The Traip Greenhouse and Garden program at Traip Academy, a small public high school in Kittery, is starting its seventh season. Largely a “Grow to Sell” operation, the majority of their plant material is raised from seed in their greenhouse. The program grows a good selection of culinary herbs, vegetables, flowers and fruits to expose students to plants that are suitable for the Southern Maine climate. Students learn about insects, pests, disease issues plus plant identification while gardening.
Students help to grow herbs, vegetables, annual and perennial flowers during the school year as well as fruit such as honey berries, blueberries, raspberries, elderberries, peaches, blackberries and apples. Half of the plants they grow are sold during their annual May Plant Sale (held this year on May 13th and 14th!) with the money raised supporting their program. The remaining plants are placed in their gardens with the help of both student and adult volunteers over Memorial Day weekend.
Once school is out, the summer program starts using student interns and community volunteers. Students can apply for one of the 8-10 garden internship positions which last ten weeks and are paid minimum wage. The focus of the summer work revolves around a Saturday Farmer’s Market. Held right at their garden, they offer tours for their customers as well as a pick on demand service. In addition to selling fruit and vegetables, they also offer ready made bouquets. Many of the interns return for subsequent summers and the group often includes incoming freshmen. The older students are welcoming to the new students and offer advice on classes and how to weather the first year of high school.
While learning to grow their own food helps students to develop a skill they can use the rest of their life, they also learn to market, gain basic math skills, deal with the public and take pride in their work. A few students also work as volunteers for community service hours.
Students also have opportunities to cook using produce from the garden. Once a week, on non-market days, students choose a dish to make utilizing produce from the garden in the kitchen at the high school. Students have made dishes such as garlic scape pesto, fruit pies, zucchini fritters, marinara sauce and jams.
Other aspects of the program include a Jeopardy-like team competition following weeding sessions with team winners rewarded with treats and progress toward an overall prize. They have also offered evening garden talks and hosted local groups like the Rotary.
Pre-Covid the group was able to take a few local field trips to area gardens. For example, one summer they traveled to the Isles of Shoals to look at the compost and garden operation at Star Island Family Retreat and Conference Center. As a thank you for being hosted, the student gardeners provided vegetables to the Center to supplement the gardens there because of the challenges of a short growing season on the island coupled with seaside gardening conditions.
Once school resumes in the fall, the program offers a mid-week mini market for school staff and also provides the school nutrition program with greens, herbs and fall vegetables.
The program benefits from the extensive horticulture background of Anne Masury, Traip Greenhouse and Garden Coordinator, who has worked in the florist industry, run greenhouses, a small landscaping business and holds a masters in Plant Science from UConn where she studied Historic Landscape Restoration.
Anne can be reached at email@example.com.