By Jim Misunas
LARNED — Christa Milton grew up on a family farm outside Hudson. She felt right at home working on the Larned Community Garden.
“I was riding a combine as a baby,” Milton said.
The Fort Hays State University student was the 2012 valedictorian at St. John High School. She grew up on the family farm of her parents, Ivan and Lisa Milton. The family raises wheat, corn, soybeans, milo and alfalfa.
“We have a garden at home, but this is more hands-on working with other people. We talk about what we’re doing in class. We get to see the process of how this is done.”
Students of Jean Gleichsner, Fort Hays State agriculture teacher, have assisted with the Larned Community Garden the past few years.
The Larned Community Garden started as a joint initiative of the Kansas Health Foundation and K-State Research and Extension. Angie Murray helped launch Larned Pride as one of 35 groups to receive funding from the Kansas Community Gardens Project.
“It’s nice to help other people out,” Milton said. “It’s nice to see a difference. I come through Larned all the time, so I will be able to see the progress.”
Gleichsner said, “I really enjoy having the students get to know each other outside the classroom. Most students only know one or two other students in the class but by doing projects they have a greater chance to meet their classmates.”
Working at the garden illustrates lessons Gleichsner teaches in the home horticulture class.
“Students get a chance to apply what we talk about in the classroom,” she said. “I tell them that horticulture is not a spectator sport. To understand horticulture, you have to actually get out and do it. Being able to demonstrate a concept is much better than just being able to describe it.
Cody Prosser of LaCrosse comes from a family that raises wheat and milo on 5,000 acres in Rush County.
“We plant a garden at our house,” he said. “But this is a bigger garden with more variety of stuff. It’s nice to get out of the classroom and learn something new. Every garden is different. They use cardboard support and mulch here.”
Gleichsner likes when the students can see practical applications for their classroom work.
“Very few classes allow the students the opportunity to work together and complete a project with classmates for the betterment of a community,” she said. “Students appreciate the action part of learning. Sitting in a classroom is what they do for almost every class they take in college.”
Gleichsner likes to see whether the students understand what she teaches them in class.
“Until they can demonstrate that they learned it I don’t always know if they truly understand the concepts,” she said. “I like to show students that they can contribute to their community and projects like this allow them to see that they can make a difference in their community.”
Other Fort Hays students working at the Larned Community Garden are Faith Peters, Minneapolis; Dalton Rorabaugh and Joey Augustine, Hays; Cy Schmidt, Glasco; Jordan Schmidtberger, Grainfield; Tarent Tevis, Haysville; Lindsey Underwood, Esbon; Brandon Warner, Haven; Courtney Bohl, Phillipsburg; Matt Crotinger, Bison; Anne Eaton, Kinsley; Zane Hesting, Burr Oak; Wade Hawkinson, and Ethan Lang, Hastings, Neb.; Logan Huxoll, Cambridge, Neb.; Mollie Ringelman, Imperial, Neb.; and Lucas Robison, Orleans, Neb.
The horticulture class has assisted with landscape maintenance for a half-day at Sunrise Park and a day and a half for the Humane Society of the High Plains, both in Hays. Students cut back ornamental grasses, fertilized, put down herbicide, pruned shrubs and spread mulch at the sites. Fertilized and used herbicide were used at the Humane Society.
They constructed more than 300 rain barrels April 24 at the Kansas State University Agricultural Research Center, Hays. Students worked in two shifts of 21/2 hours.
The rain barrels connect directly to the home’s downspout and allow the rainwater or storm water coming off the roof to fill the barrel. Collecting rainwater and using it slowly on one’s landscape encourages infiltration, which helps prevent runoff of pollutants into local streams, creeks and rivers.
Larned Pride received grants to establish community garden in 2009. Volunteers tend the garden and in return enjoy the health benefits of consuming fresh produce. They formed partnerships with the Vocational Training Program at Larned State Hospital, Larned Middle School and Fort Hays State University, which has donated plants.
An underground drip irrigation system provides water from the city of Larned.
Squash, tomatoes, peppers, okra, cucumbers, eggplant, cabbage, green beans, potatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon and onions have been planted. Produce is sold at the Farmers Market and donated to the Larned Food Pantry.