A private $25,000 pledge in support of University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s agricultural and horticultural education programs at Tidewater Farm in Falmouth is funding a new tractor for the public teaching and demonstration gardens, where fresh produce is grown for area food pantries.
Teams of Master Gardener volunteers from Cumberland County are engaged in the horticulture education programs at the farm, where youth and adults learn best practices for growing fruits and vegetables. Purchased locally, the tractor will also be used in Extension’s Farm Tractor Safety classes in which youth and adult drivers gain skills and knowledge for the safe operation of tractors.
The pledge is the lead gift kicking off the 2013 campaign to raise an additional $10,000 to purchase farm tractor implements and gardening supplies for the educational programs in response to the increasing public interest in growing fresh produce and feeding Maine’s hungry. The long-range vision for UMaine Extension at the farm is to offer expanded educational and cultural programs year-round for the public.
Since arriving at Tidewater Farm in 2011, UMaine Extension has worked closely with the Tidewater Conservation Foundation, local neighbors, town officials and organizations, such as Cultivating Community and the Center for African Heritage, to create an agricultural learning center offering popular gardening and horticulture programs throughout the growing season.
With the support of the Master Gardener volunteers, in collaboration with UMaine Extension staff, the gardens generated more than 500 pounds of fresh produce for area food pantries in the last growing season, with plans to increase that number in coming years. According to the Good Shepherd Food Bank, 23 percent of Maine’s children are food insecure, meaning they do not have enough food to eat on a regular basis. Educational programs at Tidewater Farm are part of UMaine Extension’s statewide Harvest for Hunger program that collects and distributes more than 209,000 pounds of fresh produce annually. A portion of that annual harvest is distributed to area food pantries and through the Good Shepherd Food Bank, one of UMaine Extension’s key partners in addressing hunger in Maine.
To become involved as a donor or volunteer at Tidewater Farm, contact the UMaine Cooperative Extension Office in Cumberland County, 207.781.6099. More information is online (extension.umaine.edu/cumberland).