FARMINGTON – At the annual meeting of the Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District (FCSWCD) people from Chesterville, Jay and New Vineyard received awards for their commitment to conservation and stewardship of natural resources.

FCSWCD Supervisor Patty Cormier, Maine Forest Service District Forester, presented George Merrill of Jay with the Conservation Logger of the Year award. She said George began his logging career in 1985. A few years later he started George Merrill and Son Logging.

“For the next fifteen years, George cut wood with a chainsaw and skidder with his son, Justin, by his side whenever possible. He gave Justin his first chainsaw at the age of twelve,” Cormier said.

George trained to become a Certified Logging Professional (CLP) in 1995 and received the CLP Conventional Logger of the Year award. In 2002, he switched from conventional logging to cut-to-length logging and received the CLP Mechanical Logger of the Year award. In 2004, the business became Master Logger Certified. 

Meanwhile, Justin attended the Forestry and Wood Harvesting program at Foster CTE Center where he received the Logger of the Year award. He then majored in Diesel and Heavy ‘Trucks at Eastern Maine Community College to gain knowledge and skills to maintain the family’s equipment. He obtained his CLP and serves on the CLP board.

In 2006, the Merrills bought their first pulp truck and have continued to expand. A year ago they opened Merrill’s Garage Inc., specializing in heavy trucks/commercial equipment repairs. 


“The philosophy of George Merrill and Son Logging has always been to specialize in harvesting techniques that capture as much value in the fiber/tree as possible, but also plan for future generations of harvesting. Professionalism and appearance is key before, during and after the harvest for the landowner and the public. They always take time to explain what is being done with the harvest and why,” Cormier said.

Amanda Burton, Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) District Conservationist, and Jade Gianforte, NRCS Soil Conservationist, presented the Cooperator of the Year award to Melissa Shea of New Vineyard.

Burton said one producer stood out this year. Shea has a very diversified operation. She is certified organic, grows hops, has an orchard, sells value added products and raises bees and sells honey. She sells at farmers’ markets and local businesses. She also manages more than one hundred acres of forest and has a firewood business, Chainsaw Chick.

Gianforte said Shea became a cooperator in 2011 and developed a Forest Management Plan. Doing the work herself, she has improved more than 3,500 feet of forest trails to control erosion. 

“She is diligently working to improve additional trails on her property to control erosion created by old logging operations,” Gianforte said.

Seven acres are in the Crop Tree Release program and another ten are being added. She has done wild apple tree releases and installed a 30 X 72 foot high tunnel. Shea transitioned the farm to organic production practices, Gianforte added.


“Melissa is completely off the grid. A wood turbine powers the whole farm,” Gianforte said.

Cormier presented a surprise award, Outstanding Stewardship Award, to Bob Leso of Chesterville. 

“Bob has an extensive history of working with landowners, loggers, and foresters as well as his work on the FCSWCD board. This year marks his tenth year as an Associate Supervisor,” Cormier said.

Leso was a District Forester with the Maine Forest Service for 37 years. He is very active with the Maine Tree Farm program as a state committee member and the Franklin County chairman. He also is steward of two well managed woodlots; one in New Sharon, the other in Chesterville. 

“We thank you for your conservation work over the years,” Cormier said.

Two volunteers who contributed to daily office operations were presented District Volunteer Awards. Maria Musto contributed 820 hours during eleven months in 2016. Kathleen Randall provided 260 hours of assistance in the four months she was with the District. 


Volunteers with Work Opportunities Unlimited were also recognized. Monitor Dina Goldsmith and Christopher Bourgin, Lee Spaulding and Garrett Vogl each spent more than twenty hours on newsletter production and office work.

Friday the Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District named George Merrill of Jay the Conservation Logger of the Year. Pictured from left are Maine Forest Service District Forester Patty Cormier, Merrill and Justin Merrill who works with his father. 

FCSWCD named Melissa Shea of New Vineyard the Conservation Cooperator of the Year at the Annual Meeting held Friday in Farmington. Pictured during the award presentation are from left District Conservationist Amanda Burton, Associate Supervisor Frank Forster, Shea and Soil Conservationist Jade Gianforte.

FCSWCD presented the Outstanding Steward Award to Bob Leso of Chesterville at the Annual Meeting Friday in Farmington. Presenting Leso with the award was District Supervisor and Maine Forest Service Forester Patty Cormier.

At the annual meeting Friday in Farmington, FCSWCD presented District Awards to Maria Musto, 820 volunteer hours in 2016, and Kathleen Randall, 260 volunteer hours in 2-16. Pictured from left are Randall, Executive Director Rosetta White and Musto.

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