This summer, the Youthlinks garden has grown through the work of 38 middle school and high school students from RSU 13. Youthlinks is a program of Broadreach Family & Community Services in Rockland that provides after-school programs,, including community service, leadership and enrichment opportunities to youth ages 10 to 17 in Midcoast Maine. Youthlinks students learn skills, build self-esteem, cultivate social responsibility and develop leadership ability while connecting to their peers, adult mentors and the community.

“The garden is amazing! We have vegetables and beautiful flowers growing. The students do the work — everything from weeding to watering to working at our farm stand,” said Youthlinks Director Racheal Ahearn. “Last year, we donated over 600 pounds of produce to the local soup kitchen and food pantry. Community members also get involved helping tend portions of the garden and stopping by our farm stand to purchase fresh, locally grown foods.”

Now in its third season, the Youthlinks Grassroots Garden has become a valuable learning experience for the students. They get hands-on experience growing food, plus increasing awareness of nutrition and healthy living. Practical business experience comes from operating the student farm stand next to the Youthlinks building.

In September, the garden will be harvested and closed for the winter. Then, after-school programs begin Monday through Friday from 2:30 to 5 p.m. at the Youthlinks center, 420 Broadway. Youthlinks is funded through a combination of state grants and donations from local individuals, businesses and foundations.

Youthlinks after-school programs are free for participating youth. There is still space available for fall programs, which begin in September. For more information, call 594-2221 or visit the Youthlinks website at broadreachmaine.org.