ROCKPORT — In late April, a new Teen Ag Crew started the 2011 growing season at the Erickson Fields Preserve of Maine Coast Heritage Trust. Four teens were selected from among applicants from area schools. The 2011 TAg crew is: Allie Dobbins, Emily English, Autumn Dinsmore, and Dylan Reed.
Dobbins, an eighth-grade honor student at Camden-Rockport Middle School, has volunteered on an organic farm in Belize, delivered Thanksgiving food baskets, and started her own pet-sitting and home-care business. English, a freshman at Mount View High School, has provided animal care for farms, has worked on a horse farm, knows how to cut and stack wood, and loves working with animals. Dinsmore is a sophomore at Medomak Valley High School who has a year of horticulture classes under her belt as well as work experience with landscaping, mowing lawns and weeding. Reed is a junior at Camden Hills Regional High School with construction, building, and haying experience and a great work ethic. He has taken a horticultural class at CHRHS.
The crew is working to grow fresh vegetables for midcoast area food pantries, schools, and the Good Shepherd Food-Bank. To begin the season, Teen Ag Crew members participated in a business planning session that helped them determine how many row feet of each crop to plant.
The teens visited the Camden Area Christian Food Pantry, one of the many pantries where the food they grow will go this season. They prepared the garden beds for the community garden area by amending the soil and aerating the beds by hand, and by mulching. The crew has learned how to plant from seed and from seedling, how to determine plant spacing, when to water, how to mulch to protect the soil and plants, and they are learning to prune and stake tomatoes.
The crew has planted an additional third-acre growing area with vegetables including carrots, tomatoes, summer squash, cucumbers, potatoes, basil, peppers and green beans to be distributed to food pantries and the Good Shepherd Food-Bank.
While watching the plants grow, the crew is working hard to keep the rows weed-free and to manage the early outbreak of cucumber beetles using natural methods. They are learning to mow grass with a hand scythe, learning and discussing the difference between “conventional” and “organic” methods, and reading about heritage breed animals. Donations to area food pantries so far have consisted of radishes and salad mix. The Teen Ag Crew works full time during the summer and part time in the spring and fall.
The Erickson Fields Preserve is located on Route 90 in Rockport across from Cross Street. Many youth and adult gardening and agricultural programs take place on the property along with community garden plots. For more information, contact Heather Halsey, community program manager, at email@example.com.