FARMINGTON — Stone Soup Gardens is offering small garden plots for free to community members interested in growing their own produce.

As part of their wellness program, Life Enrichment Advancing People Inc. has developed a garden area called Stone Soup Gardens on the Oliver House property off the Farmington Falls Road.

There’s not only garden plots available to share with others but exercise trails and an outdoor wellness center, LEAP Executive Director Darryl Wood said. The trail winds through an educational forest with a stream, wild flowers, apple trees and plenty of wildlife.

“There’s a little bit of something for everyone,” he said. “We decided to not develop the land but use it to give back to the greater Farmington community.”

An area near the gazebo will have raised beds on a cement pad providing better “accessibility for people with mobility impairments,” he said.

A bridge spans the ditch from the driveway, allowing wheelchair access to a gazebo and gardens.

A limited number of raised beds are available. There is also a large flat-ground plot where individuals can have a 10- by 10-foot or 10- by 20-foot plot, Wood said.

The garden is tilled and has been fertilized by a local farmer, he said.

Those interested in a free garden plot can call Wood at 778-3443, ext. 104, for more information.

Back in 2009, the University of Maine at Farmington joined LEAP in developing the Stone Soup Garden on the 40-acre property to help teach students, LEAP clients and others the nutritional and environmental benefits of eating local food through gardening and food preservation.

The roving fields, woodland and views created a goal to make it “an enjoyable outdoor educational space,” Wood said. Their employees, as well as the community, are also encouraged to use the space.

Fitness trails with exercise stations meander through the forest. There are custom-built fit stations along the trail. The five stations offer time for warm-up, strength training, aerobic exercise, and a cool-down or contemplation area for time to sit and enjoy the views, he said.

The trails offer some cool things like a rock spring, wildlife, large trees, apple trees and grape vines, Wood said.

Some LEAP employees, like Wood, volunteer regularly to make improvements on the property. Garden and trail development has received help from volunteers, some from the United Way of the Tri-Valley Area during their Days of Caring, some from UMF, the Boy Scouts, Forster Technology students and the community.

Grants including a Forest Canopy grant will help clear brush and prune apple trees — 50 discovered on the property so far, he said. Another 14 apples trees will be planted. Donations from community partners and LEAP fundraising have also helped, he said.

A grand opening of the fit trail is planned this fall to coincide with LEAP’s Run, Walk, Roll a Mile in My Shoes, a cross-country benefit race to raise awareness that people of all abilities can participate at their own level.

Some other thoughts for the property include making the forest more educational with tree ID signs, developing a cider mill and operating a farmers market run by LEAP and closer to Route 2. The entrance to the Oliver House is located across from the Falls Road Veterinary Clinic.

After LEAP purchased the property with an accessible ranch home in 1998, four nursing home residents moved in, he said.

A private, nonprofit organization, LEAP supports people with developmental, cognitive and intellectual disabilities. More information on LEAP can be found at www.leapcommunity.org.

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