Farm to School Garden Program

What started as a dream and a few garden beds has grown to become a robust farm to school garden program that is an integral part of our students’ learning at Stratton School!

Video: Students discuss what does the garden and cooking mean to you?


In the spring of 2011, Dave Richards, a member of the Eustis School Board, approached the teachers, wondering if there was any interest in a school garden. He had already written a grant to obtain multiple garden tools, soil, and stones for raised beds. Katie Wuori’s fifth-grade social studies class helped pull up the grass and dig the outline for the beds, volunteers placed the rocks, poured the soil, and the prek/kindergarten started planting. “Initially, I don’t think it was very organized. . . The Kindergarten kids planted the entire garden one of those years, but there wasn’t a cohesive plan, and it wasn’t taken care of well. I remember one fall I took my students out, and we gathered cherry tomatoes and put them in the staff room to eat,” recalled Tabitha Emery, Pre-K and Kindergarten teacher, now principal.

In 2015, a more cohesive program unfolded. During the winter months, sixth/seventh grades plan out a “theme garden.” There is a school-wide seed planting day where every student gets their hands in the dirt, and seedlings are grown in all classrooms. Groups of students, volunteers, and staff take turns watering, weeding, and maintaining the garden over the summer months. The food grown has been incorporated into the daily lunch program, local food pantry, and fine dining restaurants. In the fall, there is a school-wide cooking day where every student prepares, produces, cooks, sets up, serves, breaks down, and cleans as part of the annual free pot-luck Harvest Fest meal, which the community is invited to attend.

In 2020, our garden program expanded with nine organic raised beds to supplement the school food program. Due to the pandemic and schools closing worldwide, Anne Flight and Katie Wuori planted the beds; hopeful, students will return to a garden in full bloom. They collaborated with local businesses to get pallets, soil, and seeds donated to give to families who wanted to try to garden at home. They made videos posted on the school website guiding beginner gardeners through the summer season with their pallet gardens. 

In the spring of 2021, the garden program again began to expand. With more staff and teachers onboard to get outside and create experiential learning opportunities for students, FoodCorps  came to the school. The Garden Team joined a year-long cohort with Laura Hoeft (The Great Franklin County School Garden Coordinator) through the  New England Farm to School Program.  Katie Wuori, along with three other county teachers in Franklin County, began to collaborate through Greater Franklin Food Council (GFFC)  initiative to support school gardens (SING -School Integrating Nutrition and Gardening) and revise and expand the ten-year-old “Growing Gardeners Curriculum” by Selina Warren of Kingfield Elementary School now K-8 grade cross subject curriculum for schools to use. Collaboration between Food Corp and the classroom teachers was successful. We also fund-raised and built a three-season growing dome through Growing Spaces. The Middle School created a Student School Garden Team, the Chaotic Carrots, who met weekly and took over the dome, watering, and planning other projects for the younger grades.  We also began a collaboration with Green Farm, a local organic greenhouse business who sold flowers and vegetables.  Gale Merrill helped us plant 100 hanging baskets, which is a yearly occurrence to raise around $2,000.00 for maintenance of the growing dome and other garden expenses that are not budgeted for.  In 2023, we “graduated” from Food Corp, and the school board approved the addition of a School Nutrition and Garden Coordinator year-round job to support the integration of outdoor learning which has become embedded into the culture of the school. To help support Food Corp leaving, The Stratton team joined Maine Farm to School Network. The Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance reached out to perform a case study on the community Harvest Fest to showcase how schools and communities can work together to create healthy living choices. Stratton School is also collaborating with ReTreeUS to add a 200 X 200 yard orchard to the school grounds in the summer and fall of 2024. In the Pre-K to Fourth grade front, “experiential beds,” students are planting herbs for teas to harvest, dry, package and sell as a fundraiser for our garden program or specific classroom project with ties to outdoor/experiential learning.

Video: The history of the school garden

Annual Harvest Fest

Each year we celebrate the harvest season with a community meal. This culminating event is special as students get to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Students harvest foods from our school garden that they watched grow after planting the seeds in the spring. For the weeks and days leading up to Harvest Fest students are helping to plan and implement this meal. Students work with volunteers to prep and prepare soups, salads, dressings, bread, butter, cheese, apple crisp, and more for the community to enjoy!

2023 Spring Celebration and Grow Dome Ribbon Cutting

In June 2023, we held a school wide Spring Celebration. We had a lot of things to celebrate at this event including the official ribbon cutting of the grow dome. The fundraising and building of the 33 foot Growing Spaces grow dome was quite an accomplishment for our school. We had many helping hands from our local community when it came time to put the build together. After the exterior was built, it was time to focus on the interior in which we have installed raised beds along the walls and have a “pond” in which there are some brook trout (added in Fall 2023) and we hope in the future to have some aquaponics.

June 2023, Spring Celebration- WSKI 17 video
In June 2021, our local news outlet WSKI 17, joined us for a Garden Open House and Grow Dome Groundbreaking Celebration.

Teach ME Outside – Case Study

Teach ME Outside is a collaborative project that supports and works in partnership with Maine communities to ensure that all Maine youth have access to powerful, hands-on environmental learning opportunities.

Stratton School was highlighted in a case study for exemplar demonstration of Community-Based Outdoor and Environmental Learning. The case study highlights the Harvest Fest meal and the relationships with the community that go into making this a successful event year after year.