Renew Rockland launches the Rockland Community Farm

By Amy Files | May 19, 2018
Courtesy of: Amy Files Volunteers work at the new Rockland Community Farm.

Rockland — Renew Rockland is very excited to be starting its first season of the Rockland Community Farm. We are keeping a close eye on the soil, and when it is dry enough to begin work, will begin laying out a new garden plot at the MacDougal Park on Broadway.

The new MacDougal Park plot will serve as a “demonstration” plot, starting small to test the program out and to set ourselves up for success. A dedicated group of volunteers have come together to plan the design of the plot, what crops to grow, and to work out how best to get the plot started. When you are facing the park from the street, you can see it to the right, just behind the fence and adjacent homes. The total area of the plot, including paths, will be around 900 square feet, while the growing space (beds) will equal roughly 350 square feet. With the help of a $500 New England Grassroots Fund Seed Grant, we have been able to purchase initial soil amendments, as well as seeds to get us started.

In addition to the MacDougal Park plot, we are partnering with Rockland’s South School to assist with their existing community garden plot. Jenny West, South School Community Garden coordinator, has an impressive vision for expanding the project. In addition to the school's existing garden, plans are in the works to establish a community orchard and to compost the 350 pounds of food waste generated weekly at the school. These projects will help create real-world, interdisciplinary learning opportunities for Rockland’s children.

The Rockland Community Farm will exist as an umbrella organization to create new local food-growing opportunities in the Midcoast, as well as to support and collaborate on existing ones with partner organizations. The goals of the project are: to encourage more local food growth and production; expand existing plots and start new neighborhood plots; partner with other local organizations to reduce food insecurity; work with schools and students to use gardens for outdoor learning about science, growing and the business of farming; and connect our community back to the land, our food and our roots of self-sustenance.

Combating local food insecurity is one of the most important goals of our community farm. There are many possibilities to explore with regard to what to do with food grown on the farm. Some examples are to create a CSA of sorts, sharing the bounty among those who volunteer in the garden; to provide produce to food pantries; and to organize gardens and harvesting so that any community member may participate.

Volunteers at the MacDougal plot have been most interested in seeing the food we grow be made available to those who need it most in our community. Some options that have been discussed include supplying the food pantry, sourcing food to local schools and medical cafeterias, and even building a food cart that we could bring to senior, low-income or assisted housing.

What is a community farm?

Unlike a community garden comprised of individual plots — which is what most often comes to mind when we talk about our farm project — a community farm is organized as a collaborative growing project.

Typically, one organizer (often a staff position), or multiple organizers (in our case, all volunteers), help to plan growing and coordinate a group of volunteers to grow in one large garden or farm plot, or in multiple plots. Community members are invited to volunteer with farming and gardening tasks together, as planned by the organizer(s). Food is shared by the community.

Two existing programs have served as inspiration for this project. One is Veggies for All, which is located in Unity and grows 11,000 pounds of food on two and a half acres each year, delivering the food grown to local food pantries. Program Manager Khris Flack has been incredibly helpful in providing us with information and guidance as we get our project started. Another is Incredible Edible Milbridge which features a large “market garden” run by a part-time staff farmer. Any community member may volunteer in the garden and participate in harvesting, allowing a for a variety of people from all walks of life to access fresh, locally grown food.

If you’d like to support the Rockland Community Farm financially, visit the Good Tern Co-op this month, where they are rounding up sales to donate to the project. And if you’d like to get involved as a farm volunteer — email us or message us on our Facebook page.

If you have ideas regarding the farm, we’d love to hear them. Send them our way and find out more about our progress on our Facebook page or by signing up for our newsletter: info@renewrocklandme.com or Facebook.com/renewthemidcoast.

If you would like more information regarding South School Community Garden, contact Jenny West at jwest@rsu13.org.

For more information on Incredible Edible Milbridge, visit: Facebook.com/incredibleediblemilbridge/

For more information on the Veggies for All program, visit: mainefarmlandtrust.org/farm-viability-new/veggies-for-all/.

Amy Files is president of the board of Renew Rockland.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | May 20, 2018 09:19

The way to go!! YEA!!



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