Farming and Gardening Programs
Sustainable Agriculture in Piscataquis County on the Rise!
Seven times more young farmers!
The 2012 Census of Agriculture released in the spring of 2014 showed an increase in the number of farms from 190 in 2007 to 203 farms in 2012. Most of the increase has been in the younger farmers who are attracted to Piscataquis County’s available land. The age of the average farmer in Piscataquis County is now 53.8 years compared to Maine’s average age of 57 years and the US average age of 58 years.
Farms with more than $500,000 in sales of agriculture products have increased in number six times in the past five years. In 2007 only one farm had sales of over $500,000 and in 2012 six farms exceeded $500,000 in sales.
To encourage this increase in farms and farm income UMaine Extension has been doing a variety of programs, newsletters, and one-on-one consultations to assist current farmers and those who want to be farmers in the county. The SO YOU WANT TO FARM IN MAINE series has continued for the past four years and includes topics on the business of agriculture, production, regulation, and marketing based on a wide variety of farming enterprises.
Individual consultations with over 50 new farmers or farmers with new enterprises has contributed to the increase in young farmers and expansion of farm income in Piscataquis County. Program topics conducted in Piscataquis County have included: Managing Livestock on Pasture, Weed Identification and Pesticide Recertification, Backyard Maple Syrup Production, Is Farming for ME?, Buying Local Meats, and Alternative Fuel Vehicles.
Farm Grants: Two farmers received assistance in applying for grants to continue their farm operations. The total investment will be $370,000 with grant and matching funds.
Farmers’ Markets: Through UMaine Extension assistance a new farmers’ market has been established in Milo to give folks in the area access to farm fresh and value added foods. Greenville Farmers’ Market was started last year by an alumni of our beginning farmer education program. UMaine Extension staff has attended the Dover Cove Market to provided information and assistance on gardening and utilizing fresh produce in the family diet as well as 4-H Youth activities.
Over 90 people in Piscataquis County receive the Piscataquis and Penobscot Farming Newsletter.
Home Gardening also on the rise!
Fall 2013 trained 12 new Extension Master Gardeners Volunteers (EMGV) through the new Tandberg Video Conference system. Students from Aroostook and Piscataquis County were able to participate together in the 40-hour volunteer program. EMGV projects have included assisting with community beautification projects that have provided 100’s of hours of garden time to make Piscataquis communities more attractive to tourist and potential residents. Helping friends, family, and neighbors understand how to be more successful in their plant, fruit and vegetable growing has improved the family food budget, reduced pest damage and/or lead to reduced environmental impact from gardening activities.
Over 1,800 gardeners were assisted through 37 programs and events as well as one-on-one consultations. Topics and events included Ticks & Lyme, Forest Invasive Insects, Attracting Bees, Greenville Forest Heritage Days, Heritage Hot Air Balloon Festival, Potatoes in a Bucket, Backyard Maple Syrup, Weed Identification, Garden Soils & Fertility, Container Gardening, Piscataquis Valley Fair, Planning Your Garden, Eutrophication, Common Sense Pest Control. Over 160 gardeners in Piscataquis County receive the Piscataquis and Penobscot Gardening Newsletter.
Where did the idea of One Tomato come from?
One Tomato was inspired by the Victory Gardens of World War II. Victory Gardens were home-grown vegetable gardens promoted by the U.S. and Canadian governments during WWII. In 1943, in a radical act of war support, Eleanor Roosevelt had the front lawn of the White House ploughed up, and she planed a Victory Garden. This year, First Lady Michelle Obama has also planted a victory garden at the White House.
During the war, American gardeners grew about forty percent of the produce eaten in the U.S., all from plots planted in any available space including front lawns, vacant city lands, parks, and school yards. Today, we have enough space to feed everyone, we just have to change green space to food space.
One Tomato was launched by Megan O’Neil and Darren Hakker on Earth Day in 2009 to encourage residents in Sarnia, Ontario to plant, grow and eat more vegetables, giving their extras to local food banks. http://onetomato.org.
One Tomato in Piscataquis County
Flats of cherry tomatoes (Sun Gold, Sweet 100’s, etc.) were separate into individual plants and given out to 220 people at the UMaine Extension Office and food cupboards (one plant per person) in Piscataquis County with factsheets on container gardening and an offer for the electronic Piscataquis and Penobscot Counties Gardening Newsletter. A card with UMaine Extension contact information was included with plant to show where to call for more information about growing tomatoes and where to share the progress on www.Facebook/umaineextpsq.
During growing season EMGV and UMaine Extension staff will follow-up on Facebook and at food cupboards to answer any gardening questions and to see how successful folks were at planting and growing tomatoes.
Also, over 50 tomato plants were provided to the Charleston Correctional Facility Farm to grow tomatoes for the area food pantries to assist with the Maine Harvest for Hunger.