Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Testimony: Edible Landscaping in Capitol Park

Testimony of Representative Craig Hickman
LD 474: An Act To Require Edible Landscaping 

in a Portion of Capitol Park
Before the Joint Standing Committee 

on State and Local Government
March 4, 2013

Good morning Senator Lachowicz, Representative Graham, and other distinguished members of the Joint Standing Committee on State and Local Government. I stand before you today to present LD 474: An Act To Require Edible Landscaping in a Portion of Capitol Park.

The first bill this organic farmer presents as a new lawmaker is one that highlights agriculture on capitol grounds before a committee that includes the two women most influential in helping me get elected in the first place, who serve on a committee that shares the same room as the committee on which I serve, Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry. I guess you could call it serendipity. Representative Bolduc, I’d like to thank you for keeping that seat warm on my off days.

When I stand on the third-floor balcony of the State House overlooking the beautiful expanse of Capitol Park, I see food. Blueberries, sage, hyssop, oregano and chocolate mint, with their attractive white, pink and purple flowers, make great shrubs or hedges. I even see sweet potatoes, okra and collard greens. Have you ever seen the flowers of a sweet potato plant? They look like morning glories. How about okra? Yes, it grows quite well in Maine, especially as our summers grow hotter. Right before it produces one of the most nutritious foods on the planet, it puts forth flowers that look like hibiscus blooms, light golden petals with a deep reddish-purple stamen. Who likes braised collard greens with onions and garlic? Right before collards go to seed, they produce tall, abundant shoots of startling yellow flowers that reach toward heaven. Folks who visit my farm while collards are in bloom are always struck by their magnificence. If you’ve never seen an onion flower open or a garlic scape’s dramatic curl, then you haven’t seen anything. A carpet of red, purple, and deep green salad greens can cover the ground with more character and personality than grass could ever offer up. Food as landscape. I want people, especially children, to see agriculture when they visit the State House. I want them to see how beautiful food-producing plants can be.

If you take a look at attached map of Capitol Park, you see two areas that will require attention when the weather breaks. The shrub garden in the northwest corner could feature blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries and perhaps some hyssop or chocolate mint to keep pests at bay. By the way, anything we grow will be rooted in compost-amended soil and will never be sprayed with pesticides of any kind. The main entrance to the Park could provide a great opportunity to mix food-producing annuals and perennials in a creative and inviting garden which will potentially attract more people to the park.

So, how much will all of this cost the state? Not a penny. Thanks to the generosity of Paris Farmers Union, I received a huge donation of seeds that we can use to get the gardens started. I’ll also need to split some edible perennials on my farm this season that we can transplant in Capitol Park. A few legislators are interested in helping design the project, and people all over the region have already offered to help maintain the edible landscaping.

I humbly ask that you vote ought to pass on LD474. Thank you.

Related Links:
Blueberry, mint and potatoes in Capitol Park? Supporters say yes
Winthrop legislator proposes edible plants requirement for Capitol Park