Farming with kid-power

Posted by Sara Cawthon on
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Farming with kid-power

November 28, 2017

“I enjoyed harvesting beets and carrots. I learned there is a place that grows and gives produce to people who need it. It means a lot to me to be a part of it.”

So wrote Zoie Wells, a fifth grader at Great Salt Bay (GSB) Community School, in a handwritten note to Twin Villages Foodbank Farm Manager Sara Cawthon. Zoie’s note is affirming of the farm’s intent to work with students to foster a sense of community stewardship as well as a connection to the local growing season.

Twin Villages Foodbank Farm grows vegetables using organic growing practices on two acres of land, located at Damariscotta River Association’s (DRA’s) Great Salt Bay Farm. All the produce is donated to food pantries and other low-income food programs in Lincoln County.

Launched in 2016, the farm produced nearly 20,000 pounds of produce for four Lincoln County food pantries in its first season. This year, the farm has grown 30,000 pounds of produce, with deliveries to six area pantries and two youth programs each week. The farm will continue to make fresh food deliveries to area pantries until early December.

As early as last May, GSB’s Agriculture Coordinator, Margaret Coleman, began bringing students from 5th through 8th grade to the farm, where they spread compost, removed rocks, and transplanted seedlings. This fall, GSB returned with 5th and 6th graders to help bring in the harvest, resulting in over 2,000 pounds of carrots, beets, peppers and potatoes for donation.

Lincoln Academy Seniors came out for spring community service day and helped prepare sixteen 100-foot long beds for transplanting many spring crops. And almost every week throughout the summer, Damariscotta River Association’s summer campers visited the farm to help with harvesting, planting and weeding. All told, over 450 students and campers volunteered at the farm this season.

Additionally, FARMS Community Kitchen was on hand this fall offering field-cooked taste tests using seasonal recipes. While some students harvested and washed produce, others cooked outside under a tent, offering samples of fresh farm food to the volunteers.

TVFF will continuing to partner with GSB, Lincoln Academy, and FARMS, with plans to host even more students next spring.

TVFF partner Damariscotta River Association is a non-profit, membership supported, and nationally accredited land trust and conservation organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the natural, cultural, and historical heritage of the Damariscotta region, centered on the Damariscotta River. For more information, visit

Growing student gardeners at Round Top Farm

Posted by Sara Cawthon on
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Growing student gardeners at Round Top Farm

December 15, 2016

Growing a Partnership

As part of a growing partnership with teachers in the local community, Damariscotta River Association (DRA) has provided space for Great Salt Bay School (GSB) students to start and maintain a garden at DRA’s 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 DRA 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 the DRA’s support for the Twin Villages Foodbank Farm and GSB’s gardeners.

“Sara and I are collaborating with the DRA 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.

Brawny Broccoli!

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Brawny Broccoli!

July 25, 2016

Judging by the size of the broccoli, Twin Villages Foodbank Farm has some good, rich soil to work with. Farm Manager Sara Cawthon reports that despite a dry summer, the vegetables are thriving. Cawthon and volunteers have been kept busy harvesting crisp lettuces, kale, vibrant Swiss chard, mini cabbages, beets, squash and broccoli.

Thanks to the community and individual donors, the farm has been making regular deliveries to the Ecumenical Food Pantry in Newcastle, St. Philip’s Church Food Pantry in Wiscasset, the Jefferson Area Food Bank, and the Open Door Café in Damariscotta, with hopes to expand to other programs in neighboring towns in the 2017 growing season.

The Ecumenical Food Pantry is very happy to replace some of the “tired” donations of produce with fresh-picked vegetables from the farm. The food pantry in Wiscasset isn’t equipped to store much produce, so is grateful to receive a delivery of lush greens each week, timed to arrive just prior to the pantry’s hours of operation.  The Jefferson Area Food Bank has recently expanded their efforts and hours and uses TVFF produce to meet their growing needs.  

Twin Villages Foodbank Farm has been focused on building infrastructure to meet on-farm and area needs. Paul Kelsey of Reilly Well Drilling quickly fit the farm into his busy schedule to drill a new well in July, and geophysicist Chris Covel volunteered his time to find the best location for the well on the property.  

Additionally, TVFF just installed a large walk-in cooler to accommodate farm needs as well as provide extra storage for pantries.  There are times when donations of cold stored items exceed a pantry’s capacity to hold them, and pantries end up having to decline donations.  Extra cold storage space at TVFF ensures that produce doesn’t go to waste, and a steady supply is available to food pantries.

Twin Villages Foodbank Farm operates on a modification of the popular Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model. This variation on the CSA model allows individuals, families and businesses to purchase a symbolic farm share which will then be donated for distribution to Lincoln County pantries. These sponsored farm shares are available for purchase at different levels. Full shares for $300 will “Feed a Family,” providing enough food to feed a family of four with a full season’s harvest of varied produce. A half share for $150 will “Feed a Couple” and $75 will “Feed an Individual.” Of course, donations of any size are most welcome.

The farm’s goal over the next couple of seasons is to reach 175 donated CSA shares annually to sustain the operation.  TVFF plans to expand in coming seasons to produce over 40,000 pounds of nutrient-dense produce for donation each year.

The Damariscotta River Association serves as fiscal sponsor and provides land for the farm, which is located at DRA’s Great Salt Bay Farm. For more information or to purchase a CSA, please contact Sara at

DRA Fields to Feed the Hungry

Posted by Sara Cawthon on
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DRA Fields to Feed the Hungry

November 29, 2015

The summer of 2016 brings renewed agricultural life to Damariscotta River Association’s Great Salt Bay Farm, which is host to Megan Taft and Sara Cawthon’s newly established Twin Villages Foodbank Farm. As part of a regional effort to address hunger in Midcoast Maine, two acres of DRA’s Great Salt Bay Farm will be cultivated to grow crops for distribution at the Ecumenical Food Pantry and other Lincoln County pantries and low-income food programs.

Twin Villages Foodbank Farm is the culmination of on-going conversations among the DRA, local farmers and regional partners including Lincoln County Food Council, FARMS, the Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program, and the Ecumenical Food Pantry.

Cultivating the fields at DRA’s Great Salt Bay Farm honors the history of the farm by returning a portion of the land back to active agricultural production, while significantly increasing access to fresh, local produce for families from our neighboring communities. The opportunity to reestablish crop production at the farm is a powerful reminder that the health of our lands, water and people are closely linked.

Cawthon and Taft first approached the DRA with the idea of cultivating a foodbank farm after visiting the Ecumenical Food Pantry and talking with other regional partners about the need for increasing the availability and quality of fresh foods to regional food pantries. It was clear that while effort is made to provide families with fresh produce, additional work is needed to provide an adequate supply of fresh, nutritious foods. Twin Villages Foodbank Farm will produce a diverse mix of fresh vegetables which will provide over 20,000 pounds of nutritionally dense produce this season.

One and a half acres have already been prepared at the farm, and cold weather crop seedlings are thriving in a Unity College greenhouse, to be planted in late April. Start-up funding has been received in the form of two grants, one from the Horizon Foundation and the other from the Quimby Family Foundation. Additionally, individual supporters are stepping up to contribute funds to the farm through sponsored “CSA Shares.”

The farm will operate on a modification of the popular Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model, where individuals, families and businesses can purchase a farm share which would then be donated for distribution to Lincoln County pantries. These sponsored farm shares are available for purchase at different levels. Full shares for $300 will “Feed a Family,” providing a family of four with a full season’s harvest of varied produce. A half share for $150 will “Feed a Couple.”

DRA Executive Director Steven Hufnagel notes, “We are thrilled to provide the space and organizational support for such capable farmers to address a pressing problem in our community. DRA lands serve the region and its people in so many ways, and we’ve played a role in promoting local agriculture through our conservation activities, but this project couldn’t be more direct or tangible in its benefits.”

Cawthon and Taft have a wide range of agricultural experiences in New England and the Midwest. They have operated their own CSA farm, founded and worked for a growers’ cooperative supporting disadvantaged farmers, helped start a beginner farm incubator, and have worked with several educational food and farm programs.

Cawthon holds a Master of Science degree from Antioch University in Environmental Studies with a focus on agriculture and has most recently served as the Bowdoin College Organic Garden Manager. Taft holds a Master in Education degree in Social Justice Education with a concentration in Food Justice and Access.

For questions or more information about Twin Villages Foodbank Farm email TVFF at