Waldo County Extension Association - annual meeting minutes
Waldo County Extension Association
Annual Meeting: Advancing School Garden Programs
Monday, September 10, 2012
In attendance: Board-Erica Buswell, Sara Trunzo, Rose Rapp, Jenn Brown, John Pincince. Staff: Rick Kersbergen, Caragh Fitzgerald, Liz Stanley, Ellie Libby, Joyce Weaver, Jon Prichard.
Meeting called to order: Sara called the meeting to order. Thanks to Rick and Caragh for getting the meeting space together, and also to the culinary students, for the fabulous refreshments. All meeting attendees introduced themselves, including WCEA staff and board members, guest speakers, and community members attending as guests.
Business Meeting, Election of officers and board members for 2011-2012 and presentation of the 2012 Budget Request
• Erica made a motion to approve the annual meeting minutes from 2011; Rose seconded. The minutes were approved.
• For the coming year, Sara Trunzo was nominated to serve as President; Ian Collins was nominated to serve as Vice President; Erica Buswell was nominated to serve as Secretary; and Rose Rapp was nominated to serve as Treasurer. Jenn made a motion to approve the officers as nominated; John seconded. The new slate of officers was approved.
• Abby Sadauckas, Ben Bucklin, Kelly Fernald, Bob Curry, Robin Peskoe were nominated to serve as new board members for the 2012-2015 term. Rose made a motion to approve the slate of new board members as nominated; John seconded. All those nominated were voted in.
• The 2013 budget was presented for approval. The County commissioners have received and are reviewing the proposed budget in our board packets. Rick noted that this year, we are actually asking for less money from the county than we have in the past, as Rick has secured some grant funding for Extension support staff. Rose motioned to approve the budget; Jenn seconded. The budget was approved.
School Gardening in Waldo County: An Overview of Resources and Programs, presented by Ellie Libby and Joyce Weaver:
Ellie Libby does statewide work in Farm to School, and school gardening work. This is the second year that Maine has had FoodCorps volunteers, with 10 volunteers serving in the State this year. The reason why Extension advocated to bring FoodCorps to Maine was due to the challenges that teachers and food service professionals have been facing in trying to get more local food into the school system. Teachers and food service professionals already have their hands full, and needed more support.
Ellie then helped meeting attendees navigate through a variety of websites with excellent resources and information for school garden programs.
Co-op Extension (Maine Garden to Lunchroom): this is a webpage with resources for food service professionals and teachers. There are 2 YouTube videos, produced as a result of Extension’s constituents saying that they needed quick and easy information on these topics, including composting food waste. Audience member Linda Steck commented that she has red wigglers to share (from the Belfast Children’s Center).
Maine Ag. in the Classroom: This organization has been working hard with Extension through the Maine School Garden Network. This is the license plate program, which has infused $60K into the schools for school garden programs. Maine Ag. in the Classroom runs a grant program, which schools can apply for later on this year (By Jan 1, 2013).
Maine School Garden Network: this group is working on becoming a non-profit organization. There are many partner organizations involved in this group. A school garden open house is coming up on Sat. Sept. 29, 2012. There is a school garden directory on this site that has grown from 4 schools to 60 schools in the past few years. This resource exists in order to help school gardens connect with one another.
National Farm to School Month: The month of Oct. is National Farm to School Month. Ellie pointed out that we can thank Senator Patrick Lehey for making National Farm to School month happen. There are many resources for teachers on this website. There are also webinars available on a regular basis.
Teach ME Food and Farms: This is a searchable database of lessons that can be used in the classroom. More resources can be added at anytime, so if you’d like to add them, please send them to Willie Grenier at Ag. in the Classroom.
Food Corps: -take a look here for more info about how you can get involved with the program.
Are there any Waldo County-specific resources that folks in our area can connect to? Waldo County should have a farm-to-school district coordinator that represents us at the Maine School Garden Network meeting. We also have “Kids Can Grow”, a 4-H program, which is currently housed at the ThorKnox gardens next to Mt. View.
Joyce then described the work that the 4-H program is doing to support school garden projects, noting that the 4-H program can provide some volunteers to keep school gardens going throughout the summer months. Extension can also help with pest identification (contact the local office with your questions). Extension provides plenty of research-based resources that can help support school garden programs.
4-H can also help assist with the facilitating of after-school gardening activities, which could evolve into more local 4-H club. 4-H kids need practical experiences in sciences, and the Kids Can Grow program is really making a difference on this front. Joyce encourages anyone who is interested in the Kids Can Grow program, as well as Extension’s Cooking Matters program, to call the Waldo County office to see about taking advantage of these programs. 4-H is a very flexible program, willing to train volunteers that can support other after-school and youth programs.
How do we find out if there is a 4-H club program that already exists in a community? Call the Extension office. How many clubs are there in Waldo County? There are 4 active clubs right now, with 9 after-school sites that are looking to evolve into clubs. Adult volunteers are always needed, and are encouraged to learn right along with the kids.
Guest Group Mini presentations
Troy Howard Middle School, Jon Thurston: Jon presented a slideshow about the THMS gardening program, which started in 2001; Jon joined the program in 2006. THMS has an outdoor kitchen; the summer volunteers are crucially important to keeping the garden program going throughout the summer. There is a webcam, with time and temp. info hooked up. There’s a lot of time in a gardening program where not much is happening (winter). This year, THMS grew artichokes, which were over-wintered in the greenhouse. The greenhouse program provides the school with some income through the sales of rosemary and swiss chard. They use biological controls to control aphids. There are also some animals that provide manure for the gardens and fun for the kids. The students exhibit at the Common Ground Fair every year. They also do some seed saving, particularly of tomato seed.
The kids participate in Fedco’s seed re-pack program, which is another way to make some money for the school; the re-packed seeds are sold at the Co-op. The kids have a chance to decorate their own seed packets through the school’s art program. The kids have a composting program (composting the school’s food waste) as well as some of the City’s leaf waste. Next to the outdoor kitchen, the kids also constructed a clay oven.
The kids do scientific research through the program, as well as grow produce for the food service program, and teacher’s in other departments make an effort to tie their lessons into the garden curriculum. The kids also give garden tours to students from other schools. They are also making maple syrup. There are other volunteers that participate in the gardens as well, particularly MasterGardeners.
Walker School, Glen Widmer, and Katy Morabito: Glen is the principle of the Walker school, as well as the Troy Central school, and Katy is the FoodCorps volunteer that is housed at the Walker School. The Walker school has a great greenhouse on campus, but there wasn’t necessarily a strong connection between the garden and the school’s curriculum. There wasn’t necessarily a teacher that could keep the program going through the classroom. Glen realized that what he needed to help integrate the gardens into the classroom curriculum was a FoodCorps position. At this point in time, Glen and Katie are doing a lot of planning around how the FoodCorps program can help the school garden program really take off. Some of the plans for the year are to create a greater connection between the garden and the curriculum, and for the teachers to feel more comfortable going into the greenhouse with a class. Katy has been meeting with teachers to talk about their benchmarks and brainstorm about how to meet those benchmarks while also creating a deeper connection between the garden and the food service position. There are also hopes of being able to do some outdoor gardening, as well as some cooking lessons (using some of Extension’s Cooking Matters materials). The school garden program at the Walker School is a program that is just in the beginning stages of getting off the ground.
Mount View, Jack Kertesz: Mt. View School is working with a private landowner, Shirley Bessey, to use some of her land to support the school’s garden project. This project thinks that it can hire a part-time position to facilitate the connection between the garden and the curriculum through sales of products from the garden. The high school is also looking at implementing some more ag. training in the high school, as well as considering developing a root cellar. There is also the possibility that the school will purchase some light-processing equipment that will make it easier to supply the school with local produce. Ron DesRosiers is the primary lead for the gardening program at Mt. View. The garden project originally started at the location of the previous high school, through the Peace Jam program. For a couple of years, the program used land at the Common Ground Education center, but that presented some logistical challenges with transportation. The program at Mt. View has been slowly growing year after year, and can only get better. The kids are composting, planting orchards, and trying to integrate the garden into the curriculum, as well as providing the kitchen with some product for the food service program. The new food service director is really enthusiastic about providing local food through the food service program.
Where does the greenhouse come into play? The greenhouse is an alternative ed. program where the students raise seedlings for sale to the public. It’s a public service project. Some of the leftover plants go out into the garden, or get donated to the food pantries or local garden club.
Panel Discussion, Q & A, etc.
How long have each of these programs been going on? THMS started in 2001, when Bank of America was giving a lot of money to the schools.
What kind of infrastructure is available at each of the schools? THMS has a great greenhouse (not made from plastic), a solar kitchen, and a bread oven. At the Walker School, the website is an important piece of infrastructure, as is the community support for the program (which is not just parents and kids). At Mt. View, there isn’t much for staff or faculty support for the garden program. There also isn’t much for financial resources that can support the program. Also, the land on the grounds at Mt. View is pretty marginal for ag. as it has been heavily compacted by the recent construction.
What’s available for staff support? THMS has had a good crew of teachers that are dedicated to the program. Each teacher has a curriculum of their own (math, science, art, english, social studies) that ties into the garden. THMS isn’t sure if they will continue to have the same level of support for the program from the superintendent as they have in the past. Jon’s position is the agricultural coordinator, and he’s responsible for oversight of the greenhouse, a half-acre garden, and an orchard. Glen noted that the FoodCorps position has been critical in providing staff support for school garden programs where budgetary constraints do not allow for support for a staff position. Jack cautions that there can’t just be enthusiasm, but actual personnel support to keep a garden program going.
How can people advocate for the creation of a position for an ag. coordinator at their own schools? The superintendent, and the principal at the time the THMS program was implemented, were all very supportive of the program.
How can we motivate teachers to get involved? Jack noted that ties between the garden and the curriculum at Mt. View is missing.
What are some of the challenges of summer? THMS runs an actual summer program, with kids that come from various schools within the area that want to do some gardening over the summer. The summer program does have a fee (to cover the cost of feeding the kids), but the Belfast Garden Club provides scholarships for some students. Glen notes that the support of the Belfast community and school district really is crucial to keeping the program going. Katy will be working to develop a summer program at the Walker School. Jack noted that there is not consistent summer help available at Mt. View school.
It was noted that gardens that are more visible, tend to get more support and buy-in from the community. Another factor that could be affecting the success of garden programs is the stress of having to meet testing standards: there’s not necessarily time or energy to devote to garden projects when teachers are so focused on standardized testing. Jon noted that happy teachers, with benefits, will do more, and make more effort to keep a school garden program going.
One of the challenges that the garden program in Monroe is facing is rodent control and composting; do the panelists have any advice as to how to deal with rats in the compost pile? Also, is there anyone that can consult on siting a suitable location for a school garden? It was noted that composting doesn’t necessarily bring more rats into a community than were already there, and that rats can be excluded from compost piles with chicken wire or hardware cloth. You could also build a rodent-proof composting building, and work to keep meat scraps out of the compost bins. Rick is available to work on helping with the compost situation.
The meeting was adjourned.