Formation of the Alan Day Community Garden
In 2008 when community activist, Alan Day, left the 2.9 acre property at 26 Whitman Street to his daughters, they and their mother wanted to honor him by dedicating this land as a green space in the town of Norway. To determine how this space would best serve the community, eight community meetings were held with over 100 participants in order to decide the purpose of the land. These meetings produced a map of the future community garden, created a mission statement, and formed work committees for composting, water catchment, permaculture design and soil improvement. As a community, we decided on the original mission statement of the garden: “to cooperatively create an educational, demonstration garden, where people can grow their own food, using organic, sustainable methods to support an enduring food system”.
What began as a space for community members to come together and grow their own food has since expanded to encompass an array of programs aimed to improve the health and wellbeing of the Oxford Hills community. In the 2010 county health ratings, Oxford County was ranked 16th out of 16 counties distinguishing it as the least healthy county in the state. In response, the Alan Day Community Garden wanted to address some of the poor health outcomes in the community not only through our garden plots, but in community programming.
Youth Leadership Program
One of the first programs launched through the ADCG aimed to engage youth in the cultivation and preparation of fresh produce in order to encourage interest in and knowledge of nutritious foods, as well as to foster leadership skills among participants. The Youth Leadership Program (YLP) was launched in 2013 with the vision that a healthy and sustainable food future depends on people who know how to grow food and steward the earth, and who can compassionately relate with others about food, environmental, and social systems.
As a part of the Youth Leadership Program, participants learn how to maintain their garden plots, how to harvest and cook their own nutritious foods, and how to work together to create a learning space for all. In the decade that the program has been running we have expanded YLP to partner with MSAD 17’s Robert’s Farm as well as train and hire previous participants of the YLP to be summer interns at the garden.
Farm to School
In addition to YLP, our work to engage youth in nutrition and local food systems extends to ADCG’s Farm to School Program where ADCG incorporates agricultural based education, hands-on learning, and increased access to fresh, local foods in MSAD 17’s schools. ADCG facilitates year-round garden curriculum for students from the Guy E. Rowe Elementary School as well as field trips from schools throughout the district. Second and Third grade students maintain garden plots as a class and are treated to guest lectures from dedicated community members on the importance of pollinators, the basics of composting, and other relevant garden topics.
With the completion of the community kitchen in July 2023, ADCG plans to develop an age-appropriate cooking curriculum that would link the produce that the students grow in their classroom plots to fresh nutritious meals and provide students with more connection to their foods as well as increased knowledge of food systems and nutrition.
Community Supported Agriculture Shares
In order to assist local residents in directly accessing fresh, nutritious produce, as well as support local farmers in their production, the garden began offering CSA shares with produce from ADCG, Liberation Farms, and other local growers. To make these benefits more accessible to the local community, especially those who may be experiencing low incomes and high food insecurity, the garden instituted a sliding scale model where people pay what they can, including with SNAP/EBT, in exchange for a CSA share. Considering that Oxford County has a food insecurity rate of 13.6%, a rate 24.8% higher than the national average, ADCG felt that the CSAs would be an accessible way to support access to healthy foods.
2016 Oxford Hills Community Health Assessment
In an effort to identify major health concerns in Oxford County and their root causes, the Oxford County Wellness Collaborative (OCWC) conducted a series of “Community Health Gatherings” between 2014 and 2016. As a result of their county-wide participatory research, OCWC identified isolation, disconnection, and not feeling valued as the root causes of many health issues affecting the local community. In particular, OCWC identified obesity and substance use disorder as critical health issues to address in the county.
In response to the findings of the community health assessment, ADCG partnered with OCWC and began focusing the garden’s work with the understanding that isolation and disconnection were root causes of poor health. Since the research suggested that people who don’t feel a sense of security, belonging, and trust in their communities are less inclined to maintain healthy behaviors or work with others in a beneficial way, ADCG emphasized community building across its programming. We established Development, Education and Outreach committees to expand our reach within the community and better welcome new members into the garden and its work.
ADCG's Community Market
To further promote opportunities to welcome in the community, as well as support local food providers, the Alan Day Community Garden began hosting weekly community markets during the summer of 2019. The goal of these markets is to be not only a place to buy local goods, but a space to enjoy pizza from our brick oven, listen to music, get kids excited about local agriculture, and meet other members of the community. These community markets also aim to incentivize the purchasing of goods with SNAP/ EBT through our participation in the Maine Harvest Bucks program where those who purchase local foods with SNAP/ EBT will receive “bonus bucks” to spend on local produce. Our goal is that access to nutritious, affordable foods is that focus that brings our community together, and being together provides the opportunity for healing some of the root-causes of poor health.
In response to the urgent need for meals due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Foothills Foodworks (FFW) began as an initiative to employ local chefs who had been out of work due to pandemic-related restaurant closures, purchase foods from local farmers who had faced a reduced demand for their products due to economic hardship, and finally, to feed the local community in a safe and healthy way during an incredibly difficult period. Chefs would use local produce to cook hot, nutritious meals that would be distributed to food pantries and community centers around the county. The ADCG was one of the food distribution sites as well as a fiscal sponsor of the program.
As the spread of COVID lessened, many of the chefs went back to work, and the restaurant space that was previously used to cook the meals was no longer available, the program was absorbed by ADCG with the intention that the garden would resume Foodworks’ operation once the commercial community kitchen was finished on the ADCG’s property. With construction being finalized in July 2023, ADCG intends to resume the work of FFW by training a volunteer base and participants of the youth leadership program to cook meals using locally sourced ingredients.
Not only would this bring folks together in the cooking process and gather people for community meals, but it would also educate the volunteers on how to prepare healthy, easy, and locally sourced meals, and provide nourishing and nutritious meals for the community.
In 2008 when Alan Day left the 2.9 acre property at 26 Whitman Street to his daughters, they and their mother, wanted to honor him by dedicating this land as a green space in the town of Norway. In order to best serve the community, they chose to engage the community in deciding the purpose for the land.
2008 and 2009 eight community meetings were held with over 100 participants. During this process, a map of the future community garden was produced, a mission statement was created and work committees were formed for composting, water catchment, permaculture design and soil improvement. Engaging the community was a high priority. A board of directors was formed.
Food was grown by volunteers and donated to the local high school and free community lunch. The mission “To cooperatively create an educational, demonstration garden, where people can grow their own food, using organic, sustainable methods to support an enduring food system” was agreed upon by the community. 2009 Seal Rossignol was hired as an organizer for 6 weeks.
In 2010 Rocky Crockett was hired as a part time Garden Coordinator. Ann Day, Alan’s mother, began an annual donation to cover the cost of a coordinator position and an annual appeal was started. A checking account was opened. Rocky started writing and receiving grants. Community members planted garden beds, built a water catchment system, renovated the barn, put up a greenhouse and installed fencing and signage. A summer events and workshop series was launched, relationships with service clubs, schools, other nonprofits and businesses were formed.
2011 An Environmental Site Assessment was performed. A Memo of Understanding plan was signed for the land to be purchased over time by the non-profit. Senior projects were active at the ADCG and more gardeners grew produce on rented plots. A website was created. Non-profit status was a awarded as the Oxford Hills Community Gardens doing business as the Alan Day Community Garden.
2013 The Youth Leadership Program (YLP) was developed. 1st Annual Light the Garden party fundraiser was held. The barn roof was replaced and a tool shed built by the Rotary club.
2014 YLP offered elective credit and community service hours. 1st Annual Organic Seedlings sale was held. Solar power was installed in cooperation with the Center for an Ecology Based Economy to provide electricity to the garden.
2015 Meryl Kelly was hired as YLP coordinator and the outdoor pavilion was built. 1st Annual Organic Seed Sale was held. The Food Forest was started with funding by a grant from Harvard Pilgrim.
2016 Garden beds expanded to accommodate both the CSA and gardeners. OCWC 1st annual Restorative Community Trainings held at the ADCG. Barn renovations and creation of a library and resource center initiated. Jayne Pearson hired as YLP Coordinator.
2017 A Sponsorship program with businesses to fund the Youth Leadership Program was developed. The ADCG was chosen by the Oxford County Wellness Collaborative for the work of addressing obesity and reducing isolation, disconnection and not feeling valued through the gardens programs with a support grant for the YLP to set up raised beds at local Early Learning Centers and create a YLP video.
2018 Rocky Crockett became the Executive Director of the ADCG as a full time salaried position. Justin Bondeson hired as YLP Coordinator.
2019 Jayne Pearson hired as Market Manager, Naomi Young hired as Volunteer Coordinator. Community Market started. Food Truck donated for summer by Anthony Frattianne.