— Ellie Vanasse, Crow River Food Council Member
Just south of the small town of Howard Lake lies the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School, a school of about 330 students with a robust Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter. One of FFA’s most successful recent ventures is their garden. Located on about an acre and a half of school property, this garden successfully supports a 37-customer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, provides produce to sell at the Howard Lake Farmer’s Market, and teaches students both farming and business practices.
“The CSA is run mostly by a student manager,” says James Weninger, an FFA advisor. “This student learns how to run an agricultural business, including overseeing student workers and communicating with customers.
In the early days, the garden needed additional support and found it in the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP), a statewide partnership that supports healthy eating, active living, and tobacco cessation efforts. FFA applied for and received a mini-grant from SHIP that was used to repurpose a walk-in freezer, which is now a cooler to store fresh produce. This cooler is used by the agricultural department to support their FFA chapter. By peak season, the cooler is filled with every type of produce waiting to go to CSA customers or the farmers market. “Without the cooler, we wouldn’t be able to harvest our produce in a timely manner,” said Seena Glessing, FFA advisor, who pointed out a crop of radishes that needed to be harvested the week before. They would otherwise be too large to go out in the next CSA boxes and would have been wasted.
The garden is within sight of the high school; one green house and two high tunnels add additional growing space. Also included is an on-site chicken coop. CSA members can receive eggs with their share, as well as extra treats such as honey from a local vendor.
Learn more about HL-W-W’s FFA chapter and their CSA program by visiting their Facebook page.