Category Archives: Business

Westport Island: A Place that Inspires

Natural tranquility helps to inspire an education entrepreneur

Stires farm on Westport Island
Anne Stires began her life on Westport Island in 1976. Her formative years were spent in the woods and marshes of her parents’ expansive property on Post Office Road — where trees, birds and other wild creatures were their closest neighbors. She grew up connected to the land — in a home heated with wood, holding a kitchen table that often included food from the family garden. Family life included harvesting firewood and vegetables, as well as restoring a house steeped in Island history.

Anne moved off the Island in 5th grade. Ironically, it was while she was in 6th grade at the Banks School in Manhattan’s Upper West Side that she was struck with what would become her “truth.” Anne’s teacher brought their classroom outside one day to walk the streets of Manhattan and absorb the world about them. With their eyes and senses primed, they returned to the classroom to write poetry. Anne absorbed more than the sights of Manhattan that day, she absorbed a way of thinking and learning beyond “the desk” that meshed outdoor and social experience, or “place”, with learning.

Anne Stires engaging with studentsToday, she brings her academic training together with her love of life and the natural world at a school she founded, the Juniper Hill School, in Alna. There, along with like-minded colleagues, she shares her enthusiasm for learning through the lens of place. The Juniper Hill School’s “place” is her grandmother’s 1761 farm in Alna bordering the Sheepscot River. This farm has served as a consistent refuge and “garden of adventure” throughout Anne’s life. Now, it is where her students begin their immersion in the adventure of learning by studying the natural and human environments around them. The school serves Pre-K to Grade 4 students and their families.

As an example of the school’s integrated, “place-based” approach: if this school was on Westport Island — older students might look at the history of transportation on Westport over time. Investigating its historical evolution would require speaking turn of the century steamboat at lower landing, Westport Islandwith Westport Islanders whose roots are here. And, tackling the subject as a whole might take them to look at the role of personal boats, the development of mass transportation from steamboats to cars, the ferry landings, the development of roads and bridges — as well as how the demands on this infrastructure changed over time. It would be a Social Studies integrated project where the children read, write, and do studies — perhaps even art studies like photographic essays. Development of concepts and skills is brought to life with sensory immersion. The outdoors and community are “classroom ground zero”.

Westport Island osprey in the nestAnne has a bachelor’s degree in biology and English from Hamilton College in New York and a Masters degree in education from Antioch University New England. An affinity for nature and environmental education always brought her back to Maine. While pursuing her education, she worked at local marine and environmental stewardship programs: the Darling Marine Center, Chewonki Foundation and Tanglewood Learning Center. As a teacher, she taught at Sheepscot Valley Children’s House in Wiscasset and Boothbay Region Elementary School before starting her ideal, hands-on learning “place”: Juniper Hill.

Juniper Hill School is a private school that serves students aged 3-9 in central and Mid-Coast Maine. Students may attend as private pay, or as a “school of choice” in communities like Westport Island and Alna that allow families a tuition-paid choice. To learn more about the school, on-Island resources include Director Anne Stires; Literacy Specialist Susan Stires; and Board Member, Susie Stedman.

photo of Anne Stires and photos of students at the school courtesy of Juniper Hill School

Westport Takes to Rte. 1 on a Summer Saturday

The Fire Department Yard Sale and the Marketplace Cafe

A sunny Saturday, breakfast and a yard sale; or a sunny Saturday, a yard sale, and breakfast. Either way, Westport Islanders likely ran into neighbors on Rte. 1 in Wiscasset last week when the Volunteer Fire Department ran its once-every-five-years-or-so yard sale.

Hundreds of browsers stopped by the old Ames hardware store to view or buy everything from bicycles to duck decoys, furniture, a spinning wheel, and more. The Fire Department netted a little over $2,000 and inherited a couple of pieces of new equipment they won’t have to buy for now.

When fire department volunteers needed refueling, after a 5 a.m. start to set up for the sale’s 8 a.m. opening, Marketplace Cafe helped put together hot dogs for hungry volunteers.

For those who didn’t know, Westport Islander Cindy Bradford bought the Marketplace Cafe at the Wiscasset Marketplace (across from Shaw’s) this past spring. Frequenters of the Southgate Family Restaurant in Bath will be happily reunited with super waitresses Cindy Bradford and Kelley Lester who had been welcoming fixtures at Southgate for the past 14 years. Stop by for a great breakfast (or lunch) and to support your neighbors…

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Field of “Greens” on Westport Island

From the microbusiness “MicroMainea”

Here on Westport Island, at “MicroMainea,” grow the current microjewels of inspired cuisine: microgreens. Microgreens are the first true leaves of seedlings that are harvested within days of sprouting. The resulting microbouquets of petite green, yellow, and reddish leaves are prized for their taste, tenderness, and versatility – referred to as “gourmet confetti” by MicroMainea’s seed supplier, Johnny’s Selected Seeds. MicroMainea owner Judy Hughes at Boothbay Farmers Market

MicroMainea, Judy Hughes’ three-year old Westport microbusiness, grows a selection of vegetable and herb microgreens that has put her on the map with chefs at creative restaurants and catering companies from Yarmouth to Waldoboro — including: the Portland Yacht Club, Henry and Marty’s, Laura Cabot Catering, Oliver’s, Trattoria Athena, Bresca, and the patrons of the Boothbay Farmers Market. Microgreens can add flavor, texture, and presentation panache to almost any dish.

Judy’s personal microgreen favorite is garnet mustard. Garnet mustard has visually appealing green and dark maroon leaves as well as a spicy mustard taste. She uses the greens on poached or fried eggs for a splash of color and flavor pizzazz. She also likes them as a garnish on pork or chicken dishes, or for added spiciness and texture on a salad.

Judy’s interest in microgreens comes from a life-long passion for fresh food grown within a shout of home – without the use of pesticides. Growing up on Long Island, New York, her family owned a fresh fruit and vegetable business. Every week her dad traveled to local farms for eggs, fruit, and vegetables. Her mom instilled the notion of eating one yellow, green, and white vegetable in every meal.

From growing tomatoes in the windowsill of her first apartment some 40 years ago to growing vegetables in Alna with her husband, Judy Hughes has been experimenting for a lifetime with growing nutritious, organic food. Her sister, an entrepreneur in natural foods and home-grown businesses, sparked the idea of gourmet edibles – she grows vegetables and edible flowers on Prince Edward Island.

edible calendulaA trip into Judy’s cellar, onto her porch, or around the perimeter of her yard is like walking into an “enchanted garden.” There are micro-fields of petite green, yellow, and red-hued plants; fluffy mounds of pea tendrils inside the house and out; and splashes of brilliant color from pots of edible calendula, viola, and spicy nasturtium.

To make all this “MicroMainea” happen, Judy is a master of organization. On any given day, she could be: planting, cutting, drying, weighing, packaging, delivering, selling at the farmer’s market, emailing customers with MicroMainea’s weekly offerings, or conferring with her business advisory group. For Judy, it’s all in a day’s “adventure” of pursuing her passion for food.

Stop by to say “hi” at the Boothbay Farmer’s Market from 9 a.m. to noon on Thursdays – and be adventurous yourself… Try a little China Rose Radish, arugula, lemon or cinnamon basil, corn shoots – or maybe Judy’s favorite: garnet mustard.

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