Growing delight: Edible Main Street starts planting in downtown Norway

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NORWAY — Collaboration is the name of the game when it comes to downtown Norway’s tasty new community project, Edible Main Street.

Edible Main Street focuses on growing edible plants, flowers and herbs inside planters along Norway’s main drag.

Volunteer Megan Blaney of South Paris measures wood to be cut Friday afternoon for planters as part of Edible Main Street, a new collaboration project between Center for Ecology-Based Economy, Alan Day Community Garden, Healthy Oxford Hills and Stephen's Community Healthcare Foundation.
Volunteer Megan Blaney of South Paris measures wood to be cut Friday afternoon for planters as part of Edible Main Street, a new collaboration project between Center for Ecology-Based Economy, Alan Day Community Garden, Healthy Oxford Hills and Stephen’s Community Healthcare Foundation.

“We’re all about collaboration. Every project we do here, we have some kind of collaboration,” Center for an Ecology-Based Economy Executive Director Scott Vlaun said Friday afternoon. “Our vision is Edible Norway not just Main Street. It’s all education and demonstration, but if we give people a taste of fresh food and fresh herbs, it will inspire more people to grow food locally.”

This is a pilot project that starts with 12 planters, which will be set up along Norway’s downtown, with the idea to get 50 planters in the future, he added.

Last year, Healthy Oxford Hills received a grant for more than $2,000 from the Stephen’s Community Healthcare Foundation and asked CEBE to implement the grant. CEBE teamed up with Alan Day Community Garden for the project, according to Vlaun.

The grant funds were put to use Friday where long boards of wood were stacked outside of CEBE on Main Street as volunteer Megan Blaney of South Paris measured the boards. Norway Downtown volunteer Brenda Melhus was on site, documenting the project.

“I will leave the sawing to the professionals,” she said, laughing.

At the end of the stack of boards came the high-pitched whine of a saw as CEBE founding board member Shawn Kane cut into the wood. Saw dust flew into the air, gently coming down to dust the surrounding sidewalk with its small wooden particles.

“The saw dust is free,” Kane said with a smile as he cut into another board.

Inside the planters will be bales of hay soaked in a compost tea and covered in a layer of compost for the seed bed.

“The straw bales will break down throughout the summer and provide the nutrients,” Vlaun said.

He noted the sponge effect from the hay will hopefully reduce the amount of water needed and maintenance. It will double as an anchor for the planters since the bales weigh roughly 100 pounds.

First to be planted are cold hearty greens, peas and radishes. They will then be switched out with cucumbers, cherry and other tomatoes,

This is one of 12 planters that will be located along Main Street in Norway as part of the new pilot program Edible Main Street, where edible plants and flowers will be grown in the planters.
This is one of 12 planters that will be located along Main Street in Norway as part of the new pilot program Edible Main Street, where edible plants and flowers will be grown in the planters.

peppers, along with herbs such as parsley, basil and thyme. In the fall, the plantings will be switched back to cold hearty greens and removed from downtown Norway before the snow flies, Vlaun said.

Members of Alan Day Community Garden’s Youth Leadership Program will help CEBE and Healthy Oxford Hills maintain the planters by using a bicycle towing a trailer with gardening supplies. Once the plants and flowers are grown, Healthy Oxford Hills will use some of the produce for its cooking classes. The public will also be able to enjoy the bounty from the planters, as it is free for everyone.

“There will be information available so people know when something’s ripe if they have no knowledge of what things look like and when to pick,” Melhus said.

“Everything in the boxes will be edible … so if kids go by and pluck a flower and eat it, it will be OK,” Vlaun added.

He’s already received the OK from Cafe Nomad, Agren Appliance and Books N Things to install planters on their property. And, of course, there’s one now standing outside of the CEBE office. Vlaun and Melhus plan to hammer out the rest of the locations soon, with the planting happening in early May.

Vlaun said the goal is to get the pilot planter program off the ground and to apply for more grant money to build and maintain more planters. There’s a plan to ramp up the number of planters by having two to three at one location, which aligns with the idea of expanding edible landscaping in downtown Norway. Another idea that’s been floated around is to create and display container gardens on Main Street to continue to get people interested in growing their own food and steer them toward the community garden.

For more information about the Edible Main Street Program or any other programs at CEBE, visit www.ecologybasedeconomy.org/index.html, call 739-2101 or stop in the office at 447 Main St.

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