June 1, 2013

Fruits, vegetables and perennial herbs will be incorporated into the landscape of Capitol Park under a measure that became law May 29,2013.

Across America gardeners are transforming their home landscapes into edible gardens, reconnecting to gardening as a source of food that is beautiful to grow- and to eat. Tomatoes, arugula, squash and their other vegetable brethren have now found new homes nestled beside roses, marigolds and violets. Herbs and edible flowers are also harvested and added to salads, sandwiches and even ice creams. Once that harvest is in many, in Maine, share the bounty with neighbors.

“Gardens grow much more than food,” said Rep. Brian Jones, a co-sponsor. “They build community.”

The legislation sponsored by Rep. Craig Hickman became public law without the governor’s signature as it had a 2/3 rd’s majority.

“I want people, especially children, to see local agriculture when they visit the State House,” said Hickman. “I want them to see how beautiful food-producing plants can be.”

The law arranges for and oversees the development and maintenance of edible landscaping in a portion of Capitol Park. Hickman said the landscaping would require little or no additional work and that edible landscaping will be added to the park as money is available. Both public and private funds may be used to cover the cost.

The groundwork for the park will be done with existing park maintenance funds. The seeds are being donated by the Paris Farmer’s Union and the edible perennials will come straight from Hickman’s fields in Winthrop.

This legislation is an excellent way to raise awareness of the local food movement and to educate and inspire visitors to Capitol Park to plant their own food gardens. It will cut down on maintenance of the park and keep pests at bay. It will also be an excellent tool to educate children who visit the State House Complex.

Rep. Matthea Daughtry said Capitol Park is the earliest example of a consciously designed landscape in Maine.

In 1920, Frederick Law Olmsted’s firm was commissioned by Governor Miliken to prepare a plan for the Capitol grounds. The design for the park, on the National Registry of Historic Places, was based on Olmsted’s style, but the plan was never fully implemented. Daughtry, a student of landscape design, said Hickman’s measure dovetails well with the full vision for the park.

The legislation becomes law 90 days after the adjournment of that legislative session

Hickman, a farmer, is invested in promoting local foods and has submitted other legislation supporting agriculture and local food, including a measure to help veterans create their own farming businesses.

Hickman is serving his first term in the Maine House of Representatives and represents Readfield and Winthrop.