Farming and Gardening Programs

An old truck bed is converted into a chicken coop.
An old truck bed is converted into a chicken coop

Farming Programs

Backyard Poultry

The entry level livestock enterprise for folks new to farming is poultry and, with the dramatic increase in egg prices last fall due to Avian Influenza outbreaks in the west, many folks considered getting into raising poultry. What type of poultry is best for your situation, how to feed and house them, what health issues to watch out for, etc. were addressed in Backyard Poultry program held in collaboration with the PVAEC. Our own Dr. Beth McEvoy helped teach the class to the sixteen folks who attended.

Though out the year over 35 individuals were assisted with poultry questions by phone, email and Facebook posts that included: disease prevention options, rules and regulations, marketing meat and eggs from backyard flocks, etc.

Dover Cove Farmers Market

During the spring the Dover Cove Farmers’ Market vendors were assisted in organizing for the coming season by Extension staff Trisha Smith and Donna Coffin. Information was shared on determining benchmarks for successful sales at farmers’ markets considering income potential and marketing variables.

During the market, Master Gardener volunteers staffed the information booth at the market and assisted with the EBT and Maine Harvest Bucks program. Maine Harvest Bucks vouchers allow SNAP customers to buy more fresh fruits and vegetables, which helps farmers increase sales.

A plant clinic was held during one of the markets to help gardeners and home dwellers with insect and disease pests that they might encounter.

Gardening Programs

One Tomato

If you haven’t grown a garden ever or it has been a long time since you had a garden, planting a garden seems intimidating and overwhelming to some folks. To encourage more people to grow their own vegetables UMaine Extension Piscataquis County Executive Committee adopted the One Tomato project.

In the past three years one cherry tomato plant was given to 842 folks at food cupboards, a community event, and at the Extension Office, to plant in a container or in a garden to take care of and harvest during the growing season. They were given fact sheets on container gardening and could sign up for a newsletter or view Facebook postings. 120 plants were given to a prison garden that provides food for the food cupboards.

Of the 748 people who completed the initial survey, 144 (19%) had never gardened and this was their first garden, 153 (20%) have only gardened 1 to 3 years. In 2016 a record 23% had never gardened!

379 (45%) signed up for the electronic newsletter. For 25% of the people, this was the first contact they had with UMaine Extension.

Water catchment system that our volunteers helped install at the SeDoMoCha school garden.
Water catchment system that our volunteers helped install at the SeDoMoCha school garden.

At the end of the season a survey found 19% had no harvest, 38% harvested a handful of cherry tomatoes, 19% harvested a bowl full and 25% said they harvested a bucket full of tomatoes. If the handful (cup) was valued at $1, the bowl full (pint) at $5 and the bucket full (gallon) at $20 then the estimated value of harvest of all plants distributed was over $3,150.

School Gardening

Starting seeds, digging in the dirt, transplanting, weeding, harvesting and eating are all activities that youth experienced with the school garden at SeDoMoCha in Dover-Foxcroft. Trisha Smith, Piscataquis Extension Home Horticulture Aide, has overseen garden activities with Mr. Murray’s second-grade class as well as with Free Summer Meals program participants.

This spring and summer kids at SeDoMoCha planted kale, broccoli, and squash seedlings; sampled peas in the pod, salad turnips, and garlic scape-arugula pesto dip made from school garden produce; and harvested garlic, beet greens, green beans, and cucumbers.

Trisha Smith as the #socialmediacarrot. This is the newest marketing strategy to promote the good work UMaine Extension does.
Trisha Smith as the #socialmediacarrot. This is the newest marketing strategy to promote the good work UMaine Extension does.

The Piscataquis County Extension Executive Committee funded and installed a number of garden improvements. The garden now has a fence to discourage deer, and 7 raised beds with pathways defined by weed barrier and wood chips. Members of the Executive

Committee also installed gutters on a nearby building, food-grade barrels to collect rainwater, and hoses and drip lines to bring the water to the garden.

Trisha donned a carrot costume to encourage kids at the summer meals program to promote healthy food choices in cooperation with Healthy Piscataquis.

Sheila Norman, 4-H Program Aide assisted Trisha last fall on pumpkin day when pumpkin based foods were prepared with the help of the youth. It included cleaning and roasting pumpkin seeds, making cookies and preparing pumpkin-yogurt smoothies.

Winter gardening activities included starting worm bins in pre-K, second grade and high school classrooms.