December 15, 2016

Growing a Partnership

As part of a growing partnership with teachers in the local community, Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust (formerly Damariscotta River Association) has provided space for Great Salt Bay School (GSB) students to start and maintain a garden at Coastal Rivers’ Round Top Farm on Business Route 1. Over the past several months, students and teachers have been working with GSB’s Agriculture Coordinator Margaret Coleman and Twin Villages Foodbank Farm Manager Sara Cawthon to get a 1,200-square foot garden plot at Round Top ready for winter and in good condition for the 2017 gardening season.

After breaking ground last summer, the gardeners planted a mix of oats, peas, and vetch to serve as a cover crop, helping to build the soil and combat weeds. Then in November, Chris Coleman’s GSB fourth graders helped plant garlic over half of the area. The rest of the plot will stay in cover crop until spring.

“Everything grown in GSB’s Round Top Garden will be used by the GSB community, or donated to food pantries in the area,” said Coleman. “Plans are in the works for spring crops and further educational opportunities, along with potential expansion of the garden area itself. The Round Top plot will also serve as a demonstration garden, highlighting work the Foodbank Farm is already doing at the DRA headquarters on Belvedere Road.”

The garden plot is located behind the former ice cream shack at Round Top, within easy walking distance from GSB.

“I understand that there is work being done to create a walking path all the way from the Shell Middens, which are directly across from the school,” Coleman added. “This will allow students and teachers to walk safely, and off the road, to get to the Farmer’s Market, and to their own garden plot.”

According to Coastal Rivers Executive Director Steven Hufnagel, creating easy access from GSB to Round Top Farm is one of several important features of the project.

“What could be more exciting than giving students an opportunity like the gardening program for hands-on learning?” Hufnagel said. “It teaches skills and strengthens curricular learning from math to life science to economics. We’re delighted to support it, not only by offering land, but also by constructing a trail connecting the school to Round Top Farm. Kudos to the staff and leadership of GSB for putting the ‘community’ into Great Salt Bay Community School!”

Growing Food Security and Community Connections

GSB also has several garden spaces located on its own school grounds, which Coleman oversees with the help and involvement of as many students as possible.

“GSB students take on much of the responsibility of working with me to plan these spaces, order seeds, maintain soil health, and start seedlings in the classroom under grow lights,” she explained. “They also sign up to work with me over the summer to keep the gardens weeded, watered, and harvested.”

In the spring and fall, GSB classes use the gardens to observe, plant, harvest, taste, and learn. During the winter months, Coleman works with grades K-4, starting seedlings and growing microgreens and shoots for in-class seeding, harvesting, and eating.

Coleman believes the number of students involved in the gardens will increase as a result of Coastal Rivers’ support for the Twin Villages Foodbank Farm and GSB’s gardeners.

“Sara and I are collaborating with Coastal Rivers to increase understanding and awareness about food security and help forge a lasting connection between community service and locally grown food.”

The GSB gardens, including the new Round Top plot, are managed with organic and sustainable practices whenever possible, and no chemical fertilizers or pesticides are used.

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