Garden of delights: Yarmouth schools celebrate Harvest Week
YARMOUTH — On the first day of Maine Harvest Week, high school senior Sam Waxman could be found barefoot, with his pants legs rolled up, gathering heads of cabbage and cucumbers at the Yarmouth District Garden. The vegetables he harvests will be used as meals for students throughout the week.
"This is a good place to be," he said Monday.
Waxman works in the garden three days a week for a $1,000 stipend. He waters, weeds and harvests the vegetables and flowers growing in the garden. There are edible flowers, different types of lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, cabbage and Brussel sprouts, he said. Next, he said they hope to start composting.
"I've learned so much over the summer," he said.
Maine Harvest Week, part of the Farm-to-School Initiative, began Sept. 14. It is an educational program that promotes relationships between local farmers and fishermen, their products and the schools. It is a way to educate students about the advantages of eating locally grown, fresh foods.
Becki Schreiber, director of the Yarmouth school nutrition program, said she planned meals for students throughout the week that will highlight locally grown produce and local proteins.
Students will have Wolfe's Neck Farm hamburgers, local bean salads, a freshly picked salad bar, and salsa and pesto made with herbs and produce from the garden.
"We want to share the gardening experience with students and educate them about how to support local farmers," Schreiber said.
Walter Beesley, education specialist at the Department of Education's Child Nutrition Services, said the program started in the early 1990s, but was dropped due to budget restraints. About four years ago, the program was revived, and Beesley said it has grown each year.
"In Cumberland County, all the school districts participate," he said. "The participation varies from serving local apples to serving entire school lunches with local items. Some schools have a harvest day, others have a week's worth of activities."
He emphasized the need for students to learn about local produce and fish and said some schools will offer lobster rolls and shrimp.
"We need to open up opportunities for fishermen, too," he said. "The ocean is a great local resource for healthy food."
With the help of master gardener and school garden coordinator Sheri Oliva, Schreiber and Waxman on Monday harvested basil for pesto crostini and tossed around ideas for making fresh salsa with cilantro, tomatoes and onions from the garden. The menu will also include a blueberry dessert.
"This garden is a wonderful resource for our students," Schreiber said. "It will be fun to have them sample food grown right here."