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Community garden project takes off for Triton

By Heather J. Carlson

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

WEST CONCORD — When members of Triton High School’s FFA chapter began advertising shares in their community garden, the response was overwhelming.

"We were only going to take 20 (orders), but the calls kept coming," said FFA President Tim Marquardt.

What started three years ago as a small vegetable garden next to the Dodge Center high school has quickly grown into a profitable produce business for the budding farmers. Every year, residents are offered the chance to get 12 weeks of fresh vegetables for a $50 fee.

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Orders over the past three years have doubled to a total of 26 this year. The FFA members have also had to move their operation next to Triton Middle School in West Concord to allow enough room for the rows of potatoes, carrots, onions and other crops that make up the garden next to the school’s football field.

The idea for the garden originated with the FFA’s former adviser Nathan Vrieze. It has since gained statewide attention for its uniqueness.

"We’ve had lots of other chapters come out and ask us about this," Marquardt said.

On a muggy evening, a handful of teenagers could be seen patiently weeding and tilling the garden. The members try to head out to the garden twice a week. The hard work starts in April and runs through the end of October, Marquardt said.

New FFA adviser Brent Arndt said when he first learned about the garden project, he was impressed.

"I thought it was one of the neatest things I’ve ever heard of. It gets the community involved," Arndt said.

Seeds for the garden cost about $184. Labor is the biggest requirement in the operation to get the vegetables ready for customers to pick up once a week. This year has been particularly tough because of the dry weather.

FFA member Brad Fitzgerald said the middle school does not have enough water pressure to water the garden properly. So West Concord firefighters spray down the garden with a tanker truck.

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For those hoping to sign up for the garden program, better luck next year.

"We’ve already sold out," Fitzgerald said.

To learn more about Triton Public Schools, go to postbulletin.com/weblinks.

Triton http://www.triton.k12.mn.us/se3bin/clientschool.cgi?schoolname=school243

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