JAY — Four teams from Spruce Mountain High School will be competing at the 2023 Maine Southwestern Regional Envirothon Thursday, May 25, at Camp Gustin in Sabattus.

Spruce Mountain High School will have four teams competing at the Southwest Regional Envirothon competition May 25 in Sabattus. Students from left Megan Craig, Natalie Furka, Skylar Condon, Sarah Hawkins and Lorellei Farrer work on their current issue presentation Sunday night, May 7, at the school in Jay. Bluebell Chen, also a member of The Strawberry Goats team was absent. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

The teams meet every Sunday night with advisors Rob Taylor and Ken Baker, are putting the final touches on their current issue presentations. This year’s issue deals with adapting to a changing climate. It tests a team’s ability to develop a management plan that converts an unused agricultural property to a small meat and produce operation that will be operated so as to be carbon neutral. The property has 100 acres of open fields and a 50 acre woodlot.

Each team will give a five minute oral presentation describing their plan, modifications to the landscape and those practices that might impact soils.

The Strawberry Goats team is made up of sophomores Natalie Furka, Skylar Condon, Sarah Hawkins, Lorellei Farrer, Bluebell Chen and junior Megan Craig.

Their current issue project centers around agritourism and how they are going to battle soil erosion on their farm, Craig said. The first year of operation will be funded through selectively cutting the woodlot and selling the lumber, she noted.

“We are also centered around windmills and renewable energy,” Craig added.


The team plans to sell bee products, eggs and meat, Farrer stated. Goats will be raised with milk, soaps and cheeses sold while strawberries grown on the farm will be used to make jam to sell, she noted. Donkeys will provide transportation, she added.

A greenhouse and goat petting are other plans, Condon said.

Pick your own strawberry fields is part of the agritourism, Craig said. Crop rotation will be used to battle soil erosion, she added.

“We plan to buy products from local farms to sell at our farmstand,” Furka said.

That will cut back on carbon emissions from those farms as they can reduce transportation by not having to sell further away, Craig noted.

“The entire farmstand will be solar powered,” Condon said.


Sunday evening, May 7, members of the Lil’ Brown Bats Envirothon team from left Samuel Geissinger, Violet Bellerose, Lily Fortier and Hannah Dube work on their current issue presentation at Spruce Mountain High School in Jay. Team member Mason Labonte was absent. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

Team Lil Brown Bats is made up of freshmen Samuel Geissinger and Mason Labonte and sophomores Violet Bellerose, Lily Fortier and Hannah Dube.

“Our farm has a large apple orchard, we plan to grow strawberries for U-pick, work with JustNiks Mylcosilva, LCC to grow chaga mushrooms,” Fortier said. “Our project was mostly based off of Berry Fruit Farm in Livermore Falls, we worked with owner Joel Gilbert.”

“Strawberries will be a big part,”Geissinger stated. A farmstand is also included, he added.

“We are planning to do a selective cut, can tell the forester to cut down certain trees so that it sequesters more carbon,” Fortier said. “The chaga grows on white birch so we will leave those trees.”

Spruce Mountain High School Envirothon advisors Rob Taylor and Ken Baker meet every Sunday night with four teams that will be competing at the Southwest Regional Envirothon competition May 25 in Sabattus. On May 7, from left Leah Burgess, Abrahm Geissinger, Brenden Veillieux, Taylor, Owen Schwab, Baker and Daniel Wilson examine damage deer caused over the winter to a shrub outside the high school in Jay. Team Maine Mudpuppies is made up of students who won the state competition last year. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

Juniors Leah Burgess and Brenden Veillieux with seniors Abrahm Geissinger, Owen Schwab and Daniel Wilson make up team Maine Mudpuppies.

The team’s project will include a farmstand where milk and meat will be sold, Schwab noted. “We are trying to do as many things as reasonable for diversification,” he said.


A pick your own apple orchard, plus goats and sheep to pet are among the agritourism practices, Wilson stated.

Selective cutting of the forest on the property will be done, Burgess said.

Wilson said the team also plans to grow corn, beans and pumpkins similarly to what Native Americans once did [with squash instead of pumpkins] known as Three Sisters. It’s a mutualistic relationship, he noted. Crops will be rotated as will the goats and sheep to prevent overgrazing, he added.

“I think we are more prepared for this year’s project, will do a better job of addressing the scenario than we did last year,” Geissinger said.

Four team members were on the team that won the state competition last year. Veillieux joined the team prior to competing at the 2022 National Conservation Foundation (NCF) International Envirothon when one of the members couldn’t participate.

“This year as a team we have the best shot,” Veillieux said. “We are close knit, work very well together. All of our knowledge put together could make us do very well this season.”


Four team members are in the same AP science class, Burgess stated.

“Usually we had one person study one of the four areas,” Schwab said. “This year everyone knows everything.”

“We believe this team has the best potential, can do well compared to the teams in the last few years,” Wilson added.

Schwab and Wilson will attend University Maine Orono next year to study ecology and environmental sciences. Geissinger will take a post graduate year before studying engineering.

Taylor said senior Mackenzie Michaud, who is a member of the Green Team will be attending UM to study wildlife ecology.

“We often get Envirothon kids that go into science based fields like engineering but this is the first time I have had three seniors in the same year all going into environmental fields,” Taylor said. “That’s kind of special.”


“Envirothon has definitely impacted my decisions with education and college, about what I want to pursue,” Veillieux said. “I want to go into the science field and become a health care provider. Previously I had thought about strictly doing a biology degree but now I am interested in pursuing a minor in environmental science.”

The Green Team which also includes Cole Richards, Connor Roy, Kasey Burns and Jenna Feith was not at the May 7 work session.

Envirothon is the world’s largest high school environmental science competition. It is designed to test students’ knowledge and skills in the areas of wildlife management and conservation, aquatic ecology, soil science and forest management. It also includes the current issue which changes each year and relates to the other four areas.

There are four regional competitions held in Maine and each regional sends its highest performing teams to the Maine Envirothon to be held at the Viles Arboretum on June 7. The winner of the Maine Envirothon will be invited to the National Conservation Foundation International Envirothon July 23-29 at Mount Allison University in Tantramar, New Brunswick, Canada.

This year’s Southwest Regional Envirothon is hosted by the York County Soil and Water Conservation District, which is collaborating with the Androscoggin Land Trust (ALT) to hold the competition at the ALT Camp Gustin Property. Camp Gustin was recently acquired by ALT and its 95 acres are now permanently protected.

The South Western Regional Envirothon is co-hosted by the Oxford, Cumberland,
Franklin and Andy Valley Soil and Water Conservation Districts. York County is the lead coordinator this year.

Anyone who is interested may contact Dale Finseth at dfinseth@kcswcd.org. There is a $125 registration fee per team. More information is available at https://www.maineenvirothon.org/registration.

“Envirothon is a fun and exciting way for students to learn about the natural world around them and it prepares students for college and careers in science, technology, engineering, and math fields,” Taylor stated.

“The activities students do in Envirothon allow opportunities to master a large number of the Maine science, technology, and engineering standards required of all high school students,” Baker said.

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