Mark Meyer, FFA advisor, and students Elizabeth Meyer, senior; Kaitlyn Goe?bel, junior; AJ Cogdill, junior; Aidan Cairns, junior, and Anton Vinduska, sophomore, were available to answer questions.
?A lot of people think it will be a community garden (right away),? Meyer said. ?We hope to grow it that way, but we don?t want it to be too big right now.
?Our vision is to go that route, but our limiting factor is water.?
Elizabeth Meyer said that if the community garden ?takes off,? then it can be extended to others.
?This first year, we will have a lot of produce available to the community through the food bank,? she said.
Margaret Wilson, attending the informational meeting, asked what the di??????men??sions of the garden would be.
?The area FFA is working with is 240 feet by 190 feet,? Goebel said.
?But we aren?t planning to use the entire area the first year.?
Elizabeth Meyer said the FFA group is excited about talking to CAS, which is the Community Agricultural Site.
?(The garden) is something we want to grow and have future people to take our spots,? she said.
?The summer work sche?dule will be one of our big?gest obstacles right now.?
One of the reasons for inviting community leaders to this meeting, she said, is so that FFA could work with them in establishing a long-term garden as a source of fresh food for the local food bank.
Goebel said the group intends to donate 50 percent of their crops.
?The community garden will be used as an educational tool for the high school and other groups in the community,? she said.
FFA also has grant opportunities approved from the Food 4 All group at $2,500 and a $250 participation grant from Nutrients for Life, Goebel said.
?It will be $3,000 for first place,? she said.
Volunteer methods is another part of the equation.
USD 408 Superintendent Lee Leiker said: ?If our goal is putting food toward the food bank then maybe some of those people would like to be volunteers.?
Gerry Henderson, chairman of the Marion County Food Bank and Resource Center, said there are certain things they can do.
?We call them neighbors,? he said, ?and certainly it?s something they can do, but I think Elizabeth?s suggestion about making a little corner could tie it altogether.?
Pam Byers suggested the Circles group might be an op?tion for volunteers.
?We need to look further into this as well,? Meyer added.
Dave Buckley, who is involved with CAS, talked about how successful that program has been in Reno County.
?We started with a small site a few years ago,? he said, ?but we are now more accessible to the greater Hutchinson community (in Reno County).?
CAS has about 35 on-call adult volunteers that do a variety of things.
?We don?t stress out our volunteers and we shift them into places they are most interested in,? he said.
CAS is private-sector funding, not receiving school district funding, but Buckley said they are aligned with Nickerson, Buhler and Hutchinson school districts.
For the last eight years, he said, their club grew potatoes.
?Their club makes a minimum of $1,000,? Buckley said, ?and CAS doesn?t direct how FFA spends the money.?
Another suggestion Buckley provided to the Marion FFA Chapter and community visitors was to look for funding sources such as Cargill, Lowes, ADM and cooperatives.
Lowes helped the CAS members with an irrigation system and Cargill helped the group purchase a tractor.
?Last year,? he said, ?we donated 4,485 pounds or pieces of produce to Headstart and the WIC program through the Reno County Health Department.?
Marion City Administrator Roger Holter asked Buckley to repeat the mantra describing CAS.
?(Volunteers) have to have fun,? Buckley said. ?Interns don?t weed things, instead they are installing, tapping and measuring things,? he said. ?If it isn?t fun, we don?t do it.?
For more information about the Marion FFA Chapter?s garden project, call Meyer at 620-382-2168.