2020-2021 Piscataquis Cooperation Extension County Highlights
Maine Food System
The 2020 – 2021 pandemic brought out the home gardener in more people in Piscataquis County. Learning to garden for the first time, renewed garden interest, and willingness to share garden expertise with others all have helped increase the number of food people have been able to raise for themselves. Piscataquis County staff assisted with the development of numerous home gardening videos, factsheets, school garden, and Zoom programs. Individuals were assisted with insect, disease, weed, and vertebrate pest identification and management information.
One Tomato: This is the 8th year that the Piscataquis County Extension Association has purchased cherry tomato seedlings to distribute in the county to encourage people to grow their own food. 414 seedlings (a total of 3,085 in eight years) were distributed in 2021 in Piscataquis County at grocery stores and other venues. Through a harvest survey, we estimate each seedling produced over $8 worth of cherry tomatoes. Over 80% of folks were new to this project in 2021.
This year we again purchased the seedlings from Ellis Greenhouse in Hudson and partnered with the Dover-Foxcroft Food Cupboard and their Garden in a Box program as well as the following stores: Indian Hill in Greenville, KC Store in Parkman, Whitney’s Family Supermarket in Guilford, Tradewinds in Milo, and Robinsons Convenience Store in Brownville. One Tomato seedlings were also available at the Dover Cove Farmers’ Market, school gardens, and at the Extension Office in Dover-Foxcroft.
This year, we had a limited number of direct sow vegetable seed grab bags with 10 to 15 different types of vegetables that we offered to folks that got the One Tomato seedlings. Our thanks go to the following businesses that donated the seeds: Bangor Walmart, Erickson’s Hardware (Hampden), Hampden Hardware, Hutchen’s Greenhouse (Eddington), and Blue Seal Grow Center (Bangor). Also, our thanks to Master Gardener Volunteers Karen Marysdaugher and Jude Thompson who collected, organized, and packaged the grab bags.
UMaine Extension colleagues in Aroostook County expanded the One Tomato program by distributing 250 seedlings in Presque Isle and Fort Kent. This fall we will again be surveying those who received the seedlings to see how well they grew and produced during the summer.
Extension on the Road
UMaine Extension provides free research-based information to farmers, gardeners, natural resource-based businesses, value-added businesses, and 4-H Youth through our Piscataquis County Office in Dover-Foxcroft. This year, staff traveled to Greenville, Milo, and Guilford to bring “Extension on the Road” on the first Fridays of the month, April-October. We have soil testing kits, gardening fact sheets, starting a farm, and 4-H Youth information available.
“Extension on the Road” is a great opportunity for you to share your gardening questions and successes, pick up some factsheets on raising livestock, find 4-H Youth program information, and get to know the Piscataquis Extension staff. You could bring a diseased plant or tree branch for diagnosis, a bug or weed for identification, or a soil test to transport to the lab. We have fact sheets and program information to help you make decisions about managing and marketing crops, livestock, and value-added food products. If you are interested in making a difference in the lives of local young people or your kids or grandkids are looking for ways to channel their creativity, 4-H has opportunities for youth and adults to get involved.
UMaine Extension staff have expertise in different areas, and we do our best to answer your question immediately. We sometimes need time to research your issue, to consult with UMaine Extension Insect and Disease Diagnosticians, or other UMaine Extension experts to determine options and solutions available. We may even recommend you contact another agency or organization. Our goal is for you to have the best information possible.
Check out our website for the next time “Extension on the Road” is coming to a town near you.
4-H POSITIVE Youth Development
Rural Youth Futures Survey
As rural communities face changes in local economies, populations, and workforce needs, what does the next generation of residents and workers value and want? That question was the motivation for the Rural Youth Futures project. Researchers and extension agents from several universities including Dr. Jessica Leahy, UMaine School of Forest Resources, joined forces with local non-profits to find out what middle and high schoolers think in two forest-dependent regions: Piscataquis and north Somerset Counties in Maine and Coos County in Oregon.
Increasing the number of young people and working families is a critical issue in many rural towns. Natural amenities and attachment to community can retain young people or attract in-migration. We asked students to tell us about their community to better understand what the community has to offer. We also asked them where they want to live in the future to see if there’s an interest in living in these places among young people.
Piscataquis County Extension staff are involved in the Boston Fed Maine Highlands Working Community Challenge Grant project to empower and enable low-income individuals of Piscataquis County to become healthy, independent, and engaged members of the community by reducing youth/young adult disengagement and disaffection, focusing attention on training and mentoring skills needed to successfully obtain and maintain local quality employment, and working with local employers to develop local professional and technical training programs to meet their employment needs.
Piscataquis County 4-H Clubs, Spin Groups, and School Programs
- Super Science Club
- Wild Blueberry Adventures Club
- Outdoor Activities SPIN – cross country skiing and snowshoeing
- Public Speaking Tournament: Virtual
- Tractor Supply Clover Promotion
- Choose Health-Food, Fun, and Fitness SpIn
- Independent members
School Quarantine Activities with Piscataquis County 4-H & Garden UMaine Extension Staff
- Art of Math Virtual Classes with Brownville Elementary School
- Grow Microgreens Garden Activity with SEDOMOCHA Elementary Students
- Soil Your Undies with SEDOMOCHA Elementary and Piscataquis SWCD
Community and Economic Development
Master Gardener Volunteers
The 2021 crop of Piscataquis County Master Gardener Volunteers were trained virtually through Brightspace online learning class. It was the first time for the instructors (county and state Extension staff) as well as the volunteers. Videos, readings, discussion topics, assignments, and Zoom meetings were all used to connect experienced gardeners from throughout the state.
Piscataquis MGVs joined with Penobscot and Aroostook to form a cohort for more localized online programs. Piscataquis MGV are working on the Sedomocha school garden and the Sedomocha Nature Trail. The nature trail has been neglected for years and along with the Piscataquis County Extension Executive Committee, MGV hope to improve the trail so residents can again enjoy quiet walks in the woods where they can learn a little more about the local flora and fauna.
Piscataquis County staff have been involved in a number of projects that have impacted food insecurity in a positive way in the county.
Garden-in-a-Box is a collaborative project of Piscataquis Regional Food Center and UMaine Cooperative Extension Piscataquis County. Funding for Garden in a Box resource binders (with DVDs and print publications) for individuals and libraries, plus a 15 gal cloth container, soil, plants, supplies, tools, and individual coaching for Garden in a Box gardeners are made possible by the Quimby Family Foundation.
Garden in a Box Resource Binders are available to the general public in six Maine Highland area libraries (Abbott Library in Dexter, Thompson Free Library in Dover-Foxcroft, Guilford Memorial Library in Guilford, Harvey Memorial Library in Parkman, Monson Public Library, Shaw Public Library in Greenville). Beginning gardeners will find a wealth of information to support their efforts, whether they grow in containers or according to more traditional methods. Participating libraries will host a Garden in a Box “Salad Garden” planted with tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce. Patrons can check out the Garden in a Box Resource Binder like they would any other library book, and follow the progress of the library’s salad garden over the growing season.
Share Shed located outside the Piscataquis County Extension Office next to the courthouse is a community-sharing space where anyone can “Share what you can, and take what you need!” Our neighbors have shared their excess seeds/seedlings and produce and others were able to pick up FREE items that their families could use. Last year we estimated 232 pounds of food was dropped off during the season. Staff posts on Facebook when large amounts of produce are shared and typically the post is shared and viewed by hundreds of folks.