United Charitable received a turnkey farm-to-school grant from USDA 2021 as part of its tax-sponsored program, ReTreeUS.
This grant will allow ReTreeUS to support 10 schools in Maine with ReTreeUS’s Back to School Garden program, according to a press release from ReTreeUS, a non-profit organization.
This program solves the main problems facing school gardens, especially summer maintenance, while increasing productivity to generate bountiful harvests for cafeterias and maximizing garden learning opportunities. Garden-based lessons include decay, soil construction, succession planting, and season extension.
ReTreeUS is on the road to deliver over 4,000 seedlings and garden support resources. ReTreeUS is also using funding from Hannaford and other sources to be able to reach 15 schools. The schools benefiting from the program are: Atwood Primary in Oakland, Auburn Middle, Captain Albert Stevens in Belfast, Connors Elementary in Lewiston, Ellsworth Middle, Hollis Elementary, Indian Township, Lee Academy, Lewiston High, Manchester in Windham, Park Avenue Elementary in Auburn , Thomaston Grammar, Walker Elementary in Liberty, Wentworth in Scarborough and Williams Elementary in Oakland.
You will find a step-by-step guide at retree.us/back-to-school-jardin-guide.
The Back to School Garden approach aligns school gardens with the school calendar by making vegetable plants available to schools in August and September. Preparation for this gardening technique begins in the spring before the end of the school year. ReTreeUS teaches students to “leaf mulch” garden beds using paper and compost which will kill weeds and increase fertility during the summer. Students also plant popcorn, pumpkins and winter squash in these mulch beds that will grow all summer long, with minimal maintenance, and be ready for harvest when they return to school. .
After this harvest, the beds will be ready for students to plant hardy seedlings from local farms by ReTreeUS and delivered to schools. These seedlings will thrive in September, October, November and December, with the season extending the row coverage provided by the program. During the winter, these seedlings can continue to grow in a greenhouse.
“We are very excited about this grant,” said Richard Hodges, manager of the ReTreeUS program, according to a press release from ReTreeUS. “We believe this program can revolutionize school gardens, making them more productive for cafeterias while providing more learning and inspiration opportunities for students.
To view a video of this year’s program, visit youtube.com/watch?v=Sy3VB_YBP9I.