Volunteer and gardener Bob Clark stands in one of the gardens at the Kelley Farm Preserve Community Garden. Clark has been instrumental in building infrastructure around the gardens and collecting gardeners for this season. ISLANDER PHOTO BY SARAH HINCKLEY

Garden flourishes at Kelley Farm

TREMONT—Tomatoes, squash and other crops are popping up in the community garden on the Kelley Farm Preserve, which is celebrating its most successful season yet.

In 2014, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) purchased the 10-acre property, a saltwater farm in Bernard that borders Cousins Creek.

Having a garden at the property was always in the group’s plans, according to MCHT steward Doug McMullin, but it has taken a few years to get it going.

“We made space available but didn’t have a ton of time to put into it,” McMullin said. “It’s a good use of the land.”

He credits Tremont resident Bob Clark and a few other volunteers with “stepping up like crazy,” to make it happen.

Clark helped build deer fences around the gardens.

“I really wanted the place to succeed,” he said. “I did realize that someone needed to step up so that’s what I did. It’s really blossomed and that’s really gratifying.”

Last fall, Clark and his wife Lisa Horsch Clark contacted MCHT to see what they had planned for the property. Then the Clarks and MCHT reached out via social media to find people interested in cultivating a plot.

Eleven people have paid $20 for the season to grow all they want in a 300-square-foot plot. Southwest Harbor resident Hope Rowan is one of them.

Hope Rowan works in her garden plot at the Kelley Farm Preserve Community Garden in Bernard. Owned by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, the 10-acre property borders Cousins Creek and hosts 11 garden plots this season. ISLANDER PHOTO BY SARAH HINCKLEY

“I’ve been wanting to do a community garden for awhile,” Rowan said. She’s been inspired by her dad, who she said is an avid gardener. “I like to grow my own vegetables if I can. There’s nothing like growing your own. Something about providing your own food, it’s really satisfying.”

Rowan owns a house that is surrounded by woods, with no room to create a garden. Clark’s reason for being a part of the community garden is the same.

“My thing is, we live in the woods and I don’t want to cut any trees,” he said. “Not everybody is from right local here. There’s certainly no requirement for that… It’s a lovely piece of land that we really want people to know about.”

And the land is ideal for growing vegetables.

“It’s amazing soil,” said Rowan while picking tomatoes and summer squash. “I put [on] a little bit of compost and things are going crazy.”

There are two approximately 3,000-square-foot gardens separated by a grassy path. Each garden has room for 10 plots, five on each side with a path down the middle.

One of the gardens is full, with all 10 plots in use by tenants. Each has its own variety of plants, including flowers, corn, dill, tomatoes, kale, Swiss chard, onions, squash, beans, basil and even amaranth.

In the second garden, only one plot was rented this year. Pumpkins, corn and sunflowers were planted in the rest of the garden space for this season.

“I would love next year to see ten people in that garden,” said Clark. “I really appreciate that it’s done so well this year.”

Rowan said her neighbors have both inspired and helped her in the garden this year. During one trip to her plot, another gardener warned Rowan about tomato hornworms.

“They’re gross,” she said. “I had no idea so I probably wouldn’t have seen them.”

In fact, she found two and learned the only way to get rid of them was to squish them.

When Rowan’s squash started to show rot, she asked other gardeners about it. Some confirmed that had happened to their crops, too, but no one knew why.

When she asked at the hardware store, she said the rot might indicate that the soil lacked calcium, so she made an adjustment.

“Another thing that I’ve enjoyed about it is it’s fun watching everyone else’s methods,” said Rowan. “Sometimes I just walk around to see what other people are doing.”

Since beginning the season, she has harvested a lot of kale, summer squash and lots of little tomatoes. As Rowan watered her plot she pondered what plants she might try next season.

“I’m excited to do it again next year,” said Rowan. “I could have just done those sun gold tomatoes. That’s really why I have this plot.”

On Oct. 13 the MCHT plans a harvest party at the garden space with music and food. Visit mcht.org.


Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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