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Serving others through a community garden

The Frankford Jolly Youth is a Mower County 4-H club in Grand Meadow, Minnesota. This group of youth, along with some supportive adults, partnered with the local school district to plan, plant, cultivate and harvest a garden that produced over 800 pounds of vegetables last year. This produce was donated to the Grand Meadow Food Shelf and several elderly community members.

"I volunteered with my family about 8 times over the summer to keep the garden watered and weeded and to pick vegetables when they were ready," said Emily, a 12-year old 4-H club member. "It gave me such a happy feeling to bring all that food to people who needed it. On the days when the food shelf couldn't take everything we'd harvested, we shared the extras with our neighbor Betsy. She's too old to grow her own vegetables, but she loves cooking them."

The Minnesota 4-H Foundation, through their annual Helping Hands Grant program, provided the start-up money for this community gardening project. Donations from local farmers, businesses and individuals of compost, plants and tools made community support for this project overwhelmingly apparent.

"We sought advice from the principal and parent advisory committee at Grand Meadow School, Mower County's Master Gardeners and other community members about what plants to grow and how to amend the soil," said Jessica Fretty, 4-H club leader for the Frankford Jolly Youth. "The K-4th grade teachers engaged all their classrooms in the planning and planting process. It was great to see so many people support this project."

The Frankford Jolly Youth Club is actively engaged in preparing for the next growing season. They were awarded additional funds for expanding this community service gardening project through the Helping Hands Grant program and community support continues to be strong.

"We hope to resolve some drainage issues and be even more purposeful about how we distribute vegetables to the seniors in our community," noted Fretty. "We're also going to plant more shelf-stable crops like potatoes and onions to better serve the families who use the food shelf. This has been such a great experience for us. We're grateful to the 4-H Foundation for supporting our work!"

by Erin Kelly-Collins
Alumni engagement coordinator
Minnesota 4-H Foundation

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