For more than 100 years, University of Maine Cooperative Extension has worked with Maine Volunteers to offer community-driven, research-based educational programs in every county. UMaine Cooperative Extension makes a difference in the lives of Maine citizens and their communities. Our successful educational programs result from a federal, state and country government partnership. Since 1919, when the Maine Legislature passed the County Extension Act, the University of Maine has been in all Maine communities with a county office whose operations are funded by county government. Our educational programs anticipate and respond to local and state needs and issues. We also communicate those issues and opportunities to UMaine faculty to influence their research and development plans.

University of Maine 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond

The University of Maine 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond is a key component of our Oxford 4-H program. The programs have benefited the local community as well as youth and adults statewide. Bryant Pond 4-H Board of Directors and staff has been working closely with the Pine Tree State 4-H Foundation Board, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension staff and the Oxford County Extension Association to plan and implement new programs

In 2005, Richard Louv published Last Child in the Woods in which he coined the term “nature deficit disorder.” Simply put, children are not outdoors for the kind of physical, imaginative, unstructured play that was an everyday occurrence a generation ago. Bringing children back into the woods to value our natural resources requires a collaborative effort by parents, schools, communities, outdoor and environmental education organizations, parks and natural resource agencies.

This has been and continues to be an incredible opportunity for young people in our area and for UMaine Extension and 4-H to grow and reach more families and be a leader in the state in environmental education and sustainable living. The UMaine Cooperative Extension is committed to helping Maine citizens through quality programs and research-based information and supporting Maine youth to gain valuable life skills.

For more information, call 207.665.2068 or the University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Oxford County, 207.743.6329 or visit UMaine 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond.

Agricultural and Garden Information

The UMaine Cooperative Extension continues to be the primary resource for reliable information on a variety of agricultural and gardening issues in Oxford County. In addition to general horticultural resources, an insect and disease diagnostic lab is available to the public. In past years over 5,000 individuals received horticultural information and resources from us.

ARK — Area Resources for Kids

The ARK program runs two expanded sessions a year for children ages 3-12. The program is designed to offer children early enrichment in the subject areas of the visual and performing arts, international cultures, and in the sciences. Each workshop is designed to encourage parent and child participation in the learning process.

A volunteer Board oversees the program and assists with workshops and donations. Cindy Tinsley, a ARK volunteer, organizes and oversees the workshops.  We have had tremendous response and participation in the past from parents and their children.

Eastern States Center Program and Livestock Program

The Oxford County 4-H Program represents Maine each year at the Big E in the New England Center Building. The program is a demonstrations program, which showcases our talented 4-H member in pods and on the stage. The Oxford County office helps support the very dedicated 4-H leaders who plan and implement this fantastic effort each September. Over 30 leaders and members represent Maine at Eastern States for two days.

Many Oxford County 4-H members take part in the Eastern States animal show areas including horse, beef, dairy, sheep, dog, working steers and goats. We are well represented on State teams with numerous members attending with their livestock.

4-H Fair Programs

Oxford County 4-H members and leaders work hard all year in preparation for exhibition at county fairs. 4-H is well represented at Waterford, Oxford, and Fryeburg fairs in Oxford County and at a few other fairs across Maine.

Each year our county fairs make tremendous contributions to our program. Our fair programs are exceptionally well presented and very positive experiences for our 4-H members. Our 4-H members displays many exhibits in the 4-H Exhibit Hall and participate in livestock competition shows. Over 300 youth will exhibit their projects at our 4-H halls.

Eat Well Nutrition Program

The Eat Well Nutrition Education Program teaches skills on basic nutrition, food budgeting, and food safety to eligible children, families, and seniors. Our nutrition associates Karen Toohey, Becky Mosley and Kate Chiasson, provide lessons in individual’s home, in community group settings, or through an Eat Well by Mail correspondence course.

As many as 57 families with 91 family members have participated in Oxford County at any given time. Over 1,200 youth have been involved in various lessons on what the importance of food safety, eating fruit and vegetables, whole grains and dairy foods play in good health.

Our community partners include:

  • Elementary Schools in West Paris, Waterford, Mexico. Norway, Otisfield, Paris, Andover, Oxford and Harrison.
  • Early Headstart and Headstarts in Bridgton, West Bethel, South Paris and Norway.
  • TriCounty Mental Health in Rumford.
  • Summer recreational programs in Rumford, Harrison and Hartford.
  • After-school enrichment programs in Hartford, Woodstock, Rumford, Mexico, Hebron and Denmark.
  • South Paris DHHS Food Stamp office.
  • Camp Susan Curtis.
  • 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond.

“Celebrate the Harvest” is a program that offers produce through the Oxford County Maine Harvest for Hunger gardens to individuals and families who participate in nutrition classes.  These classes are taught by our nutrition associates and include time to harvest, prepare, and eat fresh produce that was grown by Master Gardener Volunteers.

Master Gardener Volunteer Program

The Master Gardener Volunteer Program is one of the more popular programs offered by UMaine Extension. Over 1,000 Mainers are currently active in the statewide program.  In exchange for 45 hours of intensive horticulture training, participants return 40 hours of volunteer work to their communities. The current students of the Oxford County program and many past graduates have donated over 900 hours volunteering on community projects such as:

  • Grew over 11 tons of fresh fruit and vegetables and donated it to local citizens, soup kitchens, food pantries and group homes.
  • Mentored young participants in the Kids Can Grow program.
  • Hosted a meal for low-income citizens using ingredients from the office gardens.
  • Worked one on one with new gardeners in their home gardens, helping to insure a successful harvest.
  • Work with local schools and students to create, maintain and harvest school gardens.
  • Started a vegetable garden at the Maine Veterans Home.  The harvest is used in the facility’s kitchen.

If you are interested in the Master Gardener Volunteer program please call our office at 207.743.6329 or 1.800.287.1428 (in Maine) or visit the UMaine Extension Oxford County Master Gardener website.

Maine Harvest for Hunger

Since 2000, hundreds of volunteers have donated almost 600 tons of fresh produce to hungry Mainers through UMaine Extension’s Maine Harvest for Hunger program. Our goal this year: 300,000 lbs!

How you can help:

  • Grow extra food in your garden.
  • Grow food in a community garden to donate.
  • Harvest extra crops (glean) from farmer’s fields.
  • Collect and distribute food donations from my local farmer’s market.
  • Educate myself and others about food insecurity in Maine.
  • Farmers: support gleaning activities either the field or at a farmer’s market.
  • Employers, Civic Organizations & Schools: engage your employees/members/students in any of these activities.

For more information, call 207.743.6329 or 1.800.287.1482 (in Maine) or visit Maine Harvest for Hunger in Oxford County.

Food Self-Sufficiency

Cooperative Extension is helping Oxford County families weather this tough economic down turn by teaching the basic skills of gardening and food preservation.  People can participate in basic and advanced gardening classes or attend workshops on the basics of good nutrition.

Hundreds of phone calls and requests about home food production and preservation are responded to.  Canning and preserving workshops are being planned through out the season in addition to many gardening workshop opportunities.  For more information on these workshops please contact our office at 207.743.6329 or visit UMaine Extension Garden & Yard.

Maine Garden Day

Maine Garden Day is the largest gardening event in Maine offering over 30 workshops on topics from growing strawberries to permaculture. In addition to receiving the latest horticulture information, participants can visit the tradeshow and enjoy a breakfast snack and lunch. For 18 years, over 400 people have attended the annual event and is usually held in March or April. Watch you local newspaper for next years date or check our website as the time gets closer.

Oxford County Extension Homemakers

The Oxford County Extension Homemakers continue to be a vital organization in Oxford County. Seven local Extension Homemaker groups with approximately 171 members are located throughout Oxford County: Canton, East Hebron, Fryeburg, Peru, South Paris, Swift River Valley, and Woodstock

New groups are always welcome to form! The local groups meet monthly to conduct a wide variety of educational programs, community service projects, and social support. In addition, the local groups join together for educational and volunteer activities at the county and state levels.  Polly Bussiere, a member of the Canton Extension Homemakers, serves as president of the Oxford County Extension Homemakers Advisory Board. Cooperative Extension serves as an education resource for the organization’s educational programming. You can find out more at Maine Extension Homemakers.

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 say in their homes longer.

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

Senior Companions receive training on such topics as alternate treatments to promote health and well being, emergency preparedness, food safety, safe driving practices, home energy solutions, diabetes and nutritional updates. Senior Companions, in turn, pass on this information to their clients and families.

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

We are fortunate to have Anna Saar as our Senior Companion Program Aide here at Oxford County Extension. In the past year Senior Companions in Oxford County have served 2,029 volunteer hours. They have traveled 4,612 miles, making over 481 visits with client.

To learn more about being a Senior Companion contact Anna Saar at 743.6329 or 1.800.287.1482 (in Maine) or visit the Senior Companion Program website.