University of Maine Cooperative Extension Franklin County 2016 Annual Report

Putting university research to work in homes, businesses, farms, and communities for over 100 years.

Our annual report features highlights of recent accomplishments and the difference we make in the lives of Maine citizens and their communities.

Franklin County Extension Association

Executive Committee

  • John Perry, President
  • Stephen Scharoun, Vice President
  • Dawn Girardin, Treasurer
  • Darlene Yeaton-Nelson, Secretary
  • Anne Moody, Homemaker Representative

Franklin County Staff

  • David Fuller, Agriculture and Non-Timber Forest Products Professional
  • Judy Smith, 4-H Community Education Assistant
  • Leilani Carlson, Project Coordinator for Maine AgrAbility Program
  • Tiffany Wing, Administrative Specialist

Local Partnership

The partnership between the University of Maine, County Governments, and the county Extension Associations has endured for over a century. As the needs of the people of Maine have changed, so has Cooperative Extension. We are committed to helping Maine succeed across our spectrum of programming. However, success is best achieved by collaboration with the people, businesses, organizations and communities that we work with. Extension is a reflection of the locally identified needs that form the basis for the educational programs that are offered statewide.

The county report is an important way to share the work that has been happening locally and statewide. This report is also an important way that the county Extension Association documents accountability for the investment of funds from County Government. We are very pleased to share this report with you and encourage you to contact your local office with questions or for more information on anything in this report.

–John Rebar, Executive Director

Franklin County Highlights

Agriculture, Home Food Production, and Non-Timber Forest Products

Cooperative Extension’s unique educational work in agriculture, home food production, non-timber forest products and many other issues helps farmers, gardeners, woodlot owners and other citizens of Franklin County to make informed decisions to grow more food, have more successful businesses and  better their lives.

Examples of educational programming are:

  • Helping farmers with weed management, product development, marketing, and crop questions for increased profitability
  • Fielding over 910 telephone, email and walk-in consultations including: soil testing, food production, food safety, tick identification, water safety, farm and business start-ups, marketing and product development
  • Work with new and experienced high tunnel growers to manage insect pests
  • Help homeowners manage water resources during times of drought
  • Non-timber forest products (NTFP): increasing small woodlot owner’s and farmer’s awareness of the economic possibilities between long harvest schedules of timber and pulp — resulting in landowners being able to pay land taxes with NTFP harvest. Landowners are looking for new markets for their woodlot production since mills are not buying much softwood pulp at present.
  • Every citizen in Franklin County can access our Cooperative Extension office either through classes, publications, YouTube educational videos, website, face-to-face consultation or by telephone or emails.
  • An improved Extension website with more educational material and an Extension Facebook page to more efficiently reach younger citizens with educational material.
  • Extensive work to help farmers, home food producers, and other resident deal with insect and disease pests in their crops, homes or apartments resulting often in a no-spray or lower spray solution.
  • Continued work with new farmers through consultations are a focus as beginning farmers gain skills and refine business and farm plans.
  • A change in the Maine Board of Pesticides Control’s rules has led to the education and licensing of 125 new producers, so they make informed decisions about spraying of crops.
  • The fifth annual Maine Fiddlehead and Local Food Festival helped to create awareness and sales of local farm products and educated attendees to properly identify, prepare and sustainably harvest ostrich fern fiddleheads. The Festival is the only one of its type in Maine with about 1200 people in attendance in 2016.

University of Maine Cooperative Extension educators and specialists also often work with Franklin County farmers, home food producers and the general public. Some of the projects include:

  • Animal health and production concerns with: beef, dairy, poultry, sheep, goats and alpacas
  • General nutrition questions
  • Pest management in and around the home
  • Water quality from dug and drilled wells
  • Dealing with the spotted wing fruit fly in small fruit crops
  • Monitoring for the presence of sweet corn and strawberry pests and making spray recommendations for more profitable crops
  • Increasing efficiency of  on-farm and commercial composting
  • Maple syrup operations
  • Insect and plant disease crop issues
  • Soil health and nutrition
  • Transitioning the farm to new family owners
  • Developing processed farm products that are healthy and safe
  • Helping farmers grow better crops of lowbush blueberries
  • Online publication catalog of over 767 publications and educational videos.

“At every stage of the process from farm and forestry planning, to sustainably harvesting my wild crops to an online hay school, to how to grow and harvest garlic and animal husbandry, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension has been there for me and my farm.” –Local New Farmer

4-H Youth Development

4-H is a program of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension which focuses on youth development and education.  In 2016 program year, there were 47 trained adult 4-H volunteers working with 119 Franklin County youth to fulfill the programs mission of empowering youth to reach their full potential.

The program serves youth ages 5 – 18. A majority of the youth membership is enrolled in organized clubs. In 2016, Franklin County had 10 active 4-H clubs, 8 of which had an animal science focus. They were: Beef Boosters (Chesterville), Dairy Club (Farmington), Doe-C-Doe Dairy Goat Club (Chesterville), Giddy Up & Go Horse Club (Temple), K-9 Connection Dog Club (Wilton), Mt Viewers Horse Club (New Sharon), Working Steer Club (Farmington), and the Young Farmers (East Dixfield).

Franklin County also had two general clubs in 2016 whose members participated in a wide variety of projects from crafting and sewing to livestock and gardening. The program also had an independent membership with four members enrolled. This option allows youth to work on their project with no club affiliation but under the guidance of a parent or trained adult.

We appreciate the dedication of our 4-H volunteers who support the youth through their efforts to provide educational activities as members of the Franklin County 4-H Leaders Association. We welcome and encourage participation from new volunteers who are willing to share valued life skills with our 4-H youth.

Some 4-H Program Highlights from 2016:

  • Several science trainings were offered to our  4-H members and volunteers. These trainings  supported a variety of project areas and age groups. The offerings helped to emphasize the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programming in our county.
  • Public Speaking was re-introduced as a county activity, and with great success! Following a workshop to prepare youth for the activity, five youth participated in the county tournament,   three of which went on to compete on a state level.
  • In May, three Franklin County senior 4-H members were recognized and awarded post- secondary education scholarships from the Maine 4-H Foundation.
  • The annual 4-H Fair was held at the Farmington fair grounds followed by the 4-H Leaders Association auction fundraiser. There were a variety of great donated items up for bid. Many thanks to local area businesses and individuals. The funds raised were used to support our program activities here in Franklin County.
  • There were sixteen participants at the 2016 4-H Horse Camp held at the Farmington fair grounds. Some of the 4-H members in attendance were from outside of the county.  An invitation was extended as they did not have access to these activities in their own county. All 4-H members were involved in horsemanship education. We wish to thank our volunteers involved in organizing this event and making it available for our 4-H members.
  • A unique short term SPIN (special interest) Club also took place at the fairgrounds where 4-H members learned the art of blacksmithing. Thanks to the Western Maine Blacksmithing group for their support of this club.
  • Many of our 4-H members participated in a number of Maine agricultural fairs. Franklin County was also represented at the Eastern States Exposition where 4-H members participated in dairy, beef, and sheep activities.
  • One of our 4-H volunteers had the opportunity to chaperone a group of 4-H members from around the state to the National Dairy Conference in Wisconsin.

As new opportunities are becoming available, we look forward to see what 2017 holds for our county program.

When I joined my 4-H Club I had no clue of the opportunities and events that 4-H would provide for me throughout the year.” –Sadie Farrand, Senior 4-H Member

Maine AgrAbility

Maine AgrAbility works with people across the agricultural spectrum all over the state to keep them employed after an injury, chronic illness or disability.  We work with farmers, loggers, fishermen, and gardeners.

The program is funded by the USDA and is a partnership with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Alpha One Independent Living Center, and Goodwill Industries of Northern New England.

Maine AgrAbility is dedicated to helping Maine farmers, fishermen, and forest workers overcome disabilities, injuries or other barriers so they can continue to work safely and productively.

AgrAbility specialists assess issues and offer recommendations to modify or adapt tools or work methods. We provide education about safe work methods and connect people with existing agricultural, rehabilitation, and employment resources across the state.

Education: Our goal is to introduce the project and provide education to agriculture service providers and health care professionals to integrate support for AgrAbility into their work. We educate clients on different topics to increase their ability to live and work more productively and avoid secondary injuries.  Education is in the form of articles, presentations, workshops, webinars, and consultations.  These trainings are to introduce agricultural workers and educate to prevent secondary injuries, promote sustainability with health and safety awareness, promote economic sustainability and educate youth.

  • AgrAbility 101, Universal Design, Farm Safety, Arthritis and Agriculture, Gardening As You Age, Building Accessible Raised Garden Beds, Health & Safety Topics: PPE, Footwear, Pesticide, Hearing Protection, Tractor Safety, ROPS, And Stress On The Farm.

Networking and Marketing: To build and increase service capacity, we network with agriculture, health care and disability service providers across the state to provide support to clients. We also use marketing to assist in identifying clients and make key audience groups aware of the AgrAbility project and its initiatives.

  • BFRN, Advisory Council, ISASH, NACAA, MOFGA, 4-H, NRCS, FSA, USDA programming, Department of ACF, Department of Labor, Veteran Services, United Farmer Veterans, and agricultural commodity groups.

Assistance: We provide resources, services and support to potential and existing clients to enhance their ability to farm and live independently, avoid secondary injuries, and enhance their economic viability and sustainability.  This is done via in-person, over the phone, email or social media and website.  Direct assistance is provided through on-farm visits to help identify assistive tools and technology resources, alternative agricultural enterprise support, alternative resources for economic support.

They helped me to adjust my farming operations to accommodate the limitations of my body.” –AgrAbility Client

Senior Companion Program

Helping elders stay independent can be a challenge in our rural areas. Many older adults do not have relatives living nearby and must rely on others to help them. Senior Companions, making regular visits, are making it possible for elders to stay in their homes longer.

Senior Companions meeting eligibility requirements spend 15-20 hours per week visiting homebound/isolated adults in an effort to combat their loneliness and isolation. Senior Companions also provide much needed respite for caregivers, giving them a break from their everyday care giving responsibilities.

In the past year Senior Companions received training on such topics as  Dental Health as We Age, Boundaries and Ethics, Fraud and Scams,  Farm share information, Summer food safety, Coping with Loss and Grief, and Coloring as a Stress Reducer. Senior Companions, in turn, pass on this information to their clients and families.

Companions benefit from this program as well; having the opportunity to help others, forming new friendships, receiving a small stipend for their volunteer activities, but most of all knowing they are making a difference in the lives of others.

We are privileged to have 3 program partners: Clover Health Care, Seniors Plus and Catholic Charities SEARCH program.

In the past year we have had two Senior Companions in Franklin County. They have served over 1,100 volunteer hours and over 80 hours of respite. They have traveled over 7000 miles, making over 292 visits with more than 10 clients.

We hope to be bringing on a new Senior Companion in the very near future to serve rural areas of Franklin County.

Franklin County Extension Homemakers

Extension Homemakers is a volunteer group that has the goal of developing leadership, supporting worthy community causes, and promoting University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s educational programs in Franklin County. The purpose of this group remains tied to strengthening and extending adult education into the home and community.

Extension Homemaker group members help to extend the resources of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension into their communities through educational opportunities and service projects. Members generally meet several times throughout the year (often monthly), participate in educational programs and identify community projects they want to support.

As local members, Extension Homemakers in Franklin County belong to a local community group. Local groups are involved with assisting with many different community projects such as local food pantries, municipal projects, nursing homes, children’s projects, medical program support, scholarships for high school students, and much more. In addition, all members have the opportunity to learn with others, make friends, and contribute to their community and country. They gain leadership skills and are able to share interests and talent with others.

Local members come together to form a county group led by the Franklin County Extension Advisory Board.

The Homemakers’ Advisory Board has officers, and meets on a regular basis. They coordinate a Spring Meeting for the membership and work, in cooperation with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, to offer public educational programs throughout the year.

Franklin County Extension Homemaker membership is open to anyone interested in learning new information to improve the personal, family, and community life or to someone interested in educating and serving members of the Extension Homemakers groups and their local communities. For more information, contact the Franklin County Extension Office.

Extension Homemakers 2016 Highlights

In 2016, 101 Maine Extension Homemakers in Franklin County participated in monthly community education programs in areas such as food safety, personal safety, nutrition and health, gardening and the environment, financial planning, and consumer issues, personal growth and family relationships, and cultural and creative arts. They also were actively involved in their communities by donating their time, money, and materials to numerous community agencies and projects.

In the past year, six Franklin County Extension Homemaker groups made the following impacts in their communities and to the state of Maine:

1,012 participants attended 120 in educational programs that were offered at the local level.

Volunteer hours given to outside organizations/agencies/ groups:

  • 1921.5 hours valued at $ 33,626.25

Money raised or items made/donated to outside organizations/ agencies/ groups/ citizens:

  • 1,895.50 hours given to raise the money valued at $33,171.25
  • Value of money raised or items made/donated $18,092.96

Organizational service to Extension Homemaker Program:

  • 3,946.50 volunteer hours, valued at $69,063.75
  • Value of items made, donated, and cash given to support program was  $4,968.00
  • Total value of service to Extension organization is $74,031.75

Overall totals:

  • 7,763.50 volunteer hours, valued at $135,861.25
  • Value of materials/donations in the amount of $23,060.96
  • Total estimated monetary value of Franklin County Extension Homemaker Program to their communities was $158,922.21.

The Franklin County Cooperative Extension Homemakers program has been life changing for me. I joined in February 1978 and have never looked back. Educational programs have enriched me personally and given me the opportunity to share this information with others. Having served on many different committees and in leadership positions have afforded me self-confidence to join in things I would not have considered doing otherwise. No matter my age, I always feel that I am growing as a person and am a positive contributor to our society.” –Linda Gramlich, North Chesterville Extension Homemakers

Statewide Highlights

Maine Food System

AgrAbility…Supporting Farmers of All Abilities to Remain Active on the Farm

The average U.S. farmer is 58 years old, and farming is the sixth most dangerous job in America. An estimated 5,700 farmers, farm family members, or farm workers in Maine have a chronic health condition or disability, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, or aging-related issues, such as arthritis or hearing loss. In addition to farmers, fishermen, forest workers, and migrant workers face similar challenges for remaining successful in production agriculture.

UMaine Cooperative Extension partners with Maine AgrAbility to help Maine farmers, loggers and fishermen facing physical or cognitive challenges, to enhance their ability to farm and live independently, which improves their quality of life and economic sustainability. AgrAbility specialists assess issues and offer adaptive recommendations. They provide education about safe work methods and connect people with other resources through this nonprofit partnership between the UMaine Cooperative Extension, Goodwill Industries of Northern New England, and Alpha One.

Supporting Maine’s Potato Industry

The $500 million potato industry is the largest agricultural sector in Maine, encompassing over 500 businesses generating over $300 million in annual sales, employing over 2,600 people, and providing over $112 million in income to Maine citizens. The management of insects, diseases, weeds, and other pests is integral in sustaining a healthy Maine potato crop. Without reliable and sustainable pest management strategies, Maine’s potato industry faces the potential of severe crop losses resulting in significant reductions in profits and threats to long-term viability.

In 2016, UMaine Extension engaged in a robust potato IPM program to ensure that Maine’s potato crop is pest and damage free while attempting to minimize the quantity of pesticides that are applied.

The economic impact from Extension’s pest monitoring and educational programs for the 2016 season is estimated at over $12.8 million, with a 135:1 return on investment by the Industry for each dollar invested into the UMaine Extension Potato IPM program.

Controlling Fungal Disease in Maine’s Wild Blueberry Industry

Wild blueberries have an economic impact of over $250 million to Maine’s economy. Since 1945, Maine’s blueberry growers and processors have provided financial support for research at the University of Maine, which in turn has developed improved cropping practices such as Integrated Crop Management (ICM) and Best Management Practices (BMP).

Valdensia leaf spot disease can be devastating to wild blueberry crops. First identified in Maine in 2009, the fungus causing this disease, can cause complete leaf drop that affects flower bud formation and subsequent yield.

UMaine Extension responded by providing growers with information on this disease and how to mitigate its spread. Most wild blueberry growers are now aware of Valdensia leaf spot and scout their fields for this disease. By eradicating this disease, growers save hundreds of dollars per acre in fungicide treatments required once this disease is well established in a field. Grower awareness of this disease has greatly limited its spread and impact on this $250 million industry.

Connecting Grain Growers to High Value, Diversified Markets

The expanding interest in locally grown grains among consumers and food businesses represents a new economic opportunity for grain growers looking for higher value and diversified markets.  UMaine Extension plays a unique role in our emerging local grain sector by connecting growers with buyers, as well as providing the production information needed to help growers succeed in growing for these high value markets.

In 2015, Extension was contacted by a Danish food company seeking help in developing a Maine supply of two heritage Nordic grain varieties for their New York City’s restaurant. To evaluate whether the varieties, Øland spring wheat and Svedje winter rye, would grow well in Maine, the UMaine Local Grain project planted large plot trials at UMaine Rogers Research Farm. Both varieties yielded well and had good grain quality. Extension identified growers who could successfully grow the grain and networked them with the buyer.

In 2016, Maine growers produced over 80 tons of Øland spring wheat (65 acres) and 5 tons of Svedje rye (5 acres) for this buyer.  In this initial year, this new market for Maine grown grain represented over $65,000 in increased revenue for Maine growers.

Supporting Local Poultry Product Sales and Creating Jobs for Immigrants

Until 2015, Maine did not have a USDA or State inspected poultry slaughter facility and that prohibited local sales of poultry products in Maine. A 2014 University of Southern Maine survey found that nearly 80 percent of Mainers said they want to buy local meats, but that it is not always readily available. By providing a federally inspected poultry facility in the state could increase supply and allow more Maine meat to be sold locally and across state lines.

In 2015, UMaine Extension responded by helping to facilitate Commonwealth Poultry to become a USDA inspected facility. Extension assisted the company with their initial Food Safety Management Hazard Analyzes and Critical Control Point (HCCAP), and continued to assist as they expanded.  In 2015, Commonwealth Poultry became Maine’s only USDA inspected poultry slaughter and processing facility. The facility is now slaughtering and processing up to 250,000 birds per year, sold locally and in Boston and other broader markets. Most of the company’s 15 employees are immigrants of Somalia and other African countries, and Commonwealth Poultry has become a major employer for this underserved Maine population.

Maine Food Corps: Connecting Kids to Real Food and Reducing Obesity

In the last 30 years, the percentage of overweight or obese children in this country has tripled and 1 out of 3 American children are on track to develop diabetes in their lifetime. According to a 2012 University of Maine study, the medical costs of obesity associated with the cohort of Maine children and adolescents will be an estimated $1.2 billion over the next 20 years. Studies show that children and adults who suffer from diet-related diseases score lower on tests, miss more days of school, advance less in their careers, and raise children who are likely to repeat the same cycle.

UMaine Cooperative Extension has responded by acting as the state partner for FoodCorps in Maine. The goal is to connect kids to healthy food in school, so they can lead healthier lives and reach their full potential. As a result of the partnership between UMaine Extension and FoodCorp, long-term change in schools and the include more:

  • demand for local fresh food in school and home meals,
  • volunteer resources to support school garden and nutrition initiatives,
  • knowledge of resources UMaine Extension and other service providers can offer,
  • educators trained in garden-based nutrition programming, and food service staff requesting bids from local farms.

Community and Economic Development

Providing Access to Capital: $14.5 Million Invested in Local Communities

Entrepreneurs need capital to start, improve, and expand their businesses to create high quality jobs for Mainers. Many business owners are challenged to secure adequate funding from traditional lenders to start or expand a business. However, by partnering with a regional economic development organization, traditional lenders such as banks are able to increase access to capital for Maine businesses that otherwise would not be eligible for financing.

UMaine Extension responded by collaborating with a regional economic development agency that provides Small Business Administration loan guarantees for prospective borrowers. As an active member of the Loan Review Committee, Extension provides guidance and oversight on credit and lending strategies, reviews loan applications, and along with other business and community leaders, makes loan recommendations.

In fiscal year 2016 the Loan Review Committee approved 51 loans totaling $6.8 million, and leveraged an additional $7.7 million in private funds. Through this loan program $14.5 million was invested in local communities, 129 jobs were created or retained, and thirteen of Maine’s sixteen counties benefited.

Maine Harvest for Hunger: Mobilizing to Support Food Insecure Citizens

Maine has the highest rate of food insecurity in New England, and ranks twelfth in the United States. The USDA estimates that

  • over 15 % of Maine households, or more than 209,000 individuals, are food insecure,
  • 24%, or 64,200 Maine’s children, are food insecure,
  • 23% of senior citizens experience marginal, low, or very low food security, and
  • 43% food-insecure people do not qualify for food stamps or any other government program.

It is especially challenging for food insecure individuals to afford high quality, fresh, nutritious food, and donations of fresh produce to Maine’s emergency food system has declined significantly in recent years.

Since 2000, UMaine Extension’s Maine Harvest for Hunger (MHH) program has mobilized gardeners, farmers, businesses, schools, and civic groups to grow, glean, and donate quality produce to distribution sites (pantries, shelters, community meals) and directly to neighbors in need, with the goal of mitigating hunger, improving nutrition and health, and helping recipients develop lifelong positive nutritional habits.

Since 2000, Maine Harvest for Hunger participants have:

  • Distributed over 2,444,040 pounds of food to citizens grappling with hunger.
  • In 2016, donations of 257,195 pounds of fresh produce went to 142 hunger alleviation distribution sites.
  • Over 620 volunteers in 14 counties logged over 5,000 hours and the value of the produce was over $434,660.

Helping Lobstermen Adapt to Warmer Gulf of Maine

Changes in climate are placing pressure on fisheries and on the economies of many coastal communities, especially those that rely on a single fishery such as lobsters. In 2012, historically warm water in the Gulf of Maine during the winter contributed to lobsters shedding their shells as early as March rather than July. The resulting volume catches of soft shell lobsters throughout Maine and Canada produced a glut and plummeting prices, creating uncertainty and economic vulnerability in Maine communities.

In Maine, the economic diversity of the state’s fisheries is at a 50-year nadir, with lobsters generating over 80 percent of the landings values. The resilience of the coastal lobster ecological-economic system depends on management strategies that can adapt to a changing climate.

Since 2014, UMaine Extension, Maine Sea Grant and other partners have explored how climate change is impacting the lobster fishery in order to identify potential resilience management strategies. The goals of the three-year project are (1) to improve knowledge of how a changing climate will affect fishing communities’ abilities to maintain marine fisheries and dependent local economies; and (2) to investigate the role of a participatory modeling process to help decision makers in fishing communities address consequences, vulnerabilities, and adaptive strategies related to climate stressors.

These decision-making tools and other resources for Maine lobstermen have helped help create flexibility in the industry, which is crucial in adapting to the warming Gulf of Maine.

Protecting Maine’s Coastal Tourism Industry and Beaches

Visitors to Maine beaches contributed $1.61 billion to the southern coast and tourism contributed $735 million to the mid-coast economy. This industry and the coastal environment they depend on are vulnerable to pollution and climate change. Maine coastal residents and visitors value work that protects public health, reduces pollution, and keeps Maine’s tourism industry resilient and strong.

UMaine Extension coordinates Maine Healthy Beaches, the state’s only quality-assured program to monitor water quality and protect public health on coastal beaches. MHB builds local capacity to identify, eliminate, and prevent pollution sources, to help improve water quality on Maine’s valued coastal beaches. This work helps protect against water-borne illnesses and protects the state’s coastal tourism.

4-H Youth Development

4-H Ambassadors Sparking Student Interest in STEM Careers

Despite its consistently high rate of high school graduation, Maine’s college attendance and success rates are low by comparison. In 2010, the Maine STEM Collaborative estimated that in the next decade one in seven new Maine jobs will be in STEM-related areas and will offer wages that are 58 percent higher than those of other occupations.” It is critical that Maine youth have the knowledge and aspiration to access higher education, particularly in STEM fields. 4-H can be a conduit for youth to higher education and careers, especially in STEM.

In 2016, with the support of the UMaine System Chancellor and Board of Trustees, the 4-H STEM Ambassadors program expanded to six of the seven UMaine campuses. Ambassadors are trained college students who act as caring mentors to youth, facilitate STEM activities with them, and help them learn about college and career options.

As a result, ambassadors reported increases in their knowledge of STEM and comfort facilitating STEM activities. One said, Youth participant surveys suggested they want to learn more about science, feel they are good at science, and feel college could be right for them. Youth were extremely excited that UMaine students came to share STEM activities.

Students “Follow a Researcher™” on Expeditions in the Field

Maine needs to graduate an increasing number of science literate and proficient students to meet the growing demands of our workforce and society. Studies show that youth may have an interest in science, but dislike science class, lowering their intentions to pursue STEM-related career fields.

UMaine Extension and UMaine collaborators created the Follow a Researcher (FAR™) to increase youth understanding of the research process by engaging them directly with UMaine researchers in the field. The program takes advantage of the fact that all middle school students have access to a computer or laptop through the Maine Learning Technology Initiative. FAR™ chooses UMaine expedition-oriented researchers based on their experience, ability to engage youth, and the “wow” factor of their research topic or expedition location.

In 2016, FAR™ reached 1676 Maine youth (over 50 percent female), and 76 adults. Participating middle school teachers created curriculum related to the expedition, exposing youth to science in their classrooms in new and engaging ways. Many teachers integrated the program directly into their English, mathematics and science curricula and developed activities for use with FAR™. FAR™ is expected to grow significantly as it develops relationships with Polartrec (Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating) and the National Public Radio Podcast Science Friday.

Supporting Military Families with Teen Summer Camps

Family life in the military can be challenging, especially for teens. At least one parent may be gone for long periods of time, there may be constant, underlying worry about the parent that is deployed, and there may be additional stress related to relocations. Research shows that while many military children and families manage well, for some these challenges can have a detrimental effect on their health and wellbeing.

Since 2011 UMaine Extension 4-H Camp and Learning Centers have offered Military Teen Adventure Camps to provide outdoor adventure, STEM, and leadership camp programs for teens of youth with parents who are deployed or about to be deployed.  Extension partners with the U.S. with support from NIFA, National 4-H and U.S. military youth programs, to create these programs.

Through the 2016 Navy Teen Camp program, twenty-four teens from Navy bases in Singapore and California gained knowledge and skills in STEAM, 4-H, and community as they built submersible robots to explore the Ducktrap Watershed and discover the elements essential for healthy ecosystems. Since 2011, the three Camp and Learning Centers have provided camp experiences to over 540 military teens.

4-H Camps Connecting Youth to the Outdoors, Community, and Mentors

More and more youth are connected to digital media, many for 6-8 hours a day. As a result of this isolation and sedentary indoor time, many youth suffer from obesity and/or ADHD, and some lack opportunities to develop positive interpersonal skills such as empathy. Research also shows that youth without positive adult role models are at greater risk for making unhealthy choices or engaging in risky behaviors.

UMaine Extension 4-H camps provide underserved youth ages 4-17 with transformational experiences that create a sense of place and belonging, comfort and confidence in the outdoors, and the opportunity to live for a week or more alongside trained adult educators, mentors, and caring peers. With 141 different summer camp programs focusing on ecology education, the arts, and outdoor skills, youth have a wealth of opportunities from which to draw meaningful experiences.

In 2016, UMaine 4-H summer camps served 1832 youth from all 16 counties in Maine, 31 states, and 7 countries. Through living and working together, campers and staff became part of an interconnected community committed to a sustainable future. The opportunities to develop mastery of skills happens in the context of the residential camp and learning center setting and includes healthy nutrition and activities, inclusive and safe learning environments, and leadership development. Youth and program alumni report that the 4-H Camp and Learning Center experience has helped them develop greater self-confidence, civic engagement, and personal and academic success

The County Extension Act

The County Extension Act explains the role of county government in funding local Extension offices.

Cooperative Extension work shall consist of the giving of practical demonstrations in agriculture and natural resources, youth development, and home economics and community life and imparting information on those subjects through field demonstrations, publications and otherwise. For the purpose of carrying out this chapter, there may be created in each county or combination of two counties within the State an organization known as a “county extension association,” and its services available to all residents of a county. The county extension is viewed as a unique and important educational program of county government. The executive committee of each county extension association shall prepare an annual budget as requested, showing in detail its estimate of the amount of money to be expended under this chapter within the county of counties for the fiscal year. The executive committee shall submit to the board of county commissioners on a date requested by the county commissioners, and the county commissioners may, if they deem it justifiable, adopt an appropriate budget for the county extension program and levy a tax therefore. The amount thus raised by direct taxation within any county or combination of counties for the purposes of this chapter shall be used for the salaries of clerks, provision of office space, supplies, equipment, postage, telephone, a contribution toward the salaries of county educators and such other expenses as necessary to maintain an effective county extension program.1

1Excerpted from Title 7, Chapter 7 of the Maine Revised Statutes, §191–§195.