PARIS — Cooperative Extension of Oxford County has found itself with two new staff members who are enthusiastic to learn and just as excited to provide educational outreach to residents of the western foothills.

Emma Fournier, at work representing UMaine Cooperative Extension of Oxford County at the Waterford Fair on July 19. Submitted photo.

Emma Fournier is all about plants. She joined Oxford county’s UMaine Extension in July as its horticulture community education assistant. In her role she focuses on residential/consumer programs through outreach and on request.

“I help homeowners with their questions, providing publications and helping identify plants and insects,” Fournier explained. One of the ways Cooperative Extension can help is to send samples to the diagnostic lab at their UMaine-Orono location. “The lab will ID insects by looking at bite marks on leaves, which helps us determine integrated pest management practices for the homeowner.”

Fournier also assists with non-plant initiatives and commercial grower workshops held in the county. One of the first projects she worked on last summer was a workshop on backyard poultry led by livestock specialist Colt Knight from Orono. She also assisted at a recent commercial blueberry growers meeting in Otisfield.

Fournier studies horticulture at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland and feels very fortunate to be employed in her field already. She is particularly excited about working on Cooperative Extension’s upcoming master gardener program which starts in January.

“I’m part-time and most of the jobs I was looking at were retail, running a cash register,” she said. “But I want to work for sustainability and living off the land. Here, I can talk all day to people about that, and geek out over plants!”


Connecticut native Sarah Johnson moved to the Oxford Hills region a few years to teach second grade in Woodstock. Her passions include outdoor education and yoga. So when she saw an educator position advertised by the UMaine Extension in Oxford County, she knew it would be the perfect fit for her.

“I can combine my background in public and outdoor education here, and continue working with kids,” she said, taking a break during the agency’s fall open house earlier in October. And she can also incorporate the benefits of yoga into the mission of 4-H.

“It’s about whole body education,” she explained. “Yoga is great for for kids. It teaches mindfulness, emotional balance and body awareness. Kids learn reflection, and it helps improve self-esteem.”

Sara Johnson, UMaine Cooperative Extension’s 4-H Professional, at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School on Oct. 22. Submitted photo

Barely a month into her new role, Johnson has been devouring 4-H text books and curriculum. Beyond the organization’s traditional emphasis on agriculture, today STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education has become a major component of 4-H activities. The trendy term is “experiential learning” but it is an accurate one.

“Our STEM tool kits are designed to promote inquiry based learning,” Johnson said. “We use them for students from kindergarten through high school. Give kids a problem and let them work out their own way to solve it.”

Along the way, students also learn team building and respect. And literally, everything from the ground beneath us to the outer reaches of the universe fall into STEM education projects.


“We’re getting new kits on outer space and local minerals,” she said. “I’m very excited about them.”

In Johnson’s role as Oxford county’s 4-H Professional she will take her tool kits out into the field, working with volunteer-led clubs, classrooms and after-school groups. She sees community outreach to under served areas as a critical part of her job.

“I want to reach more people with 4-H opportunities, especially the more rural areas of Oxford county where access to resources may be limited,” Johnson said.

And soon she will introduce yoga and mindfulness to more students, starting with a multi-week program Crescent Park Elementary School in Bethel.

The outreach responsibilities for both Fourner and Johnson takes them out and about as representatives for Cooperative Extension programs. In addition to assisting at workshops, last August Fournier worked among producers at various Oxford county farmers’ markets. The duo also manned booths at fairs small and large through the fall, most recently participating at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School’s annual college/career fair. They expect to do a lot of driving as they work to reach all sectors of the county.

Johnson and Fournier know they will learn as much as they educate in areas of Cooperative Extension that are new to them, like raising livestock. Fournier has already started her own flock of backyard poultry.

“Every day is different,” Johnson said. “There are lots of different pieces to Cooperative Extension. It really keeps me on my toes.”

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