Creston Future Farmers of America (FFA) was featured in an issue of Wallaces Farmer, a magazine that focuses on agriculture in Iowa.
The article focused on how Creston FFA members planted, tended and harvested a plot of land with help from Land O’Lakes. The produce is to be donated to local food pantries and other organizations.
The article was written by Tyler Harris, an alumnus of Creston FFA chapter. He heard about the community garden through his sister, who is part of the chapter currently.
“I was mostly looking for an FFA article,” said Harris. “I’ve got a lot of intereset in the Answer Plot system that WinField does, and it was kind of a new concept to me that they were doing this for the local food pantries, and research as well.”
Creston FFA planted the garden in a one-acre WinField Answer plot on Townline and Osage streets in Creston. The garden contains tomatoes, onions, turnips, kohlrabi, cabbage, carrots, cantaloupe, beets and eggplant, among other fruits and vegetables.
“Our goal was 1,000 pounds, and I think we’ll be well in reach of our goal,” said Kelsey Bailey, Creston High School agriculture and FFA instructor. “Planting started very late in May and early June.”
The rain in the spring pushed planting later than Bailey anticipated, and for awhile she and the students were working everyday until all the produce was planted. Now, the group works two to four hours a day, four to five days a week.
“Our tomatoes are really set on, I’m sure we’ll be harvesting by the end of the next week,” Bailey said.
She also said radishes and peas were harvested already, and soon, turnips and corn will be harvested.
The food will be donated to different organizations in the area. The local food pantry received produce first. Then, food was donated to the congregate meal site in Creston, Open Table and Aspire program in Afton. Produce also went to assisted-living centers and the summer lunch program at Creston High School.
FFA students chose produce they thought would go over well, as well as ones they thought were interesting. Most, said Bailey, are basic plants “that grow easily in rows.”
The produce comes with recipe cards for different summer dishes.
“The idea of giving recipes came up when students were saying, ‘I don’t even know what that vegetable is,’” Bailey said. “That’s why we decided to give some recipes. And, maybe some people don’t like to eat vegetables plain, and, maybe, if they have recipes, they would be more likely to eat vegetables.”
Bailey and her husband Larry own the WinField Answer plot where the community garden is located. Land O’Lakes asked the FFA chapter to do the garden, and when the chapter agreed, the students went through the application process.
“It gives them an opportunity to learn hands-on,” said Bailey. “The other thing is getting kids a little more familiar with what your production people have to go through.”
The students learned a lot of different skills, such as management, planning, organization, planting and weed control. They also learned how to identify crops, weeds and insects and how to control insect damage.
Some students used this project as a supervised agricultural experience through FFA, which is part of the agricultural education process and focuses on things such as entrepreneurship and research.
“It also provides opportunities for kids to get volunteer hours,” said Bailey. “We sure plan to do this again, and make it more available to more students.”