A community driven by planting, watering, weeding, bug-patrolling, harvesting and donating, the Growing to Give farm in Brunswick lies at the junction of people and food.

“It’s so inspiring to see how other people respond to what we’re doing,” said the farm’s director, Patty Carton. “There’s so many good-hearted people out there that want to participate in whatever way they can.”

Covering just under an acre, Growing to Give was founded in 2017 and currently employs four part-time workers. The farm brings in hundreds of volunteers each season.

On Tuesday morning, with soil buried under their fingernails, it was just another day for some of these volunteers and employees who eagerly spread out across the farm, harvesting fresh cabbage and taking on other tasks necessary to keep the farm going.

The organization’s mission is to address food insecurity though providing healthy, organic produce to elderly housing, food pantries and other entities across three different counties in the state. Growing to Give also looks to combat climate change by using climate-friendly agricultural practices.

Since being founded, the nonprofit has provided over 50,000 pounds of fresh produce — cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, squash, lettuce, spinach and more — to Maine residents. In 2021, the farm is using a new expansion for the first time, which Carton hopes will bring the total produce for this year to between 20,000 and 24,000 pounds.

There are 166,910 people experiencing hunger in Maine, according to Feeding America, a national hunger-relief organization. Of them, 44,520 are children. This translates to one in eight people and one in six children in the state that are facing hunger.

Additionally, according to Our World In Data, an organization that gathers statistics on global issues, 26% of greenhouse gas emissions are a byproduct of food and over half of the world’s habitable land is used for agriculture.

Nathaniel Pincus-Roth, a WWOOFer originally from Maryland, is one individual who is putting time in at the farm this summer. “WWOOFer” is a term used for someone participating in a work-for-housing, organic farm exchange program.

“Food intersects a lot of the major issues of today – climate change, income inequality, health and nutrition – and I think it’s critically important to make fresh food accessible to everyone,” Pincus-Roth said. “That’s why I’m here. To help that cause.”

Others at the farm on Tuesday included two Bowdoin College summer interns, Tucker Ellis and Paul Wang, who divide time on the farm between doing research and work.

“Having the opportunity to participate on this farm has really made me come in touch with how much effort goes into creating sustainable agriculture,” Wang said. “This farm has really helped me see that – see a bigger picture and really value farmers and how important they are to our daily survival.”

The farm is managed by Theda Lyden along with the assistant manager, Carrie Asselin.

Lyden said that aspects of working on the farm that resonate with her the most include the community of volunteers, teaching about farming practices and showing kids where food comes from.

“It’s not just growing plants, but it’s building community,” Lyden said. “And I just like getting my hands in the soil.”

Lyden said some of the climate-friendly farming techniques Growing to Give uses include intercropping companion species of produce, planting certain species that attract pollinators and minimal tilling to avoid soil disruption.

As for what is next at Growing to Give, Carton said that despite a culture-wide pressure to always expand, the organization is at a spot and size they like.

“What I hope is that we could be a model,” Carton said. “Maybe other people could see what we’re doing and could replicate it somewhere else.”

In August, Growing to Give will be hosting two fundraising events: a garden-a-thon and the third annual “Farm Yard Jam.”

For more information, visit growingtogive.farm.

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