[The New Mainer Community Garden] is so much more than just a garden. It offers a space for multicultural individuals to embrace their dynamic cultural identities by participating in traditions that were important to them in their lives in their native countries, while working toward building new traditions in their lives in Maine. This space provides a foundation for New Mainers to construct their new, changing cultural identities in ways that empower them. It provides the tools to work toward increased independence, while building a sense of community in healthy ways that connect to all aspects of their daily lives with cultivating and cooking.

When BTLT moved its office space to Neptune Drive in fall 2020, there was new and exciting potential to connect with and support the growing Brunswick Landing community, especially the prevalent New Mainer population. Since then, BTLT has worked to engage with these asylee and immigrant families, and seek new collaborations to further support these fellow community members with growing their own food and engaging with the natural world in their new home.

Spring 2021

With the financial support of generous donors and volunteer assistance, ten raised garden beds were successfully built on the backside of the BTLT office building to form the New Mainer Community Garden, equipped with a water tank system, gardening supplies and fencing to deter wildlife.

Summer 2021

Working closely with leaders in the local New Mainer mentor group, nine refugee and immigrant families were matched with garden beds. The tenth garden bed was assigned for youth gardening exploration and activities.

BTLT coordinated with several local farms to grow and then distribute culturally appropriate seedlings for New Mainer families.

Three New Mainer families received scholarship plots at the Tom Settlemire Community Garden as well.

Fall 2021

The New Mainer Community Garden’s first season was a big success!

New Mainer and garden plot holder Bella shared “There is nothing not to like about the community garden. I like planting. It’s very important to me. We Africans like to cultivate so it is very important for the community. I can be independent with my own garden because I can grow whatever I want… I could plant the same things in the garden, like kikaza, [sweet] potato vines, gimboa, keca, and much more. It represents or connects to my life in Africa.”

With an abundance of fresh food and a growing community, BTLT and our New Mainer neighbors held a gathering in October 2021. BTLT staff and board members, New Mainers of all ages, and mentors all joined together for a “Heritage Harvest Potluck.” Each guest brought a culinary dish that held a special place in their heart – tables were filled with food from Vietnam, China, Congo, Angola, Mexico, Rwanda, and Maine. We enjoyed freshly shucked oysters, Chinese chicken wings, apple pie, ceviche, fumbwa, chocolate cupcakes, Swedish meatballs, spring rolls, fufu, and so much more!

Spring 2022

An outpouring of community support for the program continued when Brunswick Coastal Rotary and Topsham Expresso Rotary (and friends) came together to build a much-needed shed to house tools, hoses, and other garden supplies.

An area of the Tom Settlemire Community Garden was converted into a micro-farm for community member Sivi Mpela, for her efforts to address the food security of her fellow Congolese and Angolan New Mainers living in Brunswick, Lewiston, and Portland.

BTLT hired Michee Mpela, a local New Mainer resident at Brunswick Landing, to help manage the Garden.

With a growing resident population and increased interest in gardening space, the New Mainer Community Garden expanded with four more raised garden beds.

Fall 2023

The New Mainer Community Garden enjoyed its third successful season, with each of the 14 garden plots full and tended to by local families and individuals.

With assistance from some friends and BTLT staff, New Mainer Sivi Mpela grew her efforts by launching a business to sell her produce at the BTLT Farmers’ Market and local African markets.

Are you a New Mainer interested in applying for a garden plot?

Please email jamie@btlt.org for more information.

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