Brad Taylor stands at the edge of the garden, watching as the Roland-Story High School FFA students work. Fridays are harvest days. The scene unfolds like a choreographed dance. Pulling weeds, moving baskets, offering helping hands—everyone knows their part.
A voice breaks into the group, “Could you guys tackle the potatoes?”
Quickly, the students are on the move, grabbing tools and gloves, ready to start digging.
“They could do this in their sleep,” chuckles Brad, the students’ FFA adviser. “Some of them have worked on the garden since it started three years ago.”
At the Roland-Story Answer Plot® Community Garden in Story City, Iowa, the concept is simple—grow food for people in need within the community. This is important work that the Land O’Lakes Foundation is proud to support through our Answer Plot® Community Gardens program. Our WinField Master Agronomists and member cooperatives began partnering with the National FFA Organization to grow, maintain and harvest gardens at five Answer Plot® locations in five states. Today, the number has grown to 27 gardens in 13 states.
All in a day’s work
The students in Story City take turns maintaining the garden throughout summer break, even though they aren’t in school. Each week, everyone scouts the field for produce that’s ready to be picked, packed and loaded into Brad’s truck. A little more than 24 hours later, clients of the Loaves & Fishes food pantry in Story City are able to take home some of the freshest food Mother Nature has to offer.
This same scene takes place at Community Gardens throughout the country. FFA students, under the direction of their adviser, weed, till, water and harvest their plot of land. The students themselves deliver the week’s produce to their community’s food shelf. And while each year the gardens grow in size and variety, what they teach students doesn’t change.
Cultivating compassion and careers
The program provides more than fresh produce for community food programs. It gives students an opportunity to serve their communities and learn more about agriculture and related careers. Many students have gone on to college with the intent of pursuing ag degrees. And not just for farming—for research, communications and sales careers, too. But what really sticks out for the students is how good it feels to give to others.
“It’s a rewarding feeling,” says Will McGraw, a senior at Roland-Story High School. The students gathered nearby nod in agreement.
To date, the Roland-Story City Community Garden has donated more than 5,400 pounds of produce, but Brad wants to do more.
“We want to make it bigger next year,” he smiles. “And maybe plant some new stuff, too.”