Leaders of the Regional School Unit 71 Garden Collaborative will give a presentation March 15 from noon to 1 p.m. via Zoom on the five vibrant school garden programs across the RSU 71 district. The free speaker series is sponsored by the Belfast Garden Club. To register in advance for the Zoom presentation, visit BelfastGardenClub.org. Registrants will receive a confirmation email containing information about how to join the meeting.

According to The Collaborative, their vision is to cultivate ecologically, socially, and economically sustainable gardens that connect students, staff, and the broader community. Speakers will describe the garden programs at Nickerson and East Belfast Elementary Schools, Captain Albert Stevens Elementary School, Troy Howard Middle School, and the Belfast Community Outreach Program.

East Belfast School gardeners, photo by Sara Hallam

Sara Hallam is a FoodCorps service member at East Belfast and Kermit Nickerson Elementary Schools where she manages both school gardens and teaches gardening and nutrition. The garden at the East Belfast school includes a small greenhouse and six raised beds that produce flowers and vegetables for beautiful bouquets and full bellies. The garden at Nickerson Elementary School is brand new thanks to a local Eagle Scout who built four raised beds in 2021. This garden produces a variety of cold-loving greens for the students’ salad bar in the cafeteria.

Danee Voss is the FoodCorps AmeriCorps service member at CASS. AmeriCorps service members have helped develop a robust garden, orchard, outdoor classroom, and small hoop house at CASS. Danee supports the school garden, working with K-5 and cafeteria staff to cultivate a school-wide culture of health. 

Lindsey Schortz is the science and math teacher at the Belfast Community Outreach Program in Education, Belfast’s alternative high school program. Most classes are project-based and the garden space and greenhouse are used across the curriculum. BCOPE recently completed its first year of a summer internship program supported by the Belfast Garden Club. 

David Wessels is the garden coordinator at THMS in Belfast. The THMS program includes a third of an acre garden of vegetables, fruits, cut flowers and seed crops, and a year-round greenhouse. Students supply around 2,000 pounds of produce annually to their cafeteria and maintain an extensive seed collection. Seeds and some produce are sold at the Belfast Co-op.

Nickerson School gardeners,  photo by Sara Hallam

With the idea to support high school age youth who are interested in agriculture, horticulture or botany by expanding their knowledge through hands-on experience, an internship program in sustainable agriculture was created in 2020 as a collaboration between the THMS and Belfast Garden Club. In 2021, the program was expanded to include interns at the BCOPE and CASS gardens. Interns were able to share work days at the different locations in order to socialize and broaden their experience. 

“Thanks to additional donations from Belfast Rotary, The Lion’s Club, Rollie’s and community members,” Wessels said, “we were able to hire eight interns in 2021.”All Belfast Garden Club programs presented on Zoom are hosted by the Belfast Free Library. The Garden Club is grateful for their support and technical expertise in bringing these important events to the community. To register, visit BelfastGardenClub.org.