2020 Annual Report
University of Maine Cooperative Extension Oxford County
2019-2020 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.
Welcome to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension! We are located across the state in 16 county offices, research farms, 4-H camps and learning centers, 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 helping Maine communities thrive and we do so focusing on two areas of excellence–the Maine Food System and 4-H. 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. In addition, we partner with other organizations and programs to provide additional educational opportunities to a diversity of audiences across this state.
UMaine Cooperative Extension is determined to make a positive difference in our areas of excellence and beyond for the citizens of Maine. Explore our website, visit a county office, and contact our enthusiastic workforce.
— Hannah Carter, Dean
Oxford County Extension Association
President – Carl Costanzi, South Paris
Vice President – Phoebe Call, South Paris
Treasurer – David Saar, Turner
Secretary – Theresa Kelly, Pownal
Chris Easton, Waterford
Deborah Richmond, Mason Township
Jim Trundy, Hebron
Oxford County Staff
Rebecca Long, Agriculture and Food Systems Professional (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sara King, 4-H Youth Development Professional (email@example.com)
Rebecca Mosley, 4-H Community Education Assistant (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Emma Fournier, Horticulture Community Education Assistant (email@example.com)
Tayla Mann, Administrative Specialist CL2 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
COUNTY HIGHLIGHTS — Commercial Agriculture and Home Horticulture
UMaine Extension in Oxford County gives local residents, farmers, and businesses access to the resources and expertise of the University of Maine. Through educational programs, publications, workshops, and events, UMaine Extension delivers unbiased, research-based information to Oxford County citizens.
- Technical assistance: responded to over 335 technical assistance requests, including home gardener questions and in-depth farmer consultations. This year saw an increase in requests statewide, including Oxford County.
- Outreach: over 4,267 people reached Fryeburg, Waterford, and Oxford Fairs, the Foothills Food Festival, the Agricultural Trade Show, Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School Non-Profit Fair, Telestar Freshman Academy Food System panel presentation, our annual open house, and various other presentations.
- Workshops: 86 attendees. Topics were aimed at both farmers and home gardeners and included: raising backyard poultry, pollinators, commercial lowbush blueberry production, and an introduction to raising pork.
- A highlight was the return of our Master Gardener Volunteer training program. Despite transitioning to an online format midway through, 15 participants successfully completed the initial training. Next, they will complete a 40-hour volunteer internship by participating in community projects related to home horticulture education and food security.
- Due to COVID-19, our spring programming was moved to an online format, which we were able to offer in collaboration with staff statewide. See the “COVID-19 Response” section for more info.
- Services we offer: general farming and gardening advice, one-on-one consultations for farmers, soil testing and recommendations, insect, tick, plant, and plant disease identification, veterinary diagnostic services, farm business planning consultations, and much more.
- Newsletters: Oxford County Farm and Garden Newsletter as well as Bi-Weekly Farmer newsletter offered in conjunction with other staff statewide.
- Lending library: we provide a lending library as a service to Oxford County farmers. We have hay, forage, and soil testing equipment as well as pesticide applicator study materials available to be borrowed.
Our services are available to every citizen of Oxford County and may be accessed in-person at our office or through our website, Facebook page, phone, and email consultations, classes, and publications.
COUNTY HIGHLIGHTS — 4-H Youth Development
4-H provides a community for all kids with programs that teach independence, community service, animal science, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), leadership and everything in between. 4-H programs suit a variety of backgrounds, interests, and schedules and range from in-school to after-school, clubs and workshops to camp. All 4-H learning opportunities offer hands on, experiential learning, and foster positive youth-adult relationships and development of life skills.
- 4-H Clubs: Oxford County has over 200 youth and over 65 volunteers currently enrolled in 4-H. These numbers reflect our independent members, the 19 clubs located all over the county, and also include many homeschool families who use 4-H resources as part of their teaching curriculum. These programs foster positive youth development and focus on a wide range of projects from animal science and gardening, to robotics, cooking, and crafting. In addition, the volunteer mentorship provides a powerful community connection for youth, often leading to friendships that last a lifetime.
- County Fairs: Last year, our over 270 4-H youth, and volunteers, and families all contributed immense time and energy into our fairs, including Waterford, Fryeburg, and Oxford, as well as numerous others both in and out of state. Youth competed in animal shows, sold their animals via auction, offered demonstrations and put on impressive displays showcasing their projects at the 4-H Exhibit Halls.
- The Big E New England Center and Livestock Program: The Oxford County 4-H Program travels down to Massachusetts each year to represent Maine at the Big E. Over 100 youth represented Maine at The Big E teaching STEM activities, presenting from the New England Center stage and competing in animal shows including horse, beef, dairy, goat, sheep, and working steer. This valuable travel experience gives youth the opportunity to compete with youth from other states in a much larger arena.
- Workshops: 4-H hosted numerous county wide workshops this past year with topics including an Open Art Studio, Food Preservation, Baking, Painting, Public Speaking, Gardening and Yoga in addition to a STEM/ Experiential Education Training for volunteers and after school staff. These workshops reached nearly 50 4-H members and members of the public. Workshops and learning opportunities have continued virtually during COVID 19.
- Tech Changemakers: This past year, National 4-H partnered with Microsoft to deliver a program called “Technology Changemakers”. Oxford County participated in this program and Microsoft funded 3 youth leaders from Telstar Freshman Academy and a volunteer to go to Washington D.C. These youth were then trained as “Tech Changemakers” who were tasked with going out in their community to increase digital literacy and teach technology skills to adults. These youth partnered with SAD 44 Adult Education, the Bethel Library Association, and Age Friendly Communities Initiative and led successful events in the community where community members got the opportunity to work one on one with youth on developing and improving technology skills.
- STEM & Education in Schools: Through partnerships with afterschool programs, teachers in local schools, summer schools, and other community partners, Oxford County 4-H has reached over 220 youth in Oxford County for direct programming July 2019 through March 2020. Programs focused primarily on STEM, leadership development, and mindfulness and yoga. Students were taught through research based, inquiry based, hands on approaches.
- Virtual Public Speaking Tournament: Oxford County staff helped to create the first ever Statewide Virtual Public Speaking Tournament. Presenting virtually was no barrier for our 4-H’ers, two of whom qualified and participated in this statewide event.
COUNTY HIGHLIGHTS — Nutrition and Homemakers
Food Preservation and Food Safety
In the past several years interest and demand for food preservation has grown due in part to current economics and the public’s interest to support a local food system. UMaine Cooperative Extension Home Food Preservation efforts seek to create a social shift towards a more educated and skilled public that will revitalize our local food system and positively impact the local agricultural economy through an increase in safely preserving local Maine foods at home to eat year round. As the “go-to” resource for food preservation and food safety education UMaine Extension has responded to meet the needs of the public.
- Cooking for Crowds: This workshop provides volunteer quantity cooks with the practical skills to improve their food handling practices to reduce the incidence of food borne illness. This year a total of 18 participants attended the class, which was offered both for the general public, and also 4-H volunteers who prepare food for events.
- Home Food Preservation Education: This year 11 4-H club members participated in 2 hands-on workshops to learn the skills for preserving food safely through freezing, canning and drying. • Technical Assistance: A statewide call team provides rapid answers to nutrition, food safety and preservation questions.
Oxford County Extension Homemakers
The Oxford County Extension Homemakers continue to be a vital organization in Oxford County. The local groups meet monthly to conduct a wide variety of educational programs such as alternate energy sources, mixes from the kitchen, and growing herbs. Community service projects are also woven into each month’s meeting and includes gathering supplies for the local shelters, donations to local food pantries, and special
support to other local worthy causes. In addition, the local groups join together for educational and volunteer activities at the county and state levels.
Five local Extension Homemaker groups, with 56 members, are located throughout Oxford County in Canton, East Hebron, Fryeburg, Swift River and Woodstock. New groups are always welcome and encouraged to form!
- Over 527 hours volunteered to outside organizations such as animal shelters, libraries, food pantries and veterans groups.
- Over $4,055 in items donated to organizations like animal shelters, local libraries and veterans groups.
- As a response to COVID-19, Oxford County Extension Homemakers created 100 masks to be donated to local hospitals and nursing homes.
COUNTY HIGHLIGHTS — COVID-19 Response
At the state and county level, Extension has stepped up to not only find ways to continue our programming but also to create new resources to address the needs of families, farmers, industries and communities dealing with the impacts of COVID-19. Here is a summary of our response, including a selection of some of the new resources and programming that has been developed:
- Staff have remained available by phone and email for client questions
- Staff have made farm visits for technical assistance upon request
- Completed our 2020 Master Gardener Volunteer training course online
Statewide Efforts that Oxford County Staff Contributed To
- COVID-19 and Maine Agriculture FAQ
- Weekly Maine Farmer Q&A Meetings via Zoom
- New Bi-Weekly Farmer Newsletter – mailing list of over 2,700
- Garden Chats: Growing Resilience from the Ground Up – 11 week series, 1,100 participants • Victory Garden for ME: 8 part video series for first time gardeners, 4,000 views to date • Learn at Home: 4-H Friday Fun – 15 weeks of educational videos for kids to try experiments at home, 2,600 views.
- 4-H Virtual Summer Learning Series: over 50 educational webinars open to all youth in Maine covering a wide array of topics from goats to leadership. Over 122 youth registered for these programs. • Virtual Professional Development Opportunities: a series of 6 webinars for 4-H volunteers, afterschool staff, and teachers. These received 93 registrations.
- Summer Gardening Webinar Series – 6 part series
- Maine State Virtual Fair: an opportunity for 4-H members to be recognized for their efforts on projects they have completed and skills they have gained over the past 4-H year and submit photos to the virtual Exhibit Hall. The Virtual Fair received over 180 project submissions.
Other Statewide Efforts
- Maine Farm and Seafood Products Directory
- Mainely Dish Monday: 23 videos and recipes for kids prepared by UMaine Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), 2,850 views
- UMaine Home Food Preservation Webinar Series: 14 weeks of 45-minute sessions. Over 1,000 views. • Learn at Home: Educational resources to use during school closures
- QuaranTEEN Virtual Science Cafés: UMaine scientists present 11 webinars for teens teaching them about their work and research. 781 views to date.
- Wednesdays in the Woods: 4-H Camps and Learning Centers create weekly videos and activity sheets to give youth opportunities to learn outside.
• Maine State Virtual Fair: an opportunity for 4-H members to be recognized for their efforts on projects they have completed and skills they have gained over the past 4-H year and submit photos to the virtual Exhibit Hall.
University of Maine Cooperative Extension Support for Oxford 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.
|Local Salaries and Benefits||$117,241|
|Prorated Support from UMaine*||$431,143|
|Computer Equipment and
|Statewide Animal Diagnostic Lab||$16,648|
|Marketing, Publications, Video||$1,906|
|Local Programming Supplies & Expenses||$4,472|
|*Prorated support from UMaine reflects travel, postage, telephone, computer equipment & networking, salaries & benefits for administrative and state-wide staff.|
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.
This pie graph illustrates the statewide financial resources for programs offered, supported and managed out of the Oxford County office. Each year, Oxford County tax dollars support the UMaine Extension with physical office space, support staff salaries, office supplies, equipment and some programming expenses.
STATEWIDE HIGHLIGHTS —Maine Food System
Supporting Maine’s Wild Blueberries
Relevance – Wild blueberries are a $250 million industry in Maine. Mummy berry and Botrytis flower blight can be serious diseases in wild blueberries that can greatly decrease yield when they occur. Mummy berry can result in complete crop loss if not effectively controlled. Botrytis can kill off 30% of flowers during bloom, and frost during bloom also can greatly decrease yield. Maine’s 510 blueberry growers need accurate weather and disease risk information, and those who use fungicides need timely information on when they should apply fungicides for optimum efficacy. Timely applications of fungicides provide improved control of mummy berry and Botrytis. Avoiding unnecessary fungicide applications also saves growers’ money and prevents adding unnecessary pesticides to the environment.
Response – Extension has a network of 15 Internet connected weather stations in low bush blueberry fields. From the weather data and field conditions, we provide growers with biweekly reports on infection risk during mummy berry season and make recommendations on effective times for fungicide applications. In 2019, Extension provided growers with a new weather app developed with AgriNet. This web-based app is available on mobile phones and provides current information for each weather station, and indicates when disease events have occurred. Future additions to the app will include alerts for frost events and inclusion of growing degree day models for important blueberry life stages or pests.
Result – As a result, more growers can quickly obtain information about their fields for weather conditions and disease risks. Growers report substantial savings by avoiding unnecessary applications of fungicides to control mummy berry disease.
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 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. 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 amount 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 2019 season is estimated at over $19 million.
Supporting Food Producers with Food Safety
Relevance – The 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was a significant change to food safety regulations, introducing a proactive rather than reactive approach to outbreaks. Two major rules impacted farmers and food businesses in Maine, and throughout the U.S. They are the Produce Safety Rule (PSR) and the Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule (PC). The overall goal of these rules is to make our food system safer. For produce farmers, the impact of the changes are the greatest, since this industry has not been regulated before. These farmers remain uncertain of how the regulations affect their work.
Response – In 2019, Extension provided three-day PC trainings to over 30 food producers in Maine and three seafood Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) courses with 60 seafood processors and one Meat and Poultry course with 23 participants. We have scheduled PSR training to over 200 farmers. In addition to these trainings, Extension provided one-on-one consulting and education for over 30 food producers, providing services ranging from facility design, sanitation, thermal process design/validation, and food safety plan guidance.
Result – As a result of participation in these FSMA trainings, over 60 food producers have implemented food safety plans. One company exemplifies the implementation of knowledge gained by participating in all three trainings and receiving one-on-one consulting. In the six years that Extension has been working with this company, they have grown from producing 200 units a week to over 8,000, and grown from 2 employees in 2012 to 12 full-time and 5 part-time employees in 2019. In 2020, they are planning to build a new building capable of producing over 20,000 units a week.
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 – Funded through USDA/NIFA, 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 Extension and Alpha One. The program supports the capacity of health and agricultural professionals to provide assistance and services for farmers and farm workers with disabilities.
Result – Since the project began in 2010, Maine AgrAbility has provided technical information to over 800 farmers and conducted on-site assessments for over 100 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. A 2019 program evaluation suggests that participants experienced an increase in economic viability and sustainability, and that AgrAbility suggestions made their farm business more accessible, or using their existing resources differently allowed them to start building up their farm again into a viable and stronger business.
Supporting the “One Health and the Environment” Initiative (OHE)
Relevance – Crossover diseases affect both livestock and wildlife can be a problem in a state like Maine. Likewise, with diseases that affect both animals and humans (zoonoses). These diseases are spread by contact, by shared resources, or by “vectors” such as ticks. Improving detection and prevention of these diseases, such as Lyme Disease, is dependent on education and communication about risk reduction.
Response – To assist in this effort, the UM Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL) offers diagnostic assistance for wildlife cases, works with the Extension Insect Control team, and reports on “One Health” topics such as infectious diseases of moose. UM VDL is one of a group of laboratories that “link” regional wildlife agencies with local diagnostic assistance for wild animals, the Northeast Wildlife Disease Cooperative. As well, UM VDL collaborates with the wildlife agencies of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont in moose health studies.
Result – Participation in the NWDC has been helpful for Maine’s wildlife agencies, and brings expertise both to the region (via NWDC) and to the UM VDL (via collaborations with other labs). UM students benefit from opportunities to work with wildlife disease researchers, and biologists benefit from improved safety in the field due to NWDC workshops. Regionally acquired information provides better disease surveillance, helping wildlife managers. As well, vigilance regarding infectious disease in wildlife helps protect livestock owners. For instance, as the prevalence of Parelaphostrongylus tenuis (“brainworm”) increases, sheep producers should change pasture management to avoid snails on pastures, or to reduce white-tailed deer presence in pastures. Similarly, as farmers understand more about Lyme Disease risks, they can reduce their risk of expose to ticks. The OHE facilitates communication and funding to support surveillance, research and training to reduce these “crossover” and vector-borne diseases.
During 2019, an NSF REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) 10-week summer program based on One Health projects was held at the University of Maine, and a graduate student began work on a project to reduce the risk of brainworm infections in livestock.
Protecting Maine’s Dairy Industry
Relevance – Maine currently has 8,200 farms, and many have dairy animals. Maine’s diary industry generates more than $570 million a year for the state’s economy and contributes more than $25 million in state and municipal taxes. Dairy farms employ more than 1,300 people statewide, and the industry provides more than 4,000 jobs for Maine people. As well, organic and small ruminant dairies are producing a diverse collection of artisanal cheeses and alternative milk products. For public safety and quality control reasons, all dairy producers must keep pathogenic bacteria out of their dairy animals and their dairy products. It is important for them to identify and cull these chronically infected animals to protect the public, and to avoid spreading this disease on their dairies.
Response – The UMaine Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL) offers a local, responsive resource for culturing milk samples (bulk tank or individual animal samples), along with water samples, thus providing a key piece of information for producers, Extension staff, and milk processors. The VDL helps protect Maine’s dairies, both large and small. In 2019 cultured over 1,600 milk samples for mastitis.
Result – Effective responses to animal illnesses are only possible when the disease is identified. Maine’s dairy owners benefit from local, responsive mastitis diagnostic service. At the VDL, Extension staff screen both large and small dairies for mycoplasma, one of the most problematic pathogens for producers of milk or beef. Farmers avoid antibiotic use by culling animals with incurable infections, such as Staphylococcus aureus or Mycoplasma bovis. This protects public health, jobs, and this sector of the state’s economy.
Recipe to Market Program: Growing Successful Food Entrepreneurs
Relevance – There has been a growing interest in value-added food production in Maine. From farmers looking to add value to their raw products, to Maine families interested in turning their favorite recipes into viable food businesses. In response to this growing demand, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension developed the Recipe to Market program in 2007, and has been offering it to statewide audiences annually ever since. The goal of the program is to help potential and existing food entrepreneurs acquire food science and business knowledge and skills to successfully bring a value-added food product to market.
Response – Since its inception, Extension has conducted 28 programs in 9 counties reaching 350 participants across the state. The program is offered in both multiple and single session formats and is designed to help participants understand licensing/regulations, processing/packaging, the specialty food industry and acquire business management knowledge and skills. The program is conducted by a multidisciplinary team of Extension faculty and covers topics such as: Introduction to Specialty Foods; Developing Your Product and Process; Business Realities; Marketing and a resource panel discussion.
Results – As a result of attending these educational programs, more than 90 percent of the participants surveyed indicated they improved their knowledge and skills and plan to adopt business and food processing/safety practices they learned during the program. Long-term survey results indicate that participants used the new knowledge they gained from attending Recipe to Market to make more effective business decisions, develop new food products, and write and revise business and marketing plans. The survey results also indicate that 27% of the Recipe to Market multi-session participants subsequently started food businesses. We estimate that 60 new value-added food businesses, generating $2.1 million in direct sales and employing 102 workers were started in Maine by the 221 people attending our Recipe to Market multi-session programs since 2007.
Conducting Variety Trials to Support Craft Brewing and Distilling
Relevance – The rapid expansion of the craft brewing and distilling industries in the Northeast has created demand for locally grown and malted barley. In Maine, two craft malthouses opened in 2015 to fill this need. Historically, Maine has grown between three and ten thousand acres of malt barley a year for export to an industrial-scale malthouse in Canada, and the variety of choice has been Newdale. But the craft malting process requires different grain quality characteristics than industrial malting. Craft brewers and distillers seek new and interesting varieties.
Response – In 2015, Extension began conducting annual malt barley variety trials in central and northern Maine, as part of the Eastern Spring Barley Nursery (ESBN) project involving 9 other institutions. The ESBN is coordinated by North Dakota State University and funded in part by the Brewer’s Association. Each year 25 varieties are evaluated for agronomic, grain quality, and malting quality characteristics. Using four years of results, Extension worked with Maine’s two malthouses and the ESBN coordinator to identify promising varieties for Maine.
Result – As a result of Extension’s trials, Maine farmers and maltsters can now use region and state-specific information to select malt barley varieties based on agronomic and malting performance. Extension publishes annual research reports on our Grains and Oilseeds website. Several European varieties have shown greater sprout resistance and equal or better yields and malting quality as Maine’s current standard variety, Newdale. Inspired by these results, Maine Malt House received a Northeast SARE Farmer Grant to conduct at-scale evaluations of two of the new varieties. During the 2019 season, they grew replicated 10-acre blocks of KWS Tinka, LCS Genie, and Newdale. Both new varieties yielded about 10% more than Newdale. Maine Malt House conducted malting evaluations and distributed malted samples to collaborating breweries for their assessment.
STATEWIDE HIGHLIGHTS — 4-H Youth Development
Reducing Summer Learning Loss
Relevance – The U.S. has an identified need to improve student proficiency in STEM disciplines and to better prepare young adults for the workforce. Low-income students are particularly in need, as they tend to lose grade equivalency in summer due to lack of learning opportunities.
Response – To increase science proficiency for Maine youth and to prevent summer learning loss, Extension created and delivered the 4-H Summer of Science (SOS) curricula, exposing youth to informal science, technology, engineering, and math in a fun and meaningful way. The program occurs where youth already are, focuses on reducing barriers to STEM learning, and uses teens and college interns as teachers and mentors. The teen teacher position is often the first paid position for many of the teens.
Result – In 2019, over 3,600 youth and 700 volunteers participated in 50 community sites in 10 Maine counties, and curriculum included ocean literacy and engineering. Eleven undergraduate interns, 41 teens and 12 4-H staff provided program delivery of the weekly activities. 4-H Summer of Science not only helped grade school youth in Maine enjoy STEM learning in the summer, it also fostered career development, leadership, resiliency, and responsibility in the Maine teens who delivered the program in their neighborhoods. The teens and college interns identify many skills they gain in SOS, including responsibility, time management, communication, leadership skills, and career development.
Fostering Positive Science Identities in Youth
Relevance – Educators in the United States, and in Maine, are continuing to work toward fostering interest and positive science identities in youth. They are also searching for ways to engage youth in local, place-based STEM activities, while using best practices for science learning and meeting local state and national standards. Youth enjoy and learn from experiential learning activities, particularly activities that have local and personal relevance and applicability. University researchers continue to explore ways to communicate research to public audiences, including K-12 age youth.
Response – As a way to bring UMaine research to youth audiences, Extension in 2014 developed 4-H Science Toolkits – curricula with associated materials available for loan from Extension offices. These toolkits are available to formal and informal educators at no cost, and the curriculum can be downloaded online. New toolkits have been recently developed or are being developed in mineralogy, meteorites, data science, forestry, solar energy, and aquaculture. Toolkits are standardized so that each serves a classroom group of 25 youth.
Result – The toolkit lending library has nearly 200 individual kits in almost 50 unique STEM subjects. In 2019, over 150 adults borrowed the 4-H Science/STEM toolkits, reaching over 2,000 youth with free hands-on STEM learning. This number is expected to grow with the availability of new toolkits and their use by 4-H STEM Ambassadors, UMaine researchers, and with many faculty adding funding for the creation of 4-H toolkits to their grant proposals. Outside sponsors have also sponsored 4-H toolkits, and the program is also part of a $20 million National Science Foundation grant to UMaine. By reducing a significant barrier for 4-H volunteers, club leaders, 4-H staff, and other educators, these STEM toolkits are bolstering STEM learning to Maine youth.
4-H Ambassadors Sparking Student Interest in STEM Careers
Relevance – 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 where Maine youth live, informal education can help minimize inequities in rural youth STEM education and career pipelines. Future career opportunities in Maine will depend heavily on STEM skills, whether in the growing fields of healthcare and engineering, or in positions requiring technical skills, such as in construction and maintenance of transportation and energy systems.
Response – In 2019, the 4-H STEM Ambassador program staff trained 116 college students to develop and deliver informal STEM-based educational experiences. These volunteers committed 1,740 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.
Result – The 4-H STEM Ambassador program continues to grow to reach more youth, and engage more UMaine System college students as we engage more partners in our efforts. In 2019, over 850 youth were engaged in at least 6 hours of hands-on science, engineering and mathematics. Youth participants agree they want to learn more about science and feel they are good at science, and feel college could be for them. Our 4-H STEM Ambassadors quickly develop confidence in their abilities as teachers and leaders in STEM education. Over the next twelve months we will extend the program to other higher education institutions in Maine. As part of a successful NSF grant to UMaine, expansion to select Maine Community Colleges will begin in 2020.
Childhood Obesity and EFNEP
Relevance – Nationally, 4.8 million (15.5%) children aged 10 to 17 are obese. Comparatively, Maine’s youth obesity rate is similar to the national rates at 14.9%. Annually, the United States spends $14 billion to treat childhood obesity, and obese children are almost three times more expensive for the health system than the normal weight child. Rising childhood obesity rates will continue to put a strain on current health promotion programs and continue to raise health care costs for the nation.
Response – In an effort to stop rising childhood obesity rates, UMaine Extension EFNEP implements direct education to Maine’s low-income children 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 youth ages 5-18 using validated pre/post program surveys.
Result – In 2019, 2,056 youth participated in Maine EFNEP. Youth participated in an average of 6 classes over 2 months. Of the 2,056 youth that participated in EFNEP, 1,936 completed a pre and post survey. As a result of participating in EFNEP:
- 77% of youth improved their abilities to choose foods according to current Dietary Guidelines or improved nutrition knowledge.
- 38% of youth improved their daily physical activity practices.
- 53% of youth used safe food handling practices more often.
- 46% of youth improved their ability to prepare simple, nutritious, affordable food.
Early College Helping Rural Youth Transition to College
Relevance – There is compelling research that shows high school students who are exposed to higher education while still in high school, more successfully transition to college, and are more likely to persist to a degree. Furthermore, studies show that rural youth are less likely to aspire to higher education than their peers in more urban or suburban districts.
Response – In 2017, the Maine State Legislature appropriated over $2 million to support an Early College Initiative through the University of Maine System, from which Extension received a grant to implement an Early College program in rural Oxford County. We began implementing an Early College Outdoor Leadership Pathway in 2018.
Result – In 2019, 24 high school students participated in Early College courses in Outdoor Leadership at UMaine’s Bryant Pond site. All participants had a chance to visit the University of Maine, and many report increased aspirations for college and have goals to pursue outdoor leadership as a career path.
4-H Summer Camp-Building Community and Connecting Youth to the Outdoors
Relevance – Research has shown that positive social and emotional learning experiences 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 youth suffer from obesity and/or ADHD, and some lack opportunities to develop positive interpersonal communication skills.
Response – UMaine Extension 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 of programs to choose from, focusing on ecology education, the arts, and outdoor skills, youth can create meaningful experiences that fit their needs.
Result – In 2019, the 4-H summer camps served 2,454 youth from all 16 counties in Maine, 22 states, and 6 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.
STATEWIDE HIGHLIGHTS — Community and Economic Development
Helping Entrepreneurs in Pricing Skills
Relevance – Small businesses are very important to the economic vitality of Maine’s rural economy. More than 20% of the jobs in rural Maine are created by small-scale entrepreneurs. 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-scale entrepreneurs lack the knowledge and skills necessary to develop a profitable pricing strategy that can help ensure financial success.
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 this program was to help existing and aspiring Maine entrepreneurs improve their pricing knowledge and skills so they could develop profitable pricing strategies for their businesses. The program was conducted by Extension faculty and covered topics such as: key elements of pricing, pricing methods and models, pricing strategies, price elasticity of demand, profit margin and cost analysis.
More than 70 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.
Result – As a result of attending these educational programs, Maine entrepreneurs improved their knowledge and skills of pricing, plan to adopt the pricing techniques they learned, and to set profitable prices for their products and services moving forward. Eighty-seven percent planned to set a new, more profitable, price for their product or service, and 97% planned to adopt the pricing techniques learned during the training. The average participant reported a 157% increase in their knowledge of pricing as a result of attending the workshops. Changes they plan to make within six months of the training included: incorporate the value or their time and profit into their pricing, conduct a thorough cost analysis, research the market before setting prices, and restructure their current pricing structure. Several workshop participants who attended follow-up one-on-one consultations said they subsequently created pricing strategies that led to increased profitability for their businesses.
Master Gardener Volunteers
Relevance – Successful school and community gardens are an important tool for enhancing public health and providing meaningful community engagement opportunities by increasing access to locally grown food, providing a safe space to connect with neighbors, and offering learning opportunities outside the classroom. Extension supports volunteer leaders and provides educational resources, which are key contributors to the success of these projects
Response – The Master Gardener Volunteers (MGV) Program provides participants with a minimum of 40 hours of in-depth training in the art and science of horticulture. Trainees receive current, research-based information from our educators and industry experts and are connected with service projects that match their interests, skill set, and availability. MGV coordinators facilitate relationships between MGV and community partners; assisting with needs assessment, program planning, risk management, and problem solving
Results – The MGV program provides opportunities for gardeners with all levels of experience to connect with meaningful service projects in their community. Of the 937 active MGV, 144 were trained in 2019. In total, they donated 33,500 hours to a variety of educational and food security projects throughout the state including support of: 53 community gardens 50 school gardens 57 demonstration gardens, and 66 youth programs involving 4,129 youth in horticulture activities this year. MGVs reported that they: increased community partnerships, assessed community needs and assets, engaged positively in their community, increased consumption of home-grown food, and developed new or expanded gardens. Many volunteers enter the MGV program with the goal of improving their gardening skills for their own personal benefit and leave surprised by how deeply involved and passionate they become about community projects.
Maine Harvest for Hunger: Mobilizing to Support Food Insecure Citizens
Maine has the highest rate of food insecurity in New England, and ranks 12th in the U.S. The USDA estimates 13.6 percent of Maine households, over 182,000 individuals, are food insecure. Twenty percent of children are food insecure. Twenty-three percent of seniors have marginal, low, or very low food security. Thirty-seven percent of food-insecure people do not qualify for food stamps or other government programs. It is especially challenging for food insecure people 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, to mitigate hunger, improve nutrition and health, and help recipients develop lifelong positive nutritional habits. In addition, educational programs such as Hancock County’s Eat Well Volunteers, have focused on engaging food pantry recipients in learning appropriate methods of cooking and using fresh produce, and state-wide Extension programs help teach Mainers to grow more of their own fresh garden produce.
Since 2000, MHH participants have distributed over 3 million lbs. of food to citizens grappling with hunger. In 2019, donations of over 193,000 lbs. of fresh produce from over 120 Maine farms went to 207 hunger alleviation distribution sites. A corps of 365 volunteers and 8 corporate partners from 12 counties logged over 6,000 hours, and the value of the produce is estimated at over $327,000. Now in its 20th season, MHH has continued to improve the efficiency of supplying fresh produce to food pantries across Maine through building partnerships. For example, through MHH volunteer planning and communications, several food pantries are now sending trucks and vans directly to the farm where gleaning is taking place.
Maine has approximately 130 community gardens and many of them are supported by Extension staff and Master Gardener Volunteers. As a result, more than 30 of them now have added an MHH area to their community garden and have contributed almost 20,000 lbs. of our 2019 totals. In Penobscot County, volunteers anonymously sponsor food insecure families by collaborating with the Maine Family Institute to distribute fresh produce to the families, which has resulted in their increased consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Signs of the Seasons: A New England Phenology Program
Relevance – Average New England air temperature increases are among the highest in the continental United States, and sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Maine have increased faster than 99 percent of the rest of the world’s oceans. Little is known about how marine and upland biota respond to these environmental changes. Climate scientists, resource managers, economists, and others need reliable information about the effects of climate change, and the process of collecting phenology data is a simple, reliable method to ground-truth climate models and understand local-scale biological changes.
Response – Since 2010, UMaine Extension and Maine Sea Grant have worked with state and regional partners to develop and coordinate Signs of the Seasons (SOS), a monitoring program that engages citizens of all ages in observing the timing of seasonal plant and animal life cycle events (phenology). The data are publicly available through the National Phenology Network, and the program offers climate and phenology seminars, webinars, and field-based learning opportunities for participants and the public throughout Maine and New Hampshire. SOS volunteers help scientists document the local effects of global climate change.
Result – In 2019, we trained 78 new adult volunteers, and hundreds of volunteer observers made more than 1,090 site visits and recorded over 43,000 observations of the program’s 22 indicator species in Maine and New Hampshire, including rockweed and common loon. Of participants surveyed, 72% reported an increase in their knowledge of climate science, 78% reported taking action regarding climate change and 88% reported a better understanding of phenology as an indicator for climate-related biological change. SOS continues volunteer engagement with increased K-12 programming, and through opportunities for species-specific research seminars
In 2019, UMaine Extension’s website at extension.umaine.edu – a composite of 58+ interconnected websites – received over 2.4 million pageviews. Nearly 37,000 followers followed or were subscribed to UMaine Extension’s 56 county and program-specific social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram. More than 230 educational videos were available to visitors on our YouTube and Kaltura channels or embedded in our web pages. More than 2,700 clients used our online registration system to register for classes, workshops, events, and more.