NORWAY — The Maine Commission for Community Service has awarded a $30,000 grant to the Oxford Hills School District to create a vegetable garden at the Roberts Farm Preserve.

The school district was one of two in the state to be awarded a Learn and Serve grant. The Sanford School Department will also receive almost $30,000 over two years to expand the use of service-learning as a teaching method.

Pat Carson, Oxford Hills School District health coordinator, said the Roberts Farm Service Learning Project garden will directly supply food to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Maine Harvest for Hunger program. It is expected to produce some 20,000 pounds of vegetables for local families.

One in four families in the school district face “food insecurity issues,” Carson said. The project aims to teach students about sustainable living and the benefits of giving back to their communities, he said.

Work on the garden is expected to begin in the spring.

“We’re really just in the planning stages,” Carson said. Some students will to go to the farm to work on the garden in May, June and through the summer. Students in the Oxford Hills Technical School forestry program will clear the land.

Students system wide will be involved in the project in one form or another, he said.

Carson said the first year of the grant will support class initiatives at the farm, including transportation for forestry students to get to the farm on Roberts Road off Route 117. Money will also be used for a video documentary of the gardening process.

A greenhouse will be available for preseason programs, and mini grants will be awarded to teachers for programs they want to develop to go along with the farm garden.

Carson envisions a classroom learning area, nature trails and other initiatives in the future.

“We really hope that down the road it’s an educational site for students,” he said.

He said the grant is a two-way partnership between the school district and the Western Foothills Land Trust. “The land trust gave us really free use of the 4-acre farmstead.”

Lee Dassler of the Western Foothills Land Trust, which oversees the 150-acre Roberts Farm development, said she was excited about the program. The 4-acre parcel, of which 1 acre will be a garden, is near the Roberts farmhouse and the former chicken barns.

Learn & Serve Maine is managed by the Maine Commission for Community Service and funded jointly by the Corporation for National & Community Service and Time Warner Cable.

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