Harrison Agricultural Committee wants to grow food for all

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HARRISON — When Connie Allen joined the recently formed Agricultural Committee, she envisioned neighborhood gardens dotting the landscape and homes of the 2,700 residents in town.

That vision that can come to fruition if that’s what the rest of the group decides to do. The committee met Tuesday morning at the Harrison Fire Station to brainstorm goals for the next 12 months. At that meeting, Allen explained the importance of growing food locally.

“Because of the droughts in California and the Midwest and the fact that they’re having to cut down on the food production — and the other countries that are competing with us for that food — it just seems prudent that we start increasing our own supply,” she said.

The draft mission statement reads the Agricultural Committee — which will at least serve the towns of Harrison and Bridgton — will provide a center for small-scale agricultural information and activity by supporting existing growers, both residential and commercial. The committee also promotes garnering additional growers and increasing local food production.

“We can support these commercial growers. Go to the farmers’ market, go to their farm stands, support them, keep it local,” Allen implored. “The more we buy from our local people, the more we’re helping ourselves.”

Harrison resident Dick Maynard said the town’s farmers’ market, which is held from 1 to 5 p.m. Fridays on the Route 117 turn, has grown from four tents to 11 this year.

“It’s obviously an economic enterprise,” he said. “If nothing else, to have a robust farmers’ market in Harrison is a small but important step to bring agriculture in town.”

The group began looking at different garden models, including the Alan Day Community Garden in Norway, where people rent plots and the food from the raised boxes produce program run through the University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Oxford County is given away.

“The nice thing about community gardens and encouraging youth is they go together so children can till their own plot,” Maynard said, talking about merging two of the committee’s goals.

Allen spoke about victory gardens that were popular in the U.S. during World War II and the tremendous educational effort to inform people of the importance of growing food at home.

“Anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of the food that was consumed in the U.S. was grown in backyards by the third year of the war. The concept worked well. It can work again,” she said.

The group’s next meeting will be held from 10:30 a.m. to noon Tuesday, July 14, at the Harrison Fire Station at 34 School St. The committee also wants new members to join. For more information, email Allen at coall46@yahoo.com.

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