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What a Season It Has Been at Erickson Fields Preserve!

The knowledge of how to grow and prepare food is priceless. The Kids Can Grow program, Community Garden plots, and the Teen Ag Crew (now in its fifth year) are the programs at Erickson Fields Preserve that have helped increase these important life skills. Kids Can Grow had another successful year thanks to the eight families that participated in the square-foot gardening program along with UMaine Extension Educator Ellie Libby and Erickson’s Aaron Englander. The Community Gardens were active with 10 members in beds that were 5 ft. x 20 ft. each. Also this season, a 1.5-mile recreational trail that winds through Erickson Fields’ pastures and woods was further developed. Staff and summer help laid stone and fill for the 8 ft. wide accessible trail.
This years’ Teen Ag Crew grew more than 25 varieties of vegetables and harvested over 10,000 lbs. of produce with the help of many volunteers for the local food pantries, schools, retirement communities and restaurants. The TAg Crew raised enough money in vegetable sales to cover their seasonal wages, which has been a goal of the project since it was started in 2010. Also, the TAg crew reached out to local farmers this summer to help them access markets for produce distribution. Erickson Fields aims to find more ways to serve the needs of local farmers in the coming year. In addition to growing vegetables and relationships with local farmers, the TAg crew also grew relationships with other agricultural education programs in the state such as Medomak Valley High School Heirloom Seed Saving Project, Wolfe’s Neck Farm Teen Ag Crew, Chewonki, and Cultivating Community. Wolfe’s Neck Farm in Freeport had a busy season with over two acres in production and four Teen Ag members. They started a 20-member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) vegetable share program and donated 3,500 lbs. of produce to local food pantries. The Medomak Valley High School Hierloom Seed Saving Project in Waldoboro also started a CSA, but with seeds! They had four teens working the seed saving garden this summer and saved over 20 varieties of heirloom seeds. Over the past few years they have also constructed a walk-in cool room for seed storage and a wood-fired earthen oven for educational cooking classes. Each of these programs can learn a lot by networking and exchanging ideas with the ever-growing network of Maine’s youth and community based educational farms. Erickson Fields staff will continue to grow these collaborations amongst the vibrant youth agriculture programs in Maine.
MCHT extends a heartfelt thank you to all the program participants, staff, and volunteers for making 2014 the great season it was. Stay tuned for next year’s activities, which will include an increased community gardening area, a call for Kids Can Grow program participants as well as applications for Teen Ag Crew members in the late winter/early spring, and an announcement on the trail opening for public use.

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