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Organic, chem-free day care sprouts in Freeport

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Organic, chem-free day care sprouts in Freeport

FREEPORT — Sometimes motherhood is the mother of invention.

A few years ago, Angela Garrison was a new mother searching unsuccessfully for an all-organic, chemical-free day-care center for her children. Rather than settle for something less, Garrison decided to create a center of her own.

"I'm one of those people who say, 'Why can't I have it all?'" she said.

Next month, Garrison will open Beansprouts Early Learning Childcare Center in a two-story building with the capacity to serve 67 children, ranging from newborns to pre-kindergartners.

The center will serve fresh, organic foods sourced from local farms and prepared on site.

The staff will also eschew chemical cleaners in favor of natural alternatives.

And furnishings and supplies will be ecologically friendly whenever possible, Garrison said.

Shoppers of organic food know it comes at a higher cost, but Garrison insisted the school's tuition is comparable to larger, mainstream day-care centers throughout the area.

Garrison said there are many home-based day care facilities in Maine that offer organic foods and a chemical-free environment, but she contends Beansprouts will be the only organic option within a learning center.

Maine doesn't track that information, but Sharon Rankin, a community care worker with Maine's Department of Health and Human Services, said the on-site organic food preparation will be unique in Cumberland County.

The center, which is in a former conference center on Lower Main Street, has purchasing arrangements with Laughing Stock Farm and Pineland Farms for fresh produce. Additional ingredients will come from Royal River Natural Foods, Garrison said. Each day, the center will serve breakfast, lunch and a snack, and it will accommodate children with food sensitivities or allergies.

It's an ambitious plan, but Garrison said she's not overwhelmed by its scope.

"It's definitely a lot to take on, but I feel like someone needs to step up for the kids," she said. "Someone needs to raise the bar, because child care is not what it needs to be.

"It's heartbreaking enough to put your children in day care all day while you go off to work," she said. "Why not be super confident when you leave them at a place that they're getting everything they need?"

Julie Fraser, director of Freeport Child Care Services – a non-profit group that serves as a resource to parents – said Freeport has 20 licensed day-care facilities that enroll anywhere from six to 49 children.

Fraser said the town's child-care needs are already well met, but a wider range of options for parents is beneficial.

"Every parent has a different outlook for child care and they have different needs," she said. "It's good to not have cookie-cutter (approaches to child care)."

Garrison, 34, of Yarmouth, is a newcomer to the industry. She is a former full-time employee of L.L. Bean, but the name Beansprouts is not related to the giant retailer a few miles to the north.

"We just wanted a fun, organic-sounding name," she said. "And it's about the kids: They're sprouts, they're just sprouting."

Garrison also touts the center's director, Tina Daigle, who holds a doctorate in educational leadership.

Daigle, 44, of Turner, recently earned her degree from online school University of Phoenix, which makes Beansprouts one of only two day-care centers in southern Maine with doctorate-level directors, according to Rankin. Daigle comes from a background of teaching early-childhood education courses online through several community colleges.

If all goes well, Garrison hopes to open more Beansprouts centers across the state. The demand is already out there, she said.

"Parents' response to our concept has been overwhelming," she said. "I'm certain we'll be expanding into other areas."

In the meantime, Garrison is hoping to fill 12 staff positions and more than 60 available spots for children. There's also lots of painting, landscaping and carpentry to be done.

Garrison will provide tours of the facility on July 18 and 19, by appointment. To schedule a tour, call Garrison at 577-6949. For more information, visit beansproutsforme.com.

Ben McCanna can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or bmccanna@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @BenMcCanna.

Photo: Ben McCanna / The Forecaster

Angela Garrison, owner of Beansprouts Learning Center, discusses fire prevention systems with Rich Brobst, an estimator for Protection Professionals. Beansprouts – an organic, chemical-free day care center – is slated to open July 29. In the coming weeks, Garrison hopes to hire a staff of 12 and register up to 67 children, ages 6 weeks to pre-kindergarten.