2013-10-18 / Front Page

Extension wins big at fair

By Sean P. Milligan
Contributing Writer

CUMBERLAND – The Maine Cooperative Extension won best in show for its exhibit at the 2013 Cumberland County Fair, which was held Sept. 22-29. The group of master gardener volunteers from the Maine Cooperative Extension chose the theme of “What’s in your backyard?” for this year’s presentation.

The 30-foot by 10-foot exhibit had many materials that highlighted programs offered by the extension, such as a raised vegetable bed, a compost bin, bird feeders and birdhouses, as well as a poultry display. Windows were set up to create the illusion that the observer was looking into their own backyard.

“This year we decided we wanted to do a theme of ‘What’s in your backyard?’ to show people all the different things that are in your backyard that are essentially gardening and green,” said Kelly Ash, a Cape Elizabeth writer, photographer and horticulturalist who completed the extension’s Master Gardener program in 2009. “We wanted to show how your backyard is an ecosystem and everything works together.”

The same core group of volunteers from the Maine Cooperative Extension has been working together for the past few years, collaborating on their submissions to the fair’s horticultural exhibits. The group, which consisted of Ash, Clark Whittier, Charlene Brogan, and extension staff member, Diana Hibbart, felt a long-awaited sense of accomplishment winning the award.

“It certainly makes us feel, all that hard work, somebody has recognized it,” said Hibbard, home horticulture coordinator at the Maine Cooperative Extension. “There was a lot of good educational stuff going on in there.”

The Maine Cooperative Extension, which has been in existence more than 90 years, has an office in all 16 counties in the state and works in conjunction with the University of Maine.

The publicly funded organization functions as an educational agency that offers classes on everything from gardening to beekeeping to nutrition. The extension offers research-driven, community-centered classes that focus on a healthy, sustainable future for Maine. The agency also offers information on wildlife to Maine residents that aren’t involved with direct instruction.

“The community tax dollars actually pay for the services and we have a lot of free services and free education,” Hibbard said. “We try to instruct people and help them the best we can with anything from their yards to their business ventures.”

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