2018-2019 Annual Report

University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Washington County

Welcome to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension! We are located across the state in 16 county offices, research farms, 4-H camps, and online. We are the largest outreach component of the University of Maine and reach more Maine people than any other entity within the seven campus University of Maine System. Our work is focused on two areas of excellence. UMaine Cooperative Extension conducts the state’s most successful out-of-school youth education program through 4-H, empowering young people to reach their full potential. Extension also helps support, sustain, and grow the food-based economy across the entire state of Maine. We are the only entity in our state that touches every aspect of the Maine Food System, where policy, research, production, processing, commerce, nutrition, and food security and safety are integral and interrelated.

UMaine Cooperative Extension is determined to make a positive difference in our areas of excellence for the citizens of Maine. Explore our website, visit a county office, and contact our enthusiastic workforce.

— Lisa Phelps, Interim Director


Board Members and Staff

Washington County Extension Association
Kyle Winslow, President
Eric Jones, Vice President
Robert Simpson, Treasurer
Danielle Daly, Secretary

Washington County Staff
Sandy Copel-Parsons, Community Education Assistant, 4-H
Deborah Gardner, Administrative Assistant
Jennifer Lobley, Extension Educator, Volunteer Development and 4-H
Alan Majka, Extension Educator, Nutrition and Health
Marjorie Peronto, Extension Educator, Home Horticulture
Rita Stephenson, Community Education Assistant, Expanded Food & Nutrition Education Program
Tara Wood, Administrative Assistant 


University of Maine Cooperative Extension Support for Washington County

Washington County CY2018
Local Salaries and Benefits $349,535
Prorated Support from UMaine* 432,669
Computer Equipment and Networking 1,533
Statewide Animal Diagnostic Lab 12,137
Marketing, Publications, Video 939
Local Programming Supplies & Expenses 2,639
Postage 1,302
Telephone 444
Travel 17,471
TOTAL $818,669
* Prorated support from UMaine reflects travel, postage, telephone, computer equipment & networking, salaries & benefits for administrative and state-wide staff.

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.

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.

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.

For every $1 Washington County contributes to our budget, the University of Maine contributes $20.46.

County Highlights- Maine Food System

Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP)

Rita Stephenson (middle) works with a family at Kids Can Grow and Parents Too, a collaboration between EFNEP and 4-H.

Maine has the ninth highest rate of food insecurity in the nation and the highest rate of food insecurity in New England. Higher rates of obesity have been found among low-income individuals, especially low-income women and children. In Washington County, 18.2% of individuals are living below the poverty level (5,731 individuals based on the 2018 county population estimate). The 2016 estimate of overall food insecurity for the county is 15.8% of the population, or over 5,000 individuals. Of the food insecure individuals, 79% qualify for federal food assistance programs, while 21% do not and rely solely on the county’s private emergency food assistance network.

In an effort to reduce food insecurity rates, obesity rates and improve the diet quality of Maine’s limited-income parents and caregivers, UMaine Extension’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) delivers direct education to Maine’s low-income families and children. Since January of 2019, Rita Stephenson has delivered EFNEP programming to Washington County community members. Additionally, Rita has made significant community connections throughout the county with Summer Meal Sites, local schools, and other community partners to expand nutrition education opportunities in Washington County.

EFNEP program outcomes are measured for all adults using validated pre/post program surveys. In fiscal year 2018, 16 adults and 41 youth participated in UMaine Extension EFNEP programming, reaching 200 total individuals within the program families. Of the 11 adults, 100% completed pre and post surveys and graduated from the program. Program outcomes to date are below:

Of adult graduates (n=11):

  • 36% eat fruit more often each day after participating in the program.
  • 18% eat vegetables more often each day after participating in the program.
  • 45% drink soda less often after participating in the program.
  • 55% of participants exercise for at least 30 minutes or more each day after participating in the program.

Of youth graduates:

  • 79% of youth reported being able to choose healthier foods as a result of improved nutrition knowledge, and
  • 63% of youth demonstrated safe food handling practices.

Wild Blueberry Outreach & Education

Field Day for Wild Blueberry Growers

Dr. Lily Calderwood held eight field workshops for wild blueberry growers this season, three of which were located in Washington County. The first was held on a rainy day in April where growers met in Harrington to discuss safe burn-pruning practices. While most wild blueberry growers flail mow their fields, burning is still a good integrated pest management tool used in rotation. A sprayer calibration workshop was held in June where ten farmers learned how to properly calibrate a boom sprayer. Sprayer calibration is a critical money and environment saving practice that allows farmers to apply the correct amount of product to their crop. Finally, the annual summer field day for wild blueberry growers was held on July 17th with 90 farmers and agricultural service providers in attendance. Washington County grown chicken sausage was grilled for lunch with wild blueberry lemonade and ice cream! Growers took a tour of research plots and participated in three afternoon sessions: Weed Identification, Climate Change and Drones, and NRCS Pollinator Program Update. Calderwood continues to visit farmers and organizations throughout Washington County to build relationships and collaboration.

Wild Blueberry Research

Wild Blueberry Research

Several UMaine researchers are working on projects located in Washington County wild blueberry fields. Calderwood was awarded a Northeast SARE grant to explore organic wild blueberry production. She and her two graduate students are maintaining organic nutrient and weed management plots in Columbia Falls and Jonesboro, conducting a weed survey across the wild blueberry growing region, and studying foliar fertility in Jonesboro. Calderwood collaborates with Dr. John Zhang (UMaine plant physiologist) on a climate change study where they monitor wild blueberry growth in field-based warming chambers. Dr. Seanna Annis (UMaine plant pathologist) studies leaf spot control in Jonesboro and maintains several weather stations for wild blueberry growers across the wild blueberry growing region- a very important service for farmers and the viability of their crop.

Cranberry Assistance Provided to Washington County Growers
Extension’s Cranberry Professional, Charles Armstrong, helped our county cranberry growers protect their vines from several heavy infestations of blackheaded fireworm caterpillars early in the growing season. It was important to detect and control them early–before the caterpillars could mature into the adult/moth stage–as each mated female moth can lay as many as 200 eggs which soon hatch into a 2nd generation that can significantly harm the vines and greatly reduce one’s yield of berries.  With guidance from our cranberry expert, one of our farms was able to eliminate the first generation of fireworm organically, by flooding their beds and leaving the water in place for two days. 

Elderberry Variety Trial

Locally grown elderberries are in demand by the specialty beverage industry, food entrepreneurs and herbalists. Known as “superberries” with nutraceutical, antiviral properties, they are second only to Aronia berries in terms of antioxidant content. Hobby and commercial growers in Maine continue to ask Cooperative Extension for research in growing and marketing elderberries as a specialty crop. Extension Educator Marjorie Peronto is working as Principal Investigator on an elderberry variety trial at Highmoor Farm, a Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station in Monmouth. The purpose of this trial is to study which cultivated varieties of American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) have the most desirable characteristics in terms of winter hardiness, growth habit, flowering, fruiting, and resistance to insect pests and diseases. This is the first step in developing a successful elderberry industry in Maine.

Lobster Research Collaborative

Marine Extension Team members Natalie Springuel and Chris Bartlett have been facilitating meetings of the Department of Marine Resources Lobster Research Collaborative (LRC) that is supported by $340,000 from the sales of lobster license plates. The LRC has funded six projects (2018 – 2020) that will provide information towards the sustainable management of Maine’s lobster fishery. Participating institutions include Bigelow Lab for Ocean Sciences, Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Hood, College, and University of Maine. Over 50 people have participated in each of the first two meetings of the group. These gatherings have provided opportunities for commercial fishing industry members to engage with researchers and resource agencies and to develop projects and collaborations that strengthen DMR’s ability to address the needs of the lobster fishery for years to come.

State of the Science Conference

The State of the Science Conference was held at the University of Maine Machias on June 17 and 18, 2019. The purpose of the event was to develop a scientific framework to support Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management in Downeast Maine. An ecosystem-based approach considers the connections from rivers to offshore waters and seeks to understand the biological, economic and social interactions that may lead to changes in the eastern Gulf of Maine over the coming decades. The conference brought together 150 participants from coastal and tribal communities, commercial fishermen, NGOs, research institutions, and government agencies. Discussions were focused around four habitat-related themes: watersheds, intertidal, coastal, and offshore. The meeting organizers will continue to build upon the network created by the conference and to identify information gaps and opportunities for collaborative fisheries research that is relevant to this region. University of Maine Marine Extension Team members Chris Bartlett and Natalie Springuel served on the planning committee and facilitated breakout sessions during the two-day event. The principal hosts for the conference were National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Maine Department of Marine Resources, and Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries with additional funding provided by Machias Savings Bank, National Park Service, Sunrise County Economic Council University of Maine, and others. Click here for more information on the State of the Science Conference.

Municipal Alewife Monitoring and Management

Pembroke Elementary School students having fun participating in alewife monitoring studies, June 7, 2019

Chris Bartlett with University of Maine Marine Extension Team has continued his work with the towns of Pembroke, Perry, and Meddybemps to monitor alewife populations in partnership with commercial harvesters, Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR), Downeast Salmon Federation, and the Passamaquoddy Tribe. Alewives are in high demand as lobster bait due to high prices being paid for Atlantic herring. The towns of Pembroke and Meddybemps are collecting information that is required before commercial harvests of alewives can be considered by DMR. Perry currently operates a commercial harvest and submits data to keep their fishery open, and Meddybemps will be granted a restricted commercial harvest in 2020. Efforts to improve fish passage in Pembroke have resulted in an increase of alewives from 70,000 in 2014 to 358,000 in 2019 with commercial harvests anticipated to be reinstated within the next few years. Area schools have been engaged to assist with these fish monitoring programs that has provided 116 students and 14 teachers with experiential learning opportunities in 2019.

Eat Well Volunteers Work with Downeast Food Pantry Clients to Improve Diet, Health and Food Security

The Eat Well Volunteers Program was created by Cooperative Extension staff to expand our nutrition education outreach in food pantries. Modeled after the Master Gardener Volunteers program, Eat Well Volunteers receive research-based training in basic nutrition, food preparation and food safety. Once trained, they conduct demonstrations and distribute fresh produce (grown and gleaned by Extension staff and Master Gardener Volunteers) at local food pantries. The goal of the program is for food pantry clients to consume more fruits and vegetables and develop stronger food self-sufficiency skills. In 2018, twelve Eat Well Volunteers worked on a bi-weekly basis at four food pantries in Washington and Hancock Counties: Maine Sea Coast Mission Food Pantry in Cherryfield, Bucksport Community Concerns Food Pantry, Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry in Ellsworth, and What’s for Suppah Food Pantry in Mariaville.

Master Gardener Volunteers Grow 1,000 pounds of vegetables for hunger relief

Master Gardener Volunteers grow crops at Maine Sea Coast Mission for food pantry clients, Cherryfield.

In 2018, Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener Volunteers (MGVs) grew fresh vegetables for the limited income clients of Maine Sea Coast Mission’s food pantry in Cherryfield.

Eat Well volunteers had a total of 1,245 educational interactions with food pantry clients and gave 430 hours of volunteer service in 2018, valued at nearly $10,000!

Program Results (from follow-up survey of 57 food pantry clients):

91% of food pantry clients surveyed expressed confidence in their ability to prepare healthier meals with fresh produce.

88% expressed confidence in their ability to convince their family members to eat more fresh vegetables and fruits.

83% said they had more fresh food to eat.

77% expressed confidence in their ability to safely store fresh produce so it doesn’t spoil.

77% expressed confidence in their ability to safely freeze fresh produce for future use.

Apple Gleaning Feeds Neighbors in Need

Cooperative Extension continues to support volunteer-based gleaning (food recovery) of excess farm produce, making it available for hunger relief. For our eighth consecutive year, we gleaned surplus apples from Johnston’s Apple Orchard in Ellsworth, thanks to the generosity of Brett and Doris Johnston. Thirty-one Extension volunteers recovered 5,400 pounds of apples in October 2018, which were immediately distributed to 27 hunger relief organizations in Washington and Hancock Counties.

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 collaboration with the Indian Township Health Center and Indian Township Elementary School, 32 first and second grade children participated in a twelve-session adaptation of Health is Life in Balance, Diabetes Education in Tribal Schools program. 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. Since 2015, every child who passed through first and second grades at Pleasant Point and Indian Township elementary schools have participated in the program.

Dining with Diabetes Down East

Dining with Diabetes Down East has been offered in nine communities to a total of 305 people. Between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019, 16 adults participated in the program presented in collaboration with the Pleasant Point Health Center.

Food Safety

UMaine Extension is a resource for individual consumer questions regarding home food safety and preservation, and testing home pressure canner gauges for accuracy as well as nutrition and food safety presentations. Eleven people participated in a food-canning workshop held in Cherryfield. 

Beginning Sheep Farming Workshop

Dr. Colt Knight demonstrates how to carve lamb.

Extension Livestock Specialist Dr. Colt Knight offered a free half-day workshop for Beginning Sheep Farmers in Machias. The workshop focused on sheep breed selection, husbandry, health, nutrition, reproduction, housing and handling. Dr. Knight reviewed the basics of sheep production, and also provided insight on the lamb market in the USA. This workshop also covered basics in lamb preparation, especially some easy Do’s and Don’ts that make preparing delicious leg of lamb easy. The workshop ended with a freshly prepared leg of lamb lunch/dinner complete with a carving demonstration.

County Highlights- 4-H Youth Development

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension 4-H program focuses on positive youth development through the use of experiential learning and youth-adult partnerships. Leadership skills, citizenship skills and life skills are taught to participants between the ages of 5 and 18. 1020 youth and 70 volunteers participated in various 4-H programs. Highlights from the past year include:

Hour of Code- these one-hour events led by teens for youth and family members teach basic coding skills through fast-paced, puzzle solving computer games. Fifty participants in Princeton, Milbridge, Lubec, East Machias, Machias and Machiasport joined in the fun.

Summer of Science- over 2000 youth participate in this statewide program funded by UMaine’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). This year’s topics ranged from engineering design to electricity. Local programming was offered in Lubec, Machias, Princeton and East Machias reaching 187 youth. In addition, teens were trained as youth leaders to assist with programming, giving them an opportunity to learn and practice workforce skills.

4-H Robotic and Engineering Expo- 60 youth between the ages of 9-14 practiced their public speaking skills, demonstrated their engineering and programming skills and attended a variety of workshops offered by UMM faculty. Attendees were also treated to a pizza party and the Physics Roadshow with David Sturm from the University of Maine at Orono.

STEM field trips- Funding from UMaine’s EPSCoR allowed students from Lubec Elementary School, Fort O’Brien Elementary School and Cherryfield Elementary School to engage in STEM-related fieldtrips to augment their classroom studies. Trips to the UMaine Planetarium, the UMaine Engineering Department and the Bangor Children’s Museum offered new experiences for 85 youth.

Adult Trainings- 4-H offered trainings, support and resources to 30 teachers, after school providers, homeschool parents and 4-H volunteers.

4-H Tech Changemakers- in year two of this Microsoft/National 4-H Council grant project, six teens from Washington Academy have chosen to address food insecurity. Community F.E.A.S.T. (Food, Education, Agriculture, Sustainability and Technology) is helping to raise awareness of the issue. While partnering with UMaine Extension Master Gardener Volunteers and Healthy Acadia, they have re-established a 3000 sq. ft. garden and donated produce to the Machias Food Pantry on a weekly basis. Youth created a website (www.communityfeast.org) and Instagram account #communityfeast4h. An additional 44 youth have engaged in the project through class participation and the 4-H Food and Garden Club.

4-H Tech Changemakers display produce they grew and donated to the Machias Food Pantry.

4-H STEM Ambassadors- for the past three years, this partnership with UMM and Sea Coast Mission’s EdGE afterschool program has brought trained UMM students who facilitate hands-on science activities to students in grades 3-6. This past year, six STEM Ambassadors taught 54 youth about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math in Harrington, Machias and Addison.

4-H SPIN (SPecial INterest) Clubs– offer both volunteers and youth short-term 4-H experiences focused on specific projects for a six-week time period. 50+ youth learned about topics including the environment, gardening, robotics, coding and knitting.

4-H Super Sitters- 40 youth completed a six-hour training to learn basic child care skills including age appropriate games and activities, how to make healthy snacks, basic first aid and personal safety skills as a babysitter.

4-H Public Speaking- one of the most valuable skills youth learn in 4-H! This year 14 youth attended a training workshop, 12 youth participated in the county event, four moved on to the state level competition and two were invited to represent Maine at the Eastern States Exposition in Springfield, MA.

4-H members presenting at the Washington County 4-H Public Speaking Tournament.

4-H Camp and Learning Center at Greenland Point- opened its doors this summer to offer four weeks of camp experiences (both day and overnight) for youth between the ages of 5 and 16. 65 youth from 20 towns in Washington County participated in camp during the first year of operation. Scholarships totaling more than $7,300 were awarded to local youth.

4-H Kids Can Grow and Parents Too pilot program materialized here in Washington County to meet the needs of maintaining existing school and community gardens where committed summer garden maintenance is difficult to find.

Working with the EFNEP program in partnership with Washington Academy summer meal site, 12 recruited adults and youth prepared healthy low-cost meals using vegetables harvested fresh from the garden. Youth participated in hands-on garden activities focusing on mastering basic horticulture skills, while incorporating STEM, agriculture, and environmental elements. A youth centered opportunity was offered in addition at the Lubec Community Outreach Summer Recreation program for 30 youth.

County Highlights- Community and Economic Development

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 11 members of Washington County Extension Homemakers Association gathered five times to learn about cooking, food, health, and the Downeast Institute.

Recipe to Market Workshop

In November 2018, the Recipe to Market: Is it for Me? workshop introduced ten participants to important topics that aspiring entrepreneurs needs to consider before starting a food business. Topics included: opportunities and challenges of being a food entrepreneur, the specialty food industry, business basics, an overview of the product development process, licensing and regulations, and food safety concerns.

 University of Maine Center on Aging Senior Companion Program Partnership

The University of Maine Center on Aging Senior Companion Program in partnership with UMaine Extension is very active in Washington County. There are 15 Senior Companions, stationed around the county. These volunteers provide in-home support to 106 people who are home bound or isolated in someway, to help combat loneliness and offer friendship. With the support of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, the program has a place to work and resources to make the job easier for the Program Coordinator to run an efficient and much needed program in Washington County.

State Highlights- Maine Food System

University of Maine Veterinary Diagnostic Lab

The University of Maine Veterinary Diagnostic Lab (VDL) provides services to veterinarians, livestock producers, and animal owners of the state. The lab performs a variety of diagnostic services, including necropsy, microbiology, virology, pathology, and special research support. It offers diagnostic support to veterinary clinicians, and assists in finding solutions for agricultural producers using UMaine Extension resources. In 2018 UMAHL tested over 6,000 samples, the great majority of which were from farm animals. Our salmonella and mastitis labs test poultry farm environmental swabs and milk, allowing farms of all sizes to operate with more assurance of healthy animals and healthy products. The new Diagnostic and Research Laboratory that opened in June 2018 has expanded the VDL’s services, outreach, and positive impact on Maine’s farms.

Supporting Maine’s Potato Industry

Relevance – 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 2600 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. Potato growers are increasingly relying on a multidisciplinary Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach to ensure that Maine’s potato crop is pest and damage free while attempting to minimize the amount of pesticides that are applied.

Response – UMaine Extension’s Potato IPM Program impacts Maine’s 300 commercial potato growers and 48,000 acres of potatoes and has become an integral part of the Maine Potato Industry. The program also broadly impacts national and international growers who rely on the state’s seed crop. The project maintains nearly 100 specialized insect traps, coordinates a statewide network of electronic weather stations, and surveys 75 potato fields on a weekly basis for weeds, insects and diseases. IPM scientists track potential pest outbreaks to provide growers with current information on treatments to minimize the number of pesticide applications and maximize potato yield.

Result – The economic impact from Extension’s pest monitoring and educational programs for the 2018 season is estimated at over $8.1 million.

Maple Grading School: Promoting Quality, Increasing Profit

Relevance – Maine has the third largest maple production in the United States, behind Vermont and New York. Maine’s maple industry has an annual statewide economic contribution of over $48 million in output, 805 full and part time jobs, and over $25 million in labor income. Maine’s maple production industry annually produces over 700,000 gallons of maple syrup.

Response – In 2004, a grant from the Maine Agriculture Center funded a collaborative effort by UMaine Extension, UNH Extension and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets to create an International Maple Syrup Institute Maple (IMSI) Grading School. To meet ongoing demand, the Grading School has been held annually and has been adopted by the IMSI as a signature event aligned with the IMSI mission to protect the quality and integrity of maple products. School attendees are from all areas of the industry: producers, bulk buyers and syrup packers, Department of Agriculture inspectors, Extension personnel, and chefs.

Results – For 15 years the school has helped promote the wholesome image of the maple industry and shown that its participants are high quality and careful producers of unique maple products. The continued success of the school and its participants helps promote the exceptional image of both the maple industry and its producers who create high quality products. Fifteen years of evaluation results show that 82% of the 520 participants have increased their knowledge about five syrup grading techniques. The school provides an excellent platform for industry discussion and education about maple products, grading and quality issues concerning pure maple syrup. The school has received media attention in including news articles by the Associated Press and National Public Radio, as well as local television and print media.

So You Want To Farm In Maine

Relevance – Interest in agriculture and starting new farms in Maine has increased dramatically over the past fifteen years. One third of Maine’s farmers are beginning farmers with fewer than 10 years of experience. Forty-seven percent of new farm businesses fail within the first five years. Current farmers thinking about changing farm enterprises and new farmers interested in starting a farm often lack skill, knowledge and confidence in areas such as business planning, access to capital, rules and regulations affecting agriculture operations, and marketing.

Response – Since 2011, UMaine Extension has provided educational outreach through its “So You Want to Farm in Maine” series to enhance the skills, business management knowledge, confidence of new and established farmers. The programs are live, live-streamed, and archived. One-on-one consultations help potential farmers to best utilize natural resources, web-based resources, and seek appropriate guidance from other agricultural service providers.

Results – Since 2011 the SYWTFIM series has reached over 800 participants from all Maine counties and out-of-state. Since 2014, an online new farmer self-assessment has been used 190 times, and Extension staff have consulted with 505 new farmers statewide. A survey sample of these farmers revealed:

  • Fifty-one new farm businesses have been started where the farm operator has a good understanding of the importance of business planning and how to connect to the educational, financial, and service resources available to them in Maine.
  • Eighty-eight new jobs, with estimated wages of $612,000 annually.
  • An estimated total market value of agricultural products sold by these farms of over $2.2 million annually.

Improving Food Security and Diet Of Parents and Caregivers

Relevance – Maine has the ninth highest rate of food insecurity in the nation and the highest rate of food insecurity in New England. Higher rates of obesity have been found among low-income individuals, especially low-income women and children. The United States annually spends between $147 billion and $210 billion on adult obesity. Rising and sustained adult obesity rates will continue to put a strain on current health promotion programs and continue to raise health care cost for the nation.

Response – To improve the food security and diet of Maine’s low-income parents and caregivers, UMaine Extension EFNEP implements direct education to improve their knowledge, behaviors, and attitudes related to improving diet quality, increasing daily physical activity, and using food resources management practices to learn how to plan and shop for healthy meals and snacks. Program outcomes are measured for all adults using validated pre/post program surveys.

Results – In 2018, 579 adults participated in Maine EFNEP, and the program reached a total of 2,232 individuals in the program families. Of the 579 adults, 60% completed pre and post surveys that revealed:

  • 43% eat fruit more often each day,
  • 35% eat vegetables more often each day,
  • 30% drink soda less often,
  • 43% make small changes each day to be more active,
  • 37% thaw frozen food at room temperature less often,
  • 40% plan meal before shopping more often,
  • 32% make a list before shopping more often.

Statewide Highlights- 4-H Youth Development

4-H Ambassadors Sparking Student Interest In Stem Careers

Relevance – Relevant, meaningful, and authentic experiences in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are important to developing positive attitudes, increasing knowledge, and preparing Maine youth for the estimated 9 million STEM-related occupations projected between 2012 and 2022. Developing Maine youth’s STEM literacy is vital to ensuring that our state continues to thrive economically and socially. Given the remote and diverse communities to which Maine youth belong, informal education can help minimize inequities in rural youth STEM education and career pipelines.

Response – In coordination with the University of Maine System, the 4-H STEM Ambassador program trained 120 college students in the development and delivery of informal STEM-based educational experiences. Combined, these volunteers worked with over 1,000 youth, and committed 2,400 hours of time including training, preparation and program delivery. Through this program, youth ages 8-14 come to view these Ambassadors as mentors and leaders in their community while also developing skills in STEM through hands-on activities.

Results – In 2018 the 4-H STEM Ambassador program provided experiential programming to over 1,000 youth. Sixty-six community sites, including schools and afterschool partners, participated with teachers and administrators reporting high levels of satisfaction. Student participants reported that without this program their instructional time with STEM would be reduced. As a result of this program participating youth have demonstrated positive attitudes, increased knowledge, and expanded interest in STEM and STEM careers. This year, all seven UMaine System campuses participated in the 4-H STEM program.

Students Follow A Researcher® On Expeditions In The Field

Relevance – 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 youth may have an interest in science, but dislike science class, lowering their intentions to pursue STEM-related career fields. This has been linked to a lack of authentic and actively engaging learning experiences in STEM. Outreach between land grant University STEM researchers and youth traditionally involves campus visits and tours. Barriers such as scheduling, distance from a campus, and dwindling school transportation budgets negatively impact youth participation.

Response – UMaine Extension and collaborators created Follow a Researcher® to increase youth understanding of the research process by engaging them directly with UMaine researchers in the field. Follow a Researcher® is a UMaine 4-H program using technology and social media to facilitate real-time conversations between youth and graduate student researchers working in remote locations around the world. The program is now a proven model that utilizes technology to engage new audiences with authentic scientific research, humanize the researcher, and make the research process personally relevant.

Results – Since 2015, 4,560 youth ages 7 to 18 and over 150 educators have engaged with researchers during expeditions to Peru, the Falkland Islands, Antarctica, and along the coast of Maine. In 2017, in partnership with the NSF-funded Maine EPSCoR office and SEANET project, we highlighted a researcher investigating parasitic relationships with invasive green crabs. The program audience grows annually, and is attracting local and national media attention including being highlighted on the social media accounts of the National Public Broadcasting radio show and podcast “Science Friday”, and with an article published in the 2018 Journal of Extension Special Issue on Innovation. In development is the Follow a Researcher® network, which will enable us to manage expeditions from multiple sites from our new website (followaresearcher.org) and engage 4-H programs and researchers from other universities to share expeditions with youth and educators from around the country and beyond.

 Tech Wizards Students Helping Solve Real Community Problems

Relevance – According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nationwide, nearly one-third of high school students fail to graduate. In total, approximately 1.3 million students drop out each year-averaging 7,200 every school day. According to research, experts say that dropping out of high school affects not just students and their families, but also the country overall-including businesses, government and communities.

Response – Tech Wizards is a youth mentoring program that uses STEM education and service learning to help youth learn life and workforce skills, improve academic performance, and aspire to post-secondary education, productive careers, and community engagement. Extension coordinates the program in Maine, with funding from the U.S. Department of Juvenile Justice. Through Tech Wizards, the students joined their science teacher and 4-H mentors and:

  • 4-H professionals worked within classrooms in to deliver STEM activities and provide positive mentoring relationships with youth.
  • Worked with area collaborators and science professionals to complete citizen science and science learning projects.
  • Were introduced to career opportunities within science, technology, and art.

Results – Statewide in 2018, Maine’s Tech Wizards program matched 120 youth along with 10 adult mentors. Youth learned invaluable STEM skills, participated in ongoing fieldwork, citizen science initiatives, service learning, and were empowered to engage with their communities and contribute their time and skills to address important scientific questions, and to recognize that environmental stewardship is both the platform for their learning and an overarching life ethic.

4-H Summer Camp Building Community And Connecting Youth To The Outdoors

Relevance – Research has shown that physical, social and emotional environments can significantly impact youth development and connecting youth to a positive adult role model decreases the risk for making unhealthy choices or engaging in risky behaviors. With youth spending more time connected to social media and other digital platforms resulting in isolation and sedentary indoor time, many youth suffer from obesity and/or ADHD, and some lack opportunities to develop positive interpersonal communication skills

Response – UMaine Extension’s four 4-H Camp and Learning Centers provide programs and opportunities for youth ages 4-17, many from underserved populations, with transformational experiences designed to develop a sense of place and belonging, and confidence in the outdoors. Our programs provide the opportunity to spend each day in a positive learning environment or to live for a week or more alongside trained adult educators, mentors, and caring peers. Our summer camp programs provide youth a wealth of opportunities of programs to choose, from focusing on ecology education, the arts, and outdoor skills, youth can create meaningful experiences that fit their needs.

Results – In 2018, the 4-H summer camps served 1,888 youth from all 16 counties in Maine, 22 states, and 6 countries. Through living and working together, campers and staff became part of an interconnected community committed to a sustainable future. 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.

Reducing Summer Learning Loss

Relevance – The United States needs to improve the proficiency of our students in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines. Documentation reveals that low-income students have less than average access to science education. The achievement gap is perpetuated during summer months for low-income students, who lose more grade equivalency due to lack of out-of-school and summer learning opportunities. In addition, an increase in STEM education can lead to better employment opportunities and increase the likelihood of youth furthering their education.

Response – In an effort to increase science proficiencies in local communities and prevent summer learning loss, UMaine Extension created and delivered science curricula at community sites, chosen based on existing programs for youth in the area. In 2018 Maine 4-H Summer of Science was at 40 unique sites in 9 counties, including free-or-reduced lunch sites, libraries, summer school programs and summer camp sites. Community partners included Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs, schools, public housing authorities, and local recreation camps. Summer of Science activities were based on “Innovation Engineering”, and included animal adaptation, bioremediation, chromatography, and engineering design. Adult volunteers and 34 teens facilitated activities with over 2,700 youth.

4-H staff use summer of science experiential learning activities to assist with summer learning loss and work toward engagement and interest in science. The program focuses on programming where youth already are, and uses positive 4-H youth development programs to reduce barriers to involvement in STEM.

Results – By engaging in summer of science activities, these youth are well poised to return to their academic school year with reduced summer learning loss and an increased interest in science. In addition, it has been documented that youth involved in 4-H are more likely to pursue future courses or a career in science, engineering or computer technology, which can lead to improved employment opportunities. Not only does this program help Maine youth in elementary school during summer months, it also fosters career development, leadership and responsibility for the Maine teens that are trained to deliver educational content in their neighborhoods.

4-H@UMaine Gives Youth A Preview of The College Experience

Relevance – Education after high school is critical to supporting skilled jobs in Maine. Supporting youth to participate in higher education helps to strengthen Maine’s businesses and economy. Unfortunately, the number of Maine high school graduates enrolled in higher education lags at 40th in the nation. Although research recommends beginning to address college and career aspirations in elementary and middle grades, coordinating access to a college campus presents barriers for rural Maine communities.

Response – UMaine Extension created 4-H@UMaine to provide a safe and supportive environment for Maine youth grades 6-12 to experience life on a college campus. Participants come to the UMaine campus and imagine the possibility of college attendance as they stay in campus residence halls, eat in the dining commons, get active in the student recreation center, and participate in hands-on workshops facilitated by UMaine students, staff, faculty, and even 4-H Teen Leaders. While they are there, Extension also fosters healthy relationships using small-group settings led by trained adult leaders and teenage peer mentors.

Results – In 2018, 4-H@UMaine hosted 32 youth (grades 6-10), 17 Teen Leaders (grades 9-12), and 27 adult staff and volunteers. In addition to the traditional youth experience for grades 6-10, college-ready teens took part in an exclusive experience that included pre-event training, planning roles as youth mentors, and workshops to further develop leadership skills and connect with campus staff. Of those attending 4-H@UMaine:

  • 92% of all the youth indicated they learned about new career possibilities, helping to raise their career aspirations.
  • 94% plan to go to college.

A cursory review of statements collected by youth after participation indicated they were most impacted by healthy relationships built during that short time. The diversity of responses shows a variety of impact – including relationship building, meeting people from other cultures, and learning more about the college experience and careers.

Statewide Highlights- Community and Economic Development

Helping Rural Entrepreneurs Increase Profitability

Relevance – Small businesses are very important to the economic vitality of Maine’s rural economy. One in five jobs in rural Maine are created by small-scale entrepreneurs employing five or fewer workers. However, many of these entrepreneurs lack the business skills needed to successfully start-up and grow their businesses. Research shows that helping rural entrepreneurs improve their business skills will improve their chances for success. One of the most important business management skills is pricing, yet many small business owners lack the knowledge and skills necessary to develop a profitable pricing strategy.

Response – During the past year, the UMaine Extension conducted pricing workshops across the state, presented a pricing webinar in collaboration with the Maine Food Strategy, and taught a pricing seminar at a statewide conference for Maine entrepreneurs. The goal of the program was to help existing and aspiring entrepreneurs improve their pricing knowledge and skills so they could develop profitable pricing strategies for their businesses. Extension faculty conducted classes on topics including key elements of pricing, pricing models, pricing strategies, price elasticity of demand, markup vs. margin and cost analysis.

Results – More than 80 rural entrepreneurs from across Maine participated in this highly successful training. They included specialty food producers, farmers, craft artists, food retailers, environmental consultants, bookkeepers and other small rural businesses. Eighty-seven percent of the participants indicated that they plan to set a new price for their product or service, and all participants plan to adopt the pricing techniques they had learned. Changes they planned to make within six months of the training included: restructure their pricing, conduct a thorough analysis of costs, evaluate their customer base, keep track of their time while producing their products and research their market more thoroughly before setting prices. Several entrepreneurs who had attended the workshops indicated that they subsequently created pricing strategies that led to increased profitability for their businesses.

Maine Harvest For Hunger: Mobilizing To Support Food Insecure Citizens

Relevance – Maine has the highest rate of food insecurity in New England and ranks 7th worst in the United States. The USDA estimates that more than 208,000 individuals (16.4%) in Maine are food insecure and that we have the 3rd worst rate of very low food insecurity in the nation. Twenty percent of Maine children and 23% of seniors experience food insecurity. It is especially challenging for food insecure individuals to afford high quality, fresh, nutritious food, and Maine’s emergency food system has seen donations of fresh produce decline significantly in recent years. Furthermore, 43% of food-insecure people (mostly the working poor) do not qualify for SNAP (food stamps) or any other government food assistance programs.

Response – Since 2000, UMaine Cooperative Extension’s statewide Maine Harvest for Hunger (MHH) program has mobilized gardeners, farmers, businesses, schools, and civic groups to grow, glean, and donate high quality produce to distribution sites (pantries, shelters, low income senior centers, etc.) and directly to neighbors in need, to mitigate hunger, improve nutrition and health, and help recipients develop lifelong positive nutritional habits. In 2018 MHH also focused on educational programs that engage food pantry recipients, seniors and community gardeners in growing more of their own produce and learning practical methods of cooking and utilization of fresh produce.

Results – Since 2000, MHH participants have distributed 2.9 million lbs. of food to citizens grappling with hunger. In 2018, donations of 231,752 lbs. of fresh produce from over 100 Maine farms went to 187 hunger alleviation distribution sites. A corps of 512 volunteers logged 2664 hours and the value of the produce was over $391,660. Now in its 19th season, MHH is an exemplary statewide collaborative effort between UMaine Extension staff, Master Gardener Volunteers, farms, food pantry staff and volunteers. Every gleaning partnership is unique in how we collaborate with farmers, volunteers and food pantries. Pantry volunteers frequently comment how much the high-quality fresh produce means to recipients, many of whom otherwise would have limited access to them. One person commented that they had not eaten a fresh apple in over a year and was overwhelmed with joy when a food pantry volunteer provided them with a bagful.

Homemakers Promoting Community Based Adult Education

Relevance – Extension Homemakers is a volunteer group that develops leadership skills, supports community causes, and promotes UMaine Extension’s educational programs in 9 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 or nursing homes or veterans groups, funding educational scholarships or youth camp programs.

Response – In 2018, over 550 Extension Homemakers took the opportunity to learn with others, make friends, contribute to their community and county, donating their time, money, and materials to numerous community agencies and projects. Homemakers from over 40 Local Extension Homemaker Groups met and delivered or engaged in Extension programming involving over 2,300 participants and 321 programs including food, personal and community; nutrition and health; gardening and environmental, financial planning and consumer; personal growth; and cultural and creative arts.

 Results – In many Maine counties Extension Homemakers remain a traditional and vital part of the community fabric. They also provide direct and indirect benefits in terms of volunteer hours, fundraising, and material donations. In 2018, the total estimated monetary value of the Extension Homemaker program to their communities was over $939,000.

Facilitation Skills And Community Engagement Academy

Relevance – Stakeholder engagement in municipal planning activities, often restricted to public hearings, does not necessarily result in effectively soliciting community input, and conflict resolution can be hindered by a lack of facilitation skills.

Response – UMaine Extension worked with Maine Sea Grant to make the five-part, 20-hour training “Strengthening Your Facilitation Skills” available in southern Maine, and joined efforts with community development specialists at UNH Cooperative Extension. This collaboration is making it possible for new programming and services to become available to communities, such as peer learning programs and opportunities to build a network of co-facilitators. In 2017 and 2018 UMaine and UNH Extension collaborated to pilot a three-session, 21-hour, Community Engagement Academy in the Seacoast Region of Southern Maine and New Hampshire.

Results – “Strengthening Your Facilitation Skills” has graduated over 80 professionals who are now offering their skills within their communities. One participant has initiated a Listen to Learn series of neighborhood meetings on economic development and launched a website to engage the community. Collaboration with New Hampshire Extension made it possible for new programming and services to become available in Maine, such as the Community Engagement Academy, development of new outreach approaches for municipal officials, and understanding the impact of graduates applying their facilitation skills within their communities.

AgrAbility…Supporting Farmers of All Abilities To Remain Active On The Farm

Relevance – The average U.S. farmer is 58 years old, and farming is the sixth most dangerous job in America. An estimated 5,700 farmers, farm family members, or farm workers in Maine have a chronic health condition or disability, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, or aging-related issues, such as arthritis or hearing loss. In addition to farmers, fishermen, forest workers, and migrant workers face similar challenges for remaining successful in production agriculture.

Response – Maine AgrAbility helps Maine farmers, loggers and fishermen facing physical or cognitive challenges, to enhance their ability to farm and live independently, which improves their quality of life and economic sustainability. AgrAbility specialists assess issues and offer adaptive recommendations. They provide education about safe work methods and connect people with other resources through this nonprofit partnership between the UMaine Cooperative Extension, Goodwill Northern New England, and Alpha One.

Results – Since the project began in 2010, AgrAbility has provided technical information to 754 farmers and conducted on-site assessments for 92 agricultural workers. The diverse agricultural operations include dairy and livestock operations, Christmas tree farms, fruit orchards, agritourism, vegetable and maple syrup production, hay sales, managing woodlots and lobstering.

Clients reported increased knowledge of their conditions and increased accessibility for their daily work. They reported ways that the assessment and suggested changes helped them decrease physical pain, stress, and strain through modifications to equipment, the work or home environment, and farm operations or chores. One participant shared this success story about the recommendations made by the Maine AgrAbility: “I had challenges I was struggling with, and I was amazed that by the time they left the farm I already had 3 or 4 different things that I knew I could change right then and there. They came up with great ideas.”


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)