By Liane Rolls, Teen Ag crew member
Our second field trip of the season brought us to Unity, Maine, where its agricultural presence was made apparent by swiss chard and kale growing in the road medians. Our first stop was the Maine Heritage Apple Orchard, a beautiful stretch of land that had once been a sand pit. Once unusable, the land is now making its slow transition back to arable soil, thanks to many volunteers and three determined young adults working on this heirloom orchard project. Throughout the uneven landscape there are almost 300 apple trees, all unique, all different. Although the trees are small at the moment, they will eventually produce different apples. This practice of orchard growing is unique in and of itself: there were no neat rows and freshly mowed grass. The grasses and wildflowers are allowed to grow tall to attract pollinators that will eventually help produce apples.
The second stop on our trip was a tour of Veggies for All, a program of Maine Farmland Trust. The program dedicates 30,000 pounds of produce a year for food pantries in the Unity area. On the Unity College campus are two plots, but there are also multiple fields scattered throughout Unity that contribute to the food pantry. After we helped weed carrots and beets, we stopped at a potato plot miraculously untouched by Colorado Potato Beetles. Next, a cabbage plot, perfectly purple, ringed with electric fencing and peanut butter to train the deer away. Finally we visited the food pantry distribution center, where families come to pick up their boxes of food. This food pantry not only serves 750 families, but they also distribute to other pantries in the area, accounting an additional 750 families and serving over 1,500 in total.
These places are inspiring. They offer a fresh look at polyculture and its benefits to people and the land.