By Megan Phillips, Head Farmer
An exciting move is afoot in the world of Chewonki’s food system. So much of our farm and food systems focus is insular at Chewonki, as our attempts to maximize the food, fiber, and firewood produced here for here keep us looking inward in positive ways. This growing season, thanks to the work of a Semester 51 student, we’ve been thinking and working on the importance of looking and acting outward as well.
Students in recent semesters have completed a Human Ecology Project (HEP), an independent research project that focuses on the study and improvement of connections between humans and their natural and social worlds. For her HEP, Catherine Gouchoe of Semester 51 (Fall 2013) chose to study the potential for local farms to grow and donate produce to local hunger relief organizations, inspired by a farm near her home in Massachusetts. Near semester’s end, Cat applied and won a grant from Chewonki to extend her Human Ecology students beyond the semester. She decided the best way to give forward was to give back: Cat donated the grant to Chewonki to support the creation of a relationship between Chewonki’s farm and our local hunger relief. As a result, the Chewonki farmers have been tending to two rows of vegetables for the St. Philip’s Food Pantry this year. Each Thursday this late summer and fall, we drop off food from those rows – supplemented by other produce from the farm – to St. Philip’s for pick-up by individuals and families coming to St. Philip’s Help Yourself Shelf.
Students from Semester 53 harvested some of this produce during Tuesday’s work program, and other students delivered it to St. Philip’s on Thursday. This will be a weekly routine throughout the remainder of the growing season: in fact, semester students will be helping St. Philip’s “Feed Our Scholars” program on Tuesdays – a non-profit backpack program providing weekend food for Wiscasset children with food insecurities – and assisting with the Help Yourself Shelf on Thursdays throughout the fall and into the winter.
What started as a seed of an idea – Cat’s encouragement and support of the intersection of our farm and local hunger relief – has sprouted indeed. Semester students are learning about food insecurity while participating in community service, and the whole of our Chewonki community is recognizing the impact that even a few rows of vegetables can make. Here’s hoping this is only the beginning of a long and fruitful (vegetable-filled!?!) relationship.