2015 Annual Report

Making a Difference in Piscataquis County

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. Our annual report features highlights of recent accomplishments and the difference we make in the lives of Maine citizens and their communities.

Photo illustration by Michael Mardosa
Photo illustration by Michael Mardosa

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension helps support, sustain and grow the food-based economy across the entire state of Maine. It is the only entity in our state that touches every aspect of the Maine Food System, where policy, research, production, processing, commerce, nutrition and food security and safety are integral and UMaine interrelated. UMaine Extension also conducts the state’s most successful out-of-school youth education program through 4-H, empowering young people to reach their full potential.

Our volunteers help expand the reach of our programs by donating their time, energy, and enthusiasm as well as the use of their farms, homes, businesses and supplies for our activities.  This adds an estimated value of $72,000 to our programming efforts.

University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s successful educational programs result from a federal, state and county 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.

Piscataquis County Office Staff

Extension Educators

  • Donna Coffin
  • Barbara Baker

Community Education Assistants

Piscataquis County Office

  • Ana Bonstedt – resigned
  • Sheila Norman
  • Brenda Mowdy – retired
  • Trisha Smith

Food Corps Service Member

  • Hannah Yovino – end of service

Administrative Specialist

  • Amanda Miles


 Piscataquis County Extension Association

Our County Extension Association is the vital link between the county, our communities and UMaine. The Association’s Executive Committee is comprised of local volunteers who represent community interests by advising UMaine Extension staff on educational programs, advocate for and secure funding from county government to support the county office, oversee the office budget and facilities, and guide UMaine Extension staff in identifying their programming goals.

Executive Committee

  • President – Walter Boomsma, Abbot
  • Secretary – Karen Dolley, Charleston
  • Treasurer – Janet Yelch-Weatherbee, Dover-Foxcroft
  • Members
    • Tish Dutson, Willimantic
    • George McKay, Dover-Foxcroft
    • Thelma Regan, Wellington
    • Wally Sinclair, Brownville
    • Natasha Colbry, Dover-Foxcroft
    • Richard Neal, Parkman
    • Dotty Hadler, Dover-Foxcroft
    • Georgiana Underwood, Dover-Foxcroft

Executive Committee President’s Message

Friends and neighbors,

As you may know, the very name “Extension” is meant to identify our mission of extending the vast and varied resources of the University of Maine system into our local communities. It is my honor and pleasure to again offer some observations regarding that challenge in this annual report to the citizens of Piscataquis County.

A unique aspect of UMaine Extension is that every County has an Executive Committee of volunteers is charged with the responsibility for securing and managing county funds and support. This same committee, in collaboration with paid extension staff, serves as both a resource and a monitor to ensure programming is relevant to local needs and opportunities. In simple terms, our challenge is to “make sure our citizens get the most bang for their buck.”

During the past year, your Executive Committee and Extension Staff have worked hard to meet the needs and opportunities of our County. The intent of this highlights report is to share just a few accomplishments and I hope you’ll find it both informative and entertaining.

Walter Boomsma teaching children for our GrowME program.
Walter Boomsma teaching children during our GrowME program.

I’m especially pleased to report that we have expanded our Executive Committee and now have ten volunteer members from different communities with different backgrounds and skills. We also have two youth involved who, while not formal members, bring us both a youthful outlook and connection to our younger citizens. This diversity on the committee allows us to approach decisions and planning with a variety of perspectives and fosters full awareness of community resources as well as needs for Extension services and programming.

We have become increasingly aware of our reliance on the involvement of volunteers ranging from the Executive Committee to Master Gardeners to 4-H Leaders and hope to further develop volunteer involvement. While University resources extend into our communities, it is the combining of resources and energy that makes us effective—whether we are talking about funding, programs, or people. Individually we are drops; together we form an ocean.

These are some of the reasons why we are able provide a good return on the investment we receive from Piscataquis County Taxpayers. We appreciate the building we occupy in the county complex and the county’s contribution to our operating and support costs. I would note that while we have little ability to control the costs associated with the building, our budget request for 2016 is responsible and our operating fund request still remains at a level significantly below 2009. Not too many organizations can boast of actually increasing services and accomplishments while operating at budget levels less than five years ago.

You are certainly part of everything we do. This brief report is really only an introduction and I’d encourage you to stop by the office, contact a staff or executive committee member and learn about the depth of our resources. Better yet, ask how you can help! There’s a place for everyone at UMaine Extension.

Walter Boomsma, President


 *The County Extension Act

The County Extension Act explains the role of county government in funding local Extension offices:

Cooperative extension work shall consist of the giving of practical demonstrations in agriculture and natural resources, youth development, and home economics and community life and imparting information on those subjects through field demonstrations, publications and otherwise. For the purpose of carrying out this chapter, there may be created in each county or combination of two counties within the State an organization known as a “county extension association,” and its services available to all residents of a county. The county extension is viewed as a unique and important educational program of county government. The executive committee of each county extension association shall prepare an annual budget as requested, showing in detail its estimate of the amount of money to be expendedchickens under this chapter within the county of counties for the fiscal year. The executive committee shall submit to the board of county commissioners on a date requested by the county commissioners, and the county commissioners may, if they deem it justifiable, adopt an appropriate budget for the county extension program and levy a tax therefore. The amount thus raised by direct taxation within any county or combination of counties for the purposes of this chapter shall be used for the salaries of clerks, provision of office space, supplies, equipment, postage, telephone, a contribution toward the salaries of county educators and such other expenses as necessary to maintain an effective county extension program.1

1Excerpted from Title 7, Chapter 7 of the Maine Revised Statutes, §191–§195.


Photo Credits: Edwin Remsburg, Donna Coffin, Walter Boomsma, Janice Boomsma, and Amanda Miles.


 Program Highlights: