NORWAY — As the warm June sun shines down over Norway’s Alan Day Community Garden, the eight youth leaders take shelter under the new pavilion to tackle the first task of the day.
“It’s time, Day 1, to clean everything,” Jayme Pearson, youth leadership program coordinator, announces to her group of local high schoolers. A stack of dishes that have sat in the barn all winter are piled at one end of a picnic table and now they need to be scrubbed clean.
It’s Thursday, June 16, and the first day of the free Youth Leadership program at the community garden. This is the first go around with the program for 14-year-old Rachel Chase of Norway.
She explains why she decided to join.
“I really want to help the community. I just love gardening and it is just a good way to get to know other people,” she says, motioning to her peers.
Sixteen-year-old Logan Hallee of Norway is a three-year veteran of the program. He has many reasons for returning each summer.
“This place really brings together the community. … It generally helps people. I really admire that,” Hallee says. “I wanted to see this place grow.”
And grow it has. His first year there were only three youth leaders and thus far for 2016, there are 11. His first day in the program, he recalls he showed up in jeans and was unaware he was going to dig an 100-foot trench for the electric lines for the garden’s solar panels.
“Never again have I worn pants to this place,” he says, laughing.
There is room for a few more youth leaders for this year’s eight-week program, according to Garden Coordinator Rocky Crockett.
The program is available for those 14 and older and meets from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at the garden at 26 Whitman St. Those wishing to sign up can fill out an application at https://alandaygarden.wordpress.com/resources/youth-leadership-program/ and call or text Crockett at 346-0708 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
But there’s more youth participation at the community garden than just the youth leaders. The Oxford Middle School Quest program just finished a unit at the garden where students grew seedlings in the classroom for the garden’s annual organic seedling sale and help feed the youth leadership program.
The Quest students also worked in the garden helping to get its beds ready this spring, along with planting, installing fencing and pruning blackberry bushes, according to Crockett.
Hebron Academy students also volunteered at the garden. They helped finish the pavilion and installed new plastic on the hoop house and assisted in expanding the gardens.
And this year there is a need for the garden to grow.
“We’re doubling the size of the garden because we’ve run out of space,” Crockett explains, adding that the garden occupies three acres. “Much of it is taken up with the food forest right now but there’s a lot of room for expansion.”
Currently, there are 25 garden plots occupied – mostly by families – but Norway Brewing Company has three rows and the Progress Center has two, he adds. Garden volunteers are in the process of upping the rows to 50.
“Part of the reason we have to expand the garden is because Community Concepts Head Start program wants to purchase produce from us,” Crockett says.
Also part of the garden’s expansion is the Community Garden Library and Resource Center, which is located inside the recently renovated barn. Work began on the project over the winter and while it’s still not complete, soon there will be WiFi, a projector for movies and programs, garden resources in the library and hopefully a seed bank.
“We want to have a resource center any of these school groups [and others] can use. … To become an organic garden center for the community is the idea of that so people can come and do research and have a cup of tea,” Crockett says.
“I think part of what people really like about this place is often when they show up, they know other people are going to be here. … If there is a place where people can show up and share their information that will be a great service to the community.”
Crockett adds he’s accepting donations to the resource center, whether in literature, items for the seed bank and/or money.
Also officially underway this season is the garden is a site for town of Norway for the state’s Workfare program. It provides an opportunity for those needing 24 hours of volunteer service a month to receive their SNAP, formerly known as food stamp, benefits.
Adrienne Detlefsen of North Norway was there last week working in the garden. During her first two days there, she’s done a lot of watering and weeding. She’s loving her experience thus far, as last week was her first week volunteering there.
“I’ll be hauling dirt. It’s a work out. No need for a gym,” she says, laughing.
Detlefsen notes she loves being outside with her hands in the dirt and couldn’t think of a better place to complete her Workfare requirements.
“It’s a peace of mind,” she says, smiling.
Upcoming events at Alan Day Community Garden
Today, Thursday, June 23, 10 a.m., SNAP-Ed Healthy Eating on a Budget
Saturday, June 25, 9 a.m. Building a Food Forest with Scott Vlaun
Saturday, June 25, 7:30 p.m. Light the Garden and Silent Auction
Thursday, June 30, 10 a.m. SNAP-Ed Healthy Eating on a Budget
Saturday, July 2, 7 p.m. Ruby DayBranch & Cobblestones Garden Concert
All events are hosted at the garden, 26 Whitman St. in Norway, and all are welcome. For a full list of events, visit https://alandaygarden.wordpress.com/.