Growing strong


FARMINGTON – A lack of sun recently hasn’t dampened the efforts of volunteers at the Hope Harvest Community Garden. The garden is located on Franklin Memorial Hospital property on Routes 2 and 4.

A few items have already been harvested and sent to the Care and Share Food Closet in Farmington and the Wilton Food Pantry, said coordinator Eileen Liddy of the Healthy Community Coalition. Once more produce is harvested, vegetables also will be sent to seven area food closets.

“It’s early, but we’ve harvested some salad greens, lettuce and garlic scapes,” she said. Garlic scapes are a curly portion of the seed pod that is cut off when the plant tries to go to seed. They do this, she said, so that the plant energy will go into the garlic bulb but the scapes can be chopped up and put in to salads and stir-frys and give a mild garlic flavor.

Volunteers tend the garden during open sessions held from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, she said. Other organizations and churches send volunteers to work at specific times, usually on Sundays.

A group of Upward Bound students will work in the garden on Monday, said Barb Marshall, a member of the team of coordinators, who along with Anthony LaBella were at the garden Thursday to work with any volunteers who showed up despite the rain.

New this year, Marshall said, is a time on Monday mornings when children are welcome to come help, but a parent needs to be with them.

Volunteers, she said, help weed and mulch with newspaper and straw to prevent weeds and help with preserve moisture. Once the plants start producing more, people who can’t bend to pick or weed help wash, bag and weigh the produce. The vegetables are weighed, she said, so that they can tell what grew well and to keep track of how much each food closet is given.

Last year, 180 volunteers were involved with the garden, Liddy said. Over 1,600 pounds of vegetables were realized from their efforts. We had lots of lettuce which doesn’t weigh much either, she said. In the three years of planting the garden, Liddy estimates that 4,800 pounds of food has been grown and given to the food closets.

“This year, we’re trying to grow cabbage and broccoli,” she said. “But there’s a four-footed critter that is helping themselves to it.”

A variety of vegetables are grown. Corn is not grown because it takes too much room and potatoes are not grown because of the bugs, she said.

A Maine Community Foundation grant received several years ago gave the garden a big boost, allowing good loam, peat moss and compost to be worked into the area. And it’s a good sunny spot, which helps, she said. The Western Maine Community Action Coalition and the Franklin County Cooperative Extension Service were also involved in the effort, Liddy said.

More volunteers are always wanted, she said, as the volunteers who have contributed and supported the garden are important.