Special to The Ellsworth American
BLUE HILL — Late this winter, Blue Hill Garden Club President Peter Leonard was already thinking about the coming summer when he visited Steve Whitney’s Exploring Earth Systems classes at George Stevens Academy. Leonard spoke with students about a Blue Hill Community Garden on the school’s campus but he also was there to get help starting seeds for spring planting.
Students in Whitney’s three classes planted flats of onions, celery and broccoli. After they finished, Whitney connected the activity to their course subject matter with a discussion about what vegetables do beyond simply providing food and what plants need in order to grow.
The beginning of that growing process took place on the GSA campus, where the seeds germinated in the classroom. They were moved to Leonard’s greenhouse to continue growing until they can be transplanted into the community garden in May.
The community garden, a collaboration of the garden club and Healthy Acadia’s Downeast Gleaning Initiative, sits on GSA land near the Hinckley House dormitory on Tenney Hill, land that was first tilled for the project in the fall of 2019.
“The club is responsible for growing the food,” Leonard said, “and the Gleaning Initiative harvests and distributes it throughout the season to needy people. The garden is also open to the public to pick their own.”
The garden’s proximity to campus makes it a valuable learning resource for other GSA teachers, like Megan Flenniken, who brought her Maine Environment students there early last fall. Students spoke with Rachel Emus, Healthy Acadia’s food programs manager for Hancock County, and saw leeks, cabbages, kale, tomatoes and more ready for harvest.
“The garden’s benefits extend beyond the positive health outcomes associated with eating fresh vegetables,” Emus said in an email. “In addition to producing food for the community, the garden also provides an opportunity for people to connect with nature and with other community members, which has a positive impact on the well-being of the individuals involved and of the community as a whole.”
Volunteers meet at the garden every Wednesday from 2-4 p.m.
“We also have free public interactive educational demonstrations every Saturday morning at 10 a.m.,” Leonard said.
For more on the garden, visit the Blue Hill Community Garden Facebook page. Search healthyacadia.org for more on the Downeast Gleaning Initiative.