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Maine Teachers Receive National Award for “Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture”

June 7, 2011

Contact: Willie Grenier

AUGUSTA—Annette Caldwell and Gretchen Kimball, teachers at the Buckfield Junior/Senior High School in Buckfield, Maine, have received one of five top awards in the nation for “Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture.” This award is offered by the US Department of Agriculture and the National Agriculture in the Classroom (NAITC) Consortium. Teachers from all 50 states are eligible.

In June, both teachers will travel to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, for an all-expense-paid, five-day trip to receive their award at the NAITC conference. Ms. Caldwell and Ms. Kimball were also the 2011 Maine Agriculture in the Classroom (MAITC) Teachers of the Year, for their gardening and curriculum project at the Buckfield School.

Under the direction of these teachers, the students and staff have established a 1.2-acre garden, for the purpose of enhancing academic achievement, reinforcing healthy choices, promoting ecological stewardship, and fostering community and social development. As students have wrestled with the never-ending problems that accompanied this authentic learning experience, they have grown to appreciate challenge and love learning.

The garden is managed by Middle School students, who work each winter to research and plan what will be grown. Using a budget, they order seeds, and then, in early spring, they begin the process of planting. With a rich soil mixture cultivated from their worm bins, students start their seeds under grow-lights in the classroom, moving them to the greenhouse as soon as possible. The planting takes place over several days in early June, and then the work begins. In the fall, produce is used for a harvest supper, pumpkin raffle, and other fundraisers, with the proceeds used for a worthy cause in the community.

The Buckfield Garden Project has been incorporated into the Middle School Math and Language Arts lessons, as well as other subjects across the curriculum. Students in the school system, from elementary age to high school, are using the garden in their class work, problem solving and working together to create successful service-learning, real-life experiences for them all. Students in this district know how to grow food!

In the words of Maine State Representative Teresa Hayes, “Ms. Caldwell and Ms. Kimball have made locally grown food a reality for our students. They have used the garden to teach—the students, the staff, and our community. They have reconnected us all to the agricultural heritage of our grandparents.”

If you are interested in applying or nominating a colleague for this award, applications for the 2012 MAITC Teacher of the Year are available at or you can call the office at 207-287-5522. Applications are due at the MAITC office at 28 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333 by September 10, 2011.

Contact: Willie Grenier, 207-287-5522,

Captions for accompanying photographs

Photo 1 (left to right): Buckfield Junior/Senior High School teachers Annette Caldwell and Gretchen Kimball, recipients of the 2011 Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture Award and 2011 Maine Agriculture in the Classroom Teachers of the Year.

Photo 2: The 1.2-acre Buckfield Garden Project garden—the centerpiece of the gardening and curriculum project at the Buckfield School.

Photo 3: Close-up of vegetables at the Buckfield Garden Project garden.

Related Files

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