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Nutrition Center lays groundwork for new garden by planting sunflowers

The sunflowers will help remediate lead in the soil and beautify the space until the garden can be designed and planted.

Nearly 50 people gathered at St. Mary’s Nutrition Center recently to celebrate the forthcoming creation of a new learning garden at their Bates Street location. Last fall, the Nutrition Center cleared the lot behind their building and planted a cover crop to prepare the land for a new garden.  When soil tests revealed lead levels just above recommended levels, organizers decided to forgo gardening this summer and plant sunflowers instead, which will help remediate lead in the soil and beautify the space until the learning garden can be designed and built.

At the event, Youth Gardeners from the Nutrition Center’s youth leadership development programs helped lead the crowd in planting numerous rows of sunflower seeds. Community members also did a symbolic “planting” of wooden stakes listing their hopes and wishes for the new garden. Nutrition Center Director Kirsten Walter explained the initial vision for the new space. “There’s a lot of good work that takes place inside our building, but much of our work is outside at community garden sites across Lewiston-Auburn and in schools,” she said. “We are excited to finally be able to highlight that work here in our backyard and better integrate gardening components into our cooking, food pantry, and youth programming.

“This garden will be built specifically for learning and for people of all ages,” she continued. “Many features will be open to the public for visiting, learning, picking, eating, gathering and relaxing.”

Feedback boards with options for garden features were displayed, providing those in attendance with an opportunity to comment on what they liked and to share their own ideas for the new garden while enjoying rhubarb muffins, visiting the face-painting station, and choosing a plant to take home.

The goal of St. Mary’s Nutrition Center, located in downtown Lewiston, is to promote community health through urban gardening programs, an emergency food pantry, cooking and nutrition education, youth development programs, and food access initiatives like the Lewiston Farmers’ Market and the Good Food Bus. For more information about the center, see

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