Conservation Corner: School greenhouse update

Angie Wotton, Southern Aroostook Soil and Water Conservation District, Special to The County
4 years ago

On the first hot day this year, I followed Rita Gardiner through a field and apple orchard to a large garden plot that is part of the newly-resurrected SAD70 Greenhouse and Garden Project. Gardiner was hired to oversee the program in the early spring and since then she has weeded and picked rocks and pulled last year’s plastic mulch and weeded some more and coordinated the tilling and plantings in both the greenhouse and garden. Somehow, she has done this between her full-time job at County Physical Therapy and volunteering with her husband as their sons’ baseball coach. Along the lines of, “it takes a village,” she is quick to credit and talk about the amazing support system the school garden project has. 

That support system includes her family, a main reason she decided to take on this position. Both of her sons like to help garden and she is inspired by how her kids and others are open to learning about something that they don’t know about or maybe hadn’t even thought about before. 

Gardening in general creates many questions and she is looking forward to exploring answers with the students. Teachers have volunteered and are in charge of compost bins and planting experiments with different classes. A master gardener student volunteers her time with garden prep and planting, as do other parents and local farmers. There are some basic objectives with the project, including growing food and getting it back into the school kitchen for student meals, allowing students to harvest and potentially take some produce home with them, and to eventually grow enough to have an on-school farmstand that the kids would manage.

That may seem like a lot to take on but Gardiner is aware of the steps that need to be taken to reach the program’s objectives and she has begun incorporating some of those this season. Her overall goal is to provide all students with life skills and have them experience the connection with where and how their food is grown. That’s an important connection living in an area that has a rich agricultural heritage but one that many families are now distanced from.

Gardiner’s goal for the students is important but what I realized after meeting her is that she is also providing her sons and the students a positive example of what it means to be part of something much larger than yourself. Gardiner and the school garden support network are doing what strengthens communities everywhere, sharing their time, knowledge, and hard work to benefit the community we all work and live in. To keep track of what’s happening with the school garden project, like their FB page, MSAD #70 School Greenhouse and Garden.