LARNED — Improving diets and increasing physical activity has been a major focus of the Larned Pride program.
It all started when Larned Pride received approval to three grant applications to a local foundation. The grants were for establishment of a community garden and orchard; start-up of a farmers market; and assistance with a community roller skating program.
A small community garden was started in the summer of 2009. Working with two local pastors, the church purchased a lot located next to the local food pantry and leased the ground to Pride at no cost. Volunteers tend the garden and in return enjoy the health benefits of consuming fresh produce.
In 2010, the garden expanded. Through the grant funds, Larned Pride was able to plant a much larger garden and start an orchard. They formed partnerships with the Vocational Training Program at Larned State Hospital, and the Larned Middle School.
The Vocational Training program started plants in their greenhouse and the middle school students worked in the garden each Friday with Pawnee County Extension Agent Donna Preisner on various educational projects such as creating a raised strawberry bed and planting potatoes in different types of soil and varieties. In addition, Larned Pride received starter plants from Fort Hays State University.
Thirty fruit trees of an assorted variety were purchased and planted. The land was close to the garden but needed to have a bridge built for access. The bridge was built and an underground drip irrigation system was installed. The city provides the water for the garden and orchard at no cost.
Volunteers water and maintain the grounds.
In the garden, vegetables of all types are planted — squash, tomatoes, peppers, okra, cucumbers, eggplant, cabbage, green beans, potatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon and onions. Volunteers who work are able to pick the produce for personal use. Others in the community are also allowed to pick fruit and leave a free-will donation.
The garden produces abundantly and excess produce is sold at the Farmers Market or donated to the Larned Food Pantry.
The Food Pantry is thrilled to have fresh nutritious vegetables to offer limited resource residents.
The Farmers Market, held on the first and third Saturdays of the month, has turned into a successful community event.
To help make the market become a fixture in the community, the grant provides an incentive to encourage attendance at each market. One time it might be a free piece of pie to the first 100 customers or another time it might be Wendy’s chili. The incentives have been successful in drawing a crowd resulting in good sales for the vendors. The proceeds that Larned Pride raises are used to sustain the project for the next year.
The community garden and farmers market are two great services Pride has started for the Larned community.
Several of the benefits include:
• A market for local producers resulting in income and increased sales within the community.
• An avenue for people to garden who don’t have space. Participants gain the personal satisfaction of growing their own food and increase their physical activity resulting in better overall health.
• The community has access to locally grown nutritious fruits and vegetables resulting in dollars saved on transportation costs.
• The youth have learned gardening skills which they will be able to use later in life.
• The youth are learning the importance of community service and are developing a sense of belonging to the community.