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2013 County Highlights Report

Making a Difference

daisyFor more than 90 years, University of Maine Cooperative Extension has worked with Maine volunteers to offer community-driven, research-based educational programs in every county. Our annual report features highlights of recent accomplishments and the difference we make in the lives of Maine citizens and their communities.

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension helps support, sustain and grow the food-based economy across the entire state of Maine. It is 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 UMaine interrelated. UMaine Extension also conducts the state’s most successful out-of-school youth education program through 4-H, empowering young people to reach their full potential.

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.

Piscataquis County Office Staff

Extension Educators

  • Donna Coffin
  • Barbara Baker

Program Associates

  • Ana Bonstedt
  • Felicia Dumont
  • Sheila Norman
  • Brenda Mowdy
  • Donna Gillette
  • Zoe Hastings
  • Sonja Birthisel

Administrative Specialist

  • Amanda Miles
  • Lynn Bosworth

Summer Intern

  • Dani Newman


Piscataquis County Extension Association

Our County Extension Association is the vital link between the county, our communities and UMaine. The Association’s Executive Committee is comprised of local volunteers who represent community interests by advising UMaine Extension staff on educational programs, advocate for and secure funding from county government to support the county office, oversee the office budget and facilities, and guide UMaine Extension staff in identifying their programming goals.

Executive Committee

  • President – Walter Boomsma, Abbot
  • Secretary – Karen Dolley, Charleston
  • Treasurer – Janet Yelch-Weatherbee, Dover-Foxcroft
  • Members
    • Tish Dutson, Willimantic
    • George McKay, Dover-Foxcroft
    • Thelma Regan, Wellington
    • Wally Sinclair, Brownville
    • Judy Merck, Blanchard

President’s Message

Friends and neighbors,

As you may know, the very name “Extension” is meant to identify our mission of extending the vast and varied resources of the University of Maine system into our local communities. It is my honor and pleasure to offer some observations regarding that challenge in this annual report to the citizens of Piscataquis County.

A unique aspect of UMaine Extension is that an Executive Committee of volunteers is charged with the responsibility for securing and managing county funds and support. This same committee, in collaboration with paid extension staff, serves as both a resource and a monitor to ensure programming is relevant to local needs and opportunities. In simple terms, our challenge is to “make sure our citizens get the most bang for their buck.”

During the past year, your Executive Committee and Extension Staff have worked hard to assess those needs and opportunities and develop plans to meet them. We know, for example, that farming and gardening continue to offer growth opportunities in Piscataquis County. We also recognize a welcome obligation to develop the tremendous resource we have in our children and youth. Additionally, the Extension Program in general has identified the potential return on investment available from developing our Maine Food System – from farm to fork.

After careful consideration, we have made two important changes in the past year. The first includes both staffing and focus. We now have a full-time program aide (Ana Bonstedt) focusing on horticulture and another (Shelia Norman) focusing on our Youth/4-H programming. While these positions are not funded directly by county dollars, they are made possible by the support we receive from the county.

The second change is perhaps less concrete, but it is not at all subtle. We are consciously seeking ways to collaborate, work together, and overlap projects and programs to create efficiency. I’d encourage you to review the information regarding the school garden project at SeDoMoCha Elementary School in Dover-Foxcroft as just one example. Nearly every aspect of Extension is in some way touching this garden.

Another unique aspect of Extension is our reliance on the involvement of volunteers ranging from Master Gardeners to 4-H Leaders.  While University resources extend into our communities, it is the combining of resources and energy that makes us effective—whether we are talking about funding, programs, or people. Individually we are drops; together we form an ocean.

These are some of the reasons why we are able provide a good return on the investment we receive from Piscataquis County Taxpayers. We appreciate the building we occupy in the county complex and the county’s contribution to our operating and support costs. I would note that while we have little ability to control the costs associated with the building, our budget request for 2014 is responsible and our operating fund request remains at a level significantly below 2009. Not too many organizations I’m familiar with can boast of actually increasing services in an economy that contributes to the funding cuts we’ve experienced.

You are certainly part of everything we do. This brief report is really only an introduction and I’d encourage you to stop by the office, contact a staff or executive committee member and learn about the depth of our resources. Better yet, ask how you can help! There’s a place for everyone at UMaine Extension.

Walter Boomsma, President


*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.

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