As Saturday morning’s procession of cars awaiting curbside pickup service outside the Dover-Foxcroft Area Food Cupboard stretched well onto North Street, Trisha Smith was waiting near the beginning of that line with another source of nourishment — at least eventually.
The community education assistant with the Piscataquis County office of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension was distributing free cherry tomato seedlings and planting tips as part of the organization’s “One Tomato” program.
“Tomatoes are a pretty friendly plant. They’re generally pretty easy to grow and take care of,” she said. “You can grow them in a bucket or a bag of soil.”
This marks the seventh year of the extension’s One Tomato effort, but given the rise of food insecurity issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it portends to give an extra boost to participants in the program.
“It’s not a lot, but it’s something and it’s an empowering thing to be able to produce food for yourself and your family,” Smith said. “Maybe people will do this and it will be a confidence booster so they’ll grow more next year.”
The One Tomato program originated in Ontario, Canada, as a means of encouraging families to plant, grow and eat more vegetables, and was adopted by the Piscataquis County Extension Office in 2014.
Extension staff will have seedlings available at several other locations while supplies last: Tradewinds in Milo, 7 to 11 a.m. on Friday, June 5; Smith’s Grocery and Lunch in Brownville, noon to 3 p.m. on June 5; Whitney’s Supermarket in Guilford, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 6; and the Piscataquis County Extension Office in Dover-Foxcroft, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday, June 8.
Persons interested in receiving a seedling may save time by signing up at bit.ly/OneTomato2020. Gardeners then will have an opportunity to post the progress of their tomato plant on the UMaine Extension Piscataquis One Tomato Facebook site.
“The goal is just to introduce or reintroduce folks to gardening,” Smith said.