“Food, gardening and artistry go together really well,” said Michael Pickel, a master gardener from Brunswick.

In that sense, the third annual Taste of Tidewater fundraiser hit the trifecta.

A Taste of Tidewater at the Parish House of the Episcopal Church of Saint Mary in Falmouth on Aug. 24 raised more than $17,000 to support the University of Maine Gardens at Tidewater Farm. While the Pinetones set the mood musically, some of Greater Portland’s top chefs served up seasonal small plates and guests perused 70 pieces of 10-by-10-inch art for sale by 44 artists.

“Good food and good company,” said oil painter Arthur Schaefer of Freeport.

More than half of the artwork sold at $200 apiece, with half the proceeds supporting the gardens and half supporting the contributing artists. “Any funds we need for the gardens, we need to raise,” said horticulturist Amy Witt, talking about the demonstration gardens, children’s garden and the Norm Steele Harvest for Hunger Garden. “We’re doing a lot – and more and more. It’s just an awesome site and on the Portland Trails system. It’s all open to the public from sunrise to sunset.”

“It’s grown so much in the past four years, it’s astounding,” said Betty Andrews, whose home overlooks the gardens. “And this benefit really helps.”

All of the gardens’ produce, from okra to watermelon, is donated to food pantries or Wayside Food Programs. Last season, more than 1,500 pounds of produce were donated.

“And it’s also an educational opportunity for a lot of children to get out in nature,” said event committee member Marilyn Taylor, a master gardener from Scarborough.

Over the past summer, 90 children from three Portland-based recreation programs explored the gardens and learned about pollination.

“I think it’s important to give anybody the skills to garden,” said event committee member Molly Blakeman, “but it’s best if you can teach them young.”

To consider purchasing art as part of this fundraiser, visit the UMaine Extension‘s website (extension.umaine.edu/cumberland) through Sept. 15. Or, to visit the gardens, turn from Route 1 in Falmouth onto Clearwater Drive (next to Wal-Mart), then take a right onto Farm Gate Road.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

[email protected]