Working the soil

Belfast 4-H grows more than food with community garden

Fri, 04/22/2016 - 4:15am

BELFAST — When asked what grew in last summer's garden at a low-income senior housing community in Belfast, members of the Belfast Home-School 4-H Club reply with words like pride, self-confidence and understanding along with the expected tomatoes and cucumbers. While Edward J. Reynolds House residents respond with answers such as better diets, improved construction skills and positive self-growth.

The garden is the result of a joint project between the two groups. Last May, with a $300 grant from Kitchen Gardeners International, three 4-H members worked with residents to manage everything from creating a budget and planning plantings to scheduling the construction of and building the raised beds.

"I think what was neat about the garden project we did was that it was from start to finish; planning the costs of the lumber, scouting out the area, getting the lumber, measuring and cutting it, building the beds and filling them with soil," says 4-H member Timmy Clemetson, in a news release.

Edward J. Reynolds House residents spent the summer using the garden to grow herbs, flowers and vegetables. They also were treated to an ice cream social, which was supported by leftover project funds that were available due to building material donations.

According to housing community staff, residents who they had never seen leave the building went outside to watch and help with the garden installation.

The youth say they were proud to see their teamwork and planning come together to make a positive, significant effect on the lives of people in their community.

In addition to planning the garden construction, the teens and seniors also worked together to keep the plants healthy, as well as plan meals and food preparation.

"It was really satisfying seeing our project completed," Clemetson said.

University of Maine Cooperative Extension conducts the state's out-of-school youth educational program through 4-H, a positive development organization that empowers young people to reach their full potential.