The Somerset Newsflash, February 2024

Important Dates


The News

State and FEMA Joint-Operated Disaster Recovery Center Now Open

FEMA flag near roadsideFederal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Recovery Centers are facilities and mobile offices set up after a disaster to offer resources and assistance to all disaster survivors. A Recovery Center has been set up in Skowhegan at 4 County Drive, just off of Norridgewock Ave. If you or someone you know was impacted by the December 17-21 storm, you may want to stop by the center or call 1-800-621-3362 to find out if you qualify for assistance.

Apple Tree Pruning Workshop

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.

Backyard Maple Syrup Production Webinar

February 20, 6:00-7:00 p.m.


Learn everything you need to know about making your own maple syrup. This webinar is designed for beginners will focus on homestead-scale systems that require a limited initial investment in equipment.


Recipe to Market Online Workshop

February 21, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.


This workshop is intended for entrepreneurs and/or farmers interested in starting a home-based, specialty food business. Topics that will be presented include the specialty food industry, business basics, an overview of the product development process, licensing and regulations, and food safety concerns.


Home Grown Cranberries Webinar

March 26, 6:00-7:15 p.m.

Speaker: Charles Armstrong, UMaine Extension Cranberry Professional

Growing backyard cranberries is easier than you think! Cranberry Professional & Staff Entomologist / Insect Diagnostician Charles Armstrong will share step-by-step instructions from site selection to harvest and everything in between.


Harvesting Hidden Gems: Practical Insights for Growing Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes

April 2, 6:00-7:15 p.m.

This webinar will focus on practical strategies for growing potatoes and sweet potatoes. In addition to offering simple tips and tricks that will save you time and improve yields, our experts will share updates on their favorite varieties and pest management suggestions so you can create your own buried treasures this season!

Speakers: Brett Johnson, Extension Agriculture Educator, and Tom Witwicki, Cumberland County Master Gardener Volunteer


Backyard Blueberry Growing Tips from UMaine Experts

April 9, 6:00-7:15 p.m.

Join UMaine Cooperative Extension Wild Blueberry Specialist Lily Calderwood and Vegetable and Small Fruit Specialist David Handley as they highlight best practices for growing sweet blue backyard treats.

Speakers: Lily Calderwood, UMaine Extension Wild Blueberry Specialist and Assistant Professor of Horticulture, and David Handley, Vegetable & Small Fruit Specialist, Highmoor Farm


The News in Agriculture

UMaine Wild Blueberry Conference

February 17, 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

Moore Community Center, 125 State Street, Ellsworth, Maine 04605

  • In-Person with breakout rooms, coffee, lunch, etc.,
  • Virtual: Available, if you choose to attend virtually, the Zoom link will be emailed to you the day before the event.

Three Pesticide Credits are available for full-day attendance.

Cost: Pay what you can, $10, $20, $50, $100. Suggested donation of $20. All proceeds go directly towards the Extension Wild Blueberry Programming.

Register Online or by calling Mary Michaud at 207.581.3175.

Farmer Resource and Networking Day

February 27, 8:00am – 1:30pm

Please join the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and the Greater Franklin Food Council during The Farmer Resource and Networking Day. This is an opportunity for farmers, prospective farmers and community members to connect with Ag Service Providers and each other while learning about programs and services available to help support farmers.

Participants will hear talks from local farmer panelists and ag service provides such as, the Natural Resource and Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), Maine Farmland Trust (MFT), Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), UMaine Extension and others while enjoying provided snacks, refreshments and lunch. This event is sponsored by Bangor Savings Bank and United Insurance, Farmington.

This program is open to all but is focused on those with farming interests in Franklin and surrounding counties.

Registration is free but limited to 35 participants. Registration deadline Sunday, February 18.

Register Here

2024 Maine Dairy Seminar

March 14, 2024

Elks Lodge. 76 Industrial St. Waterville, ME 04901

Cost: Free

This annual meeting gives attendees an opportunity to come together as a dairy industry, learn from subject matter experts, and attend a trade show.

All are invited to attend. Advanced registration required by March 11.


Contact Melissa Libby Babcock,, 207.581.2788.

Additionally, the nominations for the 2024 Maine Dairy Farm and Family of the Year are open!! If you have someone in mind that has the best dairy operation in Maine, just click here to nominate him/her!!

Maine Vegetable and Fruit School

March 26, 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Elks Lodge #964, 397 Civic Center Drive, 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.

Credits: Three pesticide applicator training credits are pending.

Cost: $45, Register Online

Topics will include:

  • Pest management in the following crops:
    • sweet corn
    • pumpkins and squash
    • onions and garlic
    • tomatoes
    • strawberries
  • Common plant diseases in high tunnels
  • A virtual visit to Pleasant Valley Farm “Making Diversified Growing Successful”, Paul and Sandy Arnold of Argyle, NY

2024 Vegetable & Small Fruit Growers Survey

Small fruit, vegetable and IPM specialists at the University of Maine’s Highmoor Farm want your input to guide their research and Extension programs. Please complete this brief 5 question survey!

You can find more about Highmoor Farms and the work we do, as well as subscribe to various resources here.

Livestock Needs Survey

You are invited to participate in an anonymous survey evaluating the needs of Maine livestock and equine producers or managers on topics relating to animal health and husbandry, as well as farm and business management. This survey is part of a research study and needs assessment from educators at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Maine Department of Agriculture Conservation and Forestry. Results will be used to develop public educational programming of priority topics.

You must be 18 years or older and must own or manage livestock or horses to participate. The online survey will take approximately 10 to 15 minutes to finish and is completely voluntary. It will be open until April 6, 2024.

For more information or questions, please contact the study’s PI, Rachel White at or (207) 667-8212. For paper copies to be sent to you, please contact Melissa Libby Babcock at or (207) 581-2788.

Deep Compost Mulching Feedback Needed

Deep compost mulching has been a growing practice in Maine for small-scale intensive vegetable production. 

University of Maine Cooperative Extension is investigating problems and setbacks that farmers have experienced while using the deep compost mulch system. We are looking for input from commercial farmers who use deep compost mulch soil preparation on some part of your production system. 

If you implement this practice, please fill out this survey.

Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure Program Launching Soon

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) is preparing to open its Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure (RFSI) program. In preparation for a Request for Applications (RFA), DACF has launched a RFSI program webpage providing a program overview, contact information, quick facts, and an anticipated timeline. 

The purpose of Maine’s RFSI program is to build resilience across the state’s middle of the food supply chain. Funds will support expanded capacity for the aggregation, processing, manufacturing, storing, transporting, wholesaling, and distribution of Maine-produced food products, including specialty crops, dairy, grains for human consumption, aquaculture, and other food products, excluding meat and poultry.

Maine DACF will hold four RFSI virtual office hours to provide an overview of the program, eligibility, and program priorities and to answer program questions:

  • Monday, February 12, 2024, 2:00 PM
  • Tuesday, February 20, 2024, 2:00 PM
  • Monday, February 26, 2024, 2:00 PM
  • Tuesday, March 5, 2024, 11:00 AM

Once the Maine RFSI RFA opens (anticipated in mid-March), DACF will conduct one round of questions and answers to address general inquiries about the application process through the Maine Procurement Systems RFA Q&A process, as listed in the upcoming RFSI RFA instructions. Questions received during office hours will be included in the published Q&A.

Please email Michelle Webb, Maine RFSI Program Coordinator, to sign up for one or more of the RFSI virtual office hours:

The News in 4-H

Scholarship Applications Opening

4H CloverDo 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.

The Promise Scholarship

The Promise Scholarship at the University of Southern Maine is designed to help underserved young achievers from Maine overcome financial, academic, social, and cultural barriers, remain in school, and graduate in four years with minimal debt — prepared to make their own contributions to Maine’s social and economic well-being.

The Promise Scholarship awards up to 25 students in each incoming cohort, with top-off, multi-year scholarship awards that aims to meet 100% of a scholar’s demonstrated need in covering the cost of tuition, fees, housing, and meal expenses. Our scholarship program promotes access and equity in earning a bachelor’s degree, therefore awards vary based upon a student’s eligibility for other federal, state, and institutional aid to ensure college remains affordable for all.

January 1 – Application Opens

March 15 – Application Deadline

Mid-April – Applicants notified

May 1 – Selected scholars confirm their attendance to USM

To learn more and apply, see the google form.

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.

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.

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