner or a farmer, and seeing them gain knowledge is what keeps me coming to work.”

Additionally, Best still enjoys working with the community’s youth. Through her involvement with the county’s 4-H programs, she is leader of the Newton County 4-H Horse Club, which meets monthly. This year, Best helped coach the 2023 state-winning junior Horse Judging Team and had four individuals qualify for the 2023 Southern Regional 4-H Horse Show, representing the state of Georgia.

Given her wide array of agricultural experiences and knowledge she’s gained, Best’s heart lies with horses, which she considers her favorite topic and personal mission to research and inform people about.

“Equine will always hold a place near and dear to my heart personally and professionally,” Best said. “I have a website called where all of my equine work is housed. I also have a national award-winning newsletter called ‘The Leading Rein’ [that] you can sign up for.”

Outside of work, Best’s hobbies do not stray too far from her career. She and her husband of seven years, Thomas, have an incredible roster of pets, including a donkey, a goat, three dogs and two cats. The couple welcomed their first daughter, Ruby Elizabeth, last year.

Along with her daughter, Best’s two horses are her pride and joy. She has an 8-year old quarter horse and Dally Lena, an 11-year old mare whom she bred and raised from birth. 

“Horses are the root of all things me,” Best said. “I enjoy riding in all disciplines. I think it is important to challenge yourself and to constantly increase your knowledge and abilities by stepping outside of your comfort zone.”

As a fervent agriculture professional, Best hopes the community becomes more involved in the industry.

“I wish more people would utilize research-based information when they make a decision about agriculture,” Best said. “We often see posts on social media about pesticides, chemicals, animal husbandry and other hot topics that just absolutely are not true. I want people to do more research of their own, call your local extension agent, meet and speak with a local farmer, and create a better understanding of how agriculture really is today.”