GARDENS for a lifetime

Age-Friendly Dexter partnered with students to build 50 raised beds! And then delivered them to residents!

Much has been written about widespread food insecurity in Maine – and much has been done to help alleviate it. Age-Friendly/Lifelong Communities have been part of that effort by helping establish community gardens and other projects that help feed people. Here are a few examples.


Dexter Age-Friendly partnered with the local technical high school to provide free elevated bed gardens--complete with soil and seeds--to residents. So far, they have distributed more than 50 of the elevated beds! All built by students and at no cost to the gardeners! This program was made possible by many volunteers, as well as through grants from Bangor Savings Bank and the Plummer Memorial Foundation. Local businesses, including the Ace hardware store and Spring Street Greenhouse helped with obtaining soil and plants. When finished, the town loaned a truck and volunteers made sure the beds were delivered, filled with soil and ready for planting.In 2023, the strong community support continued with a generous grant from the Skowhegan Savings Bank.  This project is another example of what happens when communities create partnerships to accomplish ambitious projects.  


Age-Friendly Chelsea partners with the Chelsea Elementary School Garden Committee to enhance their educational garden at the school.  They have discussed a “Garden Buddies” program, pairing students with older adults.  The Garden Buddies can tend the garden throughout the summer when school is out.  The students are learning about Native gardens and Pollinator gardens.  A Pollinator garden is probably in the future!  The Age-Friendly Chelsea Committee has provided the garden committee with a composter. The fifth-grade classes are studying decomposing and composting.  Partnerships, such as these, enrich the entire community.

Deer Isle

Deer Isle created their community garden in 2019. It is located next to a municipal recreational area including a ballfield, playground, and ADA-compliant trail. The community garden is intended for volunteers of all ages. The school takes a starring role. Students assist with planting, tending and harvesting produce. The first harvest produced 90 pumpkins that were then carved at a community Halloween event. Students learn gardening skills as well as volunteerism and generosity. Surplus produce is shared with others, including the Healthy Peninsula Magic Food Bus program and the Island Food Pantry. People of all ages work to sustain the garden. Mary Cevasco, a founder and leader of the garden, noted that the purpose of the garden is “to build community, teach people to grow food, eat healthy and experience the joy in gardening”.


In 2022, a Learn & Grow Garden at the Millinocket Memorial Library was installed.  This raised bed model/teaching garden was designed to allow community partners to demonstrate or learn good gardening practices. Partners included Wabanaki Public Health, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Breaking the Cycle (a recovery home for women), and the children’s summer reading program. The added value to the garden, included Cooperative Extension classes, such as canning and preserving. The Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness program also offered classes including seed starting in March. In 2023, the long-planned for and anticipated Millinocket Farmers' and Artisans’ Market will be open on Saturdays from 9am - 11am.


In 2018, using a grant from the Maine Community Foundation, Age-Friendly Saco created an accessible teaching garden at their Community Center. Local school children were able to learn there. This led to Saco’s Parks and Recreation Dept. installing a larger garden, reflecting town interest and demand.  The gardens are planted mostly by the school children with volunteers helping to maintain them through the summer by weeding and watering.  In the fall, a harvest meal, featuring the food they produced is sponsored by the Parks and Recreation folks. They even share recipes!


With the help of grant funding, Age-Friendly Sullivan started their community garden in 2019. It included 16 raised beds and a fence so that the garden fed people and not the wildlife. Eight of the beds were rented by private citizens and the others produced food that was distributed at the “Take it or Leave It” table at the town office. Master Gardeners and other volunteers helped make this happen. In 2021, the project continued to thrive with an additional grant - that allowed them to build a storage shed, and buy additional tools and soil amendments. A hoop house, previously used by the local school, was also acquired. This enabled them to stretch the season and grow cool season crops early and late in the very short Maine growing season.