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Yarmouth Community Garden: 10 years of growing

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Yarmouth Community Garden: 10 years of growing

YARMOUTH — As another harvest season comes to a close, one of the largest community gardens in the state is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Yarmouth Community Garden, on East Main Street, has grown into a model for others in the region and has played a vital role in supplying organic produce to area food pantries, garden Steering Committee Chairman Joy Ahrens said.

The garden, which started with just a handful of people, has grown into 135 rented plots, with a separate acre of community growing area, yielding an array of produce. Garden organizers estimate that in the last decade the garden has produced more than 22,000 pounds of produce, all of which is donated to area food pantries and other people in need.

In recent years, the garden has been producing anywhere from 2,500-5,000 pounds of produce a year.

"In the beginning there were so many bugs and mosquitoes we thought, 'this is never going to be a garden,'" co-founder Gail Cinelli said. "It's amazing how many pounds of produce we've given over the years now. It's really created a spirit of giving in the community."

The bulk of the produce is donated to the Yarmouth Food Pantry twice a week, which operates at the First Parish Church on Main Street.

Pantry Director Sue Rowe said the donations are a "godsend" for people in the community.

"So many times our customers don't have healthy diets because they can't afford to buy fresh produce and vegetables," she said. "(The garden) allows them to get it through the food pantry."

Rowe said during the summer the garden's produce is critical to keeping the pantry full because donations tend to plummet.

"We're really fortunate because the Yarmouth garden is one of the best in the state," she said. "I think it would behoove other communities to look at doing the same thing."

Sometimes, they have even had excess, Rowe said, noting that nothing goes to waste and that it typically supplies pantries in other communities like Falmouth and Portland. 

In addition to food pantries, the garden also supplies produce to other community members through the Meal on Wheels program.

Although much of the garden's focus is on growing food for donations, it also  learning experience for the gardeners, Ahrens said.

"People do all sorts of things with their gardens," she said. "People learn from each other and share ideas about bugs and plants. It's a wonderful thing to see."

The culmination of the season is the year's largest fundraiser for the garden, the annual Harvest Dinner. This year, the dinner runs from 5-7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 17, in the Yarmouth High School cafeteria.

Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children under 12. There will be a silent auction, raffle, kids craft table and free pumpkins while supplies last. All proceeds from the dinner go toward next year's garden.

For more information about the garden contact Amy Sinclair at amys65@gwi.net.

Will Graff can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or wgraff@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @W_C_Graff.