Susan Priest Joins Extension

Donna Coffin of the Piscataquis County University of Maine Cooperative Extension recently announced the selection of Susan Priest as a Home Horticultural Aide for Piscataquis County. Priest is from Orono and joins the local office with a background sustainable alternative gardening practices. She studied at the University of Maine in Orono and holds a Bachelors degree in ecology and environmental science. Priest is also a Certified Master Gardner and has maintained a 2000 square foot garden as part of the Penobscot County Master Gardener Demonstration Plot at Roger’s Farm in Old Town Maine.

photo of Walter Boomsma and Susan Priest
Walter Boomsma welcoming Susan Priest at a recent Piscataquis County Executive Committee Meeting

As a Horticultural Aide for the Piscataquis University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Priest will have plenty of opportunities to put her education and experience to good use by working with trained Master Gardener volunteers to develop and manage their projects this summer including expanding the Extension office raised bed gardens. She will also be presenting gardening classes on starting seeds, vegetable and flower gardening techniques, staffing Extension garden displays at county events and answering individuals gardening questions by phone, email or walk-ins. Gardeners can bring samples of their garden pests (insects, disease or weeds) to be identified and learn what can be done to manage these pests in vegetable gardens and the home landscape.

Priest says she is a big proponent of “using native species in gardens and landscapes whenever possible… to create harmony and connection.” She favors, “natural processes such as composting in place, no-till, inter-planting and density planting.”

Walter Boomsma, president of the Piscataquis County Extension Executive Committee, notes that Priest is joining the Extension Team just in time for planting season. “Susan’s already hit the ground running. We’re looking forward to her contributions to our programs and having her available to farmers and gardeners in the area.  It is more than just a play on words to point out that Susan will be extending our reach—the very nature and purpose of UMaine Extension is to bring a wide variety of resources and programs into Piscataquis County.”

Boomsma also announced the addition of Tish Dutston of Willimantic to the Executive Committee—a group of volunteers who assist Extension Staff by helping determine priorities, promoting and evaluating programs and helping address the needs and interests of area residents consistent with Extension’s Mission. “Tish has both an agricultural interest and experience managing organizations. We look forward to her perspective and contributions.”

The Executive Committee and staff members recently began a process of needs and opportunity assessment that will drive some long range planning. “We have an opportunity to look 10-20 years into the future—an exciting challenge from a staffing and program perspective,” Boomsma said. “We continue to experience growing requests for information and programs that feature traditional skills and a growth of agriculture in Piscataquis County. There is no sign this is going to decrease any time soon and Extension is uniquely suited to contributing to that growth.”

Residents who interested in serving on the committee are invited to attend the next meeting on Monday, May 14th at 3 PM at the Extension Office (165 East Main Street Dover Foxcroft) or call 564-3301. For gardening questions and assistance, Priest can be contacted by email: susanpriest@maine.eduand by phone at: (207)-564-3301 or 800-287-1485 (in Maine)