The Somerset Newsflash, February 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.

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.

Winter is for sowing seed? Absolutely, but choose your plants carefully.

In Maine, we make the most of the winter months. This is especially true if you plan to grow garden vegetables or flowering ornamentals that require 100 to 120 days to mature from seed. Great candidates for sowing in February include leeks, onions, shallots, and delphinium. Garden vegetables that are fast growing and thrive in full sun, such as tomatoes, should be avoided until spring. If sown in the winter these plants will become etiolated or ‘leggy’ without supplemental light. Propagating seeds indoors in the winter requires a system that maintains consistent temperature and moisture conditions until germination. Practices that result in improved seed germination include, watering thoroughly after planting, using a dome to prevent drying out of planting media, and providing bottom heat.

For an opportunity to learn more about winter sowing consider attending the Coolidge Library’s (17 South Main Street, Solon) Public Garden Program’s February 18 workshop titled “Winter Planting.” The workshop will be held from 11:00am to 1:00pm. For more information contact Megan Myers at 207.643.2562.

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).

Homemade PretzelsAlice just finished two nutrition series with the Marti Stevens Learning Center called CREATE Better Health. The classes were focused on creating healthy habits and cooking skills that will transfer over to adult life for the high schooler students.

On February 21, Alice will be starting a class series called Eating Smart Being Active with El Rancho De La Vida and will teach there for 8 weeks.

EFNEP has also hired a new CEA in Franklin county named Isabella Russo and we are very excited to have her on board.

Looking ahead, Alice will be speaking at a Homemaker annual meeting at the Victor Grange Hall in Fairfield and will also be attending the Franklin County Cooperative Extension’s open house on April 12.

Meet a Board Member!

Somerset Extension Board Member, Deb GerryPlease meet Deb Gerry, another one of our newest board members! Deb was just voted onto our Executive Board in December and has already joined our Open House planning committee.

This is what Deb had to say about her connection to Cooperative Extension and why she decided to join the board:

I grew up on a Vermont family dairy farm and was very involved in the New Hampshire FFA chapter where I attended High School. This was where I learned the value of Cooperative Extension. I am not yet a Master Gardener but I’ve been gardening all my life, so nearly 60 years of digging in the earth to grow produce for our family, friends, neighbors and local food cupboards.

In 2019 I started a Community Garden in my new hometown of Solon in honor of my late father’s memory and his wishes for me to share what I learned from him. 

Just last year, through my garden project, I met Brett and was excited to connect with our local Cooperative Extension.  When it was suggested I become a part of the organization by volunteering to be on the Executive Committee, my first thought was that I wasn’t qualified, but the idea of how it would be a great way for me to help our local gardeners learn about what the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Somerset County can do to help them grow healthy food in a sustainable way won me over. Being so new in this position I have a lot to learn, but the wonderful people I have met through this connection gives me confidence that together we can make a difference and “grow” many new gardeners.

I meet a lot of gardeners and “want to be gardeners” of all ages and I am amazed that nearly none know of the wonderful information and assistance they can get from the Cooperative Extension. It is critical during this day of skyrocketing food costs that people know there are resources out there to help them grow their own food.

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.

UMaine Extension Taps Former State Food Safety Specialist to Fill New Associate Dean Position

Jason BoltonState food safety specialist and UMaine alumnus Jason Bolton has been named associate dean at University of Maine Cooperative Extension. This new position will provide leadership for strategic initiatives within the organization and help build capacity to address state needs.

The associate dean position marks a new milestone for Extension as the organization aims to bring innovative university research to individuals and industry across Maine, with a focus on workforce development and new digital learning opportunities.

Associate Dean Bolton, who officially started January 3, will lead new initiatives for Extension, including a statewide needs assessment, an organizational restructuring, and improved systems for financial planning and reporting.

Click here for more

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

2023 UMaine Wild Blueberry Conference

Celebrating 125 years of UMaine Wild Blueberry Research and Extension!

February 25, 8:00am – 7:00pm

Three Pesticide Credits are available for full-day attendance. For questions regarding pesticide credits, email

Cost: 0-$50

For more information about this year’s conference, complete agenda, and agenda download, visit the 2023 UMaine Wild Blueberry Conference page.

Maine Dairy Seminar

Thursday March 16, 2023

Elks Lodge, Waterville, ME

This annual meeting gives us an opportunity to come together as a dairy industry, learn from subject matter experts and attend a trade show. This year we are extremely excited to welcome a renowned person within the dairy industry, Dr. Michael Hutjens to discuss dairy nutrition, specifically feeding strategies. We look forward to welcoming you once again to our event.

Advanced registration required by March 13

For more information and to register, visit the Maine Dairy Seminar page.

2023 Industrial Hemp Virtual Conference

Thursday, February 23, 2023, 8:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.

The University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets invite you to the Fifth Annual Industrial Hemp Conference!

Key Speakers include Chad Rosen, Founder and CEO of Victory Hemp Foods and Guy Carpenter, President of Bear Fiber Inc. in North Carolina. We also have a great line up of additional speakers and topics including the future of hemp foods, growing grain from field to farm gate (production and economics), research updates, breeding and genetics, regulatory updates, and more.

Registration is $50 per person and is open until February 21. Register Online Here. Questions or problems with registering, contact UVM University Event Services office to register by phone at 802-656-5665, ext. 3.

Learning Opportunities

Managing Forage Crops Workshop – FREE

February 21, 2023, 10:00am – 3:30pm

University ofMassachusetts Research Farm – 89 River Road, South Deerfield, MA, 01373

Price: Free (Lunch will be provided)

Animal operations are constantly seeking to reduce feed costs while maintaining high forage quality. The forage crop management workshop is a multi-state effort that provides the latest information about various aspects of forage production.

Speakers from UVM, UME, Cornell, UNH, and UMass will present topics all related to foraging.

Register here. or email or call 413-545-4800

Swine 101: Raising Pastured Pork


The University of Maine Cooperative Extension is excited to announce a FREE series entitled Swine 101: Raising Pastured Pork. This seminar will be held in multiple locations across the state, and a meal will be provided (smoked pork!). Join Dr. Colt W. Knight, University of Maine Cooperative Extension State Livestock Specialist, for a 2-hour primer on raising pastured pork. Topics include: breed selection, basic reproductive information, swine nutrition, fencing, housing, meat yield, and more.

Visit the program page for more information and to register.

2023 Maine Meat Cutting School

cutting steak on stainless steel counter

A Three-Day Course in Professional Meat Cutting/Processing

May 10, 11, and 12, 2023

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension is working with the School of Food and Agriculture, the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, and the University of Kentucky to offer a three-day course in professional meat cutting/processing, with a third day set aside for any spillover and classroom learning objectives. This course includes both classroom and hands-on training.

Capacity is limited. Visit the program page for more information and to register.

Dairy Financial Tri-State Workshop 2023

Educators Joanna Lidback and Tony Kitsos will help farmers calculate cost of production and breakeven milk price, discuss and learn about diversification options, and explore risk management. Cost is free and lunch plus materials will be provided. Dairy farmers will be prioritized. This is a tri-state event and you are welcome to attend in NH and VT.

When: Monday, March 20, 2023 and Tuesday, March 21, 2023 at 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM (participation required for 2 days)

Where: Lisa’s White Flour, 205 Church Hill Rd, Augusta ME

Cost: Free, Sponsored by NEDBIC

Limited space. Register and more information

Mending Our Fences Podcast Released to Address Farmer Stress

Mending Our Fences, a new podcast series sponsored by the Cultivemos/North East Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network has been posted on Google, Spotify and Apple. Listen to folks from the realms of agriculture and mental health come together to look at some of the every-day hard things that come with life in agriculture, take them apart to learn more about what makes them hard and put them back together in sometimes surprising ways that promote hope, possibility and resilience.

Selling Value-Added Products On the Farm

If you are a farmer interested in opening a farmstand on your property, please join us to learn about key federal, state, and local regulations that impact small food producers who seek to make and sell value-added products from home. We will cover what’s allowed when selling meat, eggs, dairy, cottage foods such as pickles and baked goods, and more, and explore the legal solutions that can help these businesses grow and thrive.

March 1, 2023 12:00 PM via Zoom

Register Here

Hemp Production: Science and Uses

Online  $10.00 

This 5-week course is designed for farmers who want to improve their understanding of why you might want to grow hemp, the key considerations involved with this particular crop, and what we know about this plant and what it might do for your customers that use it.

For more information and to enroll, visit the course page.

Grants and Funding

USDA Rolling Out Revenue Based Disaster and Pandemic Assistance Programs

USDA Farm Service Agency’s Emergency Relief Program Phase Two (ERP) and Pandemic Assistance Revenue Program (PARP) application periods are open from January 23, 2023, through June 2, 2023. Contact your local FSA at their USDA Service Center to receive program benefits.

Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production Grants Available through USDA

These competitive grants will fund costs associated with planning or implementation of urban and/or innovative agricultural production projects. Projects funded in 2022 included conducting a feasibility study and developing a business plan establishing a cooperative for small-scale producers serving low food access markets in Harris County, Texas.

USDA will accept applications on until 11:59pm ET on March 27, 2023.

USDA Announced Grants Awarded to Maine Farms and Firms

Maine Farm Receives USDA Rural Development Value Added Producer Grant – assists agricultural producers seeking to establish or expand markets for their value-added agricultural products. Apple Creek Farm LLC will use the working capital grant funds to expand processing, marketing, and sales of their certified organic eggs, beef, chicken, sheep, goats, and sheepskins. This project will allow for an increase in customer base and revenue and will add two employees. Full description of VAPG grant recipients can be accessed here.

The Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Grant (MPIRG) program assists currently operational meat and poultry slaughter and processing facilities in obtaining a Federal or State Grant of Inspection. Five Maine farms and/or poultry processors received grants under the MPIRG program. Congratulations to Olde Haven Farm LLC, Fork Food Lab, Hatch’s Custom Meat Cutting, Nest and Mullen LLC, Rooney’s Meat Shop. Full description of these grant recipients can be accessed here.

USDA Ag Marketing Service – Local Food Program Grant assists projects that develop, coordinate and expand local and regional food business enterprises that engage as intermediaries in indirect producer to consumer marketing to help increase access to and availability of locally and regionally produced agricultural products. Smithereen Farm received a grant Harnessing Maine’s Local Farming & Fishing Economy through the Minke Kitchen Food Hub, Full description of grant recipients can be accessed here.

Notices and Publications

New Factsheets on Soil-Water Monitoring Released by UMaine & UVM

As our climate changes, managing soil water availability will become increasingly important and challenging. In particular, irrigation systems are becoming critical. Farmers and researchers are exploring new irrigation-management strategies, particularly in regions that have not historically relied upon irrigation to meet crop water needs. Soil water monitoring systems are a key component of efficient irrigation, enabling farmers to both maximize water-use efficiency and ensure that crops can thrive. This is especially important given the increased variability in rainfall experienced in recent decades across many parts of the world.

Read more and find the new factsheets here.

Organic Certification Applications Open

MOFGA Certification Services (MCS): 2023 application forms are now available and being accepted. MCS is now officially accepting applications and renewals for 2023 certification. All required forms can be found and downloaded from their website, as well as the schedule of submission deadlines; check the certification menu for specific scopes and production categories. For more information, contact the MCS office at or 207-568-6030.

Maine Flower Collective 2023 Applications Now Open

Maine Flower Collective (MFC) applications are now available. Review essential information about the collective, and then fill out and submit your online application.

2023 Maine Beef Producers Association Calves for Kids

The Maine Beef Producers Association is once again accepting applications for the Calves For Kids program. 

The deadline is April 1, 2023.

Youth applying will be asked to come for an interview before the Calves For Kids committee at a later date. This program, started in 2007, has given 2 youth in the State of Maine a heifer calf. 

The program gives a youth an opportunity to have a registered beef heifer to show and start a herd. The youth’s obligation is to breed the heifer to a registered bull and give back to the program the first heifer calf. If they do not get a heifer calf born after a few years they are obligated to pay the MBPA $1000.

An online fillable pdf application is available here.

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.

Surveys and Research

2021 New England Agriculture Statistics Annual Bulletin

From farm operators across the region who participated in the voluntary surveys NASS conducted throughout the year.

It has a wealth of information about each New England state agriculture sector.

Some Maine Statistics:

  • Average Farm Real Estate Value per Acre $2,600
  • Cash Rents of Cropland (per acre) $60 ($24 – $125)
  • Price of Hay (per ton) $158
  • Av. Yield Hay (per acre) 1.91 tons
  • Av. Price Sweet Corn $5.10 / dozen
  • Av. Price Maple Syrup $38.60 / gallon

Reminder: Maine Maple Producers Input Needed

grading maple syrup

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

We have received some great input from maple producers, but I’d love to get input from many more of you. 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. If you haven’t already, 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.

Farmers And Ranchers Sought For A Study About Balancing Children And Work

Researchers at the National Farm Medicine Center and The Ohio State University are looking for farmers and ranchers who are raising children 0 to 18 to participate in an online survey. The survey asks about your families’ experiences of taking care of children (age 0 to 18) while also working on and off the farm/ranch. The survey is open to part time and full time farmers, ranchers, and their partners operating in rural, urban, or suburban areas. Participants have the option to enter a raffle for one of fifty $50 checks.

To fill out the 15 to 20 minute survey, visit this link.

For questions or to request a paper survey, contact Florence Becot at 715-389-9379 or

The News in 4-H

Registration Open for Maple Sugaring 101: From Sap to Syrup to Sales

Youth ages 12-18 are invited to register for a 3-week pilot Maple Sugaring program with a mix of virtual and on-site sessions Wednesdays and Saturdays starting February 22, 5:00 – 6:00 pm. During this 3-week program, participants will learn about the entire process, from forest management, tapping trees, transporting sap, using an evaporator, grading and storing syrup, to operating a maple sugaring business. University of Maine Cooperative Extension will host the weekday meetings via Zoom. Onsite sessions will be located at sugarhouses and extension offices in Somerset and Piscatiquis counties and the University of Maine Sugarhouse in Orono. This club is limited to 10 participants in each county. Registration ends February 17, 2023. Visit the program page for more information.

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.

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