Peter Mason of Po-Go Realty in Gorham Village waters his Edible Main Street produce. Robert Lowell/American Journal

GORHAM — A bunch of town businesses are showing green thumbs, growing produce outside their establishments so passers-by can help themselves. Want a cucumber? Pick one. For free.

A dozen shops are participating in the Edible Main Street pilot project, a collaboration of the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District, the town and the Gorham Village Alliance.

The project has 24 wooden gardening boxes at 12 locations, all growing produce to put in your sauce, salsa, salads and roasting pans.

“We have a waiting list for boxes,” said Damon Yakovleff, environmental planner at the conservation district.

In addition to promoting healthy eating habits, Edible Main Street organizers hope to inform residents about producing food on their own as development overtakes farms and farming traditions die out.

Because of the town’s agricultural roots, Kathy Garrard of Gorham Village Alliance said the project is “a great fit for us.”

The conservation district received a one-year, $20,000 grant from the Quimby Family Foundation for the project. Gorham volunteers stepped up to make it happen. Gorham High School senior Daniel Bachner built the boxes, Yakovleff said, and Garrard has been a key player.

Garrard said Tuesday that the alliance reached out to businesses about participating and the response was terrific.

“We’ve been pleased with the community’s involvement,” said Jenna Martyn-Fisher, the conservation district’s educator and technical specialist.

As part of the project, a “food forest” with a peach tree, cherry tree and berry bushes has been planted at Phinney Park in Gorham Village. “Everything is a perennial,” Martyn-Fisher said.

Josh Haiss, owner of Landscape Revolution, donated his time to built trellises at the Little Falls Activity Center on Acorn Street. First grade students attending a summer camp there planted  carrots, beets, cukes and potatoes last week.

In the afternoon heat on June 28, Peter Mason of Po-Go Realty in Gorham Village was watering his plants, usually a job his 8-year-old daughter, Olivia, handles. His boxes are producing tomato, kale, lettuce, cucumbers and nasturtiums. A Po-Go Realty broker, Mike Griffin, added, nasturtiums “keep the bugs out.”

Garrard said the kale at Po-Go is ready for harvest.

“They said everything in here is edible,” Mason said, even the nasturtium.

“You put the (nasturtium) flowers into salads,” Martyn-Fisher said.

The Gorham project is believed to be the only active one in Cumberland County, and Yakovleff hopes other communities cultivate the edible main street concept. The district said Westbrook tried a similar program in 2017, but was hampered by downtown space constraints as boxes can’t be placed on sidewalks.

Martyn-Fisher said the town of Norway has an edible main street project similar to Gorham’s.

Garrard said the wooden planters are beautiful. “We’d love to expand the program,” Garrard said.

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