Buckfield Junior-Senior High School in Oxford County is one of 14 schools involved in Farm to School programs in Maine and one of 12,429 in the United States. Thanks to the support of the local school board, farmers, teachers, and businesses 100 plus local children enjoy learning firsthand how food goes from the field to the kitchen table.
Last year the school received a $2,000 grant from the Whole Foods Foundation for a 12 x 30 foot hoop-style greenhouse and a $5,000 Lowe’s Toolbox for Education Grant for a 24 x 20 foot outdoor classroom. A $5,000 grant from Maine Agriculture in the Classroom will support an entrepreneur project where students will start their own agricultural business.
According to the Maine Department of Agriculture, the garden project has been incorporated into class lessons, and is being used to reinforce healthy choices, promote ecological stewardship, and fostering community and social development.
The benefits of the project are broad, with the school garden supplementing a local food bank and the school with freshly harvested produce. The program is also connecting students with growers such as Norman and Jodi McCafferty, who loaned pigs to the program for eight weeks last summer. Caldwell Family Farm, Buck Farms and Jack’s Greenhouse have helped problem solve and provide fertilizer and seedlings. Tony’s Honey in Buckfield helped with beekeeping supplies and assisted the students in harvesting 6 quarts of honey last year.
Annette Caldwell, who teaches mathematics to eighth-graders at Buckfield Junior-Senior High, helped establish The Buckfield School Garden Project. Here she shares a little background on the project.
I’ve heard it can be difficult to get a school garden up and running, that it can be a lot more work than most schools imagined. Has that been your experience? Were there any problems or glitches you didn’t anticipate?
Running a garden and farm project at school is very challenging, but very rewarding to both the staff and students. Our success and sustainability is from students having ownership in the project. Each year we face different challenges. The 1st year was the school would not allow us to use their water because of the cost. So we problem solved by designing a gravity fed system from the roof of our building that goes out to the 600-gallon water tower which gravity fed into the garden. Last year we had squash bugs and cucumber beetles and crows take 85% of our crop.
What is on the horizon for the program? Goals for the future?
We just finished an outdoor classroom and are building a new greenhouse. Caleb McNaugton (Buckfield Junior-Senior High School science teacher) is leading the greenhouse project with his science tech class and Gretchen Kimball (Buckfield Junior-Senior High School science teacher) is leading the outdoor classroom.
What is the main objective of the school’s farm/project?
1. Provide the school with healthy produce
2. Teach sustainable living
3. Support experiential learning
photo courtesy of Annette Caldwell.