Cartwrites: Gonna make this garden grow

Posted Wednesday, June 6, 2012 in Sustainable Maine

Cartwrites: Gonna make this garden grow

Nicki Robbins, Eric Benner and their son work in their raised bed at Medomak Mobile Home Park.

by Steve Cartwright

On a patch of lawn behind some mobile homes, several young children and adults are bent over raised beds of dirt, tending green plants they hope and expect will produce healthy vegetables.

These volunteers at the 31-unit Medomak Mobile Home Park hope this concept of a community garden will catch on, not just for fresh vegetables but also for the social and environmental benefits of growing your own food.

Flanked by a supermarket on one side and an elementary school on the other, this Waldoboro mobile home park is a modest cluster of older homes with tidy yards and mowed lawns.

“Each household can have a box,” said Linda Norwood, proudly pointing to six raised-bed plots built of donated lumber and filled with soil sold to them at a discount. Norwood, a park resident, is co-chair of the Community Garden Committee with fellow resident Jo-Anna Jackson. Norwood is treasurer of the cooperatively-owned mobile home park and Jackson is a board member.

Others have jumped at the chance to participate, using common land where there is room for a dozen more raised beds.

The gardeners said they will plant marigold borders to protect their veggies from pests, attract bees and add some pretty color to the raised beds.

The excitement is palpable. “People were out here just having a good time. Nicki and Eric (a couple tending a raised bed) were just like two little kids playing in the mud,” Norwood said.

Besides being social, these residents see their garden as contributing to their health and saving money over packaged, less healthy foods from stores.

A local greenhouse donated various seedlings, a local bank put up some cash and a hardware store gave them onion sets and peas. But the biggest helper is the Genesis Community Loan Fund in Damariscotta.

“I’m just so proud of what they accomplished,” said Maria Northcott of the Genesis Fund. She has been working closely with the local residents, as has her father Samuel Kaymen, an organic gardening and local foods advocate who founded Stonyfield Farm Yogurt.

Kaymen is a volunteer mentor to the community gardeners, and said he is as excited about the project as they are. He encourages organic practices, and the residents eagerly embraced the idea of avoiding chemical fertilizers and pesticides. If they raise more vegetables than they can comfortably use, they will donate them to the local food bank.

But it’s different. These residents, from younger families to retirees, own the park themselves. It was the first co-operatively-owned mobile home park in Maine, thanks to help three years ago from the Genesis Fund. And now it’s becoming the first mobile home park in the state with a community garden.

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