The Somerset Newsflash, March 2024

Important Dates


The News

Somerset County Extension Office Temporarily CLOSED

Our office will be TEMPORARILY CLOSED while we work on some building maintenance issues.

Our staff will continue working remotely and will be regularly checking messages. To get in touch with us, please email us at or call 207-474-9622 and someone will get back to you within 1-2 business days.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your patience!

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.

Maine Maple Sunday Weekend

Maine Maple Sunday Weekend is scheduled for March 23-24 this year, and tapping maple trees is a sure sign of Spring. We have several publications 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!

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.


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

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

Farm Sitters Course

Have you thought about going into farm sitting as a business? This course is designed to equip individuals with the tools to serve as effective farm sitters and to understand the general responsibilities of helping an animal-based farm enterprise successfully continue in the absence of the farmer or manager.

The course will start March 26 and be a hybrid of online and in-person learning.

This training program is offered on a sliding scale (self-selected): $50, $35, or $20. We strive to make the training accessible and affordable for all Maine residents.


Cover Cropping for Nutrient Management

March 27, Online


Fertilizer is expensive. In this webinar for agricultural producers we’ll discuss how cover crops can play a central role in preventing nutrients from leaving your soils, providing nitrogen, and influencing when soil nutrients are available to your crops.


Learn About Growing Fruit Trees as a Business

Saturday, April 6, 2024, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Snow Date: Saturday, April 13, 2024

Highmoor Farm, UMaine Agricultural Experiment Station, 52 US Route 202, Monmouth, Maine 04259

There is no Registration Fee. Please RSVP by contacting Renae Moran at (207) 713-7083 or

Renae Moran will be teaching the basics of commercial tree fruit production including spraying, pruning and thinning. Highmoor Farm is located at 52 US Route 202, Monmouth, ME 04259

For special requests, please, contact Renae Moran at (207) 933-2100 or email by March 1, 2023. If requests are received after this date, we may not have sufficient time to make necessary arrangements; however, all requests will be considered.

Maine’s Open Farm Day

Maine’s Open Farm Day happens, rain or shine, on the fourth Sunday in July. Save the date: The 35th event will occur on July 28, 2024. There is no fee for farms to join the voluntary promotions, but farms must sign up using a Real Maine member account.

Most farms are open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Host farms generally participate because it enhances their farm’s overarching promotional and outreach goals. Recent host farms report that 20-50 visitors are typical. This varies depending on unique farm goals and the proximity of participating farms.

In addition to receiving promotional support, host sites may choose to use planning support from DACF. This includes published resources, attending webinars, and sharing planning ideas with peers.

Visitors’ feedback highlights this event’s value as an agricultural awareness opportunity. Visitors of all ages attend Maine’s Open Farm Day, typically making one to three stops (this varies depending on geography). The most popular reasons people look forward to this tradition include meeting farmers and hearing directly from farmers. They appreciate how welcoming farmers are, and many enjoy learning how to buy local and support Maine farms. Some even make purchases. Visitors share that they enjoy this tradition because learning about farms and seeing them firsthand is a low-cost experience and allows them to see the variety of agriculture throughout Maine.

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.

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