HARPSWELL — The Harpswell Community Garden hopes to double its volunteer participation this year and donate five times the amount of produce it provided last year to families with food insecurity.
“We really struggled with coordinating and recruiting volunteers last year,” Jane Covey, the garden coordinator, said on Tuesday. “That’s why we’re focusing on our volunteer efforts. We would want to do at least 500 pounds or more (of produce) this year.”
The actual goal is 1,000 pounds, according to a report presented to the Board of Selectmen at its April 11 meeting. To achieve that, organizers of the garden at Mitchell Field hope to recruit 20-25 volunteers to work on this year’s harvest.
Covey said the garden’s dozen volunteers last year donated more than 200 pounds of produce to the Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program in Brunswick. But they learned early this spring that some residents don’t have access to that program.
For that reason, Covey said, the garden is planning to create new distribution channels to reach elderly residents and others who may lack transportation.
“We don’t know how many there are,” she said. “We’re doing a needs assessment for the town, for people who could make a contribution and people who could benefit.”
To help with the group’s efforts, Covey said the garden has hired Julia McLeod as its outreach and volunteer coordinator.
McLeod does a similar job for Harpswell Heritage Land Trust, a partner organization that accepts donations and grants on the garden’s behalf.
Covey said the garden has also received donations in the form of services and materials, such as tree saplings, seedlings, shovels and hoses.
“We’re very happy that there is that kind of community,” she said.
Covey said 16 of the garden’s rental plots have already been taken this year, and there may be room for a few more. The rest of the space will be used for harvesting produce to be provided to families coping with food insecurity.
“I think people (join the garden) not only for the economics,” Covey said, “but some people just love to get their hands in the dirt and know what it is they are eating.”
The Harpswell Community Garden started last year on Mitchell Field after unsuitable soil put the program on hold for one year. The garden is sponsored by the town and managed by a garden committee.
Residents interested in volunteering or receiving produce from the community garden can either inquire at the Harpswell town office or call Covey at 725-5601.
“The community does come together to help folks out,” Covey said. “I have been very excited about the fact when we speak to anyone about the common gardens, there’s a tremendous feeling. … It is the culture of Harpswell to look after our own.”
Harpswell Community Garden coordinator Jane Covey, left, and member David Chipman stand next to one of the apple trees donated by Harpswell Heritage Apples at the garden on Mitchell Field. The group is hoping to donate 1,000 pounds of produce to individuals and families in need by the end of the year.