University of Maine Cooperative Extension Franklin County 2018 Annual Report

the graphic poster depicting varioius segments of the Maine Food SystemPutting 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.

— Celebrating 100 Years in Franklin County —

Office of the Interim Director

Lisa Phelps, interim director of Cooperative Extension
Lisa Phelps, Interim Director of the UMaine Cooperative Extension

Welcome to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension! We are located across the state in 16 county offices, research farms, 4-H camps, and online. We are the largest outreach component of the University of Maine and reach more Maine people than any other entity within the seven-campus University of Maine System. Our work is focused on two areas of excellence. UMaine Cooperative Extension conducts the state’s most successful out-of-school youth education program through 4-H, empowering young people to reach their full potential. Extension also helps support, sustain, and grow the food-based economy across the entire state of Maine. We are the only entity in our state that touches every aspect of the Maine Food System, where policy, research, production, processing, commerce, nutrition, and food security and safety are integral and interrelated.

UMaine Cooperative Extension is determined to make a positive difference in our areas of excellence for the citizens of Maine. Explore our website, visit a county office, and contact our enthusiastic workforce.

— Lisa Phelps, Interim Director

Franklin County Extension Association Executive Committee

President: Open

Vice President: Erica Emery

Treasurer: Janet Plouffe

Secretary: Rosalie Derry

  • Jennifer Latham
  • Lois King
  • Patty Cormier
  • Dawn Girardin
  • John Perry

Franklin County Staff

  • David Fuller, Agriculture, and Non-Timber Forest Products Professional
  • Tara Marble, 4-H Youth Development Professional
  • Judy Smith, 4-H Community Education Assistant
  • Leilani Carlson, Project Coordinator for Maine AgrAbility Program
  • Mallory Brunette, Senior Companion Program Coordinator
  • Tiffany Wing, Administrative Specialist

County Highlights: Maine Food System

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

University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s unique educational work in agriculture, home food production, non-timber forest products, and homeowner issues help farmers, gardeners, woodlot owners and all citizens of Franklin County to make informed decisions to grow more food, have more successful businesses and better their lives through research-based information.

Examples of educational programming are:

  • Helping farmers with weed management, product development, marketing, and crop questions for increased profitability
  • Fielding over 1,000 telephone, email, walk-in and on-site consultations including soil testing, food production, food safety, tick identification, water safety, farm and business start-ups, marketing and product development and home pest issues
  • Work with new and experienced high tunnel vegetable growers to manage insect pests and diseases
  • Help homeowners manage water resources during times of drought
  • Develop young entrepreneurs through the Money Can Grow on Trees Program
  • Work with students in the RSU9 system to grow garlic and transfer the information to their homes
  • 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 as much softwood pulp at present.
  • Every citizen in Franklin County can access our Cooperative Extension office either through classes, publications, YouTube educational videos, webpage, face-to-face consultation or by telephone or emails.
  • Intensive farm management planning
  • An improved Extension webpage 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 residents deal with insect and disease pests in their crops, homes or apartments resulting often in a no-spray or lower spray/cost solutions

I was able to get a job because of the class I took with you! — Farmington resident

David Fuller teaching youth about food production
David Fuller teaching youth about food production.

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
  • Food safety 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 775 publications and educational videos.
youth displaying the fir wreaths made at the money can grow on trees workshop
Money Can Grow on Trees: Youth Entrepreneurship

I made over $800 as a result of attending the Money Can Grow on Trees program
— 12-year-old 4-H member


County Highlights: 4-H Youth Development

Franklin County 4-H Program

4-H is a program of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension which focuses on youth development and education.  In the 2018 program year, there were 44 trained adult 4-H volunteers working with 102 Franklin County youth to fulfill the program’s mission of empowering youth to reach their full potential.

The 4-H program serves youth ages 5-18. A majority of the youth membership is enrolled in organized clubs. In 2018, Franklin County had 12 active 4-H clubs, most of which had an animal science focus. They were: Beef Boosters (Chesterville), Dairy Club (Farmington), Dandy Crafters (Jay), Doe-C-Doe Dairy Goat Club (Farmington), Dusty Boots (New Sharon) Giddy Up & Go Horse Club (Temple), Growing Homesteaders, Happy H’s (New Sharon) Franklin County Circuit Hackers Club (Farmington), Rabbiteers Club (Farmington), Supper on the Table (Farmington) and the Working Steer Club (Farmington).

Franklin County had a general club in 2018 whose members participated in a wide variety of projects from crafting and sewing to livestock and gardening. The 4-H program also had an independent membership with thirteen 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 2018:

In 2018 a 4-H Professional was added to the staff at the Franklin County Extension Office.  This addition was welcomed and long overdue and has allowed the Extension office to expand its 4H offerings for youth and creating new community connections.

Public Speaking continues to be a successful program in Franklin County and has gained movement and attention from other counties.  Franklin County now hosts a Regional Public Speaking event which brings together youth from Franklin County and neighboring counties to increase the number of competitors wishing to move on and qualify for the state competition.  13 Franklin County youth participated in the Regional tournament, 10 of those youth members went on to compete at the state level competition and 1 Franklin member placed in the top 10 (out of nearly 60 youth state-wide) which granted them an invitation to attend the Eastern States Exposition in Springfield MA as part of the Science Communication Team.

A new county activity known as “Science Saturdays” was added to the programming roster.  Members were invited to come and explore engineering concepts by creating and launching marshmallows from a collection of normal everyday objects.  Youth also participated in creating their own “fit bit”-type devices and learned about sensors and collecting data to interpret.  In addition, they also studied wind energy and designed their own turbine blades to see which models generated the most electricity in a generator, with a culminating field trip and tour of the Saddle Back Ridge Wind Turbines.

Four Franklin County 4-H members were selected to represent our program at Citizenship Washington Focus, a week-long experience held in Washington D C.  They were able to meet and work with youth from across the country participating in activities to strengthen their leadership skills and help them become more active members in their communities.

The annual 4-H Fair was held at the Farmington Fairgrounds in June. This was a one-day event which offered a variety of activities and workshops to youth and families. It was open to the public promoting our 4-H program here in Franklin County. This was 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.

Eighteen 4-H youth participated in Franklin County’s 2018 4-H Horse Camp held at the Farmington Fairgrounds.  An invitation was extended to 4-H members outside of Franklin County as they did not have access to these activities in their own county. All 4-H members were involved in horsemanship education.

A new partnership with UMF has been forged leading to the 4-H Professional teaching 2-4 classes each semester working with pre-service teachers in elementary education, increasing their knowledge of STEM-based education activities and the importance it holds.  These opportunities with UMF have also led to resurrecting the STEM Ambassador Program which teaches volunteer college students about experiential learning and youth mentoring.  College students are then placed in local schools, or community partnerships (like the Farmington Public Library) to deliver STEM education activities with youth for six to eight hours in multi-session segments. In 2018 seven STEM Ambassadors were successfully trained and deployed to host sites in Franklin County.

Four 4-H youth from Franklin County were selected to attend the National Agri-Science Summit held in Washington DC.  They attended workshops and sessions addressing topics such as; the increasing demand for agriculture to meet the ever-growing world population, new and innovate ways to grow crops successfully even without cropland/soil, and advanced biotechnology innovations developed to overcome changing climate conditions.  They met professionals involved in various facets of agriculture and participated in group activates over the jam-packed 3 days.  After returning, the team worked to create and teach workshops about hydroponic growing systems and helped additional youth create their own take-home systems.  One of the team members was so inspired by the Summit he created an educational workshop proposal to teach at the 2019 Summit and was selected!

A number of our 4-H members exhibited at various Maine agricultural fairs. Franklin County was also well represented at the Eastern States Exposition in Springfield, Massachusetts where 4-H members participated in dairy, beef, sheep, goat, horse, and working steer activities. In addition, one of our Franklin County members participated in Dairy Quiz Bowl (a combination of a general knowledge test and several rounds of Jeopardy-style contests) while at the Eastern States.  Maine won the top spot and as a result, the team qualified to continue on to the National contest in Louisville Kentucky, taking sixth place out of 18 other states. A very impressive finish!

In other exciting news, Franklin County has become part of a state-wide effort sponsored by a grant from Microsoft and the National 4H Council. The initiative will help bridge the broadband gap and educate community members about digital literacy, sending two teens to D.C. for a national training which will be rolling out in 2019.  We are very excited about the prospect of this project for ALL of Franklin county.

County Highlights

Maine AgrAbility

a collage, with 4 images, displaying different aspects of the Agriability segment of Cooperative Extension
Addressing health, safety, and the prevention of injuries on the farm, on the water and in the forest.

Maine AgrAbility provides services at no cost to farmers across the state who have health conditions that limit their ability to continue to farm.  We work with farmers, loggers, and fishermen. The program is funded by the USDA and is a collaborative partnership between the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Alpha One, Maine’s Center for Independent Living.

With one full-time staff based out of Farmington and a collaborative effort of five limited-time staff from across the state, we’ve worked with agricultural producers from all 16 counties.  Since 2010, we have provided technical assistance to over 754 Maine farmers, fishermen, and forest workers to overcome disabilities, injuries or other barriers so they can continue to work safely and productively.

a goat and woman, participating in the Agriability programI had challenges I was struggling with, and I was amazed that by the time they left the farm I already had three or four different things that I knew I could change right then and there. They came up with great ideas.
— Agriability Participant

Maine AgrAbility specialists have worked on-site with over 92 Maine farmers to 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.

USDA logotype graphic for sponsorship listing
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Extension logo graphic for sponsorship listing
The University of Maine Cooperative Extension
AlphaOne logo for sponsorship listing
alphaOne, Redefining Disability


Franklin County Garden Angel Program

The Garden Angel Project began in 2012 with the goal of helping seniors, physically disabled, or low/fixed income residents in Franklin County to enjoy the benefits of vegetable gardening and of having sustainable fresh produce. We have expanded the program to thirty recipients this past year ranging in ages from a young mother with a baby in her arms to a one-hundred-year-old.  We have been most fortunate to have the support of many businesses that have either donated or drastically reduced the price of necessary items to build the boxes and legs, provide plants and seeds, loam and compost, etc.  We have also enjoyed the assistance of twenty-five volunteers this year from Work First, local people, Extension members, etc. in building boxes and legs, delivering everything to the recipients, giving gardening advice and assistance with follow-up visits to make sure everything is working well, collecting boxes, legs, and containers at the end of the season, and evaluating the season’s success.  Each year the recipients and volunteers fill out questionnaires so we evaluate what worked well and what would benefit from being adjusted.  Every year has been a learning experience for all of us and has supported the success of this project.

Everyone benefits:

  • Recipients enjoy fresh vegetables and flowers grown in their own gardens without taxing their bodies and energy levels
  • Recipients and Garden Angels cultivate supportive friendships
  • Garden Angels and recipients learn new gardening skills from lifelong gardeners
  • Recipients learn alternate ways to garden
  • Garden Angels learn how to work with seniors or disabled individuals
raised bed garden with zucchini
Garden Angel box with vegetables.

There is no charge to participate in the project. Recipients are paired with Garden Angels on the basis of geographic location, physical ability, gardening skills, and site requirements. Garden Angels arrange weekly visits through the growing season to help plan, plant, care for and harvest vegetables and flowers from a small garden on the property of the recipient. Angels typically provide an average of two hours of service each week during the growing season, bringing the joy of gardening, the nutrition of fresh vegetables, and the beauty of flowers to folks who would otherwise be unable to enjoy this wonderful part of summer in Maine. Angels offer much more than just gardening help; they also provide social contact and a way for recipients to continue to be involved with an activity that means so much to them.

Franklin County 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 (including low-income) 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 caregiving responsibilities.

In the past year, Companions received training on such topics as “Understanding the New Nutrition Labeling”, “Self-Care: with healthy ways to help reduce stress and quickly de-stress”, Scam Alerts from the AARP, the UMaine Agriculture and Food Systems “Farmer to Farmer” program in Armenia, sharing success stories together about clients, and procedures and boundaries for visiting clients. 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 and helping them stay independent in the home of their choice.

In the past year, we have had 4 Senior Companions in Franklin County. They have served over 3,928 volunteer hours and 1,287 visits to Franklin County seniors. They have driven over 17,000 miles with 32 clients being served in Franklin County. And they received over $15,000 in stipends and mileage reimbursement.

Considering that the average cost of a nursing home (semi-private room) stay is over $109,000 annually, you can see how even our small investment to help keep even four of those clients in their own home could impact the economy of our communities.

two homemakers talking in a living room
Client Wanetta Nurse (left) and senior companion Kitty Gee chat about topics like family and the good old days.

Maine Public radio interviewed our Franklin county senior companion, Kitty Gee, about her role as a companion. This interview than went national on National Public Radio.

Franklin County Extension Homemakers

Extension Homemakers is a volunteer group that has the goal of developing leadership, supporting worthy community causes, and promoting the 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 that meet 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 education 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.

Franklin County Extension Homemakers 2018 Highlights

In 2018, 95 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. This year Franklin County Homemakers were able to donate over 360 boxes of tissues to Franklin County Schools.

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

  • 814 participants attended 64 educational programs that were offered at the local county level.

Volunteer hours given to outside organizations/agencies/ groups:

  • 1,825 hours valued at $ 31,937.50

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

  • 2,824 hours given to raise the money valued at $49,420.00
  • Value of money raised or items made/donated $17,515.00

Organizational service to Extension Homemaker Program:

  • a collage graphic showing various exhibits of the work that Franklin county homemakers do5,486 volunteer hours, valued at $96,005.00
  • Value of items made, donated, and cash was given to support program was $6,987.00
  • Total value of service to Extension organization is $102,992

Overall totals:

  • 10,135 volunteer hours, valued at $177,362.50
  • Value of materials/donations in the amount of $24,592.50
  • Total estimated monetary value of Franklin County Extension Homemaker Program to their communities was $201,865.00.

State Highlights: Maine Food System

University of Maine Veterinary Diagnostic Lab

The University of Maine Veterinary Diagnostic Lab (VDL) provides services to veterinarians, livestock producers, and animal owners of the state. The lab performs a variety of diagnostic services, including necropsy, microbiology, virology, pathology, and special research support. It offers diagnostic support to veterinary clinicians, and assists in finding solutions for agricultural producers using UMaine Extension resources. In 2018, the University of Maine Animal Health Lab tested over 6,000 samples, the great majority of which were from farm animals. Our salmonella and mastitis labs test poultry farm environmental swabs and milk, allowing farms of all sizes to operate with more assurance of healthy animals and healthy products. The new Diagnostic and Research Laboratory that opened in June 2018 has expanded the VDL’s services, outreach, and positive impact on Maine’s farms

Supporting Maine’s Potato Industry

Relevance: 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 2600 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. Potato growers are increasingly relying on a multidisciplinary Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach to ensure that Maine’s potato crop is pest and damage free while attempting to minimize the number of pesticides that are applied.

Response: UMaine Extension’s Potato IPM Program impacts Maine’s 300 commercial potato growers and 48,000 acres of potatoes and has become an integral part of the Maine Potato Industry. The program also broadly impacts national and international growers who rely on the state’s seed crop. The project maintains nearly 100 specialized insect traps, coordinates a statewide network of electronic weather stations, and surveys 75 potato fields on a weekly basis for weeds, insects, and diseases. IPM scientists track potential pest outbreaks to provide growers with current information on treatments to minimize the number of pesticide applications and maximize potato yield.

Result: The economic impact from Extension’s pest monitoring and educational programs for the 2018 season is estimated at over $8.1 million.

Maple Grading School: Promoting Quality, Increasing Profit

Relevance: Maine has the third largest maple production in the United States, behind Vermont and New York. Maine’s maple industry has an annual statewide economic contribution of over $48 million in output, 805 full and part-time jobs, and over $25 million in labor income. Maine’s maple production industry annually produces over 700,000 gallons of maple syrup.

Response: In 2004, a grant from the Maine Agriculture Center funded a collaborative effort by UMaine Extension, UNH Extension and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets to create an International Maple Syrup Institute Maple (IMSI) Grading School. To meet ongoing demand, the Grading School has been held annually and has been adopted by the IMSI as a signature event aligned with the IMSI mission to protect the quality and integrity of maple products. School attendees are from all areas of the industry: producers, bulk buyers, and syrup packers, Department of Agriculture inspectors, Extension personnel, and chefs.

Results: For 15 years the school has helped promote the wholesome image of the maple industry and shown that its participants are high quality and careful producers of unique maple products. The continued success of the school and its participants helps promote the exceptional image of both the maple industry and its producers who create high-quality products. Fifteen years of evaluation results show that 82% of the 520 participants have increased their knowledge about five syrup grading techniques. The school provides an excellent platform for industry discussion and education about maple products, grading and quality issues concerning pure maple syrup. The school has received media attention in including news articles by the Associated Press and National Public Radio, as well as local television and print media.

So, You Want to Farm in Maine

Relevance: Interest in agriculture and starting new farms in Maine has increased dramatically over the past fifteen years. One-third of Maine’s farmers are beginning farmers with fewer than 10 years of experience. Forty-seven percent of new farm businesses fail within the first five years. Current farmers thinking about changing farm enterprises and new farmers interested in starting a farm often lack skill, knowledge, and confidence in areas such as business planning, access to capital, rules, and regulations affecting agriculture operations, and marketing.

Response: Since 2011, UMaine Extension has provided educational outreach through its “So You Want to Farm in Maine” series to enhance the skills, business management knowledge, the confidence of new and established farmers. The programs are live, live-streamed, and archived. One-on-one consultations help potential farmers to best utilize natural resources, web-based resources and seek appropriate guidance from other agricultural service providers.

Results: Since 2011 the SYWTFIM series has reached over 800 participants from all Maine counties and out-of-state. Since 2014, an online new farmer self-assessment has been used 190 times, and Extension staff has consulted with 505 new farmers statewide. A survey sample of these farmers revealed:

  • Fifty-one new farm businesses have been started where the farm operator has a good understanding of the importance of business planning and how to connect to the educational, financial, and service resources available to them in Maine.
  • Eighty-eight new jobs, with estimated wages of $612,000 annually.
  • Estimated total market value of agricultural products sold by these farms of over $2.2 million annually.

Improving Food Security and Diet of Parents and Caregivers

Relevance: Maine has the ninth highest rate of food insecurity in the nation and the highest rate of food insecurity in New England. Higher rates of obesity have been found among low-income individuals, especially low-income women and children. The United States annually spends between $147 billion and $210 billion on adult obesity. Rising and sustained adult obesity rates will continue to put a strain on current health promotion programs and continue to raise health care cost for the nation.

Response: To improve the food security and diet of Maine’s low-income parents and caregivers, UMaine Extension EFNEP implements direct education to improve their knowledge, behaviors, and attitudes related to improving diet quality, increasing daily physical activity, and using food resources management practices to learn how to plan and shop for healthy meals and snacks. Program outcomes are measured for all adults using validated pre-/post-program surveys.

Results: In 2018, 579 adults participated in Maine EFNEP, and the program reached a total of 2,232 individuals in the program families. Of the 579 adults, 60% completed pre and post surveys that revealed:

  • 43% eat fruit more often each day,
  • 35% eat vegetables more often each day,
  • 30% drink soda less often,
  • 43% make small changes each day to be more active,
  • 37% thaw frozen food at room temperature less often,
  • 40% plan meal before shopping more often,
  • 32% make a list before shopping more often.

State Highlights: 4-H Youth Development

4-H STEM Ambassadors Sparking Student Interest in STEM Careers

Relevance: Relevant, meaningful, and authentic experiences in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are important to developing positive attitudes, increasing knowledge, and preparing Maine youth for the estimated 9 million STEM-related occupations projected between 2012 and 2022. Developing Maine youth’s STEM literacy is vital to ensuring that our state continues to thrive economically and socially. Given the remote and diverse communities to which Maine youth belong, informal education can help minimize inequities in rural youth STEM education and career pipelines.

Response: In coordination with the University of Maine System, the 4-H STEM Ambassador program trained 120 college students in the development and delivery of informal STEM-based educational experiences. Combined, these volunteers worked with over 1,000 youth and committed 2,400 hours of time including training, preparation, and program delivery. Through this program, youth ages 8-14 come to view these Ambassadors as mentors and leaders in their community while also developing skills in STEM through hands-on activities.

Results: In 2018 the 4-H STEM Ambassador program provided experiential programming to over 1,000 youth. Sixty-six community sites, including schools and afterschool partners, participated with teachers and administrators reporting high levels of satisfaction. Student participants reported that without this program their instructional time with STEM would be reduced. As a result of this program participating youth have demonstrated positive attitudes, increased knowledge, and expanded interest in STEM and STEM careers. This year, all seven UMaine System campuses participated in the 4-H STEM program.

Students Follow a Researcher® on Expeditions in the Field

Relevance: 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 youth may have an interest in science, but dislike science class, lowering their intentions to pursue STEM-related career fields. This has been linked to a lack of authentic and actively engaging learning experiences in STEM. Outreach between land grant University STEM researchers and youth traditionally involves campus visits and tours. Barriers such as scheduling, distance from campus, and dwindling school transportation budgets negatively impact youth participation.

Response: UMaine Extension and collaborators created Follow a Researcher® to increase youth understanding of the research process by engaging them directly with UMaine researchers in the field. Follow a Researcher® is a UMaine 4-H program using technology and social media to facilitate real-time conversations between youth and graduate student researchers working in remote locations around the world. The program is now a proven model that utilizes technology to engage new audiences with authentic scientific research, humanize the researcher, and make the research process personally relevant.

Results: Since 2015, 4,560 youth ages 7 to 18 and over 150 educators have engaged with researchers during expeditions to Peru, the Falkland Islands, Antarctica, and along the coast of Maine. In 2017, in partnership with the NSF-funded Maine EPSCoR office and SEANET project, we highlighted a researcher investigating parasitic relationships with invasive green crabs. The program audience grows annually and is attracting local and national media attention including being highlighted on the social media accounts of the National Public Broadcasting radio show and podcast “Science Friday”, and with an article published in the 2018 Journal of Extension Special Issue on Innovation. In development is the Follow a Researcher® network, which will enable us to manage expeditions from multiple sites from our new Cooperative Extension: Follow a Researcher® website and engage 4-H programs and researchers from other universities to share expeditions with youth and educators from around the country and beyond.

Tech Wizards Students Helping Solve Real Community Problems

Relevance: According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nationwide, nearly one-third of high school students fail to graduate. In total, approximately 1.3 million students drop out each year-averaging 7,200 every school day. According to research, experts say that dropping out of high school affects not just students and their families, but also the country overall-including businesses, government, and communities.

Response: Tech Wizards is a youth mentoring program that uses STEM education and service learning to help youth learn life and workforce skills, improve academic performance, and aspire to post-secondary education, productive careers, and community engagement. Extension coordinates the program in Maine, with funding from the U.S. Department of Juvenile Justice. Through Tech Wizards, the students joined their science teacher and 4-H mentors and:

  • 4-H professionals worked within classrooms to deliver STEM activities and provide positive mentoring relationships with youth
  • Worked with area collaborators and science professionals to complete citizen science and science learning projects
  • Were introduced to career opportunities within science, technology, and art

Results: Statewide in 2018, Maine’s Tech Wizards program matched 120 youth along with 10 adult mentors. Youth learned invaluable STEM skills, participated in ongoing fieldwork, citizen science initiatives, service learning, and were empowered to engage with their communities and contribute their time and skills to address important scientific questions and to recognize that environmental stewardship is both the platform for their learning and an overarching life ethic.

4-H Summer Camp Building Community and Connecting Youth to the Outdoors

Relevance: Research has shown that physical, social and emotional environments can significantly impact youth development and connecting youth to a positive adult role model decreases the risk for making unhealthy choices or engaging in risky behaviors. With youth spending more time connected to social media and other digital platforms resulting in isolation and sedentary indoor time, many youths suffer from obesity and/or ADHD, and some lack opportunities to develop positive interpersonal communication skills

Response: UMaine Extension’s four 4-H Camp and Learning Centers provide programs and opportunities for youth ages 4-17, many from underserved populations, with transformational experiences designed to develop a sense of place and belonging, and confidence in the outdoors. Our programs provide the opportunity to spend each day in a positive learning environment or to live for a week or more alongside trained adult educators, mentors, and caring peers. Our summer camp programs provide youth a wealth of opportunities for programs to choose, from focusing on ecology education, the arts, and outdoor skills, youth can create meaningful experiences that fit their needs.

Results: In 2018, the 4-H summer camps served 1,888 youth from all 16 counties in Maine, 22 states, and six countries. Through living and working together, campers and staff became part of an interconnected community committed to a sustainable future. 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.

Reducing Summer Learning Loss

Relevance: The United States needs to improve the proficiency of our students in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) disciplines. Documentation reveals that low-income students have less than average access to science education. The achievement gap is perpetuated during summer months for low-income students, who lose more grade equivalency due to lack of out-of-school and summer learning opportunities. In addition, an increase in STEM education can lead to better employment opportunities and increase the likelihood of youth furthering their education.

Response: In an effort to increase science proficiencies in local communities and prevent summer learning loss, UMaine Extension created and delivered science curricula at community sites, chosen based on existing programs for youth in the area. In 2018 Maine 4-H Summer of Science was at 40 unique sites in nine counties, including free-or-reduced lunch sites, libraries, summer school programs, and summer camp sites. Community partners included Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs, schools, public housing authorities, and local recreation camps. Summer of Science activities was based on “Innovation Engineering”, and included animal adaptation, bioremediation, chromatography, and engineering design. Adult volunteers and 34 teens facilitated activities with over 2,700 youth.

4-H staff uses the summer of science experiential learning activities to assist with summer learning loss and work toward engagement and interest in science. The program focuses on programming where youth already are and uses positive 4-H youth development programs to reduce barriers to involvement in STEM.

Results: By engaging in summer of science activities, these youth are well poised to return to their academic school year with reduced summer learning loss and an increased interest in science. In addition, it has been documented that youth involved in 4-H are more likely to pursue future courses or a career in science, engineering or computer technology, which can lead to improved employment opportunities. Not only does this program help Maine youth in elementary school during summer months. It also fosters career development, leadership, and responsibility for the Maine teens that are trained to deliver educational content in their neighborhoods.

4-H@UMaine Gives Youth a Preview of the College Experience

Relevance: Education after high school is critical to supporting skilled jobs in Maine. Supporting youth to participate in higher education helps to strengthen Maine’s businesses and economy. Unfortunately, the number of Maine high school graduates enrolled in higher education lags at 40th in the nation. Although research recommends beginning to address college and career aspirations in elementary and middle grades, coordinating access to a college campus presents barriers for rural Maine communities.

Response: UMaine Extension created 4-H@UMaine to provide a safe and supportive environment for Maine youth grades 6-12 to experience life on a college campus. Participants come to the UMaine campus and imagine the possibility of college attendance as they stay in campus residence halls, eat in the dining commons, get active in the student recreation center, and participate in hands-on workshops facilitated by UMaine students, staff, faculty, and even 4-H Teen Leaders. While they are there, Extension also fosters healthy relationships using small-group settings led by trained adult leaders and teenage peer mentors.

Results: In 2018, 4-H@UMaine hosted 32 youth (grades 6-10), 17 Teen Leaders (grades 9-12), and 27 adult staff and volunteers. In addition to the traditional youth experience for grades 6-10, college-ready teens took part in an exclusive experience that included pre-event training, planning roles as youth mentors, and workshops to further develop leadership skills and connect with campus staff. Of those attending 4-H@UMaine:

  • 92% of all the youth indicated they learned about new career possibilities, helping to raise their career aspirations
  • 94% plan to go to college

A cursory review of statements collected by youth after participation indicated they were most impacted by healthy relationships built during that short time. The diversity of responses shows a variety of impact – including relationship building, meeting people from other cultures, and learning more about the college experience and careers.

State Highlights: Community and Economic Development

Helping Rural Entrepreneurs Increase Profitability

Relevance: Small businesses are very important to the economic vitality of Maine’s rural economy. One in five jobs in rural Maine are created by small-scale entrepreneurs employing five or fewer workers. However, many of these entrepreneurs lack the business skills needed to successfully start-up and grow their businesses. Research shows that helping rural entrepreneurs improve their business skills will improve their chances for success.

One of the most important business management skills is pricing, yet many small business owners lack the knowledge and skills necessary to develop a profitable pricing strategy.

Response: During the past year, the UMaine Extension conducted pricing workshops across the state, presented a pricing webinar in collaboration with the Maine Food Strategy, and taught a pricing seminar at a statewide conference for Maine entrepreneurs. The goal of the program was to help existing and aspiring entrepreneurs improve their pricing knowledge and skills so they could develop profitable pricing strategies for their businesses. Extension faculty conducted classes on topics including key elements of pricing, pricing models, pricing strategies, the price elasticity of demand, markup vs. margin and cost analysis.

Results: More than 80 rural entrepreneurs from across Maine participated in this highly successful training. They included specialty food producers, farmers, craft artists, food retailers, environmental consultants, bookkeepers, and other small rural businesses. Eighty-seven percent of the participants indicated that they plan to set a new price for their product or service, and all participants plan to adopt the pricing techniques they had learned. Changes they planned to make within six months of the training included: restructure their pricing, conduct a thorough analysis of costs, evaluate their customer base, keep track of their time while producing their products and research their market more thoroughly before setting prices. Several entrepreneurs who had attended the workshops indicated that they subsequently created pricing strategies that led to increased profitability for their businesses.

Maine Harvest for Hunger: Mobilizing to Support Food Insecure Citizens

Relevance: Maine has the highest rate of food insecurity in New England and ranks seventh worst in the United States. The USDA estimates that more than 208,000 individuals (16.4%) in Maine are food insecure and that we have the 3rd worst rate of very low food insecurity in the nation. Twenty percent of Maine children and 23% of seniors experience food insecurity. It is especially challenging for food insecure individuals to afford high quality, fresh, nutritious food, and Maine’s emergency food system has seen donations of fresh produce decline significantly in recent years. Furthermore, 43% of food-insecure people (mostly the working poor) do not qualify for SNAP (food stamps) or any other government food assistance programs.

Response: Since 2000, UMaine Cooperative Extension’s statewide Maine Harvest for Hunger (MHH) program has mobilized gardeners, farmers, businesses, schools, and civic groups to grow, glean, and donate high quality produce to distribution sites (pantries, shelters, low income senior centers, etc.) and directly to neighbors in need, to mitigate hunger, improve nutrition and health, and help recipients develop lifelong positive nutritional habits. In 2018 MHH also focused on educational programs that engage food pantry recipients, seniors and community gardeners in growing more of their own produce and learning practical methods of cooking and utilization of fresh produce.

Results: Since 2000, MHH participants have distributed 2.9 million lbs. of food to citizens grappling with hunger. In 2018, donations of 231,752 lbs. of fresh produce from over 100 Maine farms went to 187 hunger alleviation distribution sites. A corps of 512 volunteers logged 2664 hours and the value of the produce was over $391,660. Now in its 19th season, MHH is an exemplary statewide collaborative effort between UMaine Extension staff, Master Gardener Volunteers, farms, food pantry staff, and volunteers. Every gleaning partnership is unique in how we collaborate with farmers, volunteers, and food pantries. Pantry volunteers frequently comment how much the high-quality fresh produce means to recipients, many of whom otherwise would have limited access to them.

One person commented that they had not eaten a fresh apple in over a year and was overwhelmed with joy when a food pantry volunteer provided them with a bagful.

Homemakers Promoting Community-Based Adult Education

Relevance: Extension Homemakers is a volunteer group that develops leadership skills, supports community causes, and promotes UMaine Extension’s educational programs in 9 Maine counties. These organized programs are part of the statewide network of Extension Homemakers. Local group members meet throughout the year to participate in educational programs and identify community projects, such as providing assistance to local food pantries or nursing homes or veterans groups, funding educational scholarships or youth camp programs.

Response: In 2018, over 550 Extension Homemakers took the opportunity to learn with others, make friends, contribute to their community and county, donating their time, money, and materials to numerous community agencies and projects. Homemakers from over 40 Local Extension Homemaker Groups met and delivered or engaged in Extension programming involving over 2,300 participants and 321 programs including food, personal and community; nutrition and health; gardening and environmental, financial planning and consumer; personal growth; and cultural and creative arts.

Results: In many Maine counties Extension Homemakers remain a traditional and vital part of the community fabric. They also provide direct and indirect benefits in terms of volunteer hours, fundraising, and material donations. In 2018, the total estimated monetary value of the Extension Homemaker program to their communities was over $939,000.

Facilitation Skills and Community Engagement Academy

Relevance: Stakeholder engagement in municipal planning activities, often restricted to public hearings, does not necessarily result in effectively soliciting community input, and conflict resolution can be hindered by a lack of facilitation skills.

Response: UMaine Extension worked with Maine Sea Grant to make the five-part, 20-hour training “Strengthening Your Facilitation Skills” available in southern Maine, and joined efforts with community development specialists at UNH Cooperative Extension. This collaboration is making it possible for new programming and services to become available to communities, such as peer learning programs and opportunities to build a network of co-facilitators. In 2017 and 2018 UMaine and UNH Extension collaborated to pilot a three-session, 21-hour, Community Engagement Academy in the Seacoast Region of Southern Maine and New Hampshire.

Results: “Strengthening Your Facilitation Skills” has graduated over 80 professionals who are now offering their skills within their communities. One participant has initiated a Listen to Learn series of neighborhood meetings on economic development and launched a website to engage the community. Collaboration with New Hampshire Extension made it possible for new programming and services to become available in Maine, such as the Community Engagement Academy, development of new outreach approaches for municipal officials, and understanding the impact of graduates applying their facilitation skills within their communities.

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

Relevance: 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.

Response: Maine AgrAbility helps 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 Northern New England, and Alpha One.

Results: Since the project began in 2010, AgrAbility has provided technical information to 754 farmers and conducted on-site assessments for 92 agricultural workers. The diverse agricultural operations include dairy and livestock operations, Christmas tree farms, fruit orchards, agritourism, vegetable and maple syrup production, hay sales, managing woodlots and lobstering.

Clients reported increased knowledge of their conditions and increased accessibility for their daily work. They reported ways that the assessment and suggested changes helped them decrease physical pain, stress, and strain through modifications to equipment, the work or home environment, and farm operations or chores.


University of Maine Cooperative Extension Support for Franklin County

Without statewide support, UMaine Extension would not be present in your county. Funds for projects are provided through the University of Maine, Federal Formula Funds, grants, contracts, and fees. Dollars from other sources support salaries and benefits for Extension specialists, county educators, Extension administration, computer equipment, and networking, publications, postage, telephone, and travel.

Statewide Extension Funding

As a unique partnership among federal, state and county governments, UMaine Extension uses funding from Maine counties and the University to match and leverage support from the United States Department of Agriculture, other federal grantors, state agencies and private foundations. Each county UMaine Extension office is also part of a statewide organization and the national Extension system.

Franklin County CY2018
Local Salaries and Benefits $259,271
Prorated Support from UMaine * $432,669
Computer Equipment and Networking $1,533
Statewide Animal Diagnostic Lab $12,137
Marketing, Publications, Video $939
Local Programming Supplies and Expenses $281
Postage $1,302
Telephone $444
Travel $14,649
TOTAL $723,225
* Prorated support from UMaine reflects travel, postage, telephone, computer equipment and networking, salaries and benefits for administrative and state-wide staff.

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 therefor. 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.

For more information contact:

University of Maine Cooperative Extension Franklin County
138 Pleasant Street, Suite 1
Farmington, Maine 04938
Phone: 207.778.4650 or 800.287.1478 (in Maine)

The University of Maine is an EEO/AA employer, and does not discriminate on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, transgender status, gender expression, national origin, citizenship status, age, disability, genetic information or veteran’s status in employment, education, and all other programs and activities. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies: Sarah E. Harebo, Director of Equal Opportunity, 101 North Stevens Hall, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469-5754, 207.581.1226, TTY 711 (Maine Relay System).