AUBURN — The city of Auburn City Council recently approved the use of a vacant lot on Webster Street for a community garden. People in the neighborhood have expressed an interest in the project and came out to a recent Garden Open House to see the site and learn more.

Auburn residents will be invited to sign up as gardeners and will be assigned a 4- by 10-foot raised bed in the 2016 growing season. The goals of the project are to provide a safe and pleasant outdoor space for neighbors to gather and to grow food.

Work on the garden will begin this fall with the installation of a fence around the garden area and creating access to water. During the winter, the group plans to construct simple structures for the raised beds, and a shed. Come spring, work parties will be organized to install the beds, paths, entry garden, and irrigation. Other amenities, like benches and bulletin boards are expected to evolve with gardener input.

The project is a partnership of the City of Auburn, St. Mary’s Nutrition Center, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, and the Androscoggin Land Trust. The National Park Service is part of the team through a community assistance grant. Funding for the project so far includes grants from Community Development Block Grant, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, and the National Park Service.

Community gardens provide many benefits: foster community identity and spirit, reduce crime, grow food for people who need it, teach children to wonder and explore, build unlikely friendships, act as a sanctuary from urban life, help people eat healthfully and exercise, create beauty and bounty.

St. Mary’s Nutrition Center, the lead project partner, promotes community health through organizing, advocacy and education across the Androscoggin County area. The Nutrition Center works to build a sustainable regional food system by involving those affected by inadequate food access as partners and supporting area farms as an essential piece of the local economy. Core programming includes hands-on cooking, gardening, and nutrition education for all ages; community gardens for over 120 families of low-income; intensive job training programs for over 50 teens per year; year-round farmers’ markets; emergency food distribution 375 people weekly; and collaborative, community based assessment and planning activities.

FMI: 207-513-3848, [email protected]

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