A series of planter boxes were installed along Lisbon Street on Thursday by Healthy Androscoggin, whose program “Edible Lisbon Street” will bring fresh vegetables and herbs to people downtown. 

LEWISTON — Don’t be surprised next week to see fresh produce growing along the downtown sidewalk.

A project from the nonprofit Healthy Androscoggin called “Edible Lisbon Street” will place 10 planters in a three-block section of Lisbon Street starting Friday, with seedlings set to go in next week. 

The idea is to showcase the local agricultural community while also promoting healthy eating habits. Local businesses have partnered with the organization to sponsor a planter, and will be responsible for watering and looking after it during the growing season. 

Once the vegetables and herbs are ready, anyone walking by can pluck a garden favorite of their choice.  

Katie Boss, health promotion manager for Healthy Androscoggin, said Wednesday that Healthy Main Street programs are a trend that’s catching on nationwide. 

The project is modeled after a similar Edible Main Street program in the town of Norway that began in 2015. Since then, another similar endeavor has begun in Westbrook. 

“It’s something we heard about, and with such a rich agricultural community surrounding Lewiston, we thought it was a great way to attract attention to not only healthy eating and gardening, but also all these great farms that are around us,” Boss said Wednesday. 

According to the group, there are more than 80 production farms in Androscoggin County. 

The planters were scheduled to be placed on the street Thursday, and “coming soon” signs will be displayed during Friday’s L/A Arts art walk. The group is hoping that by the June 16 art walk there will be visible stems and shoots popping up.

A number of local farms have donated the seeds and soil for each planter. The items that will be growing include kale, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, cauliflower, celery, Swiss chard, onions, garlic scapes and herbs like basil and mint.  

Boss said the group is impressed with the breadth of items donated by the farms. The only criteria they received was that Lisbon Street does not receive sunlight all day. 

“Our goal with this project is to create access to free local produce, raise awareness about our rich agricultural community, and connect businesses and the entire L-A community through learning about and eating fresh healthy food,” Executive Director Erin Guay said. “We have been stunned by the outpouring of support from the L-A community to make this project possible.” 

Boss said the group is happy with the local business “buy-in,” hoping that it can also alleviate any concerns for possible vandalism of the planters. She said everyone involved thought the project was worth trying regardless of its vulnerable nature. 

The three-block section will stretch from Pine to Main streets. The planters will be placed according to proximity to their respective business caretakers, making it easier for them to keep a watchful eye. 

“It will be an interesting test to see if we can pull it off without having anything happen,” Boss said. 

Another partner in the project is Maine SNAP-Ed, a nutrition education organization which has also been involved with the other Edible Main Street projects in Maine.

Food insecurity remains an issue in Lewiston, with more than 95 percent of students enrolled in Lewiston Public Schools eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, based on family income. 

Local businesses have also been donating funds and other items toward the project. Businesses such as Home Depot and Tractor Supply Co. donated watering cans, hay and soil. Lowe’s Home Improvement in Auburn donated materials, built and painted four of the planters. 

Boss described it as “sort of mix between galvanizing the local business community, raising awareness about farms in the greater Androscoggin area and providing a little access to fresh fruits and vegetables.”  

A statement on Healthy Androscoggin’s Facebook page last week said, “We’re blown away by the community energy around this project and the generosity of so many local organizations.” 

The participating businesses include Chill Yoga, Forage Market, Mogadishu Business Center, Mother India, Quiet City Books/Ben’s Burritos, Rinck Advertising, The Hive, The Vault, and Kimball Street Studios.

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