2016-12-15 / News

OOB garden grows community spirit

By Anthony Aloisio
Staff Writer

A photo of the community garden taken mid-September this year. The garden ceases to operate completely in the winter, and volunteer work is required to prepare the garden facility for the weather. According to garden board member Lynn Selden, that includes standing picnic tables on their sides to avoid damage from snow piling up. (Courtesy photo) A photo of the community garden taken mid-September this year. The garden ceases to operate completely in the winter, and volunteer work is required to prepare the garden facility for the weather. According to garden board member Lynn Selden, that includes standing picnic tables on their sides to avoid damage from snow piling up. (Courtesy photo) OLD ORCHARD BEACH – A community garden located on town land at The Ballpark has become the pride of all involved.

“We’re delighted to have this, it benefits the citizens and the community,” said Assistant Town Manager Louise Reid. “A couple of my neighbors are in it. They do a superb job, they really do.”

The garden has 48 separate soil plots, 47 of which are 10-foot by 10-foot and one of which, used by the Old Orchard Beach Community Food Pantry, is 50-foot by 12- foot. Plot users pay a $25 fee for exclusive use of a plot for one year. Some plots grow flowers, but most grow vegetables.

“Tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, rhubarb, green beans, lettuce, beets, squash, zucchini and chives,” listed Ed Minderlein, who together with his wife, Fran, maintains two plots at the garden.

“It kept us from buying all kinds of veggies for the entire summer,” continued Ed Minderlein. “We ended up giving a lot away to people in our neighborhood here.”

Use of The Ballpark land requires approval by the town council, and at its Dec. 6 meeting the council unanimously approved an extension of the garden. Although the approved motion named the extension “for a period of two years,” it also listed the dates as “from Jan. 1, 2017 to Dec. 31, 2019,” which is a threeyear period. According to a letter from community garden board members to the town council, the request was for another two-year extension.

According to Community Garden secretary Lynn Selden, the garden started in 2011 as the community project of Andrea Berlin, a Master Gardener trained under the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. A group of volunteers, with the help of a backhoe, cleared the space for what was initially 20 plots. The garden eventually expanded to 52 plots, but then some of the plots were consolidated to form one large plot for use by the food pantry.

“Some of the food pantry people were with us when we first started the garden,” Selden said.

According to Wendy Brown, a board member for the Community Food Pantry, the pantry has maintained its plot for at least three years, and she has managed the plot for the last two. Brown said that the quantity of food from the garden is small compared to their other sources of donation, but the quality makes it valuable. The yield from the past two summers has been good but not great, Brown said.

“Unfortunately most of what we planted a groundhog really loved,” Brown said.

She added that the pantry is working with the York County Cooperative Extension to bring in a trained volunteer from the program, another Master Gardener, to maintain its plot in 2017. York County Cooperative Extension is an educational program administered by the University of Maine System.

In the past the garden has also donated plots for the use of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, according to Selden.

The garden is also associated with a garden at Loranger Memorial School, organized by former RSU 23 school health coordinator Jackie Tselikis.

“I worked with the teachers at the middle school, mainly with the science teachers,” Tselikis said. “We put it in under the science curriculum. We had sixth, seventh, and eighth graders at the time working on it.”

Tselikis is also a former board member at the community garden and has organized tours of the garden by Loranger students.

“We’re having a conversation right now about doing one at Jameson school. Actually the high school has a greenhouse area, that’s part of the biology department,” Tselikis said. “We really want kids (at) all grade levels to learn about gardening.”

Fran Minderlein said she and her husband started participating at the garden just this past year. They heard about the Old Orchard Beach garden from a friend who had a plot in a community garden in Saco.

“We live in condos, we don’t have any personal space for gardens, so it affords people like us to have an opportunity to have our own plot,” Ed Minderlein said.

Ownership of a plot goes from May one year to May the following year, according to Selden. The garden has a shed on site supplied with tools for gardeners to use.

“We roto-till the plots, it’s all volunteer work, in the spring,” Selden said. “We usually provide donated horse manure for fertilizer. From then on, there are some rules. For instance, we don’t allow potatoes to be planted because of the insects that are involved. Gardeners plant whatever plants they want and take care of their garden throughout the year.”

Horse manure is donated to the garden every year by Joy and Richard Couturier, Selden said, who live on Ross Road.

The common areas of the garden, such as the grass walkways and the shed, require work that is done by volunteers. The grass needs to be mowed, and the shed has to be painted.

“Typically we have a work day,” Selden said. “Last year we had a barbecue.”

The garden also includes common plots for flowers, which are also maintained by volunteers.

“We did weeding, mulching, watering, for those gardens,” Ed Minderlein said.

Ed Minderlein added that they’d also sanded and painted benches for the garden. He said volunteering for the garden is important for the gardening itself.

“When anybody volunteers, it shows interest, and a kind of pride that one takes,” Ed Minderlein said. “It created a strong bond among those who rent plots. It inspires others to have a pride in keeping that garden healthy, and ordered, and beautiful.”

In addition to volunteer work, the garden receives donations of materials and services. According to Selden, for example, Blow Brothers donates a port-a-potty for use by the gardeners.

Water for the garden plots is provided by The Ballpark. According to Selden, The Ballpark has a contract for a certain amount of water in a period of time, and if the use exceeds that amount then The Ballpark pays for the extra.

“We would reimburse them for water use if it went over a certain amount,” Selden said.

Although the town does not fund the garden, its financial account is maintained by the town’s finance department. When the garden has an expense, the board votes to spend the money. According to Selden, expenses are for things such as flowers, paint or other supplies.

“Anything that comes up that we think we need,” Selden said.

Funding for the garden is completely from plot fees, Selden added.

The challenges of maintaining a community garden are mainly from nature, Selden said. Recently the garden had trouble with squash beetles and woodchucks.

“A lot of people put some fencing around their plots to prevent the woodchucks from getting everything,” Selden said.

Another problem, according to Ed Minderlein, is thieves. He said that people have been caught in the past taking food from the garden, but it wasn’t clear whether they knew they were stealing.

“A common misunderstanding is that because it’s called the community garden, everybody has a right to it,” Ed Minderlein said.

In spite of challenges, gardeners agreed that there are great benefits to the garden.

“We live within walking distance, so we make that our exercise,” Fran Minderlein said.

“I’m so excited about it, because it’s brought a lot of people together who wouldn’t have become friends or even known each other in the town,” Tselikis said.

“A big advantage for us is the camaraderie for the people at the garden,” Ed Minderlein said. “There’s a kind of a bond that forms, a kind of community spirit thing.”

Residents of Old Orchard Beach are eligible to own a plot at the community garden. Any resident interested in applying for a plot can contact the town clerk’s office to pick up an application or to ask to be put on a waiting list for an application.

Contact Staff Writer Anthony Aloisio at news@inthecourier.com.

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