Ecology School will expand holdings along the Saco River
The Ecology School in Saco has added 200 acres to its regenerative agriculture learning campus at River Bend Farm alongside the Saco River.
The property was purchased for $300,000.
The American Farmland Trust and Hannaford Charitable Foundation each contributed $100,000, and private funders contributed the rest.
“During this next decade, it will be crucial that our regional and national food systems become more climate-smart and work to support local communities, conservation, and address hunger,” said Drew Dumsch, president and CEO of the Ecology School. “We are honored to be partnering with Hannaford and the American Farmland Trust to create more public engagement and inspirational, hands-on education focused on this important work.”
Dumsch was an honoree for Mainebiz’s Next List in 2020.
The expansion will allow the school to expand its farming operations, workforce training, educational programs, conservation, agricultural research, and support collaborative partnerships. The additional fresh produce production will benefit the Ecology School’s Farm-to-Table Initiative and food pantry donations to help support community members who are experiencing food insecurity.
“AFT is proud to contribute to such a unique institution as The Ecology School,” said American Farmland Trust President and CEO John Piotti. “This school will help produce future farmers and teach them the practical skills necessary to run a farm operation. I cannot think of anything more valuable than shaping the future of farming, and The Ecology School encapsulates that.”
According to the release, representatives from the school and the American Farmland Trust and Hannaford Charitable Foundation contributed a native plant “guild,” which is a community of plants working together to enhance each plant’s natural function. Each plant is native to Maine and will support pollinators and produce food for humans and other animals.
“As a grocery retailer, sustainability is a core pillar of our work, and we are deeply committed to reducing waste and protecting the environment,” said Hannaford Charitable Foundation board Chair Peter Forester, who is senior vice president of merchandising for the grocery retailer. “The Ecology School has truly innovated the way that people explore and connect with food systems. The Hannaford Charitable Foundation is pleased to support the Ecology School as it expands both its footprint and opportunities for the community to learn about the importance of regenerative agriculture in building a better, greener future for us all.”
The Ecology School is a nonprofit environmental education program started in 1998 in Saco. Located on the River Bend Farm, a historic 105-acre farm on a scenic bend along the Saco River, the Ecology School hosts retreats, conferences, summer camps and school programs. Around 3,500 students visit River Bend Farm annually for hands-on learning opportunities that inspire new ways of looking at food, farming, nature, communities and conservation through studying ecosystems, food systems and sustainability.