In 2004, volunteers met with teachers, administrators, food service staff and farmers to develop food learning programs that would promote healthier, local food choices through hands-on culinary and taste test experiences. In 2005, FARMS coordinated the first Harvest Lunch at Great Salt Bay School and received a grant from the Irving Foundation. From this success, FARMS went on in 2006 to coordinate Harvest Lunches district-wide and host a forum with First Lady Baldacci that included over 175 participants. During this time, Karen Kleinkopf, co-founder of FARMS, offered taste tests in the local schools and found that children and most teachers were very receptive to this approach.
In 2007 and 2008, FARMS again helped to organize roundtable discussions and a conference about farm to school issues. These events, held at The Morris Farm one year and at Chewonki the next, attracted attendees from a range of backgrounds and interests in the subject. Working together with local farmers, small businesses, and school officials, FARMS continued to promote local purchasing and the increased consumption of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. By this time, Karen had become somewhat of a celebrity with local school children intrigued with the fresh ingredients she brought into their classrooms.
In 2010, as multi-year grant funds from the Maine Health Access Foundation (MeHAF) became available, FARMS was incorporated and hired professional staff. Karen continued her work in an official capacity in the AOS#93 schools and Abby Plummer joined the organization to meet the increasing demand for Farm to School Educators. Abby, whose training is in farming, provided additional expertise in gardening and helped start the Mountain Minters, Great Salt Bay’s student garden club.
Since then, FARMS has reached children throughout Lincoln County with successful, hands-on programming that promotes healthier eating choices and educates students about local farms and their importance to sustainability, both environmental and economical. In 2012, Heather Burt, a board member since 2010, became the executive director. With the increased capacity, FARMS is offering programs in the five AOS#93 schools in 2012-2013, Wiscasset Primary and Middle Schools (through funding provided by the Morris Farm Trust), and at Edgecomb Eddy School. In addition, FARMS collaborates with Kieve/Wavus Camps to offer an educational garden curriculum to their students and campers and is working with the Weymouth House to offer an expanded garden curriculum to Bristol Consolidated School children.
FARMS believes that in order for children to eat well, their community needs to eat well. In order to address this, one of our goals is to open a Community Kitchen: a facility that will provide a demonstration kitchen for hands-on cooking classes for people of all ages and a resource space with nutrition and gardening information. In the spring, FARMS launched a Kickstarter Campaign to raise the initial funds for the Community Kitchen. 270 backers pledged $21,991 to help bring this project to life.
Through funding from generous donors and foundations, we now have a 2,400 square foot fully equipped state-of-the-art Community Kitchen, connected lecture room and office/storage space for year-round health-conscious cooking classes and food workshops on the second floor of the centrally located Rising Tide Cooperative Market in Damariscotta.