Not just another Tuesday for Brunswick Topsham Land Trust

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BRUNSWICK — During this year’s sixth annual Giving Tuesday, a national day of giving on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust raised $1,800 for the Tom Settlemire Community Garden.

But thanks to a match from the Settlemire family, the total funds raised came to $3,600.

In a press release issued last week by Nikkilee Cataldo, outreach and education coordinator for BTLT, the organization announced it would use the occasion to raise money for continuing and expanding educational programming at the garden. Last year, the garden was the site of a pilot program for first- and second- graders from Coffin Elementary School.

The students planted butternut squash seeds in their classrooms and then transplanted the seedlings to the garden early last summer. For Thanksgiving this year, the fully grown squash were used in the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program’s Thanksgiving boxes.

Cataldo said the pilot program is one of the ways her organization has tried to move towards community outreach with the land it has conserved. The Land Trust completed its purchase of Crystal Spring Farm, where the garden is located, in 2008. The garden opened in 2012.

She added because of its close proximity to the elementary school, Cataldo thinks children find walking to the site is rewarding, and the work they do there also gives them a wider perspective on social issues such as hunger.

“I think one of the great parts of the field trip is, they walk there and they really realize how close to their daily lives that space is,” Cataldo said. “They not only get to learn how to grow food and the science of plants and flowers, but it’s also an opportunity for those kids to get a wider perspective on what happens in their community.”

Tom Settlemire, the former trust president and longest-serving director for whom the garden is named, said his connection to teaching children about gardening first began with his late wife, Marilyn. She was a longtime preschool teacher who died 15 years ago of cancer.

Settlemire said Marilyn enjoyed bringing her students out to the family farm, and incorporated it into her lesson plans. For years she taught students to plant pumpkin seeds in her classroom before helping the kids transport them to the garden. Students would then be invited back over the summer to see the pumpkins’ progress and scratch their names into the large orange squash.

Though the community garden is primarily aimed at getting fresh produce to those who cannot afford it, Settlemire said he thinks using it as a teaching tool for children is wonderful. 

“There’s so much going on there that the kids get to experience, and it’s so much of what Marilyn was,” Settlemire said. “She loved to have kids come out and see the garden.”

He added that the pilot programs last year were such a success, he knew matching funds raised to expand the initiative was a worthy cause.

“We all just feel so good about it,” Settlemire said. “We’ve run several programs in the past, this is just an addition to what we’ve seen bringing kids to the garden and (showing them) the magic of growing things.”

The Settlemire family, with funds from the Marilyn Settlemire fund, will continue to match any donations BTLT receives until $3,000 is raised. To donate go to www.btlt.org.

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or eclemente@theforecaster.net. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente 

Tom Settlemire stands outside the community garden that was named in his honor. The Brunswick Topsham Land Trust raised $1,800 on Giving Tuesday for the Tom Settlemire Community Garden, which was matched by a fund founded in memory of Settlemire’s late wife. 

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