As fall comes to the campus of Exeter High, the students begin planning the future expansions of the community garden. Their new objective for spring is to add four more beds to the garden and ultimately transform the entire section of the school.
After a week of rain, we were welcomed by a beautiful blue sky Saturday morning as we broke ground for the new community garden at Exeter High School. About 15-20 teachers, EHS staff, students and community members helped build the 4 beds and fill them with a really super healthy compost donated from Seacoast Farms Compost Products. The wood was donated by Seacoast Mills Lumber on Pine.
Science teacher John Brough took the lead on building the raised beds while everyone got the soil ready and then filled in the beds. It really was flawless and it showed how much can be done in just a few hours. The beds look great – and if we can get a good system for watering and maintaining the gardens, there is plenty of room for expansion!!! The seniors will help plant herbs, tomatoes, carrots and lots of greens which will be used for the EHS salad bar starting late August and September. Students from the Environment Club came to help prepare the garden and will oversee the ”crops” over the summer and throughout the school year.Thanks to everyone from Citizens for Community Wellness who has helped us over the last few months including Ron Christie and Mike Young from the UNH-Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners Program, Felicia Motherway, Jamie, Christine, Alex and Bryan Martin, Deb Kimball, Beverly Whitehouse, Donna Mogardo and our lumberback John Brough who heads up the student Environment Club. And, to all the students in the Environment Club Megan, Austin, Steph and the other kids who couldn’t be there. And, huge kudos to Jeanne Pierce, Director of Food Services for Exeter Region Cooperative Schools, and Tammi Martin from Action for Healthy Kids who inspired the garden and other ways to get healthier food into schools! It truly was a community effort!! We also thank Principal Victor Sokul, Dick Wendell who oversees all the school grounds and the SAU16 School Board which have all been very supportive.
With a goal of establishing a community garden by this spring, where residents can grow vegetables, fruit, flowers and more for personal consumption, the Conservation Commission is creating the Exeter Garden Committee.
"There's been interest on and off, so I thought we'd take it to the next level and put it out there for the Conservation Commission to discuss," said member Michelle Newman, who is spearheading the effort. "This is something that would benefit a lot of people."
The committee will identify a piece of suitable property in Exeter, establish rules for the its use, and research how much it might cost to maintain the garden and how it would be paid for.
The commission has already identified two possible properties; the Raynes Farm, which is conservation land managed by the commission, and Little River practice field located on Linden Street at the former Exeter High School.
There are benefits and drawbacks to each site, Newman said. The Raynes Farm would return to its agricultural history and is immediately available, but has limited parking and is located a distance from town — five miles, to be exact. The sports field is close to town and has plenty of parking, but has unknown soil quality and an easement agreement that would need to be reached between the school district and the town. The state Department of Environmental Services (DES) would also be involved as the land abuts the Little River.
The commission is open to exploring the option of using private land if a landowner is willing.
The Garden Committee will hold a public hearing to gauge interest in the idea during its first meeting the week of Jan. 25. During the week of Feb. 15, the committee will create bylaws, determine the size of plots within the garden, how to rent out the plots and when the garden would officially open.
This would be presented to the Conservation Commission for its approval in March.
"If all goes well, gardening would begin when the ground is ready," Newman said.
There are many community benefits to establishing a community garden space, Newman said, including nutrition, health, well-being, a sense of community and publicity.
"There is a sense of accomplishment and pride in the abundance that you can put on the table," she said. "You may meet somebody and maybe you can share items. There are already wonderful amenities available to residents, so why not add more?"
USDA: Funding to Expand School Community Gardens and Garden-Based Learning
Farm Bureau participation in a community garden offers the opportunity to meet new neighbors, students, parents, and local businesses. School gardens promote exercise and better nutrition and actually gets kids to eat more vegetables. Gardening lets children be outside and away from computer screens and significantly increase science achievement scores. Gardening helps develop life skills, including working with groups. Farmers can share their expertise about agriculture, and maybe even offer a piece of equipment that would speed the project along.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced in the press release printed here that “USDA will establish a People’s Garden School Pilot Program to develop and run community gardens at eligible high-poverty schools; teach students involved in the gardens about agriculture production practices, diet, and nutrition; and evaluate the learning outcomes.”
“This $1 million pilot program is authorized under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act. A cooperative agreement will be awarded to implement a program in up to five States. To be eligible as project sites, schools must have 50 percent or more students qualifying for free or reduced-price school meals.
“Grass roots community gardens and agriculture programs have great promise for teaching our kids about food production and nutrition at the local level,” said Vilsack. “Learning where food comes from and what fresh foods taste like, and the pride of growing and serving vegetables and fruits that grew through your own effort, are life-changing experiences. All of us at USDA are proud to make this possible.”
“Part of a broad USDA effort to provide children with access to a nutritious and safe diet, this initiative also aims to influence healthier choices for all American households. Produce raised in the gardens can be used in the schools’ meals and by student households, local food banks, or senior center nutrition programs.
“Through this pilot program, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service seeks to identify models of successful school garden initiatives which then can be marketed to the K-12 community for inspiration, ideas, and replication.
“The grant is available to public and not-for-profit organizations. Grant applications may be submitted by email or through www.grants.gov. The Request for Applications is available on-line. The deadline for applications is November 8, 2010.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the child nutrition programs that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. These programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Visit FNS and the USDA for information about nutrition assistance programs.”
Written by Julie Stehling of Early Girl Eatery
Small local farms are more likely to use sustainable farming practices and to grow a wider variety of crops. The heirloom seeds that your neighboring farmer grows will remind you what tomatoes (or green beans, potatoes, peppers, etc) used to taste like. They will also remind you that there is more than one kind of each, as local farms grow vegetables that are unique and inspirational to cook with.
Supporting restaurants that support the local farming community makes sense on the most basic level. You can feel good about yourself while enjoying a tasty meal. Here are some of the benefits: