Board of Supervisors Election Notice

Persons desiring to run for the office of District Supervisor for the Somerset County Soil and Water Conservation District should contact the District office at 70 East Madison Road, Skowhegan ME 04976, telephone (207) 474-8323, to obtain nomination papers. Nomination papers must be received at the District office no later than November 18, 2019. Persons wishing to vote in the election of District Supervisor must contact the District to receive a ballot.

Persons who desire to run for office of Supervisor must be a resident registered voter residing within the boundaries of the Somerset County Soil and Water Conservation District. All registered voters within the boundaries of the Somerset County Soil and Water Conservation District are eligible to vote.

Additional information may be obtained by contacting the District.

NRCS selects new District Conservationist for Somerset County

BANGOR, Maine (June 26, 2019) – The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has selected an experienced soil conservationist skilled in livestock practices, farming, and natural resource management, to serve as the new district conservationist for Somerset County.

Nick Pairitz – who most recently served as an NRCS soil conservationist in the USDA Service Center in Skowhegan – started at the new position on June 23. His predecessor Ron Desrosiers is now serving as the NRCS district conservationist for Waldo and Knox Counties in Belfast, Maine.

District Conservationist for Somerset County Nick Pairitz. Thomas Kielbasa/NRCS photo.

District Conservationist for Somerset County Nick Pairitz. Thomas Kielbasa/NRCS photo.

“For the past four years I have worked with a variety of agricultural producers here in Somerset County,” Pairitz explained. “That includes everyone from small vegetable gardeners and woodlot owners, to large-scale dairy farmers. As the new district conservationist, I plan to continue our work with existing clients, increase participation from new clients, and help them find innovative ways to address natural resource concerns on their farms.”

Pairitz said NRCS will continue to work closely with the Somerset County Soil & Water Conservation District and other local agencies to help agricultural producers and private landowners address natural resources in Somerset County. Upcoming emphasis by NRCS and partners will be placed on animal waste storage, forestry practices, cropland and pasture management, and water conservation methods.

Pairitz grew up in Indiana and received a bachelor’s degree in Soil and Crop Management from Purdue University in 2004. He began working with NRCS in Montana as a soil conservation technician in 2008, assisting ranchers and farmers with a numerous conservation practices including: cover crops; crop rotation; reduced tillage; fencing; grazing management; and irrigation . In 2015 he began working with NRCS in Somerset County.

“Nick is already a trusted member of Somerset County’s agricultural community, and as the newest district conservationist he’ll continue that strong partnership between the USDA and local landowners,” Assistant NRCS State Conservationist Dan Schmidt said. “We know that water quality – both surface and groundwater – is a high resource concern to Somerset County residents, and we are placing high importance on helping farmers implement agricultural practices to address those concerns. Nick and his staff at the local USDA Service Center will be major factors in ensuring those concerns are mitigated.”

Pairitz’s office is located at the USDA Service Center at 70 East Madison Rd. in Skowhegan, and he can be reached at (207) 474-8323 or nicholas.pairitz@usda.gov.

“I invite folks to stop in or call our offices to chat about their farms and see what ways NRCS can help you with your farming or forestry operations,” Pairitz added.

The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides leadership and technical assistance to address natural resource conservation issues on private land. NRCS employees work to improve and protect natural resources in partnership with Maine's 16 Soil and Water Conservation Districts, federal, state and local agencies, farmers, landowners and communities. The partnership's commitment to conservation provides a solid foundation to a locally-led program delivery system. The partnership is also committed to a voluntary, incentive-based approach to private land stewardship and conservation treatment.

Maine Farmer Needs & Priorities Report Released

The results of a statewide outreach project late last year can now be found in a report released this month.

Results from a Statewide Engagement Process: Maine Farmers' Needs and Priorities was developed by project consultant Ellen Skakalski. The data contained in this report are the direct feedback of participants engaged in a statewide outreach process carried out between August 2018 and January 2019 that was designed to gather input on the needs and priorities of Maine farmers. The framework of those discussions and this report was organized in accordance with the 2013 Strategic Plan of the Agricultural Council of Maine (AGCOM).

Information in the report is strictly data with minimal interpretation. The next step in this initiative is for industry representatives to review the report, to identify themes that are representative of and broadly applicable to Maine’s diverse farming community, and to prioritize action items relevant to economic sustainability. Once identified, these unifying themes can serve as the basis for further program and policy development work that benefits Maine farms and businesses.

There are three formats of the final report available: the executive summary; the report; and the report with appendices, which includes all of the feedback that was contributed throughout this process.


Spruce Mountain Wins State Envirothon

AUGUSTA - The Spruce Mountain Envirothon Program had a busy two days on May 31 and June 1. 

The three teams from Spruce Mountain took 1st, 2nd, and 5th at the Maine Envirothon State Championship on Friday, then spent most of Saturday on the roads and in the woods conducting a community watershed survey with a group of local volunteers and community officials.  Envirothon Advisor Rob Taylor said, “It was a very hectic but rewarding 48 hours. This is such a great group of kids to work with!”

The Envirothon State Finals were held at the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM) Nature Center in Augusta, a fairly new facility that is being developed by SAM.  Teams competed near a trout pond, surrounded by woods and fields of clover that support local deer and wildlife populations, with a pair of osprey circling overhead tending to their brood in a huge nest on a power pole.

“It was a beautiful day on a great site for the competition,” said Taylor. 

Envirothon is a competition involving outdoor field tests Aquatic Ecology, Soils, Forestry, Wildlife, and this year’s Current Issue, Agricultural Technology.  Each area is scored on a 100-point scale, for a total of 500 points.  The tests are very challenging.  Last summer at the National Conservation Foundation Envirothon in Idaho, team member Orion Schwab remarked, “I think the tests in Maine were harder than the ones we had in Idaho.”  This year’s Maine Envirothon was equally challenging. 

Spruce Mountain Team 1 won the event with a score of 416.09.  The all-senior Spruce Mountain Team 1 qualified for the National Conservation Foundation Envirothon at North Carolina State University from July 28 - August 2.  Spruce Mountain Team 2 took second with a score of 405.57. Belfast H.S. Team 1 took third place with a score of 391.23.

Maine State Envirothon Champions Spruce Mountain Team 1:  Advisor Rob Taylor, Hunter Quirrion, Gabby Beaudoin, Natalie Luce, Orion Schwab, John Brenner.

Maine State Envirothon Champions Spruce Mountain Team 1: Advisor Rob Taylor, Hunter Quirrion, Gabby Beaudoin, Natalie Luce, Orion Schwab, John Brenner.

Workshop Explores Woodland Management with Birds in Mind

SKOWHEGAN – In spring Maine woodlands fill with the songs and colors of warblers, thrushes and other forest songbirds. 

Unfortunately, populations of our woodland birds are in decline.  For some species, the declines are as great as 80 percent over the last four decades, and the number of species is declining as well. Woodland owners and managers are key to halting these declines and ensuring that our forest songbirds remain a familiar facet of spring.

Yellow-rumped warbler, J. Brockway 2019

Yellow-rumped warbler, J. Brockway 2019

Landowners, foresters and loggers interested in learning how they can support Maine’s forest songbirds are invited to attend a Forestry for Maine Birds workshop from 9 AM to Noon, Saturday, June 22.  The workshop will be held at Somerset County Cooperative Extension office, 7 County Dr. in Skowhegan, and on the adjacent Yankee Woodlot Demonstration Forest.

Forestry for Maine Birds (FFMB) is a new approach to integrating bird conservation with forest management and planning.  In the workshop, participants will learn how to:

·         Improve habitat for priority forest birds and a variety of other wildlife species,

·         Take care of their woodlands,

·         Work with other forest management goals, and

·         Enhance the value and enjoyment of Maine woodlands for many generations to come.

The majority of the workshop will be outdoors in the Yankee Woodlot, providing an opportunity to see how physical features – from rotting trees to dense vegetation – provide important habitat that can be enhanced through woodland management choices.  Workshop instructors are Amanda Mahaffey, Northeast Region Director of the Forest Stewards Guild and Sally Stockwell, Director of Conservation at Maine Audubon.  This workshop has been approved for 2.5 Category 1 CFE credits.

This FFMB workshop is co-hosted by Somerset County SWCD and Piscataquis County SWCD in partnership with Forest Stewards Guild, Maine Audubon, Maine Forest Service and Maine Woodland Owners - Upper Kennebec Valley Chapter.  The event is free but space is limited and advanced registration is required.  To sign up or for more information, contact Jennifer Brockway, Somerset County SWCD, at 207-679-7306 or somersetswcd.outreach@gmail.com

More information about the Forestry for Maine Birds approach may be found online at https://www.maineaudubon.org/projects/forestry-for-maine-birds/.

header photo: yellow warbler, J. Brockway 2019

New logo celebrates Somerset County natural resources

SKOWHEGAN – When Somerset County Soil & Water Conservation District decided to update its logo, it had a good sense of where to look.

Knowing the vibrancy of the region’s arts community, the District worked with Mary Haley at Main Street Skowhegan and Wesserunsett Arts Council to craft a call for submissions for a logo design contest.  The contest yielded a host of submissions from all around the region.

“It was remarkable to see the different creative expressions of our conservation mission,” says Jennifer Brockway, the District’s outreach coordinator.  “We provided guidance on desired elements, and the participating artists showed tremendous diversity in their designs.”

In April, a design submitted by Crista Lavenson of Belgrade was selected as the winner.

SWCD final.jpg

Lavenson is Marketing & Communications Manager at the Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCA of Greater Waterville at the Alfond Youth Center. The versatile logo will be used across all District publications and materials, as well as online and on hats and t-shirts.

“We are really pleased with the whole process. The District’s intent with the redesign of the logo was to create an image that was reflective of Somerset County’s diverse natural resources and agricultural producers,” says Joe Dembeck, the District’s executive director. “As a District, we are a locally focused organization that focuses on providing assistance to address local natural resource management needs; therefore, a logo representing this focus was considered to be important.”

The new logo and information about the District’s programs and services may be found online at www.SomersetSWCD.org and on the District’s Facebook page.  For more information phone 207-474-8323 x3 or email somersetswcd.outreach@gmail.com .

Newport designer takes bird conservation program to new heights

SKOWHEGAN – It is almost time for grassland birds to return to Somerset County, and a collaborative project at Somerset County Soil & Water Conservation District is gearing up for a third season of fledgling success stories. 

 The District’s Ag Allies project works with landowners across the state to include grassland bird nesting opportunities in the management of open lands.  And thanks to a recent collaboration with Jim Miller of Miller Signs & Graphics of Newport, the project has a new logo.

 Featuring a bobolink, an iconic sight in hayfields each spring, the logo was the winning entry in the District’s recent logo design contest.  The logo will be used on all project materials, including a new sign recognizing participating landowners.  

AgAllies color.jpg

 “The new Ag Allies logo helps to provide recognition and unity to farmers and landowners who are working with the program to integrate nesting habitat with forage and recreational needs of their grasslands,” says Laura Suomi-Lecker, Somerset County SWCD technical coordinator. 

 Bobolinks, meadowlarks, and sparrow species - which are suffering rapid population declines - require undisturbed hayfields for nesting.  Hay harvesting occurs earlier and more frequently in recent decades, often coinciding with the nesting period.  Fields not used for forage production are often cut during nesting timeframe, too.  Thus, the human impact on grassland bird breeding success is significant and results in widespread nesting failure across much of Maine’s habitat each year.

Through Ag Allies, Suomi-Lecker provides field managers and landowners across the state the technical support needed to make best-fit management changes that give grassland birds the opportunity for nesting success.  In 2018, more than 450 acres were enrolled in the program, including lands managed by dairy, beef, horse and sheep farmers, land trusts, and non-agricultural landowners.  The project received several national grants for this year’s work, including The Cornell Lab - Land Trust Bird Conservation Initiative, Blake-Nuttall Fund of the Nuttall Ornithological Club, and the William P. Wharton Trust.

To learn more about the project and how to participate, contact the Somerset SWCD at 207-474-8323 x3, email info@somersetswcd.org or visit www.SomersetSWCD.org.

Conservation District Announces 2019 Outstanding Farmer Award

SKOWHEGAN – The Somerset County Soil & Water Conservation District is pleased to announce that Tim Hewett of Skowhegan has been named the 2019 Outstanding Farmer.

Skowhegan Farmer Tim Hewett, 2019 Outstanding Farmer, with helper Kadin.  Laura Suomi-Lecker photo.

Skowhegan Farmer Tim Hewett, 2019 Outstanding Farmer, with helper Kadin. Laura Suomi-Lecker photo.

Tim grew up on a dairy farm and has been running his own diversified farm in Skowhegan for 30 years, producing and selling hay, corn, cattle, compost, maple syrup and wood.  Tim is constantly re-defining his farming operation, with an eye to adding diversity and improving sustainability on his farm. 

 “Tim’s attitude of stewardship and care of the land shine through in his farm management,” says Laura Suomi-Lecker, technical director at Somerset SWCD. “He has found a way to balance his financial needs with the health of the land, creating a sustainable operation that will serve him as well as future generations.”

 Tim was the first to sign up in 2014 for a Somerset SWCD project with USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) providing financial and technical assistance to landowners to add cover crops and reduce tillage on their farms.  After that initial project, Tim continued to focus on soil health on his farm, experimenting with his cover cropping, no till and crop rotation strategies.  Tim also manages his woodland and is slated to do a crop tree release for improved forest stand health. 

 In 2018, Tim became a first-time participant in the Somerset SWCD’s Ag Allies grassland bird project.  The program works with farmers managing fields with high grassland bird populations, such as bobolinks, where hay harvest can be delayed until after the young have fledged in early July.  Tim enrolled a 30-acre field in the program, allowing large groups of bobolinks as well as savannah sparrows to be successfully reared in the field. 

 “You have to be open to trying new things,” says Tim. “What I like about farming, is that you can always try to make it better, and that is what makes it interesting.  If you can make it better after you make a mistake, then you are happy.”

 The Outstanding Farmer and Outstanding Woodland Owner awards will be presented at the Somerset County SWCD Annual Dinner at 6 PM Thursday, April 25 at the Canaan Farmers Hall.  Maine Dept. of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioner Amanda Beal is scheduled to speak at the event, which also includes a locally sourced dinner prepared by Radici Cucina of Skowhegan.  Seating is limited and tickets must be purchased by April 18 at the SWCD office located at 70 East Madison Road in Skowhegan.  A ticket mail order form is available online at www.SomersetSWCD.org.  For more information, phone 207-474-8323 x 3 or email somersetswcd.outreach@gmail.com.  

 

Conservation District Announces Woodland Owners of the Year

Bob and Mary Burr of Mercer are the 2019 Woodland Owners of the Year at Somerset County Soil & Water Conservation District. The award will be presented at the SWCD Annual Dinner, April 25 at Canaan Farmers Hall. Contributed photo.

Bob and Mary Burr of Mercer are the 2019 Woodland Owners of the Year at Somerset County Soil & Water Conservation District. The award will be presented at the SWCD Annual Dinner, April 25 at Canaan Farmers Hall. Contributed photo.

SKOWHEGAN – The Somerset County Soil & Water Conservation District is pleased to announce that Mary and Bob Burr of Blue Ribbon Farm, Mercer, are the 2019 Outstanding Woodland Owners.

The Burrs have been actively managing their woodlands since 1976 and have been part of the Tree Farm family for more than 40 years.  Through the years they have had a variety of commercial timber harvests, annually harvested firewood, thinned stands, and improved the complexity of wildlife habitat on the property.  Some of these efforts have been conducted with assistance of USDA-NRCS contracts while others have been performed on their own initiative.

While they work in their woods in all seasons, they particularly enjoy being active in the fall.  Bob’s love for the forest began in the 1960s when he was working for Jim and Sandra Pottle in Perry; the Pottles twice won the Maine Tree Farmer of the Year award.  

 In addition to the management activities conducted by the Burrs, they have also sponsored several forestry workshops organized by Maine Woodland Owners.  The Burrs have been ardent supporters of the organization for years, attending the annual meeting and potluck.  They have sponsored that event the last two years at their restaurant, 122 Corson.

 The Outstanding Woodland Owners and Outstanding Farmer awards will be presented at the Somerset County Soil & Water Conservation District Annual Dinner at 6 PM Thursday, April 25 at the Canaan Farmers Hall.  Maine Dept. of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioner Amanda Beal is scheduled to speak at the event, which also includes a locally sourced dinner prepared by Radici Cucina of Skowhegan.  Seating is limited and tickets must be purchased by April 18 at the SWCD office located at 70 East Madison Road in Skowhegan.  A ticket mail order form is available online at www.SomersetSWCD.org.  For more information, phone 207-474-8323 x 3 or email somersetswcd.outreach@gmail.com.   

Calling All Creatives! Logo Contest Deadline Extended

We are excited to announce that the deadline for submissions has been extended 2 weeks! Please submit your designs no later than Friday, March 15.

The Somerset County Soil & Water Conservation District is pleased to announce we are looking for not one but two new logos in 2019!

Recognizing the strong creative community of Somerset County, we seek submissions from the public for: a new logo for the organization, and for the first-ever logo for our Ag Allies Grassland Bird Project.

The winning Ag Allies logo will be used on publications, digital media and signage that relate to our grassland bird project launched in 2016.  Visit the Ag Allies Project page on our Web site to learn more about this growing program and the farmers and grassland birds it supports.

The new organization logo will be used on our digital media, letterhead, publications, and staff clothing and should therefore represent Somerset SWCD’s work to increase good stewardship of our natural resources. More information about our work may be found on our Web site and Facebook page.

The Somerset County SWCD will award a $250 honorarium to the creator of each winning logo in appreciation for the contribution to our work and community. Full contest details may be downloaded here.

There is no limit to the number of entries you may submit, but entries must be submitted no later than March 15, 2019. The Somerset SWCD staff and Board of Supervisors will select the winning entries. For more information, contact Jennifer at 207-679-7306 or by email at somersetswcd.outreach@gmail.com.