The foundation, run by Burt’s Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby and her twin son and daughter, has awarded the St. John Valley Soil and Water Conservation District with an award of $5,000 to establish a food-sustainability campaign that will allow the district to host workshops, expand the Fort Kent community garden, increase local production and help improve connections between area farmers and local consumers.
“We’re going to be bringing the whole ‘eating foods locally’ to the forefront, and we want people to start thinking about the local farmers, and not just what’s on grocery store shelves,” said Sigrid Houlette, the new district coordinator for the St. John Valley Soil and Water Conservation District.
The district has already received the funding, Houlette said.
The Fort Kent Community Garden Project began when Carrol Theriault, a Fort Kent farmer, donated six acres of his land at 20 Blaine School Road, located near the eastern end of North Perley Brook. A grant from the Maine Initiatives Harvest Fund was used at the onset of the program to purchase an irrigation system to water the garden, which consists of 20 12-foot by 17-foot plots and room to expand.
The garden is tended collectively by several community members with surplus produce going to local food pantries, and offers school education opportunities that incorporate gardening and nutrition, according to the St. John Valley Soil and Water District’s website www.sjv.me.nacdnet.org.
Now that spring has officially arrived, plans will soon begin for this year’s planting.
“We’re anticipating doing (the garden) soon,” Houlette said Friday. “It’s on our to-do list.”
In addition to the community garden, the $5,000 will cover six sustainable-agriculture education workshops across the St. John Valley, develop a website devoted to the Local Foods for Healthy Tables project, and create a brochure listing all the farms and farm stands in the St. John Valley that use sustainable growing practices. It will also help improve farmer-consumer marketing, promote agriculture-related businesses that create jobs and cash flow in the Valley, and increase the local production of and access to fresh fruits and vegetables grown in an environmentally friendly manner, according to the SJVS&WCD website.
More information on the Quimby Family Foundation projects and guidelines for grant applications can be found at www.quimbyfamilyfoundation.org.