Lots to gardens

Project Overview

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2007: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Matching Federal Funds: $9,500.00
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $38,446.00
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Kirsten Walter
Lots to Gardens


  • Agronomic: potatoes
  • Fruits: berries (blueberries), melons
  • Vegetables: beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), leeks, onions, peas (culinary), radishes (culinary), sweet corn, tomatoes, brussel sprouts
  • Additional Plants: herbs, native plants, ornamentals


  • Crop Production: crop rotation, intercropping
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, mentoring, workshop, youth education
  • Farm Business Management: value added
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: earthworms, composting
  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, leadership development, local and regional food systems, partnerships, public participation, urban agriculture, community services, social capital

    Proposal abstract:

    Lots to Gardens addresses the need for a local sustainable and equitable food and agricultural system in Lewiston and Auburn, Maine. For most of our targeted audience, that means creating access to fresh, nutritious food as well as giving them the knowledge and skills necessary to prepare healthy meals. Many of our residents are poor and live in census tracts in Lewiston with individual poverty rates as high as 46%. Lots to Gardens firmly believes that people affected by hunger must be involved in building equitable food systems that address, not just the needs of hunger, but its root causes. To that end, we provide the opportunity for both youth and adults to have direct experience in food systems and anti-hunger work through activities such as building urban gardens or raising awareness of eating locally and healthily. This work in turn better connects the needs of our community to local agricultural systems. Disadvantaged and at-risk Lewiston youth develop personal, interpersonal, and community assets and skills that nurture positive development, make them feel valued by their community, and give them the confidence that they can, indeed, make a difference. Our significant Somali refugee population, estimated to be as high as 3,500 in Lewiston alone, needs culturally competent support as they struggle to find their way in the United States in complex and challenging areas like nutrition, health care, education and job preparedness. Local farmers struggle as suburban sprawl displaces their farms and international competition threatens their livelihood. Our area needs innovative marketing activities that mutually benefit local producers and limited-income consumers. Our program also develops a diverse consumer base for local farmers.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Our goal is to build individual and community capacity to create a vibrant local food and agricultural system that mutually benefits agricultural producers and low-income consumers by:

    A. Developing diverse and culturally appropriate sources for fresh food and nutrition knowledge for persons vulnerable to hunger and food insecurity; and

    B. Expanding leadership development and training opportunities for youth and adults to become leaders in anti-hunger and other community work in Lewiston.

    Access to fresh food and nutrition knowledge will be addressed by the following:

    A. Adults and seniors of low income will grow their own food in community garden plots or apartment garden beds. Lots to Gardens provides the land, tools, materials and training to support community gardeners, as well as trains and employs community members as Resident Garden Coordinators to teach their neighbors how to grow food for themselves, how to create nutritious meals from the food they grow and preserve the harvest for later use.

    B. Strengthening our existing projects that provide affordable access to local, fresh produce. These projects include two weekly neighborhood Veggie Stands, weekly community meals grown and prepared by youth, and a stand at the Lewiston Farmers’ Market that provides nutrition education activities, recipes, and information about local farms. We will work with NASAP/CEI to strengthen the farmers’ market by recruiting more vendors, as well as increase the use of EBT (food stamps) and WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program coupons.

    C. Strengthening relationships between local growers and consumers. We will continue our direct relationship with three local restaurants. We will pilot a gleaning project that connects volunteers to local farmers, saves harvests from waste and provides quality food to the hungry. We will grow for Farm-Fresh Connection, an initiative of the Maine Sustainable Agricultural Society that connects farmers with buyers in health and educational institutions.

    In order to expand leadership development and training opportunities, we will:

    A. Offer integrated experiences that build developmental assets in local youth and support them in becoming fully employed, healthy, responsible adults engaged in their communities.

    The Summer Youth Gardeners Program provides meaningful work and training to a diverse crew of twelve youth who create community gardens, learn to grow and eat healthy food, and work and teach with community members of all ages and cultures. We employ the youth for nine weeks. The youth grow fresh organic food for their own community, seniors of low-income, the Farmers’ Market, and the emergency food system. In addition to their work and service experience, the youth participate in weekly Life-skills trainings about goal setting, leadership development, healthy communication and conflict resolution, and job skills. They learn how to make healthy food choices as well as plan, prepare and eat healthy meals.

    B. Provide meaningful service opportunities through our Youth Volunteers Program. More than 120 youth will participate individually or in groups, and will be referred by local youth-serving agencies. Our volunteer programs provide fun and engaging service projects that begin to build an ethic of service among youth participants.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.