Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Gets Local Kids Gardening

By Katie Morse-Gagne

8 local homes get new raised garden beds, and 150 first grade students plant flowers and vegetables for their community.

Perryman Village Family Housing and the Tom Settlemire Community Garden have been busy with young Brunswick residents this June, thanks to Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust events geared towards getting kids involved in gardening.

In late May, a dozen children at Perryman Village learned to plant seeds that would eventually grow into various vegetables, herbs, and flowers, including zucchini, basil, and zinnias. 

Three weeks later, Land Trust staff and volunteers arrived at Perryman Village with pre-cut lumber, a truckload of vegetable and flower plants, and a trailer filled with a 50-50 mix of soil and compost, and set to work. Within an hour, eight raised garden beds were constructed and set in the yards of their new homes, and staff, volunteers, and around twenty residents worked together to fill them with soil and plant a total of about 75 seedlings, donated by Milkweed Farm. Several kids jumped immediately into the trailer of soil and went to work to help fill each wheelbarrow as it was emptied and returned, as others picked out plants for their homes, learning about how to plant potatoes and tell when a striped green variety of tomato is ripe.

Meanwhile, the mobile arts therapy organization ArtVan rolled out a tarp covered with art supplies.

“Look at my cool shoe!” one child exclaimed, beaming. She held aloft a Blundstone-style boot, newly painted bright purple and filled with soil and a seedling. ArtVan, whose mission involves bringing opportunities for artistic expression to local youth who may otherwise have little arts access, has been hosting regular events at Perryman for over a decade, and collaborated with BTLT on the June event to get kids outside and combine gardening and the arts.

This is BTLT’s third season at Perryman Village and in total, these volunteer days have built around 25 raised beds. Looking forward, kids from Perryman Village will join us at the Tom Settlemire Community Garden in July and August to work in the Common Good Garden and learn more skills for growing their own food.

The very next day, the first batch of a total of about 150 first-grade students from Brunswick’s Coffin Elementary School arrived by foot to the Tom Settlemire Community Garden, again met by a host of enthusiastic volunteers and BTLT staff. In the following two hours, students planted corn and bean seeds, transplanted pumpkin, squash, nasturtium, and sunflower seedlings that had been grown at the school, and toured the garden. The students planted the seeds and seedlings in BTLT’s Common Good Garden at TSCG, the produce from which is donated to the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program. Last year, some of the squash, pumpkins, and sunflowers planted by the first graders also made their way back into the first grade classrooms to teach them firsthand about plants and seeds, and to provide living decoration and unique art materials.

The Common Good Garden and the field trip are elements of the Land Trust’s work to realize its missions of both supporting local gardening and agricultural efforts (particularly in an intergenerational setting) and providing healthy, local food to community members for whom it is often not easily accessible—not to mention giving kids a break from indoor learning to work and play together in the outdoors.

This blog post was written by Katie Morse-Gagne, a rising senior at Bowdoin and this year’s Bowdoin Fellow at BTLT.  Katie will be writing frequent blog posts this summer as part of her fellowship.