The Franklin County office of UMaine Cooperative Extension has two new staff members. Kristen Grondin at left is the 4-H Community Education Assistant. Nicholas “Nick” Rowley is the Sustainable Agriculture and Horticulture Professional. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

FARMINGTON — Two positions have been filled at the UMaine Cooperative Extension Franklin County office.

Kristen Grondin was hired in December as the 4-H Community Education Assistant. Judy Smith retired a year ago after 26 years in the position.

Nicholas “Nick” Rowley is the county’s Sustainable Agriculture and Horticulture Professional. Dave Fuller, the county’s Agriculture and Non-Timber Forest Products Professional IV retired in February after more than 24 years.

Rowley said his title is the “new version of the old ‘county ag agent’.” He has a background in Extension having most recently served a similar position in Coos County, New Hampshire. Previously he was a research associate at University of Maine’s Highmoor Farm in Monmouth. He worked in the industry on farms and as a pesticide applicator.

Nicholas “Nick” Rowley holds a galinsoga weed he pulled from the garden plot next to the UMaine Cooperative Extension office in Farmington Tuesday, July 19. He is the county’s Sustainable Agriculture and Horticulture Professional. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

Rowley obtained his undergraduate degree in horticulture from UMaine. His Master’s Degree is in plant soil and environmental science.

“I am in a unique position,” he said during an interview Tuesday, July 19. “Yesterday was my first day in the office. “Coming in, replacing somebody who has been here for a long, successful career.”

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For now Rowley is familiarizing himself with the needs Fuller was filling. He plans to take the opportunity to adapt the position to meet future needs.

“There are nothing planned for events now,” Rowley said. “My goal is to get out there and meet farmers, growers and other members of the community. Introduce myself, let them know the position has been filled and we are still here to help those involved in food and agriculture in Franklin County.”

Rowley’s position is full-time but he is still in the process of moving from New Hampshire. His office hours are to be determined but expects to be in the office most weekdays.

“If people want to call or stop by, have me visit their farm, I am clearly open to that,” he said. “I am looking forward to having people reach out to me. If not I will be calling them in the near future.”

Rowley’s wife is a teacher and they have a two-and-a-half year old son. The Rowleys are from Kennebec County.

From a plant background, Rowley moved to fruits then to agronomy and forages. He hopes to renovate the small garden area next to the office.

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To contact Rowley call 207-778-4650 or email [email protected]

Kristen Grondin of Jay looks through the file containing information on Franklin County 4-H Clubs Tuesday, July 19. She became the county’s 4-H Community Education Assistant in December. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

Grondin is from Jay and grew up in 4-H but is new to working for Extension. Her two children were involved in 4-H programs.

“So it is an exciting time for me, there is a lot to learn,” she said Tuesday.

Grondin plans to be at Farmington Summer Fest Saturday, July 23, and the Wilton Blueberry Festival in August. “Fair season is coming up, I will be at most of the fairs,” she noted.

“Kristen is always thinking of new things and ways to sort of bring things back,” 4-H Professional Tara Marble said. “One of the things she has been working on is trying to bring back the youth auction, support for the youth auction. Kristen very much wants to bring that back. We are trying to rebuild.”

Grondin has held some open houses virtually with the 4-H program trying to recover after the pandemic, Marble said. “Club structure is really changing, the program is still figuring out new ways to meet goals, the needs in this area,” she noted. “In the fall we will be doing some independent member opportunities.

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“Even the way people volunteer right now is very different. The pandemic put a lot of things in perspective for families, where people want to spend their time. We need to change the commitment level. Leading a club is a big responsibility. There are other shorter commitments for donating smaller amounts of time.”

“Families are stretched thin,” Grondin added.

Marble and Grondin share office hours to ensure 4-H is covered. Grondin is usually in the office Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday unless needed elsewhere.

To reach Grondin call 207-778-4650 or email [email protected]

“I am glad to be back in Maine,” Rowley said.

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