“You should get an A on your project!” This exclamation came from the audience followed by a sustained round of applause after Lauren Grant, a senior at nearby Mt. Ararat High School, presented her proposal and plan for a resident-driven Community Garden at Highland Green to over 50 enthusiastic residents at the Community Center on April 14th.
Among many other benefits, Highland Green is about active lifestyle, embracing nature and the outdoors, volunteerism, service to the greater community, connection to the next generation, and sustainability. The new Highland Green Community Garden which has been successfully developed over the past six months is emblematic of all of these benefits.
Lauren is the daughter of Highland Green Marketing Team member Amber Grant. Over her last semester of high school, she was required to work on a Capstone Community Service Project in order to graduate. Having studied Environmental Biology on the Cathance River Nature Preserve at Highland Green through science class, having been a camp counselor on the Preserve in the summer for the Cathance River Education Alliance, and having a mother who works here, Lauren knew she wanted to focus on the community. She came up with the idea of developing a plan for a Community Garden.
Required to have one or more mentors for the project, Lauren picked Highland Green Director of Marketing and Sales Will Honan and resident Dave Mosley. Starting last January they met regularly and Lauren put together a comprehensive plan. She marshalled landscape design services, materials and labor resources to ensure that the project could be completed and financed. Highland Green Management and vendors gladly volunteered. Lauren’s succinct plan called for the location of and sustainable materials for three large raised garden beds complete with side seating, landscape boulders, decorative plantings of blueberries and roses, and an irrigation plan. She also suggested the formation of a resident Garden Club that would grow vegetables for use at the Wild Duck Pub at Highland Green and for a community farmer’s market. She suggested that the proceeds of the market could be donated to the local Food Pantry at the Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program.
By presenting her plan to the community Lauren’s job at Highland Green was complete. It was now up to residents to drive the implementation of her vision. Various residents used their interest, enthusiasm, and expertise to work with Highland Green staff and vendors to create the Community Garden. The specs were tweaked, the location prepared, the number of initial beds was increased to four, materials were assembled, and the beds were built.
A Highland Green gardening club was formed, nicknamed “Green Thumbs and Dirty Fingers.” As of now, initial plantings including greens, tomatoes, peppers, leeks, herbs and other produce are growing and the Food Pantry will benefit. If initial interest is any indicator, the Community Garden concept at Highland Green is sure to expand.
Lauren went on to present her project to a panel of faculty and students at Mt. Ararat High School, scored a 59 out of 60, and subsequently received Special Recognition at her graduation award ceremony. She is now off to Colby College in Waterville, Maine where she will likely study Environmental Science. Through the Community Garden project, Lauren gained valuable life experience and left a lasting impression of successful community building and connection.