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Waldo County Extension Association - annual meeting minutes

Waldo County Extension Association

Annual Meeting: Science in the Garden

Monday, September 9, 2013

In attendance: Board-Erica Buswell, Ian Collins, Rose Rapp, Sara Trunzo, John Pincince, Anna McGalliard, David McDaniel, Anne Rothrock, Bob Curry, Jenn Brown; Staff: Rick Kersbergen, Caragh Fitzgerald, Jon Prichard, John Rebar, Ellie Libby

Meeting called to order: Thank you to Ryan for hosting all of the teachers that completed the Science in the Garden Training out on Islesboro! EC Board members and Extension Staff were identified for the benefit of other meeting attendees. Sara relayed that Ben was unable to join the meeting. Abby also sends her apologies; she is trying to pass the WCEA EC torch to another member of the MOFGA staff. Also, everyone wanted to wish congratulations to Vina on her recent marriage!

Science in the Garden Discussion: Incorporating Master Gardiner curriculum into middle and high school science classes.

Lee from the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) gave a short presentation about the curriculum that she developed for the BTLT, which has a strong focus on farmland protection and stewardship of farmland, particularly through encouraging the next generation of farmers to learn about where their food comes from. BTLT has a two-acre community garden that they started in the area, where students come to learn about gardening. The land trust is developing a curriculum for schools called “Science of the Garden”. They are creating “trunks” that can be used in local schools and checked out from libraries that include: microscopes, pH meters, and the science curriculum . . . everything a student and their family might need to understand what’s happening in the garden. These trunks can all go home with students and be shared with their families.

Lee’s current project is to try and develop the curriculum that will be shared through this new program. She would be very appreciative to receive feedback from other folks that participated in today’s training, so as to avoid re-creating the wheel as she continues to develop the program.

Caragh helped the group digest and discuss their day. She noted that new school garden projects are frequently overwhelmed by trying to implement all of the elements they see in successful, established garden projects. How can teachers prioritize implementation of school garden project? Delegate, and find people to delegate to; and accept that you are always going to have bad luck delegating. Select folks that are trustworthy and reliable to help carry out the implementation. Make sure you aren’t the only person that’s committed to the idea. Try to spread the development responsibilities across all departments. Get the school board engaged in the idea. Utilize volunteer coordinators.

Since the growing season in Maine happens largely when school is out, how do we bridge the growing seasons, in terms of curriculum continuity? There isn’t a good concrete answer: try to do as much cold season gardening as possible. The curriculum can happen independently, regardless of where plants are in their growing cycle. In John’s experience, the summertime gardening was largely the responsibility of the teachers. Now some students can be hired to keep the garden going through the summer (with the blessing of the school board). Troy Howard Middle School has a summer camp that takes place 4 days a week, which kids from all grades, elementary school students included, can participate in the summer care of the garden.

Many schools help to implement the USDAs summer feeding program: school gardens can be a local resource for growing food for that program, thereby getting more local foods into the program.  A school could also partner with a 4-H group to meet labor needs and/or girl scouts and boy scouts.

Giving and receiving as a way to bridge the grades and the curriculum gap: in one school, its the 1st graders that plant the pumpkin seeds in the spring, and then other grades that harvest the fruits in the fall to prepare pumpkin pie. Have a harvest celebration that makes use of school garden and other local foods.

Is there potential for job training for youth or folks that are looking to transition into agricultural jobs? Can school gardens be a source for job experience? Yes, there are lots of programs that set precedence in this regard: Maine Coast Heritage Trust, and the Robert’s Garden Preserve. Providing jobs can be something to promote when a school is seeking funding support for their program.

Another issue that causes difficulties in school garden programs is succession planning. Who will take over the program if key personnel get ill or move on? The newest Food Corps. rep. is focusing on helping to create succession plans in school garden projects by trying to find permanent people in the community that can keep a program going if or when the garden coordinator may be temporary. Succession planning is critical to keep the momentum of a program going, particularly sharing the knowledge of where the support networks are and making sure this knowledge is passed along. One participant suggested that the coordinator could keep records and notebooks that would help another person to be able to take over in a pinch. Schools can also tap kids for their knowledge about key networks and program information as well.

Programs can also tap members of the farming community to come in and give guest lectures, or host field trips. This kind of strategy benefits the farmers as well. Co-op Extension can help teachers tap into the community to find farmers and guest lecturers. School gardens can also look to the business community as a valuable network; it was noted that it is best to approach entrepreneurs individually when discussing strategic partnerships.

There is a need to convince as many people as possible that the STEM curriculum is apparent in the garden. So many teachers struggle with the problem of how to engage the students with the curriculum? With gardening, students usually show up and they want to be there. Then they are engaged for the math or science lesson.

Collaborate with some of the emerging programs, particularly for sharing equipment.

Enthusiastic food service directors are also a critical part of the success of any school garden program.

How do programs handle controversy, such as when to apply pesticides or planting GMO seeds? Who has the final say over the content of the curriculum? School gardens are, by law, pesticide free, as the kids can’t apply pesticides unless they have a commercial pesticide applicator license. These kinds of controversial topics provide an opportunity for social science debate and learning. Teachers in Maine have a lot of flexibility in what they teach; you can teach both sides of the issue even if you are only implementing one side of the issue.

Finally, it was noted that the University of Maine has a wealth of abilities and/or resources to help with many different aspects of school garden programs.

All of the teachers thanked Rick and Vina for a wonderful day!

Executive Committee Annual Meeting Business:

  • 2012 Annual Meeting Minutes—Jon made a motion to accept the 2012 annual meeting minutes; Bob seconded. The motion passed.
  • Treasurer’s Report—there was no treasurer’s report presented at this meeting.
  • Budget Presentation for 2014—Rick will be meeting with the County Commissioners on 9/10 to present our 2014 budget request; he is not anticipating any questions about our request. The County Commissioners have been clear that they didn’t want to see any increases in budget requests over 2012 requests. We’ve shifted around some of our expenses to increase certain line items within the budget, including salary increases for support staff (a historical precedent), without increasing our overall budget request. A quick historical perspective on wage increases was offered: usually the University has picked up wage increases for support staff. It is now policy that the county offices have to cover wage increases for these staff members ourselves. This is the result of continuous erosion of funding that has usually been provided by state and federal sources. Rose made a motion to approve the budget request; Ian seconded. The motion passed.
  • Election of new members and officers—new nominated EC members gave brief presentations about themselves: Anna McGalliard works at Unity College and lives in Belfast. She is a healthcare provider at the College. Dave McDaniel moved to Maine in 2007 to homestead in Jackson. He and his partner are now transitioning from homesteading to farming. Dave also has a background in healthcare. He noted that he has made a lot of use of Extension programming. Anne Rothrock is a former EC member that took her obligatory year off, and is now returning to the board. She lives in Thorndike. Jenn made a motion to elect the Anna, Dave, and Anne to the EC; Bob seconded. The motion passed. It was noted that Bob and his wife are going to be moving to Penobscot County, and that this will be his last meeting. We thank him for all the delicious food that he has shared!
  • Election of new officers: a slate of new officers was presented as follows:  Sara Trunzo as President; Erica Buswell as Vice-President; Anna McGalliard as secretary; Rose Rapp as Treasurer. This slate of officers was voted in by consent agenda.

Closing Remarks Message from John Rebar, Executive Director UMCE and Sara Trunzo, WCEA EC President.

John expressed his appreciation and gratitude for EC volunteers, noting that local partnership is really what makes Extension unique and valid.  Extension is the only entity in the UMaine system that receives county funding, and it only happens because local folks show up to county budget hearings to make the case to the county commissioners. Without the support of the County, Coop Extension would not be able to continue. Our service makes a difference!

John also expressed his thanks to the staff, noting the dedication of Coop Extension employees. They have great dedication to the people that they serve. We provide needs-based services, and truly support the people that we are here to serve. It’s going to be a great year! He also noted that Extension staff become part of the communities that they serve.

Coop Extension exists in every county in the United States, as part of the 75 land grant university systems in each state. Extension programming is driven by the needs of the local communities. In Maine, Extension currently has two program areas of focus:  the 4-H development program and food systems. We reach over 5,000 businesses statewide with our services, employing approximately 15,000 employees.

It was noted that one need that Extension could help to meet would be support for the creation of mobile processing facilities for red meat. John stated that this type of program presents a sanitation challenge, when equipment is going from one farm to the next. The challenge is who takes the liability, and who pays for the insurance.

Another need is for the development of ag. plastic recycling programs. There is no opportunity to recycle ag. plastics in this state, unless someone is willing to take their waste to NJ. Is a large-scale recycling project like this something that Extension could work on?  John noted that the volume of plastic that Maine produces is not economically viable to recycle. However, it might be possible to explore the idea of developing a bundling or compaction facility that would then export the waste to New York, for folks that are philosophically committed to the idea.

Sara noted that we would plan to set aside some time for EC orientation at the next meeting. There are also a lot of useful Extension orientation tools out there that we can all access, including video clips that feature John providing important organizational info and updates.

Sara then handed over the floor to Rose to make a special presentation of appreciation for all of the work that Rick does for the EC. Thank you to Rick for all of his incredible years of service with Extension!!! Rick really worked hard in the past year, given all the transitions that happened in the Waldo Co. office and within his family. The EC was so impressed with all of the accomplishments of the county office over the past year, thanks to Rick’s leadership. We presented him with a small token of our appreciation in the form of a gift certificate to the Gothic restaurant.

Next meeting will be on Mon. Oct. 7th (one week earlier than normal due to the holiday). Erica will bring snacks.

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