Country classroom
By Tanya Mitchell
VillageSoup/Waldo County Citizen Reporter

UNITY/BELFAST (Sep 27): Whether mulching or showing off the best of a fall harvest, local students got their hands dirty in preparation for the 31st annual Common Ground Country Fair, hosted Sept. 21-23 by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

Tanya Mitchell
The garden project was recently honored as the 2007 Garden School of the Year, a distinction offered through a partnership between the National Gardening Association and Home Depot. THMS received a plaque, a gift card from Home Depot and the NGA will publish the program curriculum. Here, students and staff gather around the plaque. (Photo by Tanya Mitchell)

The area dedicated to the nationally recognized Troy Howard Middle School Garden Project buzzed with activity Thursday, Sept. 20. THMS students and staff selected the best produce and flowers to be displayed and judged in the fair's Exhibition Hall. Contest categories include the great pumpkin, giant squash, biggest beet and the "whatever" contest for vegetable oddities.

Thursday, the focus was on the program's flower, onion and great pumpkin entries.

In the nursery, THMS garden project agricultural coordinator Jon Thurston dried five varieties of onions destined for the Exhibition Hall. "We spend all week getting ready for the fair," Thurston said, adding a few students also brought produce from home gardens to enter as individuals.

The group also chose which of the giant pumpkins would be pulled from the patch for judging at CGCF. Students took circumference measurements to estimate the probable weights. Once the largest circumference was determined, it was time to top the scales.

Lead THMS garden project teacher Steven Tanguay led the six students carrying the pumpkin on a tarp to the scale just outside the patch.

Tanya Mitchell
The Troy Howard Middle School Garden Project's pick for the great pumpkin entry at the Common Ground Country Fair is placed on a scale. (Photo by Tanya Mitchell)

Tanguay weighed the pumpkin, but just how "giant" it is remained a mystery to everyone else. Students and parents will be invited to guess the heft of the giant pumpkin at a THMS open house. "I can tell you it's well over 100 pounds," Tanguay said.