The Somerset Newsflash, January 2023

Important Dates


The News in the County

Save the Date! We’re hosting an OPEN HOUSE!!

Mark your calendars for Saturday, May 6, 2023 (with a rain date of May 13) from 10 AM to 2 PM. Our Somerset County Extension staff, board members, and volunteers will be hosting an Open House and all community members are invited. There will be presentations, demonstrations, activities for kids, garden help, seedlings, giveaways, and more! Please help us spread the word! More details to come.

We Are Hiring!!

The Administrative Specialist CL2 with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Somerset County Office is responsible for bookkeeping, clerical, and office tasks in support of the faculty, staff, and volunteers conducting educational programming, research, and/or outreach. This is a part-time, 20 hours per week, within normal UMaine Cooperative Extension office hours, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Please help us spread the word about this opportunity! If you know someone who may be interested in this position, please refer them to the position description on the UMaine job site.

Brett’s Bulletin: Issues Impacting Somerset’s Farms & Gardens

Brett Johnson is our Sustainable Agriculture and Horticulture Professional and develops educational programs and provides technical assistance to commercial agricultural producers, and home gardeners, and community members.

Selecting the right site helps reduce winter injury in many landscape plants.

The old adage, “right plant, right place” is of particular value when we consider the threat that mild early winter weather, followed by sudden cold snaps, can have on the health of your landscape plants. In general, plants that retain their foliage through the winter, such as certain varieties of rhododendrons, hollies, yews, and other evergreen conifers, are best protected from temperature fluctuations and biting winds by placing them along the north or east facing side of buildings. Plants located in areas with greatest exposure to wind as well as falling ice and snow would benefit from the use of wooden A-frames placed over the plants and oriented against the prevailing wind. Watering plants well in the late fall before the ground freezes can also help to prevent moisture deficits in the plant that can lead to winter injury.

Alice’s Adventures: EFNEP Updates for the Month of December

Alice Cantrell is our Nutrition Community Education Assistant and leads classes as part of Cooperative Extension’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).

Skillet LasagnaAlice began this new year by starting two series called CREATE Better Health with two alternative education classes at the Marti Stevens Learning Center. The classes focus on creating healthy habits and cooking skills that will prepare them for adulthood. 

Looking forward into the spring, Alice is planning for some youth gardening series at various schools as well as planning some promotional events for the Homemakers annual meeting, the Somerset Extension OPEN HOUSE, and the Community Baby Shower. 

EFNEP has hired a new Community Education Assistant, Mikaela Greenwald, in York county and we are very excited to have her on board.

Meet a Board Member!

Sherry Grunder, Somerset Extension Executive Board Member
Sherry Grunder

Please meet Sherry Grunder, one of our newest board members! Sherry was just voted onto our Executive Board in December and has already taken on the role of Secretary and joined our Open House planning committee.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your connection to Cooperative Extension.

“I became associated with 4-H seventeen years ago when my two youngest daughters joined a dairy goat 4-H club. Little by little, being a 4-H mom and then a 4-H leader led me to more and more involvement, first with the Kennebec Extension and then with the Somerset Extension. I also got to know many Extension members through our yearly participation in Maine 4-H Days, county and state speech tournaments, and planning for Citizen Washington Focus.”

Why did you decide to join the board?

“Due to changes in our family’s circumstances, I am no longer a 4-H leader. But I have truly come to appreciate the wealth of help and information the University Cooperative Extension has available for the community. I want to do what I can to see that the Extension continues to function well and to help raise awareness of all they have to offer. OK…and I just like the staff there and really enjoy getting to see them on a regular basis.  :-)”

What do you want residents of Somerset County to know about Cooperative Extension? 

“The Extension office is a treasure trove of information and help and resources regarding trees and plants, bugs, animals, invasive species, gardening, agri-business, sewing, crafting, recycling, healthy eating….and SO MUCH MORE. I’d very much like to see more people in Somerset taking advantage of their expertise.”

UMaine Cooperative Extension can only be successful with the help of county residents serving on the Executive Committee. Board members provide oversight and support to staff, as well as help promote programs.

If you’re interested in UMaine Extension programs and giving back to your community, serving on the Executive Committee is a great place to be! For more information, please contact our office at 207.474.9622 or email

The News

Public Gardening Programs at Coolidge Library in Solon

Volunteers with the Solon Community Garden will be hosting programs in partnership with the Coolidge Library in Solon. 

The first will be a “Winter Planting” class on February 18 at the library from 11AM to 1PM. The program is FREE and open to the public and all program materials will be provided. And YES, you will get to take home your project!

The program leaders will also talk about their project to expand the Community Garden to include garden beds and programs at the library, including some wonderful new projects and programs for children and gardeners of all ages and experience.

Everyone is invited to come and see what’s happening and offer input, even if they do not plan to be otherwise involved in the project. The goal is to feed the needs and bellies of ALL people and all visits and thoughts are welcome! Please consider stopping in to see what it’s all about, with no pressure and no cost.

Request a Workshop

Are you looking for one of our popular food safety programs or a hands-on preserving workshop in your area? Click below to let our staff know that you are interested!



The News in Agriculture

Meetings and Conferences

Maine Farmland Trust to Host Farmer Listening Sessions on MFT’s 2023 Farm Bill Platform

Every five years, Congress drafts a new federal Farm Bill, which determines how billions of dollars are spent in our communities. The Farm Bill shapes what’s grown on the land and who grows it, conservation and climate, the safety of our food system, and the economic health of rural businesses and communities. Come hear about MFT’s policy priorities for the 2023 Farm Bill, share your feedback on the issues and programs that matter most to your farm, and learn how you can get involved to advocate for a Farm Bill that works for Maine farmers like you.

Can’t attend in-person? Sign up for an online listening session, or fill out this survey.

Monday, Jan. 23 10am-12pm – Topsham
Topsham Public Library (get directions)

Thursday, Jan 26 10-12 – Unity
69 School Street (get directions)

Thursday, Feb 2 10-12 – Falmouth
Cumberland County Cooperative Extension (get directions)

Monday, Feb 6 10-12 – Skowhegan
Somerset County Cooperative Extension (get directions)

Tuesday, Feb 7 12-1pm – Online

Maine Dairy Seminar

Thursday March 16, 2023 – Save the Date!

More details to come!

New England Grazing Network Conference

January 20 and 21, 2023

Presented by the members of the New England Grazing Network and a region-wide network of organizations, technical service providers, and farmers.

For more information and to register visit the webpage.

Northeast Cover Crops Annual Conference Will be Held in Portland this February

The Northeast Cover Crops Council (NECCC) annual conference will be held on Thursday, February 16, at the Holiday Inn By the Bay in Portland, Maine. The meeting is open to farmers, students, Extension agents, crop consultants and other agricultural professionals. 

This event will feature presentations covering topics related to cover crops. Discussions will include the economic and financial opportunities in cover crops, how to diversify cover crop species, cover crops in vegetable production, the role of cover crops in climate change mitigation and highlights from NECCC and the Precision Sustainable Agriculture (PSA) project. Attendees will be able to take part in a poster presentation where students, researchers and agricultural professionals will share their research. 

Registration for the conference is $75 for farmers and students; $100 for the public. Financial support is available to eligible registrants. To see the full schedule and to RSVP, visit the event website. Meals will be provided during the conference. Attendees are asked to RSVP online. For more information or to request a reasonable accommodation, contact 207.781.6099;

Learning Opportunities

Maine Meat Cutting School

The Maine Meat Cutting School will be held May 10-12 in Orono. Contact Melissa Libby Babcock (207) 581-2788 to be put on the notification list. We will be announcing the the open registration date in early January. Spots fill very quickly.

Farm Skills Training Program

Administered by Merrymeeting Food Council, the Farm Skills Training Program is a paid opportunity which will train participants in the skills necessary to work on farms. Training will include 40-plus hours on a farm with additional off-farm training. Pay is $14/hour, and participants also receive individual training from a career advisor. The program will run from mid-March to early June 2023. Application deadline: February 1, 2023.

UVM Grass-Fed Dairy Production Course

Through 4 days of sessions (2 segments per session), farmers will learn about topics covered in the newly published Grass-Fed Dairy Production Manual through specialized presentations, then encouraged to participate in lively discussions with industry/topic experts. Registrants will have access to an online resource hub and the Manual.

For more information and to register visit the webpage.

Certified Crop Advisor Training

A two-day training for agriculture service providers in the Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) program will be held January 25–26 at the Holiday Inn in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Presentations will be made by experts from schools and businesses across New England, including University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association, Northern Tilth, University of New Hampshire Extension, American Farmland Trust, University of Connecticut, University of Massachusetts and University of Vermont.

The program will focus on crop and forage production, soil quality, precision agriculture, pest management and more. Visit the event website for a full agenda. Continuing Education Units and Pesticide Applicator Recertification credits have been requested.

Registration cost for the two days is $300; $150 for one day. Breakfast and lunch will be provided. For more information or to request reasonable accommodation, contact John Jemison, 207.581.3241;

Vegetable Seed Production Course and Mentorship Available to Growers Throughout the Northeast

In order to increase the number of growers able to produce high quality, regionally adapted seed in the northeast, a group of educators, experienced seed producers, and regional seed companies will be working together to offer training in seed production and a guaranteed market for specific seed crops during 2023 and 2024. Visit the webpage for more information.

GenerationNext Seminars 

  • In Person: Waterville: December 728, and January 25
  • In-Person: Presque Isle: December 829, and January 26
  • Virtual (8 sessions): January 12 through March 2. Thursdays, 1-3pm.

Fee: $199 (Free for Maine farmers) for 1 in-person series or 1 virtual series

GenerationNext is a series of seminars, hosted by Farm Credit East, geared towards farm workers or farm owners, designed to advance your management skills and farm business knowledge. Each seminar includes group discussions, idea sharing, and networking opportunities. The Maine New Farmers Project is offering a full scholarship for any new farmer in Maine to attend one of the seminars listed above. (Farmers pay when registering and get refunded after participating). For more information and registration.

Farm Succession Planning Webinar Series

Hosted by Land For Good, this four-part online series is designed for transitioning farmers and new generation farmers to learn the basics of farm succession planning, how to get started and where to find support with resources, tips, financial and legal considerations, and more. Registration required. Free.

  • Session 1 – Getting Started & Financial Considerations: Resources, Tips and Where to Get Assistance
  • Session 2 – Financial, Retirement & Tax Considerations: Taxes, Viability and Retirement 
  • Session 3 – Legal Considerations: Business Entities, and Estate Planning
  • Session 4 – Farmer Panel: Successes & Challenges: Several farmers will present their succession experience.

Journeyperson Program

MOFGA’s Journeyperson Program now accepting applications. Administered by farmer programs staff, this two-year program is designed for those who have at least one year experience in Maine with their own established farm business and secure land tenure. The program provides holistic support for farmers including support in accessing land, capital, business planning, mentorship and one-on-one technical assistance alongside a network of farmers. The program allows participants to attend our Farm Beginnings course, receive a $500 education stipend, choose a mentor for the second year and more. Application deadline: January 31, 2023. Please contact Bo Dennis, Beginning Farmer Programs Specialist, at with any questions.

Grants and Funding

Dairy Farm Innovation Grant

Dairy CowNortheast Dairy Business Innovation Center (NE-DBIC)

This program will provide grants for dairy farmers to access resources and technical assistance to support the implementation of community- and climate-forward production strategies.

Projects funded through this grant program should take a whole farm system approach and increase collaboration with other farms or dairy sector stakeholders.

Projects may address improvements in topics such as, but are in no way limited to: switching breeds, creating new models for collaborative/cooperative milk production, increased young farmer engagement, alternative business ownership/management models, development of green technologies, farm-scale appropriate technology improvements, or creating a culture of continuous improvement.

Grants will range from $10,000 to $75,000 with a 25% (cash or in-kind) match commitment required.

Application opens: November 1, 2022

Application deadline: February 2, 2023

For more information, visit the Dairy farm Innovation Grant webpage.

Farms for the Future Grant

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s (DACF) Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources is welcoming applications for the Farms for the Future (FFF) program.

FFF is designed to provide successful applicants with the technical assistance and financial resources needed to identify, explore, and implement a change to their farm business that will lead to greater profitability and a more viable operation.

The Phase 1 Grant is a planning grant for $6,000. Recipients can use these dollars to test or explore a new idea and to get 1-on-1 tailored business planning support from qualified service providers. Phase 2 recipients are eligible for a $25,000 cash grant and a subsidized 2% interest rate when borrowing from DACF’s Agricultural Marketing Loan Fund.

Information on applying available here. Applications due February 6, 2023.

Notices and Publications

Maine Farm Wellness Health Coverage for 2023

Izzy Ruffin from Maine Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension put this resource together.

In our most recent application period for the Maine Farmer Wellness Fund, applicants cited not having health coverage and health-related costs for their stress. This ranked in the top 5 stressors for the farmers and farmworkers who applied. We had over 400 applications total, across all counties in Maine.

Link to the Website.

Maine FRSAN is available to support you. Please reach out to

Greenhouse Plastic Recycling

Now administered by MOFGA, this statewide collection program is accepting bundles of low-density polyethylene (LDPE#4) clear film used to cover greenhouses, high tunnels and other agricultural structures. We will also accept white overwintering LDPE#4 film. Bundles can be dropped off on pallets at the red MOFGA barn across from 210 Crosby Brook Road in Unity. Please register bundles and drop-off date using this form.

Free Testing for High Tunnel Soilborne Diseases

Inside a high tunnelIf you grow high tunnel veggies and have been experiencing disease issues or are wondering if there are soilborne pathogens present, here’s an opportunity to find out for free. Samples are wanted for a multi-state USDA funded project on soilborne diseases occurring in high tunnel vegetable crops. It will be valuable to find out what pathogens are present in our region, and how the situation here compares to other regions. Anna Testen is accepting samples this fall through February 2023.

If you have questions or would like to participate, please contact Anna directly at or 330-641-2862.

Integrating Grazing into Cropping Systems: Grazing Cover Crops for Soil Health

Fact sheet on grazing cover crops for soil health. Part of the integrated grazing fact sheet series.

For a long time, the tendency in modern farming has been to specialize, resulting in grazing animals being excluded from cropland. However, there is a new appreciation for the potential benefits of grazing animals for soil, crops, and farmers. By bringing the grazing animal back on the land we are in a way mimicking nature. Cover crops have been promoted to help improve soil health and reduce soil erosion and nutrient losses from cropland. They cover the land that would otherwise be sitting idle, again mimicking nature. Those cover crops can also be eaten by grazing animals, improving the financial bottom line of the farm. If done right, grazing cover crops can also help improve soil while maintaining the environmental benefits of the cover crops. If done wrong, however, grazing cover crops can become an environmental liability that can degrade soil. The key is proper cover crop and grazing management. This fact sheet from PennState Extension discusses management strategies to optimize the soil health benefits of grazing cover crops, while avoiding soil erosion, detrimental soil compaction, and nutrient runoff.

New Farmland Rental Negotiations Factsheet

By Jonathan LaPorte, Michigan State University Extension

Adapted from MSU Farm Management

Land is arguably your farm’s most vital asset. Whether you raise crops or livestock, all production activities can be traced back to a need for land. This need makes securing access to farmland a critical part of managing your business.

Negotiating to rent farmland can be challenging and overwhelming. Other farms may be competing for the same property, and landowners may not have a thorough understanding of production activities or how to value their land. You may feel uneasy about sharing details of your farm business, and market trends might create pressure to offer high rent payments.

Read the rest of the article here.

SARE Publishes New Guide to Scaling Up Your Vegetable Farm for Wholesale Markets

This bulletin is intended to introduce interested small and mid-sized direct market farmers to the many business and production related considerations that come with growing for wholesale markets. Specific topics include clarifying goals, assessing your farm operations readiness to scale up, and characteristics of wholesale markets.

Surveys and Research

UMaine Extension Maple Program is Looking for Producers’ Input

grading maple syrup

From Jason Lilley, Assistant Extension Professor, Sustainable Agriculture and Maple Industry Educator:

As I work to build out the UMaine Extension maple program, I want to make sure that my efforts are targeted where they will best serve you, the producers. Please take a few minutes to share how I can best support the industry with this Maple Industry Needs Assessment Survey.The survey should take 5-10 minutes to complete.

2019 Organic Survey

USDA NASS just released the 2019 Organic Survey of farms that use organic practices to produce crops and livestock. This survey is not as detailed as the 2022 Census of Agriculture and only includes data for states, not counties.

This report also includes charts of the percent of various organic agriculture crops and livestock enterprises that were reported sold in the 2019 Organic Survey.

2022 Census of Agriculture

The Census of Agriculture is a complete count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Even small plots of land – whether rural or urban – growing fruit, vegetables or some food animals count if $1,000 or more of such products were raised and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the Census year. The Census of Agriculture, taken only once every five years, looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures. For America’s farmers and ranchers, the Census of Agriculture is their voice, their future, and their opportunity.

The Ag Census was mailed out in November by USDA NASS (National Agricultural Statistics Service). You can complete the Ag Census online and save time. Just use the survey code included in your mailing to start your survey at the Ag Census Respondent Portal. The data from this Ag Census will be released in spring or summer of 2024.


The News in 4-H

Registration Opening Soon For a Pilot Maple Sugaring Program in 2023

A group of 4-H staff are planning a pilot of a short-term Youth Workforce Development SPIN club in Somerset, Penobscot, Piscataquis, and Waldo counties starting in mid-February to teach youth interested in learning and participating in the process of Maple Sugaring. The program will be a 6-week mix of virtual and on-site sessions. We are looking for producers interested in hosting site visits, adult volunteers, and also youth who would like to participate. Let know if you’re interested, and look for registration information coming soon.

Maine 4-H Equity Challenge for all Maine Youth

Four teen 4-H membersAre you a photographer? A performer? A writer? Then consider the 4-H Equity ChallengeThe challenge is for youth ages 5-19 to create a digital photograph, a performance, a presentation, or a writing piece that tells why every Maine youth belongs in a welcoming and inclusive environment. There are prizes based on age. This challenge is open to any 4-H’er or partner organization in Maine.

There are helpful guides and a rubric to help you understand what judges will look for in an entry. To submit an entry or to find out more information go to the Maine 4-H Equity Challenge webpage.

To participate, submit your creation by February 24, 2023.

State Public Speaking Tournament – Save the Date!

Our state public speaking tournament will be held on April 8, 2023 at DP Corbett Hall on the University of Maine campus. Youth must qualify for this event by achieving a score of 78 or higher at their county or regional tournament. Check with your county 4-H staff to find out when your county tournament will be held.

2022/2023 4-H Volunteer Training Opportunities

As we get ready for the new 4-H year, we are looking forward to offering a variety of learning experiences (both in person and virtual) for our 4-H volunteers. Sessions are free of charge, but require registration. Some sessions have limited space. Visit the 4-H Volunteer Calendar of Training Opportunities to learn more and register!

The News in Homemakers

Extension Homemakers is a volunteer group that develops leadership skills, supports community causes, and promotes UMaine Extension’s educational programs in nine Maine counties. These organized programs are part of the statewide network of Extension Homemakers.

Local group members meet throughout the year to participate in educational programs and identify community projects, such as providing assistance to local food pantries, nursing homes, or veterans groups, or funding educational scholarships or youth camp programs.

Meet a Homemaker Group!

Featured Club: Clinton Evening

This month, I spoke with Jean Crowell, President of the Clinton Evening Homemakers. Jean is the youngest one in her group and has been an official member for 13 years, though she has been involved with and helping the group for much longer than that. Her mother has been in the group for 65 years and there are several other members that have been involved for 50 or 60 years!

This group loves learning new things and giving back to their community. They often invite new local business owners to their meetings to learn about their work. They spend time learning about new gadgets (they’ll be learning all about instant pots soon!) and technology together. Last year, one of their favorite meetings was when they invited folks from the Recycled Shakespeare Company to come and talk to them. They plan to have a nurse come to speak to them soon about differences between Covid and RSV. They also love to work on craft projects together every so often and they always like to eat good food together. For one January meeting, every member brought their favorite soup to share.

This group also spends time fundraising to help support local needs. They have donated Hannaford gift certificates to local senior citizens, and have raised funds to support the local library, the food bank, a scholarship program at the high school, and others over the years.

When I asked Jean what she wants people to know about Extension Homemakers, she spoke about how being a homemaker does not mean that you can’t be someone who works full time! Even if you have a job, you can still learn so much from this group. She would LOVE to see more younger members join. Older members have SO much knowledge to share and she wishes more young folks would take and interest in cooking, sewing, growing things, crafting, etc. You don’t have to be old to find value in these groups!

Enrollment Paperwork is Past Due

Please turn in your enrollment forms to Emily at the Somerset County Office as soon as possible!

Help Us Collect Can Tabs

Can Tabs

All Somerset County Homemakers Clubs are collecting can tabs to be recycled for cash that will be donated to the Ronald McDonald house. Anyone is welcome to contribute to the effort and can tabs can be donated by contacting any of the Extension Homemakers or by dropping them off at the Somerset County Extension office.

Volunteer in Somerset County!

Would you or someone you know like to become more engaged in volunteerism throughout Somerset County? Consider joining Homemakers! The Somerset County Extension Homemakers are always welcoming new members. Please visit the Maine Extension Homemakers website for general information about the program or reach out to the Somerset County Extension Homemakers President, Rita Fortin with any questions or to express interest. Rita can be reached at 207.453.2945 or at You may also contact the Maine Extension Homemakers Coordinator, Lisa Fishman at 800.287.1421 or at