ROCKPORT— It’s June and it’s “Grow Time.” Heidi Baker and her two young daughters, Isabelle, 9 and Zoe, 7, have a 3’ x 5’ raised bed at Erickson Fields on Route 90 for 12 weeks they get to call their own.
Beginning in early May, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, in collaboration with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, started its six-month session of Kids Can Grow, a program to introduce children and parents to growing vegetables and healthy eating.
Twelve families with children between the ages of seven and 12 signed up. Baker, who also happens to be the manager of Aldemere Farms and Erickson Fields, has always gardened herself, but said, “This is the first time my daughters have been able to experience it.”
Not only did the children learn in the first couple of sessions how to put together the raised beds with hammer and nails, but they took the skills back home with them part of the program’s overall aim. Each participating family receives materials – lumber, soil, nails, seeds and seedlings – to build their own raised beds at home.
“I love the idea of how they learn something here and then they take that knowledge home and apply it,” said Baker.
“Some of the plants need more sun and some need more shade,” said Isabelle, who added she’s looking forward to seeing the peas develop, so she can pluck them and eat them.
“We eat a lot from our garden at home, too.”
In one month, the children are beginning to already see the results of their labor. In their square-raised bed at Erickson Fields, cordoned off in square foot sections by twine, seedlings have sprouted into red and green lettuce, peas, scallions, carrots, and kale.
Group sessions are run by Aaron Englander, Erickson Fields Preserve program manager.
“He really knows how to get down to their level and show them how this works,” said Baker.
“Every month, we all get together to build on their skills a bit and then at home they utilize some of those skills in our own gardens,” she said. “Everybody gets a mentor who actually comes to the home and checks out how the garden is doing and offers suggestions and tips. If we have any issues with the garden with pests, invasive species or interference with wildlife, they are there to help us.”
The girls got to name their garden “Belted Galloway Garden” by painting handmade sign at one of the sessions.
“I think it would be cool to try and make a whole meal with what we have at some point,” said Baker.
The program goes until October. Currently the Kids Can Grow program is full, but anyone who is interested in joining any of their gardening programs next season is welcome to contact Joelle Albury at email@example.com or call 207-236-2739 to be added to their contact list.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org