Laura Campbell of New Gloucester got bored with supermarket food a long time ago and is now enrolled in a master gardening course. One requirement is to donate 40 hours of horticulture for the community. Thus, she and two other New Gloucester master gardening students Bob Fowler and Deb Fralich are set to begin an ambitious two-part project that will create a one-stop-shopping farmers market and a large community garden.

The New Gloucester Community Market is set to open Mother’s Day, May 9. The outdoor market will be located on Route 100 in the AMVET parking lot across from Hodgman’s Frozen Custard in Upper Gloucester.

Though the town is home to many farms, including the Libra Foundation’s Pineland Farms, New Gloucester is without its own farmers market. Campbell wants the venue to be a one-stop experience with much of the proceeds getting recycled right back into the community. Market vendors will offer shoppers everything from locally raised poultry and beef, plants and flowers, to handmade soap, cheese, alpaca yarn, honey, granola, jams and jellies, fruits, fresh bread and more.

“If you don’t have time to grow your own food, at least you’ll have a place where you can buy local food,” said Campbell.

The market will run 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday from May 9 until Oct, 31, except for Memorial Day weekend when the AMVETS have their annual parade. There will be several special events throughout the summer. The grand opening, May 9, will have live music and free — that’s right, free — local beef burgers and fresh lemonade. There will also be a castle moonwalk and face painting for the kids. And because it’s Mother’s Day, moms will be offered a 10 percent discount from participating vendors.

Campbell said they now have 14 vendors signed up but are looking to have at least 30. “Gray-New Gloucester needs a farmers market that’s dependable week after week,” she said. “We really want to be a one-stop shop, including cleaning products. Everything will be from vendors within a 50-mile radius.”

The other component is “New Gloucester Gardens,” which may just become the largest Plant-A-Row garden in the state.

Maine’s chapter of the Garden Writers Association launched Plant-A-Row in 2000 as a volunteer opportunity for University of Maine Cooperative Extension Master Gardener volunteers. It’s a way to give produce to local food pantries and soup kitchens. Residential and commercial growers can plant an extra row of veggies for those less fortunate in their community.

Campbell, Fowler and Fralich are combining forces with Opportunity Farm for Boys and Girls, a local nonprofit providing a safe and supportive home environment for at-risk youth. Opportunity Farm celebrates its centennial this year. A 150-by-225-foot section of field at the farm has been reserved for the gardening project.

About the size of a soccer field, the plot has “a nice location with good southern exposure,” Campbell said. “Because it’s been farmed for decades, we knew it would be good soil.”

Most of the garden will raise produce that will get donated to the town’s food pantry, but several 12-by-15-foot rental plots are available to anyone — not just New Gloucester residents — for a $20 seasonal fee.

“We’ll have a communal tool shed,” Campbell said. “If you bring a tool, you’ll get to use a tool.”

There is a correlation between the garden and the market.

Campbell said the projects are about connecting people with the freshest, most local produce available. “Many of us no longer know where our food actually comes from,” she said, “so I think the market and the garden will give folks a chance to reconnect with the community, and hopefully their dinner table too.”

For more information about either of these initiatives, visit newgloucestergardens.com or call Campbell at 926-5919.

 

Don Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Raymond. He can be reached at:

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