Students create garden to feed community

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PARIS – When students at the Streaked Mountain School decided to design a raised garden that would help feed their fellow students and the community, they got inspiration from a photo taken in Italy.

“It seems that whenever people see that photo, they love it, and that’s how it affected our students,” said teacher Jason Trask of a picture showing an elaborate vegetable garden that uses triangle-shaped raised beds. “We decided we would model the center of our garden on that one; hence the four triangles in the center of our garden.”

Students at the former one-room schoolhouse in Norway met with the Oxford Hills School District Board of Directors recently to show them what they had in mind. The project is being built on the Fair Street side of the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.

Twelve raised beds will be made out of 2- by-12-inch hemlock boards with four in the center constructed in triangular shape.

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Tucker Derstine, who presented the project to the school board along with other members of the morning and afternoon classes at the school, told the board that their education in gardening began last fall at the LolliePapa Farm in West Paris. They learned to prepare the ground for planting, pull up and take care of plants at the end of the season and preserve crops for harvesting in the spring.

The students planted seedlings in the classroom. Ultimately, the plan is to provide food to the school’s lunch program and the Norway Farmer’s Market.

Don Baldridge of LolliePapa Farm in West Paris, whose daughter Vanessa Greeley teaches in the classroom, said he became involved with the project as a longtime advocate of growing food locally.

“We need to put actions in where our mouths have been running,” said Baldridge, who along with his wife, Jeanette, have been dedicated to teaching young people about the benefits of local food.

With the help of high school head custodian Bud Raymond, the students were told where the best place for the sun will be, where the water source is, where the sun rises and sets as well as lawn mowing issues.

The students told the board they also worked with Barbara Murphy of the Masters Gardeners Program, Kate Goldberg and Ken Morse of Healthy Oxford Hills to get information about soil, specific plants needs and other community resources. Donations of seeds, lumber, compost and other necessities were donated. Others have expressed their willingness to provide support through the summer when the students will take turns to make sure the garden thrives through the summer.

“We have a lot of support,” said Derstine, adding the students planned the project to gain respect, give something back to the community, eat better, have an experiential learning lesson and educate themselves in the production of the food they eat. “Hopefully this will work out the way we want it to,” he said.

Ariana Johnson, a junior in the class, said the garden project has done more for her than just supply fresh home grown food.

“I’m making new friends,” said Johnson, who moved from Virginia a year ago. “We’re all doing this together.”

Johnson said because it is a small class, the students can go at their own pace.

“They give us a chore then they trust us we can do things,” she said.

Mike Henderson said the project is “hands-on learning” and gets them out of the classroom.

“It’s better than doing book work,” he said with a broad smile.

School board member Bill Hangar, who along with other board members praised the students for their work, has asked that the group report in the fall on their success.

Students who have been involved in the garden project since the beginning of the year include Nick Allen, Tim Button, Tucker Derstine, Ariana Johnson, Michael Henderson and Natasha Kaufmann. Also, Josh Lizotte, Samantha Lobozzo, Kyle Maberry, Allyson Phinney, Asher White, Morgan Wormwood, Seth Zupokfska.

ldixon@sunjournal.com

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