Gardens flourishing under the green thumbs of students and Sister Ruth Lentner

By Tina SnellStaff Writer

Little Falls Supt. Stephen Jones and Sister Ruth Lentner from the St. Francis Center spoke Thursday on the current garden to school project. Approximately two dozen people from Little Falls, Pierz, Royalton, Cass County and more learned how this project to feed students came about.

Jones said this same project was implemented in his previous district, Sibley East, and it was a huge success. This, the first year of the gardens in Little Falls, is proving to be the same.

The students who have been hired to work the gardens during the summer, Alex Fellbaum, Vanessa Meschke, Wesley LaCoursiere, Nicole Andres and Jordan Lease, from the WorkForce Center, along with a supervisor, Julie Pekula from the Little Falls Community Middle School kitchens, work at least three hours a day.

Little Falls Schools has taken the Farm to School program one step further with their own gardens at St. Francis in Little Falls. Four students, a Concentrated Employment Program (CEP) student with the WorkForce Center and a supervisor take care of the produce to ensure it gets harvested at the peak of freshness. Pictured are (from left): Nicole Andres, 16; Supervisor Julie Pekula, a kitchen employee with the district; Wesley LaCoursiere, 16; Jordan Lease, 15, with CEP; Alex Fellbaum, 17; and Vanessa Meschke, 17.

Little Falls Schools has taken the Farm to School program one step further with their own gardens at St. Francis in Little Falls. Four students, a Concentrated Employment Program (CEP) student with the WorkForce Center and a supervisor take care of the produce to ensure it gets harvested at the peak of freshness. Pictured are (from left): Nicole Andres, 16; Supervisor Julie Pekula, a kitchen employee with the district; Wesley LaCoursiere, 16; Jordan Lease, 15, with CEP; Alex Fellbaum, 17; and Vanessa Meschke, 17.

“It is much different than I expected,” said Meschke. “We are doing a lot more weeding than I thought we would.”

The huge garden is an extension of St. Francis’ long-time gardens. Lentner had the gardens extended another 1.5 acres to accommodate the school. The students help take care of it all.

“We had the new area plowed last fall,” said Lentner. “We added lime for our soil is very sandy. Future plantings will depend on what the students liked this year.”

The student gardeners are also working in the Convent’s apple orchard.

St. Francis practices organic farming, but is not certified organic. The gardeners use turkey or chicken manure for fertilizer and if necessary, spray pests with organic products.

No machinery was used to plant, each seed was either started at the school in its greenhouse or planted directly into the earth.

As of Thursday, after two days of harvesting, approximately 300 pounds of food has been brought to the kitchens at the Little Falls Community High School for preserving.

One-third of the produce harvested goes to St. Francis and the remaining two-thirds belongs to the school.

A’viands, the food service company hired by Little Falls Schools, has agreed to purchase the food grown by the school, thus saving the district food service funds.

“This is the next step following the ‘Farm to School’ program,” said Jones. “We are now the farmers.”

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