2017 Annual Report

4-H Umaine Extension logo
University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Washington County

Maine business Cranberries Youth eating vegetable.

Putting university research to work in homes, businesses, farms, and communities for over 100 years.

Our annual report features highlights of recent accomplishments and the difference we make in the lives of Maine citizens and their communities.

Washington County Extension Association

Executive Committee

  • President: Wendy Harrington
  • Secretary: Joan Miller
  • Treasurer: Gretchen Cherry


  • Hope Carle
  • Richard East
  • Laurie Hayward
  • Kathy Mayo
  • Dana Mitchell
  • Lynn Mitchell
  • Marianne Moore

Washington County Staff

  • Louis Bassano, Regional Small Business Extension Educator
  • Sandy Copel-Parsons, 4-H Community Education Assistant
  • Deborah Gardner, Administrative Assistant
  • Jennifer Lobley, Extension Educator for Volunteer Development
  • Alan Majka, Nutrition and Health Extension Educator
  • Marjorie Peronto, Extension Educator
  • Tara Wood, Administrative Assistant

Local Partnership

John Rebar
John Rebar, Executive Director, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

The partnership between the University of Maine, County Governments and the county Extension Associations has endured for over a century. As the needs of the people of Maine have changed, so has Cooperative Extension. We are committed to helping Maine succeed across our spectrum of programming. However, success is best achieved by collaboration with the people, businesses, organizations and communities that we work with. Extension is a reflection of the locally identified needs that form the basis for the educational programs that are offered statewide.

The county report is an important way to share the work that has been happening locally and statewide. This report is also an important way that the county Extension Association documents accountability for the investment of funds from County Government. We are very pleased to share this report with you and encourage you to contact your local office with questions or for more information on anything in this report.

− John Rebar, Executive Director

County Highlights

Community and Economic Development

Resource Directory for Food Entrepreneurs

Food is an important part of Maine’s economy from production to processing and distribution to consumption. The growth in the number of food entrepreneurs, those who develop, produce and sell food and beverage products, is quite evident in all parts of the state. This growth is particularly true in the specialty foods arena.

Food-based enterprises and manufacturers require a wide range of information to help them successfully develop and market their products to consumers through various retail outlets. Three Cooperative Extension faculty members collaborated in the creation of a comprehensive online resource directory for aspiring or existing food manufacturers wanting to produce a specialty food product.

Information in the directory is organized into broad sections for ease of use. Food entrepreneurs will find useful information on business planning (including samples of business plans for various food enterprises) marketing, financing options, and using food brokers, co-packers and distributors. Other sections identify important trade associations, trade shows, publications and more.

The Food Entrepreneurs Resource Directory is available online.

Washington County Extension Homemakers Association

Extension Homemaker group members help to extend the resources of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension into their communities through educational opportunities and service projects. The 13 members of Washington County Extension Homemakers Association gathered seven times to learn about cooking, travel, The University of Maine Cooperative Extension 4-H STEM program and local history.

Climate Change Adaptation Providers (CCAP) Network Meeting

UMaine Cooperative Extension Climate Change Educator, Esperanza Stancioff, organized a meeting on May 24 at UMaine-Machias that included members of state and federal agencies, academia, nonprofits, and municipal officials. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss climate change and find ways to reduce climate-related impacts.

Senior Companion Program

2017 Senior Companion VolunteersThe University of Maine Center on Aging Senior Companion Program in partnership with UMaine Extension is going strong in Washington County. There are twenty Senior Companions, stationed around the county in the program. These volunteers provide in-home support to 125 folks who are homebound or isolated in some way, to help combat loneliness and offer friendship. With the support of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, the program has a place to work out of and resources to make the job easier for the Program Coordinator to run an efficient and much-needed program in Washington County.

Maine Food Systems

2016 Wild Blueberry Annual Field Day

The annual summer field day for wild blueberry growers was held on July 20 at the Blueberry Hill Farm in Jonesboro. The discussion with blueberry growers, processors, and University and government employees affiliated with the blueberry industry focused on this year’s wild blueberry crop. Because of concerns about the large crops we have had in Maine and Canada in recent years, a talk by Glenn Rudburg of Ethos, the marketing agency selected by the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine on WBANA US – 2016 “Pick Wild” Marketing was featured. There was also a presentation by Erin Roche and Gary Anderson from Cooperative Extension on Considerations for Successful Retirement and Farm Transitions.

The 2017 Wild Blueberry Spring Meeting was held on March 25 at the University of Maine – Machias. Agenda items included World Blueberry Production Numbers: Today/Tomorrow, David Yarborough, University of Maine; Whole-Farm Revenue Protection Crop Insurance Program, Erin Roche, University of Maine; Pollination and Pest Insect Management Strategies for Reduced Inputs, Frank Drummond, University of Maine; Disease Management Strategies for Reduced Inputs, Seanna Annis, University of Maine; and Weed and Fertilizer Management Strategies for Reduced Inputs, David Yarborough, University of Maine.

Integrated Crop Management Field Training Sessions

Field training sessions were offered at three locations to demonstrate and discuss Integrated Crop Management (ICM) field scouting techniques. The first and second session covered mummy berry blight identification and monitoring, insect sweeping and identification, and weed identification and management. The third session focused on blueberry maggot fly trapping, spotted wing drosophila ID and trapping, leaf and soil sampling, leaf spot identification and monitoring and weed identification and management.

Assistance for Washington County Cranberry Farmers

Cranberry on a branchExtension’s cranberry scientist, Charles Armstrong, provided on-site integrated pest management (IPM) assistance and education to our county’s eight cranberry farms. Two online cranberry pest workshops were also developed for the growers, which enabled one of our county’s growers to get the one remaining pesticide re-certification credit that he urgently needed. The workshops take about an hour to complete, and are entitled: “Cranberries and a Changing Climate,” and “Cranberry IPM: An Overview.”  One of our county’s cranberry farms changed ownership this past year, so the second workshop was developed with the new farm couple in mind, as cranberries is a brand new crop for them.

Procedures for the Prevention of Infectious Salmon Anemia Established

Salmon farmingUSDA’s Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) Technical Board completed a two-year effort to revise procedures for the prevention and containment of ISA virus in farmed-raised Atlantic salmon. Chris Bartlett, Marine Extension Team member, served as chair of this group that included veterinarians, microbiologists, and other fish health specialists from Cooke Aquaculture, Maine Department of Marine Resources, University of Maine, and USDA. The procedures are incorporated into State of Maine regulations to control this disease that caused all salmon farms in Cobscook Bay to be fallowed during 2002-2003.

Dining with Diabetes Down East

Washington County has high rates of diabetes, diabetes-related hospitalizations, diabetes-related lower extremity amputations and diabetes-related deaths. Few Washington County residents participate in self-management education and support programs to develop the skills needed to care for themselves. Barriers to participation include cost, lack of insurance, the complexity of education programs and the absence of formal diabetes education programs in the county.

Since the inception of the program in 2014, registered dietitian nutritionist Alan Majka has presented the Dining with Diabetes Down East program in nine communities to a total of 221 people. Ninety-three participated in programs presented in Machias, Calais, Houlton, Indian Township and Eastport between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017.

The free program consisted of 4 weekly 2-hour classes. Each session included a presentation, cooking demonstrations, sampling of dishes and facilitated discussion. In the initial evaluation, 94% reported lowered weight, blood sugar, blood pressure or cholesterol. Participants expressed appreciation for making the program easily accessible and reported many positive changes to their diets. Moreover, all reported that as a result of the program they positively influenced diets of spouses, children or grandchildren.

Based upon published research, the program will likely result in decreased disability, death and health care costs. As an example, for an individual on Medicare, approximately $96,000 is saved in Medicare costs for each year hemodialysis is postponed due to improved diabetes control. Hannaford provided funding for food and supplies.

Training on how to work with clients who have diabetes or prediabetes was presented to 30 staff members of Living Innovations in Machias.

A series of 6 Simplified Meal Planning for Diabetes and Prediabetes videos were recorded and will be available to access through the UMaine Extension website. This will expand the reach of diabetes education to those who are unable to participate directly in the Dining with Diabetes Down East program.

Diabetes and Obesity Prevention

Diabetes rates are alarmingly high amongst the members of the Passamaquoddy Tribe. Eighteen percent of all adults and 49 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64 years have been diagnosed. In response, UMaine Extension registered dietitian and nutritionist Alan Majka collaborated with the Indian Township Health Center and Elementary School, to present the twelve-session adaptation of Health is Life in Balance, Diabetes Education in Tribal Schools program to 32 first and second-grade children. After completion, students were able to recite concepts of balance between body, mind, feelings, and world; balance between diet, physical activity, and body fat; description of diabetes; and how to prevent diabetes through healthful eating and physical activity. They also reported being motivated to act on what they learned and sharing what they learned with family members.

Food Safety

UMaine Extension registered dietitian and nutritionist Alan Majka regularly answers consumer questions regarding home food safety and preservation, and tests home pressure canner gauges for accuracy. He presented home canning workshops to 12 participants in Sullivan and 21 members of the Ellsworth Garden Club. Forty-one students at Washington Academy participated in food safety and nutrition classes. Thirty youth participated in food safety education at 4-H STEM event in Machias.

Master Gardener Volunteers Feed the Hungry
Maine Master Gardner sign
In 2016, fifteen Master Gardener Volunteers (MGVs) worked to assist community members in need by growing and gleaning over a ton of fruits and vegetables for emergency food relief in Cherryfield, Machias, Milbridge and Jonesboro. MGVs also coordinated three community historic garden projects: The Gates House Garden in Machiasport, the Pembroke Historical Society Herb Garden, and the Lubec Fisherman’s Memorial Garden. Collectively, Washington County Master Gardener Volunteers contributed 821 hours of labor valued at $16,420 in 2016.

A Master Gardener volunteer taught two beekeeping classes, an introductory class and an intermediate. Twenty-two participants learned best practices of keeping bees. They gained knowledge about hive organization, pests, diseases, and equipment.

Horticulture Extension Educator Marjorie Peronto consulted with the Passamaquoddy Food Sovereignty Group in Pleasant Point to provide support to families who are growing their own food. Marjorie worked with a group of 15 to lay out a greenhouse planting design and season extension schedule. She also held a hands-on composting demonstration and a hands-on fruit tree pruning workshop at the Passamaquoddy Reservation Community Center.

Online videos teach gardening basics and much more

Extension Educator Marjorie Peronto developed a new instructional video on how to prune a crabapple tree. The basic concepts can be used for pruning most home landscape trees. This and 175 more videos on gardening, farming, water quality, food preservation, food safety, nutrition, small business development, energy conservation, youth development, and parenting can be viewed at our YouTube channel.

Positive Youth Development

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension 4-H program uses experiential learning and youth-adult partnerships to help youth between the ages of 5-18 build the life skills needed to be successful adults. Today, In the past year, the Washington County 4-H program reached 1,045 youth with the help and support of 54 volunteers. Youth 28 communities participated, including Princeton, Calais, Lubec, Cutler, Machias Jonesport, and Milbridge.

Program highlights for the year included:

4-H STEM Ambassadors is a partnership with the University of Maine at Machias and the Sea Coast Mission’s EdGE After school program where 15 trained UMM students facilitated hands-on science activities with 129 students in grades 3-6.

4-H Robotics Expo is an annual event hosted at UMM where youth between the ages of 9-14 practiced their public speaking skills, demonstrated their engineering and programming skills, and attended a variety of STEM-related workshops.

SPIN Library participant showing her plant project.Community Library Connections included programming at the Milbridge, Princeton and Machias public libraries for youth ages 5-12. Programs have included vermiculture, gardening, Earth Day activities, and eco-bots.

4-H SPIN (SPEcial INterest) Clubs

The SPIN clubs offer both volunteers and youth a short-term 4-H experience lasting six weeks focused on a specific project. Topics have included Knitting, Gardening, Robotics, Coding with Scratch, and Salsa Making.

Teen Science Cafes

Teen Science Cafe4-H in partnership with The Maine Math and Science Alliance and Axiom Education and Training Center, four Saturday sessions provided the opportunity for teens to meet people in STEM-related careers. They ate lunch together, learned about their work, asked questions and did hands-on related activities. Topics included GIS work, Forestry work, and EMT/Emergency Response.

ICY (Investigative Curious Youth)

4-H staff offered this 4-H National Youth Science Day activity to middle schoolers from Indian Township and Beatrice Rafferty Schools. Youth spent time exploring the concept of flight and practicing engineering design concepts as they built and tested their own drones complete with mini keychain cameras.

Summer of Science was held in partnership with the Lubec Community Outreach Center. Six weekly sessions of hands-on science activities were offered to youth between the ages of 7 and 12.

Scholarship Winner

Cole W., a 4-H member since 2007 received a $1000 scholarship from the Maine 4-H Foundation. Cole is planning to attend Maine Maritime Academy this fall where he will pursue a degree in engineering.

4-H Dog Camp4-H Dog Camp was held on June 10th at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Washington County office. Twelve members participated along with their dogs. North Woods 4-H Club’s leader, Tammy Carle, led group sessions on how to show your dog, agility and general dog obedience. Participants also learned more about dog first aid.

University of Maine Cooperative Extension Support for Washington County

Without statewide support, UMaine Extension would not be present in your county. Funds for projects are provided through the University of Maine, Federal Formula Funds, grants, contracts, and fees. Dollars from other sources support salaries and benefits for Extension specialists, county educators, Extension administration, computer equipment, and networking, publications, postage, telephone, and travel.

Salaries and Benefits $ 347,861
Prorated Support from UMaine* 459,323
Computer Equipment & Networking 92
Statewide Animal Diagnostic Lab 2,620
Marketing, Publications, Video 1,258
Local Programming Supplies & Expenses 9,134
Postage 1,534
Telephone 68
Travel 9,655
Total $831,545
Prorated support from UMaine* reflects salaries & benefits for administrative and statewide support.

Statewide Extension Funding

As a unique partnership among federal, state and county governments, UMaine Extension uses funding from Maine counties and the University to match and leverage support from the United States Department of Agriculture, other federal grantors, state agencies and private foundations. Each county UMaine Extension office is also part of a statewide organization and the national Extension system.

2016 Funding Graph: University of Maine=$7,264,333; Maine Economic Improvement Fund=$322,948; Grants and Contracts=$1,121,446; Federal Capacity Funds=$3,114,956; Gifts and Fundraising=$375,285; County Funds=$731,702; Income from Operations=$1,127,386 Funding Sources 2016 Graph Legend: University of Maine; Maine Economic Improvement Fund; Grants and Contracts; Federal Capacity Funds; Gifts and Fundraising; County Funds; Income from Operations

This pie graph illustrates the financial resources for programs offered, supported and managed out of the Washington County office. Each year, Washington county tax dollars support the UMaine extension with physical office space, support staff salaries, office supplies, equipment, and some programming expenses.

Statewide Highlights 

Maine Food System

Supporting Maine’s Potato Industry

The $500 million potato industry is the largest agricultural sector in Maine, encompassing over 500 businesses generating over $300 million in annual sales, employing over 2,600 people, and providing over $112 million in income to Maine citizens. The management of insects, diseases, weeds, and other pests is integral in sustaining a healthy Maine potato crop. Without reliable and sustainable pest management strategies, Maine’s potato industry faces the potential of severe crop losses resulting in significant reductions in profits and threats to long-term viability.

In 2016, UMaine Extension engaged in a robust potato IPM program to ensure that Maine’s potato crop is pest and damage free while attempting to minimize the quantity of pesticides that are applied.

Hands with potatoesThe economic impact from Extension’s pest monitoring and educational programs for the 2016 season is estimated at over $12.8 million, with a 135:1 return on investment by the Industry for each dollar invested into the UMaine Extension Potato IPM program.

Controlling Fungal Disease in Maine’s Wild Blueberry Industry

Wild blueberries have an economic impact of over $250 million to Maine’s economy. Since 1945, Maine’s blueberry growers and processors have provided financial support for research at the University of Maine, which in turn has developed improved cropping practices such as Integrated Crop Management (ICM) and Best Management Practices (BMP).

Valdensia leaf spot disease can be devastating to wild blueberry crops. First identified in Maine in 2009, the fungus causing this disease can cause complete leaf drop that affects flower bud formation and subsequent yield.

blueberries in boxesUMaine Extension responded by providing growers with information on this disease and how to mitigate its spread. Most wild blueberry growers are now aware of Valdensia leaf spot and scout their fields for this disease. By eradicating this disease, growers save hundreds of dollars per acre in fungicide treatments required once this disease is well established in a field. Grower awareness of this disease has greatly limited its spread and impact on this $250 million industry.

Connecting Grain Growers to High Value, Diversified Markets

The expanding interest in locally grown grains among consumers and food businesses represents a new economic opportunity for grain growers looking for higher value and diversified markets.  UMaine Extension plays a unique role in our emerging local grain sector by connecting growers with buyers, as well as providing the production information needed to help growers succeed in growing for these high-value markets.

In 2015, Extension was contacted by a Danish food company seeking help in developing a Maine supply of two heritage Nordic grain varieties for their New York City’s restaurant. To evaluate whether the varieties, Øland spring wheat, and Svedje winter rye, would grow well in Maine, the UMaine Local Grain project planted large plot trials at UMaine Rogers Research Farm. Both varieties yielded well and had good grain quality. Extension identified growers who could successfully grow the grain and networked them with the buyer.

In 2016, Maine growers produced over 80 tons of Øland spring wheat (65 acres) and 5 tons of Svedje rye (5 acres) for this buyer.  In this initial year, this new market for Maine grown grain represented over $65,000 in increased revenue for Maine growers.

Supporting Local Poultry Product Sales and Creating Jobs for Immigrants

Until 2015, Maine did not have a USDA or State inspected poultry slaughter facility and that prohibited local sales of poultry products in Maine. A 2014 University of Southern Maine survey found that nearly 80 percent of Mainers said they want to buy local meats, but that it is not always readily available. Providing a federally inspected poultry facility in the state could increase supply and allow more Maine meat to be sold locally and across state lines.

In 2015, UMaine Extension responded by helping to facilitate Commonwealth Poultry to become a USDA inspected the facility. Extension assisted the company with their initial Food Safety Management Hazard Analyzes and Critical Control Point (HCCAP), and continued to assist as they expanded. In 2015, Commonwealth Poultry became Maine’s only USDA inspected poultry slaughter and processing facility. The facility is now slaughtering and processing up to 250,000 birds per year, sold locally and in Boston and other broader markets. Most of the company’s 15 employees are immigrants of Somalia and other African countries, and Commonwealth Poultry has become a major employer for this underserved Maine population.

Maine Food Corps: Connecting Kids to Real Food and Reducing Obesity

In the last 30 years, the percentage of overweight or obese children in this country has tripled and 1 out of 3 American children are on track to develop diabetes in their lifetime. According to a 2012 University of Maine study, the medical costs of obesity associated with the cohort of Maine children and adolescents will be an estimated $1.2 billion over the next 20 years. Studies show that children and adults who suffer from diet-related diseases score lower on tests, miss more days of school, advance less in their careers and raise children who are likely to repeat the same cycle.

UMaine Cooperative Extension has responded by acting as the state partner for FoodCorps in Maine. The goal is to connect kids to healthy food in school, so they can lead healthier lives and reach their full potential. As a result of the partnership between UMaine Extension and FoodCorp, long-term change in schools and the include more:

  • demand for local fresh food in school and home meals,
  • volunteer resources to support school garden and nutrition initiatives,
  • knowledge of resources UMaine Extension and other service providers can offer,
  • educators trained in garden-based nutrition programming, and food service staff requesting bids from local farms.

Community and Economic Development

Providing Access to Capital: $14.5 Million Invested in Local Communities

Entrepreneurs need capital to start, improve, and expand their businesses to create high-quality jobs for Mainers. Many business owners are challenged to secure adequate funding from traditional lenders to start or expand a business. However, by partnering with a regional economic development organization, traditional lenders such as banks are able to increase access to capital for Maine businesses that otherwise would not be eligible for financing.

UMaine Extension responded by collaborating with a regional economic development agency that provides Small Business Administration loan guarantees for prospective borrowers. As an active member of the Loan Review Committee, Extension provides guidance and oversight on credit and lending strategies, reviews loan applications, and along with other business and community leaders, makes loan recommendations.

In the fiscal year 2016, the Loan Review Committee approved 51 loans totaling $6.8 million and leveraged an additional $7.7 million in private funds. Through this loan program, $14.5 million was invested in local communities, 129 jobs were created or retained, and thirteen of Maine’s sixteen counties benefited.

Maine Harvest for Hunger: Mobilizing to Support Food Insecure Citizens

Maine has the highest rate of food insecurity in New England and ranks twelfth in the United States. The USDA estimates that

  • over 15 % of Maine households, or more than 209,000 individuals, are food insecure,
  • 24%, or 64,200 Maine’s children, are food insecure,
  • 23% of senior citizens experience marginal, low, or very low food security, and
  • 43% food-insecure people do not qualify for food stamps or any other government program.

It is especially challenging for food insecure individuals to afford high quality, fresh, nutritious food, and donations of fresh produce to Maine’s emergency food system has declined significantly in recent years.

Since 2000, UMaine Extension’s Maine Harvest for Hunger (MHH) program has mobilized gardeners, farmers, businesses, schools, and civic groups to grow, glean, and donate quality produce to distribution sites (pantries, shelters, community meals) and directly to neighbors in need, with the goal of mitigating hunger, improving nutrition and health, and helping recipients develop lifelong positive nutritional habits.

Since 2000, Maine Harvest for Hunger participants have:

  • Master Gardener volunteerDistributed over 2,444,040 pounds of food to citizens grappling with hunger.
  • In 2016, donations of 257,195 pounds of fresh produce went to 142 hunger alleviation distribution sites.
  • Over 620 volunteers in 14 counties logged over 5,000 hours and the value of the produce were over $434,660.

Helping Lobstermen Adapt to Warmer Gulf of Maine

Changes in climate are placing pressure on fisheries and on the economies of many coastal communities, especially those that rely on a single fishery such as lobsters. In 2012, historically warm water in the Gulf of Maine during the winter contributed to lobsters shedding their shells as early as March rather than July.  The resulting volume catches of soft-shell lobsters throughout Maine and Canada produced a glut and plummeting prices, creating uncertainty and economic vulnerability in Maine communities.

In Maine, the economic diversity of the state’s fisheries is at a 50-year nadir, with lobsters generating over 80 percent of the landings values. The resilience of the coastal lobster ecological-economic system depends on management strategies that can adapt to a changing climate.

Since 2014, UMaine Extension, Maine Sea Grant and other partners have explored how climate change is impacting the lobster fishery in order to identify potential resilience management strategies. The goals of the three-year project are (1) to improve knowledge of how a changing climate will affect fishing communities’ abilities to maintain marine fisheries and dependent local economies; and (2) to investigate the role of a participatory modeling process to help decision makers in fishing communities address consequences, vulnerabilities, and adaptive strategies related to climate stressors.

lobsterThese decision-making tools and other resources for Maine lobstermen have helped help create flexibility in the industry, which is crucial in adapting to the warming Gulf of Maine.

Protecting Maine’s Coastal Tourism Industry and Beaches

Visitors to Maine beaches contributed $1.61 billion to the southern coast and tourism contributed $735 million to the mid-coast economy. This industry and the coastal environment they depend on are vulnerable to pollution and climate change. Maine coastal residents and visitors value work that protects public health, reduces pollution and keeps Maine’s tourism industry resilient and strong.

UMaine Extension coordinates Maine Healthy Beaches, the state’s only quality-assured program to monitor water quality and protect public health on coastal beaches. MHB builds local capacity to identify, eliminate, and prevent pollution sources, to help improve water quality on Maine’s valued coastal beaches. This work helps protect against water-borne illnesses and protects the state’s coastal tourism.

4-H Youth Development

4-H Ambassadors Sparking Student Interest in STEM Careers

Despite its consistently high rate of high school graduation, Maine’s college attendance and success rates are low by comparison. In 2010, the Maine STEM Collaborative estimated that in the next decade one in seven new Maine jobs will be in STEM-related areas and will offer wages that are 58 percent higher than those of other occupations.” It is critical that Maine youth have the knowledge and aspiration to access higher education, particularly in STEM fields. 4-H can be a conduit for youth to higher education and careers, especially in STEM.

In 2016, with the support of the UMaine System Chancellor and Board of Trustees, the 4-H STEM Ambassadors program expanded to six of the seven UMaine campuses. Ambassadors are trained college students who act as caring mentors to youth, facilitate STEM activities with them, and help them learn about college and career options.

As a result, ambassadors reported increases in their knowledge of STEM and comfort facilitating STEM activities. One said, Youth participant surveys suggested they want to learn more about science, feel they are good at science, and feel college could be right for them. Youth were extremely excited that UMaine students came to share STEM activities.

Students “Follow a Researcher™” on Expeditions in the Field

Maine needs to graduate an increasing number of science literate and proficient students to meet the growing demands of our workforce and society. Studies show that youth may have an interest in science, but dislike science class, lowering their intentions to pursue STEM-related career fields.

UMaine Extension and UMaine collaborators created the Follow a Researcher (FAR™) to increase youth understanding of the research process by engaging them directly with UMaine researchers in the field. The program takes advantage of the fact that all middle school students have access to a computer or laptop through the Maine Learning Technology Initiative. FAR™ chooses UMaine expedition-oriented researchers based on their experience, ability to engage youth, and the “wow” factor of their research topic or expedition location.

In 2016, FAR™ reached 1676 Maine youth (over 50 percent female), and 76 adults. Participating middle school teachers created curriculum related to the expedition, exposing youth to science in their classrooms in new and engaging ways. Many teachers integrated the program directly into their English, mathematics and science curricula and developed activities for use with FAR™. FAR™ is expected to grow significantly as it develops relationships with Polartrec (Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating) and the National Public Radio Podcast Science Friday.

Supporting Military Families with Teen Summer Camps

Family life in the military can be challenging, especially for teens. At least one parent may be gone for long periods of time, there may be constant, underlying worry about the parent that is deployed, and there may be additional stress related to relocations. Research shows that while many military children and families manage well, for some these challenges can have a detrimental effect on their health and wellbeing.

Since 2011 UMaine Extension 4-H Camp and Learning Centers have offered Military Teen Adventure Camps to provide outdoor adventure, STEM, and leadership camp programs for teens of youth with parents who are deployed or about to be deployed. Extension partners with the U.S. with support from NIFA, National 4-H and U.S. military youth programs, to create these programs.

Through the 2016 Navy Teen Camp program, twenty-four teens from Navy bases in Singapore and California gained knowledge and skills in STEAM, 4-H, and community as they built submersible robots to explore the Ducktrap Watershed and discover the elements essential for healthy ecosystems. Since 2011, the three Camp and Learning Centers have provided camp experiences to over 540 military teens.

4-H Camps Connecting Youth to the Outdoors, Community, and Mentors

More and more youth are connected to digital media, many for 6-8 hours a day. As a result of this isolation and sedentary indoor time, many youth suffer from obesity and/or ADHD, and some lack opportunities to develop positive interpersonal skills such as empathy. Research also shows that youth without positive adult role models are at greater risk for making unhealthy choices or engaging in risky behaviors.

UMaine Extension 4-H camps provide underserved youth ages 4-17 with transformational experiences that create a sense of place and belonging, comfort and confidence in the outdoors, and the opportunity to live for a week or more alongside trained adult educators, mentors, and caring peers. With 141 different summer camp programs focusing on ecology education, the arts, and outdoor skills, youth have a wealth of opportunities from which to draw meaningful experiences.

4-Her at campIn 2016, UMaine 4-H summer camps served 1832 youth from all 16 counties in Maine, 31 states, and 7 countries. Through living and working together, campers and staff became part of an interconnected community committed to a sustainable future. The opportunities to develop mastery of skills happens in the context of the residential camp and learning center setting and includes healthy nutrition and activities, inclusive and safe learning environments, and leadership development. Youth and program alumni report that the 4-H Camp and Learning Center experience has helped them develop greater self-confidence, civic engagement, and personal and academic success.

The County Extension Act

The County Extension Act explains the role of county government in funding local Extension offices.

Cooperative Extension work shall consist of the giving of practical demonstrations in agriculture and natural resources, youth development, and home economics and community life and imparting information on those subjects through field demonstrations, publications and otherwise. For the purpose of carrying out this chapter, there may be created in each county or combination of two counties within the State an organization known as a “county extension association,” and its services available to all residents of a county. The county extension is viewed as a unique and important educational program of county government. The executive committee of each county extension association shall prepare an annual budget as requested, showing in detail its estimate of the amount of money to be expended under this chapter within the county of counties for the fiscal year. The executive committee shall submit to the board of county commissioners on a date requested by the county commissioners, and the county commissioners may, if they deem it justifiable, adopt an appropriate budget for the county extension program and levy a tax therefore. The amount thus raised by direct taxation within any county or combination of counties for the purposes of this chapter shall be used for the salaries of clerks, provision of office space, supplies, equipment, postage, telephone, a contribution toward the salaries of county educators and such other expenses as necessary to maintain an effective county extension program.1

1Excerpted from Title 7, Chapter 7 of the Maine Revised Statutes, §191–§195.

For more information, contact:

University of Maine Cooperative Extension Washington County
28 Center Street
Machias, ME 04654
Phone: 207.255.3345 or 800.287.1542 (in Maine)

Photos: Edwin Remsberg, Charles Armstrong

University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s successful educational programs result from a federal, state and county government partnership. Since 1919, when the Maine Legislature passed the County Extension Act, the University of Maine has been in all Maine communities with a county office whose operations are funded by county government. Our educational programs anticipate and respond to local and state needs and issues. We also communicate those issues and opportunities to UMaine faculty to influence their research and development plans.


The University of Maine does not discriminate on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, including transgender status and gender expression, national origin, citizenship status, age, disability, genetic information or veteran status in employment, education, and all other programs and activities. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding nondiscrimination policies: Director of Equal Opportunity, 101 N. Stevens Hall, Orono, ME 04469 at 207.581.1226 (voice), TTY 711 (Maine Relay System), or equal.opportunity@maine.edu