WISCASSET — One of the many new initiatives at the Morris Farm over the past two years, the Morris Farm Wiscasset Primary School Garden, is expanding in the 2011 season. Every class at the Wiscasset Primary School planted potatoes, carrots, squash and pumpkins in a new Thanksgiving Theme Garden, June 6-8. These winter storage crops will be harvested by the students when they return in the fall and donated to families in need for Thanksgiving.
The Morris Farm Wiscasset Primary School Garden is a school garden success story. In the summer of 2008, a forward-thinking Morris Farm board of trustees voted to designate half an acre of pasture immediately across the school lane from the kindergarten classrooms as the new Primary School Garden. In early 2009, the farm won two grants from the McKeen Center for the Common Good at Bowdoin College and the Unity Foundation via Project Reach at the Wiscasset Middle School to fund the new garden initiative.
The garden started small and manageable in spring 2009 with five raised beds, one for each grade level at the primary school, a twiggy trellis that was covered in cucumbers and scarlet runner beans by summer’s end and a Three Sisters Garden that taught the children the Native American wisdom and skill of companion planting corns, beans and squash.
Part of the Morris Farm Wiscasset Primary School Garden’s success is the farm’s eight-week summer day camp program, Farm Camp, that waters, weeds and harvests all summer long.
In fall 2010, the primary school’s parent-teacher group, Partners in Education, or PIE, got involved and voted to contribute funds to purchase seeds and supplies for a new Thanksgiving Theme Garden. Every year, PIE coordinates the donation of Thanksgiving dinner boxes to needy families in our community. Students from every grade level bring in food and the Wiscasset volunteer firefighters donate the turkeys.
This year, rather than buying potatoes, squash and carrots from away, the students are planting winter veggies for the Thanksgiving boxes in their school garden. Every grade level will plant a crop which they will return to harvest in the fall. Kindergartners plant carrots, first grade harvests carrots; first grade plants squash, second grade harvests squash; and so on. This exercise will bring the farm-food connection home for all of the children at Wiscasset Primary School.
It is hoped the harvest will be great enough that after the Thanksgiving boxes are filled, some produce is left over for students to share a harvest lunch and taste the fruits of their labor.
It was a lot of work to turn this pastureland into rich and ready rows for planting, and it was all done by hand with volunteer labor from Chewonki’s Semester Program, Bowdoin College students, Wiscasset Middle School Life Skills students, Morris Farm and PIE volunteers Lilliana Thielander and children, Lisa and Julia Truesdell, Shaye and Wayne Paradis and their children.
The Morris Farm Trust is a member-supported, nonprofit educational farm at 156 Gardiner Road in Wiscasset. Visitors may stop by to see the Morris Farm-Wiscasset Primary School garden or visit resident dairy farm Alan-Dee Registered Holsteins, seven days a week from sunrise to sunset. There is never a fee to visit the Morris Farm.
For information on the Morris Farm Trust, its educational programs or how to become a member, visit www.morrisfarm.org or call 882-4080.