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Yarmouth garden feeds the community, educates children

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Yarmouth garden feeds the community, educates children

YARMOUTH — The economy has prompted some people to grow their own vegetables, but those involved with the Yarmouth Community Garden also participate for educational purposes, a sense of community and the opportunity to help those in need.

Marjorie Stone, rental plot coordinator, said the economy may be part of the reason for the growth she has seen since last year, but most gardeners enjoy the educational benefits for their children and the community atmosphere they experience.

"The people who participate in the garden say even more than the tough times, it is an opportunity to teach their children, a chance to give back to the community and a way to build friendships," Stone said.

Since its inception in 2003, the garden's 25 rental plots have increased to 145. Stone said there are three sections: a renters garden with 100-square-foot plots, a community plot that raises food for those in need, and a children's garden to teach about gardening.

The renters section costs $25 for Yarmouth residents and $35 for non-residents. Stone said in addition to Yarmouth residents, some people come from North Yarmouth, Cumberland and Falmouth. The money helps underwrite stipends for three staff members and is used for gardening supplies. Stone said the garden is an independent financial entity, but is associated with the Yarmouth Community Services.

The Community Plot grows food for those in need. Stone said the goods donated in 2003 weighed almost 200 pounds, but by 2008, nearly 3,000 pounds of food were distributed to Yarmouth Food Pantry, Meals on Wheels, Bartlett Circle, the Falls Apartments and to individual families.

"Everything we grow in the Community Plot is weighed and reported to the Plant-a-Row for the Hungry organization," she said. "We are one of the largest contributors in Cumberland County."

The Children's Garden is in its third season and is dedicated to helping children learn how to grow flowers and vegetables. Christine Slader, the coordinator, said two eight-week programs – the Roots program for children ages 4 to 6, and Shoots program for children ages 6 to 9 – use games, songs and activities to teach about gardening and planting.

"I incorporate stories, art projects and gardening to teach the children about the idea of a community surrounding the garden," Slader said.

Slader said the Yarmouth library will set up a Story Walk using "The Sunflower House" by Eve Bunting in and around the garden this summer.  The book will be a way for Slader to teach the children an interdisciplinary unit on sunflowers using art by Vincent Van Gogh, reading poems about sunflowers, teaching them the anatomy of a sunflower and planting the flower.

The children also pick flowers and deliver them to area nursing homes, to people who are shut-in, or to their elderly relatives.

"We want to teach them how nurturing a garden can be, and teach them how to reach out to the community," Slader said.

In order to help community members throughout the year, Stone said she is in the process of applying for grants to extend the crop mix into the fall and winter months.

"People need fresh produce all year and we would like to help," she said. "We could work with the school system or the Food Pantry to store or freeze produce, that way people can benefit year round."

She said a root cellar or storage facility would be helpful to keep the potatoes, onions, beets and other vegetables that could be used throughout the winter.

"What is so great about this garden is the amount of new people renting each year," Stone said. "There is a sense of community that is unbelievable."

The Yarmouth Community Garden is on East Main Street, about a mile beyond Estabrook's and just before the Transfer Station, on the left.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net.