Joe Sherburne Senior Community Garden shaping up

By Mike Lange
Staff Writer

    DEXTER — Thanks to a parcel of land donated by a local farmer and plenty of down-and-dirty volunteer work, senior citizens in the Dexter area will have fresh vegetables free of charge this fall from the Joe Sherburne Senior Community Garden.

NE-Garden-dclr1-PO-23Observer photo/Mike Lange

    COMMUNITY GARDEN — Volunteers gather to work on the Joe Sherburne Senior Community Garden on June 1. They include, from left, Jackie Estrella, Dexter; Paula Sambito, Ripley; Sue Eastman, Guilford; Mary Beth Morrel, Sangerville; Deb Burdin, Dexter; Dot Neal, Corinna; and Marie S. Gallison, Corinna.

    Fred Sherburne donated the use of part of his farmland for a garden in memory of his late brother Joe, who passed away in 2008. Joe Sherburne was well known as an organic farmer and creator of the soil supplement “Compost Almost.”
    The concept of the community garden is credited to Deb Burdin, the owner-operator of Bwarts Plants in Dexter. But she emphasized that without a dedicated group of volunteers, it would have never gotten off the ground.
    “We have a lot of senior citizens in the area, and many of them can’t afford fresh vegetables,” Burdin said. “In addition, many aren’t in good physical condition, so they can’t plant their own garden. So I started talking to some of my customers, and then approached Fred (Sherburne). And here we are.”

NE-Garden-dc2-PO-23Observer photo/Mike Lange

    GARDEN LAYOUT — Mary Beth Morrel and Deb Burdin work on a map of the Joe Sherburne Senior Community Garden in Dexter. All produce grown can be harvested by seniors this fall free of charge.

    Burdin started handing out flyers at her Corinna Road shop several weeks ago asking for help, emphasizing that the vegetables will be planted by volunteers and provided to seniors age 65 and older free of charge.
    She also set up a Facebook page – Shared Bounty – to encourage more participation. “We’re planting ever Saturday until we’re finished, so anyone who wants to get their hands dirty is welcome,” Burdin said. The seeds and seedlings are also donated.
    For three days last week, 10 to 15 volunteers – including several senior citizens – planted a variety of vegetables from onions to leaf lettuce. Jackie Estrella, a student at Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor, found out about the project while shopping at Bwarts. “I’ve never been much of a hands-on gardener, but it’s okay to get your hands dirty for a good cause,” Estrella said.

NE-Garden-dc3-PO-23Observer photo/Mike Lange

    Deb Burdin rototills part of the Joe Sherburne Senior Community Garden in Dexter.

    Dot Neal of Corinna volunteers at her hometown food cupboard and likes to garden in her spare time, so the community project was a perfect fit. “Deb (Burdin) said that any surplus left over from the garden will go to the food banks, so this is a very good cause,” Neal said.
    Marie S. Gallison of Corinna describes herself as a “city gal from the New York area” where she didn’t have much of an opportunity for gardening. “This is something new for me, but I’m learning every day. It’s fun,” said Gallison.
    Burdin also emphasized that there are “no strings attached to the garden project. We’re not getting any funding and relying strictly on donations of goods and labor.” For example, the Tri-County Technical Center built a privy with a composting toilet for the workers. “That saves us $82 a month we’d spend renting a portable,” Burdin said.
    Lumber has also been donated for a shelter under construction so workers can take a break away from the hot sun.

NE-Garden-dc4-PO-23Observer photo/Mike Lange

    DOT NEAL is shown with green pepper seedlings ready for planting in the Joe Sherburne Senior Community Garden in Dexter.

    Even the choice of vegetables takes senior citizens’ diets into consideration.
    “If you’re taking Coumadin (an anticoagulant or blood thinner), you’re not supposed to eat green beans. But yellow ones are OK. So we’re planting some of those,” Burdin said.
    A dedication ceremony of the Joe Sherburne Senior Community Garden will be held on Saturday, June 15 from 1–2 p.m. with a free petting zoo on site from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with calves, sheep, goats, rabbits and chickens. The garden itself will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    For more information, visit Shared Bounty on Facebook or call Bwarts at 924-3010.

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