Cultivating Community is a nonprofit organization founded in 2001 and located primarily in Cumberland and Androscoggin counties. The organization’s mission and programs focus on the concept of food justice – the belief that everyone has a right to good food, and that we need to create a more just food system. Cultivating Community has grown steadily through the years and now includes programs in farmer training, community and urban gardening, food access, and youth. The organization has a special relationship with New Americans. The staff speaks a variety of languages, and Cultivating Community provides a training program to help New Americans become independent farmers. With the growing season at hand, now is a great time to get involved as a volunteer, community-supported agriculture (CSA) shareholder, intern, farmer, gardener, or client. For more information about Cultivating Community or any of its programs visit the website: cultivatingcommunity.org
CSA shares are now available for purchase for the summer season. Produce is grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or fungicides. The farmers are primarily immigrant and refugee farmers in the Farmer Training Program who are learning the growing, technical, and fiscal skills needed to become independent farmers in Maine. All profits from CSA shares return to the farmers. Farms are located in Lisbon, West Falmouth, and South Portland. Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is a system of support for independent farms. Before the season begins, customers buy “shares” in the produce. The pre-paid shares give the farmer a guaranteed sum of money to invest in the growing season; in return, the customer receives the farm’s fresh produce.
Teens harvest produce they’ve grown for the Eldershare program (photo credit: Greta Rybus)
Teen programs include paid summer Youth Grower internships. Applications (deadline May 8) are available on the website. Teen programs continue in the fall with a Culinary Crew and in the winter with a Youth Leader Intensive. Teens who have completed one internship are eligible for a Grow Intern position.
Kids in Cultivating Community’s Elementary School gardening program learn to harvest potatoes
Cultivating Community partners with Food Corps to provide a number of school programs. The programs range from consultations on garden-based education and design, a taste-test series, garden tours, free curriculum materials, to full partnerships (the application deadline for partnerships is May 1).
A community gardener, Amina Khatoon, grows food in her Portland Community Garden plot (photo credit: Greta Rybus)
Cultivating Community offers opportunities to grow produce in one of their 11 community gardening sites in Portland. The garden plots are available for $40-$60/year. Some scholarships are available. The popular program has a waiting list; sign up now to be notified of openings as they become available. Staff for this program speak multiple languages and can help you sign up. There are gardens in most neighborhoods in Portland, and the soil is clean.
A Cultivating Community farmer, Habiba Noor, at her Whole Foods farmstand
Produce from the Farmer Training Program will soon be filling farmers’ markets and farm stands in Lewiston, Augusta, and southern Maine. The training program helps New Americans adapt farming skills they learned elsewhere to develop sustainable farming practices that work in Maine. You can use SNAP and WIC benefits at all farm stands locations. Get a 50% benefit on any vegetables you buy with SNAP benefits and receive double the value of WIC checks on vegetable purchases. SNAP can also help with the purchase of CSA shares.