The Somerset Newsflash, March 2023

Important Dates


The News in the County

Meet Our Newest Team Member, Julia Lajoie!

Julie LajoieWe are so thrilled to welcome Julie Lajoie to our Somerset County Cooperative Extension team.

Julie is excited to join the staff as an Administrative Specialist. She holds a B.S. in Administrative Office Management and graduate studies in Training and Development from The College of New Jersey. Julie brings a diverse administrative support background, ranging from large corporations to small, family-owned businesses. In 2021, Julie and her husband moved to Skowhegan from New Jersey (the Garden State), and as an avid gardener herself, is
excited to be able to serve her new community through work at Somerset Extension.

RSVP to the Somerset Extension Open House by April 15 to Receive FREE Seedlings!

youth interacting with 4-H staffPlanning is well underway for our Open House and we hope you’ll join us on May 6 from 10AM-2PM. This is a FREE event and all community members are invited. Here are just a few things you can look forward to at the event:

  • Make a native seed ball! (FREE activity for ALL ages. Take it home and grow native plants near your house.)
  • 4-H Expo
  • Homemaker Expo and bake sale
  • Crafts, games, and activities
  • Plenty of resources and information
  • Interact with your local Extension staff
  • Presentations:
    • 10:15 a.m.: Maple Sugaring Past and Present — UMaine Extension Assistant Professor Jason Lilley
    • 11:00 a.m.: Legumes as Cover Crops — UMaine Extension Assistant Professor Jaime Garzon
    • 11:45 a.m.: Gardening in Western Maine: Extension Professionals Panel Discussion — UMaine Extension Horticulture Professionals Brett Johnson, Rebecca Long, and Nick Rowley
    • 1:00 p.m.: Why Native Plants Matter: Planting to Rebuild Healthy EcosystemsWild Seed Project Manager of Educational Programs Nell Houde

For more information and to let us know if you plan to attend, check out the Open House webpage. Those who RSVP by April 15 will receive FREE seedlings at the event!

Upcoming Spring Gardening Programs

Tomato SeedlingsBrett Johnson, Extension Sustainable Agriculture and Horticulture Professional will be offering a number of in-person gardening programs this spring. Please consider attending!

  • Friday, March 31, 2023 • 12:30-3:00 p.m. • Somerset Extension Office, Skowhegan

Seed Starting Indoors – A survey of the indoor environment and the strategies used to optimize conditions for seed germination, seedling growth, and acclimation to the outdoors. Variety selection and sowing schedules will be discussed as well as what qualities make a planting medium ideal for seed starting indoors. The presentation will be followed by a Q&A discussion and optional seed sowing workshop. A light lunch will be provided before the presentation.
Registration required. Suggested Donation: $0-15

  • Wednesday, April 19, 2023 • 7:00 p.m. • Brown Memorial United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, Clinton

Planning Your Vegetable Garden for Improved Productivity – A discussion for anyone who has ever wondered, “Am I getting the most out of my vegetable garden?” This will be an exploration of plant traits and planting dates, interplanting, succession planting, crop rotation, and soil fertility that will leave gardeners expecting more from their beds and boxes. Systems of record keeping in the garden will also be discussed.
No registration required. FREE

  • Saturday, April 22, 2023 • 12:30-2:00 p.m. • Coolidge Public Library, Solon

Adapting Your Garden to a Changing Climate – In observance of Earth Day 2023 we discuss the gardening practices that will adapt your production environment to excessively dry and/or wet conditions, severe weather events, and unseasonable hot and/or cold springs. The presentation will be followed by a Q&A discussion. A light lunch will be provided before the presentation.
No registration required. FREE

For more information and to register, visit our Events page.

Bat Conservation: Support Bats in Your Own Backyard

Eastern red batThursday, April 6 at 6:00 PM

University of Maine Cooperative Extension Somerset County Office
7 County Drive, Skowhegan

Join Natural Resources Conservation Service State Biologist Jeremy Markuson for a presentation about bats in Maine.

Once misunderstood and feared, bats are now recognized for the services they provide and the important role they play in our ecosystems. We will learn about our native bats, how disease and habitat alteration have impacted them, and steps you can take to make your property bat-friendly. Each attendee will also bring home detailed instructions to build their own bat house. Joining in on the conversation will be Hannah Mullally from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service who will give a presentation about the Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program, a program that helps private landowners restore important habitat on their lands. 

This free event is presented by Somerset County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) in partnership with Somerset Woods Trustees and Somerset County Cooperative Extension. Participants are asked to please RSVP to the Somerset SWCD via email, or call 207-474-8323.

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.

Germinating seeds indoors is all about optimizing the seeds’ environment. 

In order to grow healthy seedlings indoors, use a system that maintains consistent temperature and moisture conditions until germination. Be sure to wet your growing medium well before filling containers. Ideal depth of planting is species dependent and is usually included in seed package directions. Water thoroughly after planting to ensure that seeds make good contact with growing medium and hydrate after planting. The use of a plastic dome over planting trays reduces drying and maintains high humidity until germination. Consistent heat is important for the uniform and expeditious emergence of seedlings. An excellent way to achieve consistent heat is to utilize bottom heat through the use of a seedling heat mat. To learn more and practice sowing seeds consider attending our program “Seed Starting Indoors” (7 County Drive, Skowhegan) on Friday, March 31 from 12:30 to 3:00 p.m. Happy sowing!

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).

Alice is back at El Rancho De La Vida and is teaching an Eating Smart Being Active series. She is also teaching the same series as a virtual class in Penobscot County.

EFNEP’s new hires from York and Franklin counties have been joining Alice at various classes to observe her programs. In the coming weeks, Alice plans to take them around the county with her to meet with community partners and discuss upcoming programming for the spring and summer.

Alice will also be attending the annual Homemaker Spring Meeting on March 27 to talk about healthy snacks and volunteer opportunities.

Meet a Board Member!

Rita FortinPlease meet Rita Fortin. Rita has been on our Executive Committee for just over a year and recently took over the office of Treasurer. She is also on our Open House planning committee.

Rita was first introduced to Cooperative Extension in 1973 when a friend invited her to a local Extension Homemakers meeting. Rita thoroughly enjoyed the meeting, decided to join the club, and has been a Homemaker ever since. She loves how close the members are and how much help and support they provide for one another. Club members quickly become close friends and play important roles in each other’s lives.

Rita was elected President of the Somerset Extension Homemakers Advisory Council in 2022 and became a member of the Somerset Extension Executive Board at the same time. Rita has enjoyed the opportunity to meet another circle of friends from this experience and loves knowing that she is able to play a roll in carrying out Cooperative Extension’s mission.

Rita believes that the more we can get the word out about how useful Cooperative Extension can be to people, the better. “There is so much that Extension can do and teach and help people with, especially with food and gardening and so much more!”

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

Maine Maple Sunday Weekend

Maine Maple Sunday Weekend is on March 25 and 26 this year. As part of this family-friendly event, you can visit local sugarhouses and sample local maple syrup. Many farms also offer a variety of activities throughout the day. If you have sugar maple (Acer saccharum) trees on your property, you can also try tapping and making your own syrup, see Bulletin #7036 How to Tap Maple Trees and Make Maple Syrup. The Forest Trees of Maine can assist you with identifying maple trees on your property in both summer and winter.

29th Annual Rural Living Day in Waldo County

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Rural Living Day is an annual event in April hosted by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Waldo County Extension Association. A variety of workshops will be offered by Extension staff and community experts on topics ranging from gardening, keeping goats, and sourdough baking.

Mt View High School, 577 Mt View Rd (Rt 220),  Thorndike, ME

Class sizes are limited and fill up FAST!

Pre-registration is REQUIRED. Deadline to register is March 29, 2023 or until each class fills up, whichever comes first.

For more information and to register, visit the Rural Living Day Webpage.

Franklin County Extension Association Showcase

Wednesday, April 12, 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

St. Joseph’s Parish Hall, 133 Middle Street, Farmington

  • Bring your garden questions and get answers
  • Learn how to get your child in a 4-H club
  • Take home a soil test kit
  • Find out how Cooperative Extension helps farmers
  • Learn about volunteer opportunities
  • Learn how to ID ticks and other pests

For more information or to request accommodation, contact Tiffany Wing at or 207.778.4650.

Apply to be a Master Food Preserver

Applications available March 1

Do you enjoy the art and science of food preservation? Would you like to develop expertise in food preservation? Consider becoming a Master Food Preserver.


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!



Lyme Disease Awareness Month Activities

Do you have children ages 5 to 14 years old? Maine CDC developed tick curricula including videos and activities for children to help them learn more about ticks, the diseases they can spread, and prevention.

Lyme Disease Awareness Month Poster Contest 2023

This year’s theme: Tick Free ME

Posters should illustrate at least one of the four personal prevention techniques:

  • Use of EPA approved repellent
  • Wear protective clothing
  • Perform daily tick checks
  • Use caution in tick infested areas

For more information about tick prevention, please visit Tick Prevention and Property Management.

 Read more…

Entry Level Employment Vacancy with U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency

The USDA FSA office in Skowhegan is hiring. See the job posting (pdf) and application (pdf). For more information, contact

The News in Agriculture

Meetings and Conferences

Northeast Farm to Institution Summit

Transform the food system and join other change-makers at the hybrid conference Northeast Farm to Institution Summit! This April 2023, gather with 500+ stakeholders under the theme “CommUNITY Powers the Food System,” to advance farm, food, and sea businesses to create healthy, just communities. Together, we focus on the role of institutions as community anchors with the power to transform the regional food system.

There are many Maine based speakers including Mark McBrine, Maine Dept of Corrections; Heather Kerner, The Good Crust; Amber Lambke, Maine Grains; Tristan Noyes, Maine Grains Alliance; Rebekah Mende, Maine State Prison; Maeve McInnis, Sodexo, Maine Course; Jim Hanna & Zoe Grodsky, Cumberland County Food Security Council; Renee Page, Healthy Communities of the Capital Area; Sophie Scott, Gulf of Maine Research Institute; Matthew Chin, Harvesting Good; Ron Adams, Maine Farm & Sea Cooperative;

Attendees include foodservice operators, producers, supply chain businesses, advocates, public officials, funders, and anyone dedicated to the farm to institution movement. Two days of virtual programming + two days in-person at Farm Fresh Rhode Island in Providence, RI. Tiered ticketing available on a sliding scale. Learn more on the Summit webpage.

Learning Opportunities

Growing Small Fruit on Your Farm – Online Course

The “Growing Small Fruit on Your Farm” course will teach you the best cultural practices for raising small fruit crops in Maine, including strawberries, raspberries, and high-bush blueberries. All of these crops can work well both in the home garden and on commercial farms, but proper planning and preparation are crucial to their success. This course will illustrate the essential steps needed to make your berry planting a rewarding experience. We will cover how to choose the best site, what to look for in plant varieties, preparing the soil, planting, fertilizing, pruning, and pest management.

Instructor: Dr. David Handley, UMaine Extension

Maine Vegetable and Fruit School Announced

March 29, Augusta, Maine: This day-long school is sponsored by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and the Maine Vegetable and Small Fruit Growers Association. Lunch will be provided. More info including agenda and registration.

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.

March 22 – Penobscot County

March 27 – Oxford County

April 27 – Cumberland County

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 1011, 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

Grants and Funding

Land for Maine’s Future: Applications Being Accepted

The Working Farmland Access and Protection Program (WFAPP) provides funding to protect Maine’s productive and economically significant agricultural lands. On these protected properties, WFAPP encourages agricultural practices that support soil health, carbon sequestration, and the long-term productivity of protected farmland.

WFAPP also seeks to protect properties that support farming operations in areas of the State that support and anchor a viable agricultural economy, that benefit beginning farmers or under-served communities, and that provide multiple public benefits such as protection of wildlife habitat.

Learn more about the program here. All projects must be sponsored by the Bureau of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Resources and interested applicants should contact BAFRR staff before proceeding with their application.

Northeastern Dairy Product Innovation Competition

Win up to $75K to bring your innovative dairy product to market. The Northeastern Dairy Product Innovation Competition is open to innovators working to develop new value-added dairy products using milk and/or dairy ingredients produced in the Northeast.

In this competition, up to ten innovators will receive $20K in participant support, as well as business incubation services such as product prototyping and optimization, food safety and compliance training, and help developing a business plan for bringing products to market. Of these ten innovators, up to three will be selected to receive an additional $55K and given a presence at the 2023 Dairy Innovation Showcase at the 2023 Grow-NY Summit in Upstate New York. Apply now.

Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loans & Grants in Maine

March 31, 2023 Deadline

The program provides guaranteed loan financing (up to 75%) and grant funding (up to 40%) to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements. Agricultural producers may also apply for new energy efficient equipment and new system loans for agricultural production and processing.

What could they be used for?

  • High efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC)
  • Insulation
  • Lighting
  • Cooling or refrigeration units
  • Doors and windows
  • Electric, solar or gravity pumps for sprinkler pivots
  • Switching from a diesel to electric irrigation motor
  • Replacement of energy-inefficient equipment

Agricultural producers may also use guaranteed loan funds to install energy efficient equipment and systems for agricultural production or processing. For more information, visit the program page.

Contact Maine Rural Development Energy Coordinator

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.

Notices and Publications

It’s Maple Syrup Season!

grading maple syrupThe maple syrup season has already begun in southern Maine. Tapping maple trees is a sure sign of Spring (despite the snow still on the ground in parts of the state). Maine Maple Sunday Weekend is March 25-26, 2023.

We have several publications and videos in the Cooperative Extension publications catalog worth checking out:

#7036 How to Tap Maple Trees & Make Maple Syrup

#7038 Maple Syrup Quality Control Manual

#7041 Licensing and Regulations for Maple Syrup Processing in Maine      

Also, check out these videos:

Remember, Cooperative Extension has a variety of publications available that may interest both you and your clients; everything from agriculture, small business, home, family and youth, gardening and lots more! So pull up a chair and browse the publications catalog. You’ll be amazed at what you find!

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.

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.

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

Share Your Thoughts on Cover Crops in the National Cover Crop Survey!

Farmers are invited to share their thoughts on cover crops in an online survey. Why do you plant cover crops…or why don’t you? What do you want to know? Your insight will help guide research, communications, seed development, and more.

“Since 2012, the National Cover Crop Survey has been extremely valuable in helping guide research priorities, direct communications and education efforts, provide data to researchers, and illustrate the effects of policy on cover crop use and adoption,” says Dr. Rob Myers, regional director of extension programs for North Central SARE.

Please take a few minutes to contribute your voice. After completing the questionnaire, you may enter a drawing for one of three $100 Visa gift cards.

Bill introduced to Fund Research and Mitigation of Spotted Wing Drosophila

U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Gary Peters (D-MI) have introduced legislation to establish the Spotted Wing Abatement Trust (SWAT) ACT, which would fund the research and mitigation of SWD. “The SWAT Act, if passed by Congress, will provide needed resources in the fight against a novel invasive pest insect, the spotted wing drosophila. The funding it allocates could help support ongoing work at the University of Maine to develop cost-effective sustainable pest management strategies to combat this invasive insect.” said Eric Venturini, Executive Director of the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine.

The full press release can be found here.

The News in 4-H

4-H Ecological Studies (4Est) SPIN Club

  • Cost: FREE
  • Ages: Youth ages 12 – 18
  • Dates/Time: Wednesdays, 4:00 – 5:00 pm, April 12May 17, 2023

Did you know that YOU are a scientist and can contribute to the science community?!? This virtual 4-H citizen scientists club encourages youth to practice citizen science in their own backyard, with a variety of citizen science opportunities to consider, and report their observations while making connections with fellow citizen scientists in their community and around the state.  Along the way, we’ll learn about Maine ecology and how you can participate in research by just taking a picture. Registration by March 31, 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.

Save the Date for 4-H Dairy Judging and State Show

The Maine 4-H Dairy Judging Contest will take place on May 6, 2023 at Hardy Farm in Farmington, ME and Silver Valley Farm in New Sharon, ME. The contest is open to all enrolled dairy members and will serve as the official tryouts for the Maine 4-H Dairy Judging Team. 

The Maine State 4-H Dairy Show will take place on July 22 and 23 at the Windsor Fairgrounds in Windsor, ME. The contest is open to all 4-H members who want to participate and will include educational workshops, a fitting contest, a grilled cheese contest, and more!

For more information on upcoming 4-H dairy events visit the 4-H Dairy webpage or contact; 207.342.5971.

2022/2023 4-H Volunteer Training Opportunities

4H CloverAs 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!

For more 4-H news, check out 4-H Happenings, our monthly 4-H newsletter for Somerset County.

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 Day

Contributed by: Rita Fortin

The Clinton Day Group of the Extension Homemakers has been around since 1934. When the Extension Homemakers was initially founded, it was only for men to learn how to make life easier for them. It was not long before women wanted something done for them also. Early on, men trained in different things would gather in someone’s barn and talk to the men who had gathered to hear about ways to make their lives easier. Soon, trained women would come to meetings to train the women about things like how to do the dishes properly, how to iron clothes, the necessity to bathe frequently. 

I have been a member of the Homemakers group for over 50 years. There are members in our group who have been members for over 60 years. What makes us keep going? Friendship, support, learning new things, and being there for one another.

Early on, a staff member would learn about a lesson and come to each group to present it to the group. Now we have what is called “Train the Trainer” where a member of each group goes to the office to get trained and then they come back to the group with the training they have learned. We have had lessons on how to can food, how to make crafts, and have been shown films about how to do things. We went occasionally to places like an alpaca farm and apple orchard, or a granary. And one time we each had to study a part of Maine and come back to the group and tell them about that particular area that we studied. I studied Aroostook County and talked about the potatoes raised there and learned that Winchester Company makes handcuffs that go all over the United States.

Overall, we are happy to be members and would welcome anyone who would like to come and share our club with us.

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