The Somerset Newsflash, January 2024

Important Dates


The News

Apple Tree Pruning Workshop

Sunday, March 3 – 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Late winter is the time for pruning apple trees, and Somerset County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) is pleased to announce an outdoors, skill-building workshop at the Yankee Woodlot Demonstration Forest.

The workshop, led by apple tree enthusiast Joe Dembeck, will cover methods and tools used to prune fruit trees in order to increase their viability and production. After a brief overview, participants will get to test their skills pruning apple trees.

Dress in warm layers as we will be outdoors for the event. Participants are encouraged to bring their own pruning equipment as well as work gloves. Pole saws, hand saws, and loppers will be available for participants to try as well.

Registration by Wednesday, February 28 is required. The cost is $10 per person, payable by cash or check on the day of the event. Please note, enrollment will be limited to 24 individuals to ensure a safe and productive event for all participants.

To register or for more information, contact the District office at 207-474-8323 or email Jennifer Hebert at

This community learning event is co-sponsored by Somerset County SWCD, Maine Woodland Owners — Upper Kennebec Valley Chapter, Somerset County Cooperative Extension and Maine Forest Service.

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

Growing and 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.

Donations welcomed but not required. Register by contacting Billiejo Pendleton at 207.342.5971 or by email at

Event times & locations:

Monday, January 22nd, 2024 from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.Cooperative Extension in Waldo County, 922 Waterville Road, Waldo, Maine 04915

Monday, January 29th, 2024 from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.Cooperative Extension in Knox & Lincoln Counties, 377 Manktown Road, Waldoboro, Maine 04572

Monday, February 5th, 2024 from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Cooperative Extension in Somerset County, 7 County Drive, Skowhegan, Maine 04976

Monday, February 12th, 2024 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Cooperative Extension in Androscoggin & Sagadahoc Counties, 24 Main Street, Lisbon Falls, Maine 04252

Monday, February 26th, 2024 from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. – Cooperative Extension in Oxford County, 9 Olson Road, South Paris, Maine 04281

Monday, March 11th, 2024 from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.Cooperative Extension in Penobscot County, 307 Maine Avenue, Bangor, Maine 04401

Signup for 2023 On-Farm Food Safety Assistance for Specialty Crop Growers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds specialty crop growers that assistance is available for producers who incur eligible on-farm food safety program expenses to obtain or renew a food safety certification through the Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops (FSCSC) program. Producers can apply for assistance on their calendar year 2023 expenses through January 31, 2024.

The application, along with other required documents, can be submitted to the FSA office at any USDA Service Center nationwide by mail, fax, hand delivery or via electronic means.

Specialty crop producers can also call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to assist. Visit for additional program details, eligibility information and forms needed to apply.

Climate-Smart Farming and Marketing

The Climate-Smart Farming & Marketing program offers financial support and technical assistance for farmers who want

to implement climate-smart practices such as agroforestry, cover cropping, prescribed grazing, and reduced tillage.

Farmer participants will help measure the environmental benefits of these practices and get marketing support to share

findings with customers and open up new markets for climate-smart commodities. Interested farmers can fill out a pre-a pre-application survey. survey.

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

MOFGA Journeyperson Applications Open

The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association is now accepting applications for the Journeyperson program, a 2 year program designed to help Maine farmers and farmworkers overcome barriers in their first few years of a farm business. The program provides holistic support for farmers including support in accessing land, capital, business planning, mentorship, and 1 on 1 technical assistance alongside a network of farmers. Learn more about the program on the MOFGA website. Applications are due January 31, 2024. Please contact Bo Dennis, Beginning Farmer Programs Specialist, at with any questions.

The News in 4-H

Scholarship Applications Opening

Do you have a junior or senior who is planning to go on to higher education after high school? There are some exciting scholarship opportunities available for 4-H members through the County Leaders Association, the Maine 4-H Foundation, UMaine, and others! Reach out to at the Extension Office for more information, requirements to apply, and deadlines for submissions.

Maple Sugaring 101: From Sap, to Syrup, to Sales

Not long after the New Year celebrations have ended and Maine hunkers down for several more weeks of winter, some farmers and landowners across the state turn their attention to maple sugar season. Depending on the weather, maple trees start to release their sweetness anytime between February and April and there’s a lot of work to be done to prepare for collecting the sap and boiling it down into syrup.

Maple Sugaring 101 is a 6-week program open to Maine youth ages 9 and up 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. Online meetings are scheduled for Wednesday evenings: February 7, February 14, and February 28. On-site workshops will be held at participating sugarhouses following the virtual sessions. Youth will need to travel to participating sugarhouses.

Enrollment in 4-H is required, but there is no cost. Visit the program page for more information and to enroll. Enrollment ends February 5, 2024.

Please get in touch with for more information in Somerset County.

Tidepool Immersion Discovery + Ecology Workshop Series

Explore the intertidal zone and help with marine science research! In this workshop, we will learn about animals you might find during low tide and use some amazing equipment to take awesome pictures on your phone to identify them. Along the way, we’ll learn about invasive species, climate change, species identification, and how you can participate in research by just taking a picture. Please note that the ability to get to the beach and supervision are required (at least once, between sessions). Participants must have access to a durable digital camera (a phone is fine). This workshop is supported by Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine. Register by March 27, so supplies can be mailed to attendees’ homes.

  • Dates: Tuesdays, 4:00-5:00, April 9, 2024 through May 11.
  • In person field day at SMCC, South Portland (optional) scheduled in South Portland on April 13 (rain date April 14).
  • Ages 11-18
  • Most activities will be held via Zoom. Materials will be provided and shipped directly to participants before the workshop. In-person field day scheduled in South Portland on April 13 (rain date April 14th). Participants will be asked to visit the ocean at least once, at low tide, during this series. Facilitators: Emily P. and Sam B.
  • Preregistration is required by March 27, 2024.

Start Your 4-H Volunteer Journey

4H CloverDo you know someone who is interested in becoming a 4-H Volunteer? Tell them to Start Their 4-H Volunteer Journey!

University of Maine Cooperative Extension will offer a two-part online informational session for adults interested in becoming Maine 4-H volunteers on January 16 & 23 from 6 – 7 p.m. “Start Your 4-H Volunteer Journey” will provide participants with information about the UMaine Extension 4-H youth development program through four short e-Learning modules. Attendees will also participate in an experimental learning activity, learn about the key aspects of positive youth development, and be introduced to ages and stages of youth. The two one-hour virtual sessions will wrap up with an outline of next steps and an introduction to a county staff contact to help with the application process if desired.

Registration is required. The sessions are free. To register, visit our website.

For more information or to request a reasonable accommodation, contact Jennifer Lobley,, 207.255.3345.

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