FARMINGTON — Franklin County UMaine Cooperative Extension is celebrating 100 years of service to local people through outreach, education and research.

“It all started with George Washington saying we had to do something for farmers so they could be better educated in providing the nation its food,” said Dave Fuller, agriculture and non-timber forest products professional with cooperative extension.

It wasn’t until the Morrill Act of 1862 was signed into law that things started to come together for cross-country agriculture resources with hyper-local roots. The act provided public lands to establish college systems “for the benefit of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts.”  That same year, the United States Department of Agriculture was established, Fuller said.

Then, in 1914, the Smith-Lever Act was passed, creating nation-wide cooperative extension services, connected to the universities established by the Morrill Act some 52 years earlier.

The Franklin County Extension was established five years later, in 1919.

“The extension is a 3-legged stool, focusing on teaching, research and service,” Fuller said. “None of that has changed over the years.”


In the beginning, the focus was achieved through 4-H clubs, home economics groups and agricultural services.

Over the last 100 years, the programs have changed, but the focus remains the same.

UMaine Franklin County Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development Professional Tara Marble flips through historical files that catalog more than 70 years of 4-H club members. Dee Menear/Franklin Journal

“Youth development is still a big part of what we do,” Fuller said. “Before 4-H, there were corn clubs for boys and tomato clubs for girls. The clubs became popular during World War I as part of the war effort to teach about producing and preserving food.”

There are currently about 110 kids enrolled in one of 12 county 4-H clubs or working independently, said Tara Marble, 4-H Youth Development Professional.

“Most people think you have to have animals to be in 4-H,” Marble said. “There is a club for whatever interest a kid has.”

Some of those interests include robotics and music. All clubs work on core lessons such as citizenship and public speaking, she said.


The clubs are led by volunteers, many of who grew up in 4-H, she said.

Club involvement can span generations, said Judy Smith, 4-H community education assistant. “Take my family, for instance. I was involved with working steers. My daughters did dairy and beef. Now their children are involved in dairy and beef,” she said.

An undated photo from the Franklin County Cooperative Extension archives shows members of the Jollyettes 4-H Club working in a garden. Submitted photo

The longest-running club in Franklin County is a dairy club, started in 1954 by the late Warren Voter of Farmington, she said.

“Everyone who does this does it for the love of kids,” Marble said.

Programs based on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education are also a part of youth development programs.

“We are able to reach students in schools and in after school, library and summer programs with STEM-based activities. We reach out to pre-service teachers at UMF and provide them STEM tool kits, which they teach to students at Cascade Brook School,” Marble said.


There are about 30 kits available, covering topics such as aquaculture, nutrition, hydration, and the invasive Emerald Ash Borer. The kits, Marble said, are complete with everything needed for the lessons except pens and pencils.

Anyone can utilize the kits, but a lot of teachers are not aware they are available, she said.

UMF students are also trained in experiential learning and youth mentoring in the STEM Ambassador program. The student volunteers do not have to be on a teaching track to join the program.

“This is an amazing volunteer opportunity for students,” Marble said. “It really is a pseudo-mentoring project. It is an additional local asset to our youth and gets them thinking about pursuing educational opportunities after high school.”

The Maine food system is another focus of the Franklin County office. “We cover agriculture from seed to canning, home food production, and non-timber forest products such as syrup and wreaths,” Fuller said.

This is achieved through education and programs such as:


•Maine AgrAbility provides services at no cost to farmers, loggers and fishermen across the state who have health conditions that limit their ability to continue working.

•Senior Companion Program volunteers who visit elders in their homes in an effort to combat loneliness and isolation, provide respite for caregivers and help seniors stay in their homes longer. There are currently 3 volunteers in Franklin County serving 14 clients.

•Garden Angels help seniors, physically disabled or low- and fixed-income residents enjoy the benefits of vegetable gardening and of having sustainable fresh produce by providing everything needed to grow vegetables, including advice from a knowledgeable gardener.

•Franklin County Extension Homemakers is a volunteer group that has a goal of developing leadership, supporting community causes, and promoting the UMaine Cooperative Extension’s educational programs. The purpose of the group is to strengthen and extend adult education into the home and community.

“In a lot of ways, things haven’t changed. The outcome is similar, but the delivery is different.” Fuller said. Fuller has been with cooperative extension for nearly 23 years.

“People do still drop in or call with questions about their crops or identification of a caterpillar, for example,” he said. “Technology has made us way more accessible and our reach has increased exponentially. I can take a picture of a problem, add two or three lines of text and it can be shared on social media in a matter of minutes.

“We are a county office but if we don’t know, or can’t help, we can reach out to other offices across the state and across the country.  We have a very wide net of support.”

For more information, visit, call 778-4650, or stop by the office, 138 Pleasant St., Suite 1, weekdays 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

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