By Brianna Mathias
DASSEL, COKATO, MN Giving back to the community can be done in many different ways. The Dassel-Cokato High School FFA has taken giving back to a whole new level by dedicating much of their summer to a garden that will produce fruits and vegetables for the patients and staff of Meeker Memorial Hospital in Litchfield.
“As a future agriculture teacher, I was very excited to learn about this service project with the hospital, and love seeing FFA members who want to be involved in their community,” agriculture education intern Maggie Larson said.
The garden measures 40 feet by 40 feet and is home to a variety of produce.
“Having the garden vegetables is a fresh offering for our nutrition services to include on patient trays and in the Prairie Winds Cafe that serves many employees and visitors,” Communications Manager Lori Rice said.
Lisa Koller, a member of the wellness team said the FFA works in the garden weekly or as much as they can.
“Throughout the duration of the summer, students will be in and out of the garden taking care of the total project including tilling, weeding, planting, and the harvest of fruits and vegetables,” Larson said.
This project may reap benefits not only for the patients, but also the students involved.
“Students will have the opportunity to work closely with the hospital and provide a service that will benefit their neighboring community,” Larson said. “A portion of our FFA motto is ‘living to serve,’ and we are hoping that these students learn the importance of sharing their time and talents with those in need.”
Koller also said this project is important because of its educational value.
A three-component model to better educate students is what Agricultural Education Departments look to implement into their classrooms, according to Larson.
“The components include the leadership aspect of FFA, classroom instruction, and a work-based learning experience, also known as a Supervised Agricultural Experience program,” Larson said. “When students work in this garden, they are learning about how to care for and manage healthy plants as well as gain skills that they might eventually implement in the future, like timeliness, the ability to communicate, and being held accountable for their actions.”
Larson said she believes this project is important, as it will build leaders to strengthen the community.
“This project is a great way for our students to do something to help out their community members,” Agriculture instructor Eric Sawatzke said. “Not only are we providing food for folks at the hospital, but we are teaching students how to give back, and how to care for a fairly large garden.”