Former Navy fuel depot to become organic garden for Harpswell residents

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HARPSWELL — Land once poisoned with petroleum used to fuel the machines of war will soon be used to grow organic vegetables.

“The land has been scraped, tilled, and organically amended, and we’re quite excited about reclaiming the land and making it productive again,” said Jane Covey, co-coordinator of the Harpswell Community Garden committee.

Last year, plans to launch two 100-acre plots on Mitchell Field were put on hold after an unseasonably wet spring rendered the ground unsuitable for planting.

The community garden is part of a master plan for the property, which used to be a fuel depot before the U.S. Navy turned the land over to the town.

“It’s a place to bring all of Harpswell together,” Covey said.

She said the group hopes the garden will become a focal point for community relations within Harpswell, and that it will produce food that will benefit the health of area residents, some of whom are in need.

“We are using part of the land for what I call ‘the community community garden,'” Covey said. The food from that portion will go not to the growers, but to families in need that will be identified by local churches, the Grange, and the Mid-Coast Hunger Prevention Food Pantry.

So far, only a handful of people have signed up for their own 10-by-10 to 10-by-15-foot plots, which come with respective price tags of $25 and $35.

Growers who buy into the project will get more than the food they grow, Covey said.

“It’s an opportunity for people in the community who share this interest and perhaps this passion to get to know each other,” she said, “and to contribute back to the community.”

Covey said that gardeners will also be able to learn from each other, and from the core group of five organizing gardeners who are happy to share their skills.

Last year, she said, about a dozen people were signed up before the program was deferred due to the rainy weather.

Organic soil and tools are provided to the community garden members; their only contributions are their money, time, and seeds, Covey said.

The garden is sponsored by the town and administered by the garden committee, which includes two members of the Mitchell Field Implementation Committee and other community volunteers. The Harpswell Land Trust has provided start-up funding.

The committee will hold an organizing meeting on May 7; all Harpswell residents are invited to attend or sign up for a plot on the town’s website.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or matthh@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @hh_matt.

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