FARMINGTON – The Hope Harvest Community Garden has recently received a grant from Western Mountains Fund of the Maine Community Foundation. The grant will make it possible to expand the garden and make it easier for community volunteers to help at the garden. Produce is donated to the area’s eight food pantries.

The 40-by-80-foot garden on the grounds of Franklin Memorial Hospital was started last year. It produces fresh vegetables for the food pantries in Franklin County and is a collaborative project between Healthy Community Coalition, University of Maine Cooperative Extension staff and Master Gardeners, Franklin Memorial Hospital and Western Maine Community Action.

During its first year, more than 175 volunteers were involved and more than 2,200 pounds of produce was harvested.

As good as the first year was, it had some trials to pass too. Watering the garden took at least an hour and two volunteers and watering supplies were not readily available when the ambulance crew was out as they were stored in the locked ambulance garage.

The garden crew questioned if they had planted what the food pantry clients wanted and they found that the tomatoes did not have enough space to grow well and be harvested easily.

“We want to make the garden as volunteer friendly as we can,” said Barbara Marshall, the inspiration behind the garden. “This grant from the Western Mountains Fund of the Maine Community Foundation will help fix these concerns.”

The funds will be used to help pay for a drip irrigation system for the garden, a shed that will be built to store supplies, questionnaires that will be distributed to food pantry clients and the garden will be expanded.

In addition to the improvements, a garden will be started at Blueberry Hill Apartments to further expand the communities’ access to fresh produce and knowledge of gardening.

The grant makes it possible to have the shed made by Foster Technical students. Other students at Foster Tech will help at the garden and with growing seedlings.

The goal of the project is to raise awareness of food pantries’ needs and to increase access to fresh produce by pantry clients.

Last year the garden met this goal and also served as a learning tool for the community. Young volunteers and novice gardeners were able to learn more about gardening before trying it on their own. Experienced gardeners shared expertise and learn different techniques.

Anyone interested in learning more about natural pest management, drip irrigation, and other gardening issues is welcome to participate, as well as experienced gardeners who have knowledge to share. Groups and individuals are welcome to volunteer in the garden.

For more information about Hope Harvest Community Garden, contact Eileen Liddy at 645-3136, ext. 5113.

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