Community garden leader wants to inspire folks to get planting

12 months ago

CARIBOU, Maine — When people enter the Caribou Community Garden, Laura Bagley knows they’ll be doing more than just digging in the dirt.

They’ll be getting physical exercise, nurturing fresh vegetables and plants and taking their mind off of whatever might be troubling them.

Bagley, a Caribou resident, is the founder of the new nonprofit Nurture by Nature. While studying social work, she became an avid gardener at home and grew fascinated with how the activity cleansed her spirits.

“I realized how much joy playing around in the garden brought me,” she said. 

As time went on, Bagley began studying therapeutic horticulture, which looks at the relationship between gardening and mental health. She is currently earning a degree in therapeutic horticulture from North Carolina State University.

Horticulture therapy has been known to improve memory, language skills, physical rehabilitation, cognitive abilities, coordination, balance and endurance, according to the American Horticultural Therapy Association.

The Caribou Community Garden is free and open to the public and is located at 882 Main St., on land adjacent to Caribou Municipal Airport. The garden held a grand opening Wednesday.

A large “community space” at the garden will grow vegetables for donation to local food pantries. People can use that space without a reservation, Bagley said. 

So far a group of adult and children volunteers have planted annual flowers and vegetables that include cabbage, cucumbers, carrots and radishes in the community space. The food will be donated to area pantries.

Another garden maintained by Caribou Parks & Recreation will allow people to grow their own food, plants and herbs. Four plots in that section are available to reserve, said Parks & Recreation Superintendent Gary Marquis.

Bagley wants the space to be accessible for everyone. Age Friendly Caribou has provided raised garden beds for senior citizens and people who use wheelchairs. Bagley wants eventually to start a children’s wildflower garden and hold gardening days for seniors and other age groups.

“I want this to be a place of healing, a place where everyone can spend time with plants and nature,” Bagley said.

From the beginning, Marquis thought of the gardens as a unique gathering space for the community.

“This is going to be a wonderful space for people to get into gardening, especially for seniors,” Marquis said.