The Somerset Newsflash, April 2023

Important Dates


The News in the County

Somerset Extension Open House is Almost Here!

"Dig in & grow!" logo with shovel and leavesPlease 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
  • FREE smoked chicken (limited supply, first-come, first-served!)
  • 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 Ecosystems — Wild 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.

Submit Your Gardening Questions to Our Gardening Panel

For anyone planning to attend Gardening in Western Maine: Extension Professionals Panel Discussion at our Open House on May 6 at 11:45 a.m., you can now easily submit questions in advance online. The Horticulture Professionals will do their best to answer as many questions as possible during the gardening panel. If your question is not answered, or you have further questions, feel free to reach out to your local Cooperative Extension office at any time!

Upcoming Spring Gardening Program

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

  • 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.

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.

April is a great time to prepare garden beds for cool-season vegetables. 

Cool season vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and other brassicas can be set out to harden off during the last week in April and planted on the 1st of May. Spinach, beets, peas, and onions can be sown or transplanted in mid to late April. Select varieties that are early maturing to take advantage of double-cropping by harvesting and replanting with a warm season vegetable in mid-June. This intensive gardening technique will increase your gardens productivity and allow for plants to mature in their optimum temperature range. Before planting be sure to test your soil and apply fertilizer to correct any nutrient deficiencies. You can also amend your garden with a finished compost to improve its nutrient and water holding capacity. To obtain a soil testing kit visit our office at 7 County Drive, Skowhegan. Happy planting!

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

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

Alice has had an eventful spring season so far, with the conclusion of the El Rancho adult class series and the start of gardening series with Bloomfield and Forest Hills Elementary Schools. In addition, she will be starting a new adult gardening series at the McAuley Residence in Bangor and has been promoting EFNEP at the Centenary Methodist Church every other Wednesday.  She also plans to sign up for the Summer Learning Series with 4-H and is busy planning future summer programs.

The News

Helpful Publications

Spring is here and that means the planting and growing season will soon be getting underway and people will be pursuing outdoor activities. We have many resources to educate you about pruning trees and shrubs, starting seeds at home, insect repellents, ticks, mosquitoes, and Lyme disease. Fiddlehead season will be here soon, and we have information on cooking and pickling fiddleheads, along with an instructional video.

Here are just a few publications available from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension publications catalog that may interest you:

#2751  Starting Seeds at Home

#2762  Growing Vegetables in Container Gardens

#4198  Facts on Fiddleheads

#4060  Facts on Edible Wild Greens in Maine

#2514  Growing Rhubarb in Maine

#2067  Growing Strawberries

#2422  Growing Fruit Trees in Maine

#2172  Raspberry and Blackberry Varieties for Maine

#2410  Plant Propagation in Maine

#2411  Planting and Early Care of Fruit Trees

#2701  Designing Your Landscape for Maine

#5037  Japanese Beetle

#2513  Pruning Forsythias in Maine

#2078  Home Vegetable Gardening

#5047  Ticks

#2367  Lyme Disease

#5108  Insect Repellents

#5110  Mosquito Management

Remember, UMaine Cooperative Extension has a variety of publications available that may interest you; 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!

Apply to be a Master Food Preserver

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

Applications for the training now available and due May 5, 2023 by 4:30 p.m. The 10 part hands-on kitchen labs will be held Tuesdays, 5:30pm-8:30pm starting June 13 until September 5. The course covers food preservation techniques including canning, drying, freezing, fermenting, and winter storage as well as important food safety information. 

Upon successful completion of the program, Master Food Preservers serve as volunteers and resources in the community to provide the public with research-based information from UMaine Extension and USDA. For more information visit the program page.

Upcoming Programs at the Margaret Chase Smith Library

Check out these events happening just down the road from us at 56 Norridgewock Ave in Skowhegan:

  • On Wednesday, April 26, 6-7:30 p.m. the Margaret Chase Smith Library will be hosting a Book Talk and Signing with Carroll Ware, Skowhegan’s own celebrated Maine Guide. Come hear stories and enjoy light refreshments. Copies of On The Wrong Side of the River will be for sale at the event.
  • On Wednesday, May 3, 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm, the Margaret Chase Smith Library will be hosting a paint night led by Gretchen Washburn, owner of InspirArt North Gallery & Gifts. Gretchen will be leading participants through painting a scene familiar to many Mainers – a breathtaking view of a sunset over a body of water as seen from a canoe.
    • Those interested in attending paint night at the Margaret Chase Smith Library must be 13 years of age or older. The cost will be $15/participant and includes all materials. Payment will be accepted as cash or check (no cards please) and checks must be made payable to Gretchen Washburn. Call the Margaret Chase Smith Library at (207) 474-7133 or register online to reserve your spot! Light refreshments will be provided at this event.

The News in Agriculture

Learning Opportunities

Now Scheduled for Somerset: 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.

April 26 – Somerset 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.

Agritourism Course

Maine farms offering agritourism as part of their business will have a chance to complete a coaching and training program to expand their business goals. The program will begin the inaugural pilot course in May 2023.

Interested farms must complete an application before being chosen to partake in the approximately year-long course.

Read more about the program on the DACF agritourism webpage.

Free Farm Succession Planning Assistance in Maine!

No-cost succession planning assistance is now available to Maine farmers. Reach out to initiate a no-cost consultation to take advantage of free succession planning assistance with this available funding by May 31.

Land For Good provides guidance to farmers, landowners and communities amid the challenges of farmland access, tenure, and transfer. They have helped hundreds of farmers find innovative solutions that keep their farms in farming, whether or not they have an identified successor. With this no-cost assistance for Maine farmers, they can help farmers provide a meaningful legacy and address the financial, legal and business challenges involved in transferring a farm to a next generation family member or unrelated successor.

Notices and Publications

Open Farm Day Signup

It’s time for farms to sign up for Open Farm Day; the deadline is May 1. The event is July 23. There will be a webinar April 5 at 5 pm for farms who want to learn more. RSVP here. More information and resources including how to signup for Open Farm Day 2023.

Free Farm Business Advising Opportunity for Maine Farm and Food Businesses

Thanks to grant funding from the Northern Border Regional Commission, there is an opportunity for free business consulting for Maine farm and food businesses located in Androscoggin, Aroostook, Franklin, Hancock, Kennebec, Knox, Oxford, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset, Waldo, and Washington counties.

Consulting can help with profitability enhancement, generational transfer and estate planning, strategic planning, management coaching, and more. Both start-up and established businesses are eligible. Businesses can receive up to $5,000 worth of consulting services at no cost to them. Work must be completed by June 30, 2023, so act now. For more information, contact

2023 Green Pastures Outstanding Dairy Farm Recognition Program

The Green Pastures Award Program is seeking nominees in Maine!!

Six dairy farms (one from each New England state) will be selected for recognition in Springfield, Massachusetts, at the Eastern States Exposition.

This is a recognition of dairy producers for dairy producers, acknowledging those farms with efficient milk production, exceptional forage program, and industry and community leadership by family members.

Please register your nominees here! The selection committee will visit the families with the largest number of nominations, to evaluate their farms and select the winner and representative of Maine in the Big E, an America’s Premier Exposition.

Paines Farm, in Madison, was the 2022 Green Pastures winner.

The News in 4-H

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.

Homemakers Preparing for Somerset Extension Open House

The Somerset Extension Homemakers are excited to be a major part of the upcoming Open House event at the Somerset Extension Office on May 6. Several clubs will be hosting tables and many members plan to attend. They are putting together displays to showcase the benefits of Homemaker Clubs and want to share their impact with the community. They will also be offering FREE healthy snacks to participants. Some of the clubs will be hosting a craft table, where participants can learn to do a craft project and take it home with them. They also plan to host a bake sale and donate all proceeds to a 4-H Camp scholarship fund. They hope to see you there!

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