The Somerset Newsflash, December 2023

Important Dates


The News

Tractor Safety Interest Form 

We have had some interest in the tractor safety course. Courses are offered in the spring, but to gauge interest and make preparations, planning begins as soon as the weather turns cold.

Participants will learn how to handle tractors and equipment safely, how to identify hazards, and how to minimize the chances of accidents. The course is open to all interested adults and youth. A Federal Certificate of Training will be issued at the end of the course after successful completion of the written test and driving course and with attendance requirements met. This certificate is required for 14- and 15-year-olds who plan to operate farm equipment for hire on farms other than their own.

If you or ANYONE age 14 or older is interested in learning more, or to complete the interest form, please visit the UMCE Farm Tractor Safety page.

USDA Unveils Updated Plant Hardiness Zone Map

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a new version of its Plant Hardiness Zone Map, updating this valuable tool for the first time since 2012. USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map is the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location.

When compared to the 2012 map, the 2023 version reveals that about half of the country shifted to the next warmer half zone, and the other half of the country remained in the same half zone. USDA notes that these national differences in zonal boundaries are mostly a result of incorporating temperature data from a more recent time period.

The News in Agriculture

Save the Date: Growing & Marketing Specialty Potato Varieties

Recent developments in consumer interest and demand for fresh-market potato varieties with novel size, shape, color, and taste profiles are creating unique market opportunities for specialty crop producers.

How can growers capitalize on this trend and produce these farm products sustainably?

Join us for a presentation and roundtable discussion to learn more about the growing and marketing practices utilized in the production of specialty potato varieties in Maine.

UMaine Extension Farm Business Management Educator, Brett Johnson, will deliver a presentation describing best practices in the cultivation of specialty potato varieties. This presentation will be followed by a roundtable discussion where commercial specialty potato producers are encouraged to share about their experiences marketing these products. Information gathered will inform the University of Maine’s ongoing potato variety trialing efforts.

Who should attend: Commercial farmers with an interest in producing specialty potato varieties, commercial farmers currently producing specialty potato varieties, new and beginning farmers exploring market opportunities.

The Presenter: UMaine Extension Farm Business Management Educator, Brett Johnson

When: Monday, February 5, 2024

Time: 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Where: University of Maine Cooperative Extension Office, 7 County Drive, Skowhegan, Maine 04976

Fee:  Free 

Donations are welcome but not required. Light refreshments provided.

Registration information coming soon!

Maine Agricultural Trades Show

The State of Maine Agricultural Trades Show is sponsored by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. There is no admission to attend this annual event. 2024 marks the 83rd gathering of exhibitors, conference presenters, free business coaching and advising, and networking opportunities.

  • Tuesday, January 9, 2024 – 9 AM to 5 PM
  • Wednesday, January 10, 2024 – 9 AM to 6 PM
  • Thursday, January 11, 2024 – 9 AM to 3 PM
  • The Augusta Civic Center is located at 76 Community Drive, Augusta, ME 04330

New for 2024, food trucks (or similar mobile purveyors) will be featured, selling delicious Maine ingredients to attendees and participants. Food trucks (or similar mobile purveyors) are invited to complete the interest form by December 1. Please consider sharing this form with your favorite Maine food trucks!

Communicating about Personal Money Values Workshop

Join us for a 2-hour workshop for experienced (5 years+) farmers, you’ll hear directly from farmers who have thought about the non-business side of money. You’ll think about your own priorities and have a chance to talk with others about how you’d like to move forward with your personal time and value in mind just as much as your business value. You’ll learn about the option of farm coaching for continued support in your planning.

These workshops will be led by Abby Sadauckas, farm coach, and farmer from Apple Creek Farm, and Sylvie Boisvert, farm coach and business advisor.

There are three different dates and three different locations for this workshop. Register here.

  • Wednesday, January 24, 2024, 1-3 p.m. Online

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

To increase the number of growers able to produce high quality regionally adapted vegetable, herb, and flower seed in the northeast a group of educators, experienced seed producers, and regional seed companies is working together to offer a training in seed production and connect participants to markets for their seed.

The course is free through generous support of a Northeast SARE Research and Education grant, but we expect participants to fully engage in the course and to share their experiences with us at the end of the course.  

The online course, which starts January 10 and runs for 10 weeks, is designed to help growers determine whether seed production is a good choice for their farm and then to guide them in selecting an initial seed crop to grow for sale, on-farm, or community use. Each week will feature guest speakers with expertise in seed production, plant pathology, seed economics, and more. During the course participants will form learning cohorts and will work with a mentor throughout the 2024 growing season to successfully produce a quality seed crop. The cohorts will have monthly group check-ins via Zoom and one-on-one access to a grower mentor experienced in producing their chosen seed crop. At the end of the season, participants can sell their marketable seed crops back to the companies that provided stock seed. 

If you are interested in being a part of the seed education cohort, please fill out this quick intake form.

If you have any questions about the project, you can reach Crystal at For more information about the course, please reference the course syllabus.

Business of Farming Workshop

When: January 16, 23, and 30, 2024.

Where: Bangor Public Library. 145 Harlow St, Bangor, ME 04401

Cost: $500.

Analyze your business with support from technical service providers. Business of Farming is a year-long business planning program, combining workshops and technical assistance.

​​​​​The Business of Farming program is for experienced farmers who want to analyze their current business model and use the information for decision making.

Drawing on a panel of business experts from around the state, as well as other growers, we’ll uncover the story your financial records are telling you, and develop your ability to make strategic business decisions that move you in the direction of your goals.

Registration is open until Friday, December 15.

For more information and registration, click here. You also can contact Savannah Seades at

The News in 4-H

4-H Achievement Night

4H Clover

On Friday, November 17, for the first time in several years, Somerset County held its 4-H Achievement Night at the Kennebec Valley Grange Hall in Madison. We presented awards to club members and volunteers to celebrate all the great projects and growth throughout the year. Many thanks to all the club leaders, volunteers and members who helped with set up and clean up, spoke about their activities, presented awards, and brought delicious desserts to share. Thank you also to Tim Curtis, our County Administrator, and family, and the members of the Somerset County Executive Board that attended. It was lovely to see all the 4-H support!

2023 County Awards for outstanding Project Records:

Boots & Spurs 4-H Club: Amiya T., Horses

Independent: Samantha B., Horses; Joseph D., Goats; Isabella Q., Horses

Somerset Beef 4-H Club: Emma H., Beef; Joey H., Beef; Henry L.,Beef; Hayley M., Beef     

Outstanding 4-H Club: Solon Pine Tree 4-H Club

Outstanding Club Secretary: Kaitlin D., Solon Pine Tree 4-H Club       


Maple Sugaring 101

Maple Sugaring 101 is a SPIN club program open to Maine youth ages 9-15  February 7 – March 9 who are interested in learning about the entire maple sugaring process. Participants will learn about forest management, tapping trees, transporting sap, using an evaporator, grading and storing syrup, and operating a maple sugaring business.

Each week, participants will learn about the process and connect with other young maple sugar makers through online meetings and in-person workshops led by Extension and University of Maine experts. We are also looking for a local sugar house to host the in-person portion of the program for two Saturdays.

Please contact Karen Giles for more information. Sign ups will open the first of January on a first come, first served basis.

New RockHounding Club Opportunity Starting in 2024

We are looking for participants for a new Rockhounding SPIN club starting in 2024. This hands-on experiential club will feature in person and virtual learning modules, utilizing the Gem & Mineral 4-H STEM Toolkit as well as other resources to study, identify and record rocks, gems, and minerals found in Maine. Participants will learn about the history of and discuss contemporary concerns regarding mining in Maine. We are planning to incorporate field trips to gem and mineral destinations, i.e. the Gem & Mineral Museum in Bethel, Poland Mining Camp, and the Gem & Mineral Show in Augusta. We plan to introduce special guest speakers in careers such as Geology, Paleontology, Earth Sciences, Oceanography, GIS, as well as introductions to other resources and groups. Please reach out to Karen Giles for more information.

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

The News in Homemakers

Homemaker LogoExtension 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.

News from the Cambridge Homemakers

Five Cambridge Homemakers members and their donations
Cambridge Homemakers donated gift bags to a local boarding home. Left to right: Reni Davis, Judy Hibbert, Gail Watson, Carol Shruhan, and Brenda Post. Stephanie Roscoe and Cindy Strouse also made donations for the gift bags.

Members of the Cambridge Extension Homemakers group have made, collected, and delivered gifts for the 20 residents of a local boarding home. Each homemade cloth gift bag contained packs of tissues, lotions, mini gloves, socks, handmade soap and washcloth, adult coloring books with markers and other small items, as well as a comfort pillow for each resident (also homemade). These gifts were delivered before Christmas by Reni Davis and Judy Hibbert, representatives of the group.

This year the Cambridge group also has made and delivered 48 chemo caps to the Cancer Center in Brewer, and raised $558 to provide gifts for the children of incarcerated persons in our county.

One of the next events is the Annual Heart Fund Bake Sale in February, a project of 50 years standing.

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