GrowME 2015 Sprouts!

GrowME logoWhile it might be difficult to think about gardening and farming in mid-January, a group of volunteers are doing just that as they are preparing a fourth year of the GrowME program. The program is offered to K-3 teachers and schools in Piscataquis County and the surrounding areas. The program is organized by a collaboration between Valley Grange of Guilford, PCSWCD (Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District) and UMaine Piscataquis County Extension.

GrowME aims to utilize local volunteers who will work with teachers to schedule an agricultural activity in their classrooms during Maine Agriculture Week (March 24-28). Ana Bonstedt, Home Horticulture Coordinator for Piscataquis County UMaine Extension is particularly excited over the “hands on” aspect of the activities. “Thanks to our rural nature in Piscataquis County, we don’t have the ‘nature deficit’ that some more urban areas experience,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be offering our kids an opportunity to involve all their senses and get some hands on learning.”

Walter Boomsma, program director for Valley Grange agrees. One of his specialties is visiting second graders at PCES to make butter. “We have fun and the kids almost don’t realize they are learning–some have even asked for instructions and then made butter at home as a family activity.” Volunteers also conduct seed planting activities, apple tasting and create animal graphs. “We also spend some time just talking with the kids—many have chickens and gardens and it’s fun to share experiences.”

Boomsma notes that last year volunteers visited with over 60 classrooms and 800 kids “from Greenville to Dexter to Milo,” but says there should be no shortage of volunteers and resources thanks to the collaboration. “We’ve got master gardeners and farmers available through Extension Programs and PCSWCD includes partners and resources that are committed to good stewardship. Our continued goal is to keep this informal, local, and a true partnership between our schools, teachers, and volunteers. It’s not so much that we have a program to offer—it’s more about working together to make good use of our resources. Our volunteers will have the sort of agricultural experience and background to be especially relevant to students while providing insight into the importance of agriculture in our area.”

The group focuses on kindergarten through third grade but is willing to consider requests from teachers of other grades.

GrowME volunteers visit for about thirty minutes and work with students on a simple, grade appropriate activity. Teachers and administrators who are interested need only furnish contact information: teacher’s name-email address and grade. Interested teachers may email or call Boomsma at 343-1842. An online sign-up form is also available at http://growmehelp.wordpress.com.

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Eat and Learn with Extension

Saturday, September 6 Valley Grange hosts the UMaine Extension Piscataquis County Annual Supper and Meeting and it looks like there’s going to be something for everyone!

logo-piscataquis-santaAnother yummy supper is prepared by Penquis Volunteers and all proceeds will benefit Piscataquis Santa. Supper will be served from 5 PM until 7 PM. The meal deal will feature locally grown produce… baked ham, carrots, turnip, squash, potatoes and gravy… apple crisp for desert! Minimum donation is $8 for adults, $4 for kids 3-12, under 3 eat free! Remember, 100% of the proceeds benefit the Piscataquis Santa Fund! (There will only be 110 days until Christmas from this event!)

A LOGOThe program parts include lots of exciting things! Prior to and during supper there will be Extension exhibits and demonstrations including a working bee hive and information on gardening, farming and nutrition. Bring your gardening, farming, nutrition, 4-H questions! There will also be lots of material available… The annual meeting starting at 7 PM will feature highlights of local programming and a feature presentation by John Jemison, UMaine Extension Agronomist, “Think Globally; Eat Locally.” All exhibits, demonstrations, and the program are free!

This is collaboration and cooperation at its best! You can come to one thing or you can come to everything!

Happy Birthday, Betty!

Betty VanDyke continues to be a big supporter of Valley Grange in as many ways as possible. Betty recently celebrated her 9oth Birthday with a party attended by many friends and Grangers. Those couldn’t attend sent cards and messages. This is Betty’s appreciation and some thoughts about her Grange career.


A Happy Betty is flanked by her daughters Lois (left) and Ginny at her 90th birthday celebration.

I don’t think anyone will ever know how I feel about the Grange and how badly I felt the day I wrote for a demit that I knew I would never use.  Those 28 years were the best years of my life and I miss those days a lot.  The work I did being Lecturer of Valley Grange for oh so many years were growing years for me and grow I did using my brain to prepare the programs that I hoped would be satisfactory for the night.  Being on the CWA committee where my husband had to bring me to Augusta and “cart women  around” was a highlight of my belonging.  Then being asked to be Community Service Director of the Maine State Grange, how proud I was for that, receiving  a Plaque of Achievement for work well done was over the top. I tell you all this not to brag but to let you how much the Grange meant to me.

I was “from away,” you see, and people told me then that I would never be accepted.   But I tell you here and now I have been accepted and you can be too.  The friends I have made through this journey are precious to me because they don’t forget. I have seen this recently on the occasion of my 90th birthday with the cards and Facebook messages from Grangers near and far.

I do hope with all my heart that Valley Grange grows with the community as I try to help out in whatever manner I can.  If you are from away, please don’t try to change these good people, they have a lot to offer to you and you will be happier if you listen  to them. Join what ever Grange is closest to you.  Join to help them, your community and yourself.  And as the Girl Scouts sing, “Make new friends, keep the old, one is silver the other is gold.”  As a member of the Grange you can accomplish a lot.

Best of luck to all Granges everywhere.

I remain your friend,

Betty VanDyke

A Plant-astic Ag-stravaganza!

GrowME logoCommunity invited to celebrate GrowME Growth

Guilford–Valley Grange will host an “Agstravaganza” on Friday, March 28th at their hall on the corner of Butter Street and Guilford Center Road. The Grange is one of three collaborating organizations who sprouted and nurtured the GrowME Project. Grange Program Director Walter Boomsma says, “There’s a lot to celebrate! The numbers are still coming in but it looks like our volunteers will reach nearly 50 classrooms and over 750 students. I think we’ve lost count of volunteers because we seem to add more every day.”

The GrowME program was hatched in 2011 when three local organizations with an interest in agriculture decided there was an opportunity to assist schools and teachers by providing some “hands on” activities with an agricultural theme. Valley Grange was joined by Piscataquis Soil and Water Conservation and District and the Piscataquis County UMaine Extension and the three organizations agreed on a mission to “build a truly local program of agriculturally themed activities for kids led by local volunteers with the goal of increasing agricultural literacy and making it fun!”

During the week prior to the Agstravaganza volunteers will be visiting grades K through 3 throughout the county with activities like creating animal graphs, apples to apples tasting and sorting, making butter, and making dirt babies. Boomsma notes that “our Grange loves an opportunity to invite the community to our hall, but it seemed particularly appropriate to have a community celebration of our achievements and agriculture in general. We’ll have a great potluck supper and brief program to share highlights from GrowME.”

The event is not just for people involved in GrowME—it is open to anyone who supports the idea of community and collaborating. The Grange promises to a “family friendly” event and hopes volunteers, teachers, kids, and parents will come.  The “Plantastic Agstravaganza” features a community potluck supper at 6:00 PM—bring a dish to share! A brief meeting at 7 PM will cover some highlights of the GrowME collaboration and some agricultural related information. Attendees are invited to bring an old-time farm, gardening, or home device to display as part of “what is it?” table.

Don’t forget to bring some “Coups for Troops!” (Coupons for our military families stationed abroad.)

Additional information is available on the GrowME website.

Health Beat – March 2014

Heart

Dr. Lesley Fernow writes a column called “Senior Matters” for the Piscataquis Observer in Dover Foxcroft. Valley Grange is privileged to have permission to use her past columns for our  “Health Beat” Feature and for the information to be reposted to the Maine State Grange website. Address your questions or comments  to lmf@fernowmedicalhousecalls.com, 207-992-6822. Please note that information is general in nature and specific questions should be addressed to your health care professional.


How can you enjoy working out, eating local produce, and enhancing your total wellbeing affordably all summer?  Garden!  Gardening builds and strengthens muscles, providing full body exercise for people of all ages.  An hour of steadily digging, weeding, and mulching is the equivalent of taking 10,000 steps!  Enjoying ripe tomatoes and other fresh produce will double your rewards.  Canning or freezing some of your crop will further extend the benefits of your labor well into the winter.

Inviting a friend or young child to work with you may enrich your experience and socially engage your mind in ways that are known to protect against cognitive decline.  While you’re in your garden, take care to plant some pumpkins.  You’ll have homegrown jack-o-lanterns in the fall, and you can harvest the seeds.  Pumpkin seeds are a “super food” containing high levels of fiber and protein.  They may also contribute to prostate health, bone strength, and help to prevent arthritis.  Blueberries are full of antioxidants that boost your immune system.  Other foods you may want to grow in your garden that have crucial nutrients to prevent disease include garlic, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, and onions.

For tips on planting a successful garden, call the Piscataquis Cooperative Extension office at 564-3301, or check out their website at  http://umaine.edu/gardening/

You may also qualify for Senior FarmShare, a program that provides fresh seasonal foods for eligible seniors.  You can learn more about this program by calling Eastern Area Agency on Aging at 1.877.353.3771, or by visiting www.getrealmaine.com

GrowME Sprouts and Spurts!

Local collaboration will provide classroom activities

GrowME logoDover Foxcroft — While it might be difficult to think about gardening and farming in mid-January, a group of volunteers are doing just that. They are meeting at Piscataquis Soil and Water Conservation District office on Thursday, January 30 at 1 PM to begin preparing a third year for the GrowME program. The program is offered to K-3 teachers and schools in Piscataquis County and the surrounding areas. The program is organized by a collaboration between Valley Grange of Guilford, PCSWCD (Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District) and UMaine Piscataquis County Extension.

The program aims to utilize local volunteers who will work with teachers to schedule an agricultural activity in their classrooms during Maine Agriculture Week (March 24-28). Ana Bonstedt, Home Horticulture Coordinator for Piscataquis County UMaine Extension is particularly excited over the “hands on” aspect of the activities. “Thanks to our rural nature in Piscataquis County, we don’t have the ‘nature deficit’ that some more urban areas experience,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be offering our kids an opportunity to involve all their senses and get some hands on learning.”

Walter Boomsma, program director for Valley Grange agrees. For a number years he’s visited second graders at PCES to make butter as part of Valley Grange’s commitment to being a resource. “We have fun and the kids almost don’t realize they are learning–some have even asked for instructions and then made butter at home as a family activity.” Grange members have also done seed planting activities and created animal graphs. “We also spend some time just talking with the kids—many have chickens and gardens and it’s fun to share experiences.” Bonstedt has also seen positive impact of these hands on experiences—during last year’s activities she was invited back to one classroom to talk about her native country, Paraguay.

Boomsma notes that last year volunteers visited with over 40 classrooms and 700 kids, but note’s there should be no shortage of volunteers and resources thanks to the collaboration. “We’ve got master gardeners and farmers available through Extension Programs and PCSWCD includes partners and resources that are committed to good stewardship. Our continued goal is to keep this informal, local, and a true partnership between our schools, teachers, and volunteers. It’s not so much that we have a program to offer—it’s more about working together to make good use of our resources. Our volunteers will have the sort of agricultural experience and background to be especially relevant to students while providing insight into the importance of agriculture in our area.”

The group focuses on kindergarten through third grade but is willing to consider requests from teachers of other grades.

GrowME volunteers visit for about 20 minutes and work with students on a simple, grade appropriate activity. Teachers and administrators who are interested need only furnish contact information: teacher’s name-email address and grade. Interested teachers may email grange@boomsmaonline.com or call Boomsma at 343-1842. An online sign-up form is also available at http://growmehelp.wordpress.com.

October 2013 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share! This month’s column is written by Walter Boomsma as Karen is very busy with her work!

October is Farm to School Month!

FTS LogoFarm to school is broadly defined as any program that connects schools (K-12) and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers. Farm to school programs exist in all 50 states, but since farm to school is a grassroots movement, programs are as diverse as the communities that build them. In fact, the collaboration “GrowME” might qualify as we attempt to create agricultural literacy with classroom activities.

I’m willing to bet it’s not a coincidence that this is the month when many families make trips to pumpkin patches and apple orchards. Fall is a great time to think about the role farming plays in our health and in our communities. In the broadest sense, the harvest season starts with county fairs and may not end until spring when we open the last jar of veggies canned from our garden.

Chances are there are some activities taking place in your child’s school that fall under the “farm to school” heading. But it’s also a good time of year to consider the concept of “farm to family.” An outing to select pumpkins for the traditional jack-o-lanterns can be a healthy family event because it includes fresh air, sunshine, and an opportunity for the family to simply “be together.” These opportunities become increasingly important as the societal trends pull us in different directions or have us sitting silently together while we stare at our cell phones and tablets.

Visit a farm market–not only for the fresh produce but also for a chance to talk with the people who have grown what you’re purchasing. Most of these folks are happy to share information–some are very entertaining–and you’ll often get recipes and suggestions for preparation.

Most dictionaries define harvesting as the gathering of crops and, with a little creative thinking, we can find much to harvest. When we rake the leaves in our yards, we might be harvesting–as long as we are putting those leaves to some good use–perhaps as compost. (Personally I think a big pile for jumping in would qualify.) Rainwater collection systems allow us to “harvest” rainwater–not something we’d traditionally think of as a crop, certainly.

What can you harvest this fall to improve yours and your family’s health? Henry David Thoreau found much to harvest. ““The true harvest of my life is intangible – a little star dust caught, a portion of the rainbow I have clutched.

Some resources:

University of Maine Cooperative Extension

National Farm to School Month Information

National Farm to School Network

Eat Maine Foods Coalition

Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association

 

 

 

 

Eat and Learn with Extension

Saturday, September 7 Valley Grange hosts the UMaine Extension Piscataquis County Annual Supper and Meeting and it looks like there’s going to be something for everyone!

logo-piscataquis-santaAnother yummy supper is prepared by Penquis Volunteers and all proceeds will benefit Piscataquis Santa, served from 5 PM until 7 PM by donation to benefit Piscataquis Santa. The meal deal includes baked stuffed chicken, Angus beef tips, mashed potatoes with gravy, mac and cheese, glazed carrots and string beans, dinner rolls, fruit pie and vanilla ice cream, coffee, tea, and lemonade! Suggested donation is $8 for adults, $4 for kids 3-12, under 3 eat free! 100% of the proceeds benefit the Piscataquis Santa Fund! (There will only be 109 days until Christmas from this event!)

A LOGOThe program parts include lots of exciting things! Prior to and during supper there will be Extension exhibits and demonstrations including a working bee hive and opportunity for the kids to make “bee hummers,” information on gardening, farming and nutrition. Bring your gardening, farming, nutrition, 4-H questions! There will also be lots of material available… The annual meeting starting at 7 PM will feature highlights of local programming and a feature presentation by Dr. Lois Stack, UMaine Extension Ornamental Horticulture Specialist, “Native Plants in the Home Landscape.” All exhibits, demonstrations, and the program are free!

This is collaboration and cooperation at its best! You can come to one thing or you can come to everything!

Wicked Huge Yard and Bake Sale!

March Eggstravaganza!

Friday, March 16th Valley Grange will host an “Eggstravaganza” to celebrate completion of the GrowME activities completed throughout the week—and the hatching of a local program that’s sure to grow every year. Everyone involved in the project – volunteers, teachers, students, parents—is invited! Donna Coffin of Piscataquis County Extension will introduce her “virtual chicken” so we can all learn how eggs are formed and we’ll have highlights of the program’s results. Bring your favorite egg-based dish to share at a community potluck supper at 6 PM. For additional information contact Walter Boomsma at 343-1842 or email. Grange Hall is located at the corner of Guilford Center Road and Butter Street.