May 10, 2013

Bill Nemitz: Capital idea sprouts at Maine State House

By Bill Nemitz

(Continued from page 1)

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State Rep. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop


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Little of which ever happened. Aside from the trees and shrubs here and there, the entire park is now blanketed in finely manicured, infinitely boring, completely inedible grass.

"There's a ton of lawn around the State House," Hickman lamented. "We spray it and we mow it, and we mow it and we spray it. It would be great not to have to do that."

Just ask Vermont and Wisconsin, both of which already have up-and-running vegetable gardens just outside their statehouses. Or Seattle, which last year broke ground on a 7-acre "Food Forest" complete with fruit trees, berry bushes, fresh herbs and even the occasional lingonberry. (It's said to be great on elk and reindeer steak.)

But enough about the aesthetics. What will Maine's "Edible Park" cost?

Not a dime, Hickman promises.

The groundwork will be done with existing park maintenance funds. The seeds will be donated by the Paris Farmer's Union. And the edible perennial cuttings will come straight from Hickman's own fields in Winthrop.

Hickman hopes the design, overseen by David Boulter, executive director of the Legislative Council, will go beyond simple square plots and appeal to the eye as much as the stomach. He envisions two planting areas -- one in the park's northwest corner directly across from the State House and another near the main entrance on Union Street.

And who gets the food?

For starters, whoever wants it. The rest will go to Augusta-area food pantries -- a point driven home on the House floor recently by one of Hickman's co-sponsors, Rep. Brian Jones, D-Freedom: "The highest moral use of our land when people are hungry is to grow food."

Some might dismiss Hickman's crusade as utterly irrelevant at a time when health care, tax reform, municipal revenue sharing, bond issues and other hot-button debates crowd the public square. To which the ever-genial Hickman would say: Never underestimate the power of food.

"Everybody eats," Hickman said. "We might not all eat the same food or like the same food, but we all eat. This is about seeing agriculture when you come to the State House. It's about showing people what their food looks like throughout its lifetime. It's about beauty."

The farmer/politician from Winthrop just might be onto something.

Troubled times, after all, are coming to Augusta.

And nothing soothes the spirit like a mouthful of Maine blueberries.


Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:


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