Garden helps feed community
Marion’s community garden donated 447 pounds of fruit and vegetables, including watermelons topping at 15 pounds, to the Marion food bank Thursday.
“The workers at the food bank said people just love the fresh produce,” garden manager Pat Byer said. “That’s how it started, and it’s worked out really well.”
The garden was created by Marion high School FFA to supply the food bank. Extra produce makes it way to the Senior Center and St. Luke Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Shoppe.
“A lot of people go shop there on Fridays, so it’s a good way to share the produce,” Byer said. “So nothing goes to waste.”
The garden primarily grows radishes, tomatoes, peppers, corn, squash, watermelon, honeydew, and romaine lettuce.
Byer, who has been helping with the garden for six years, has experimented with stranger vegetables like edamame peas and eggplant.
“When I grow something new like that, I tell Merida Billings at the extension office and she comes up with recipes,” Byer says. “Then she goes to the food bank and hands out recipe cards with the food.”
On Monday and Thursday mornings, Byer and volunteers harvest produce to take to the food bank later in the day.
“I have a mother with her children, they help pick the tomatoes,” Byer said. “The older one is a fourth grader; she picks the okra with me. We have a retired schoolteacher who helps us. It works out.”
Since the garden is on school property, the school provides irrigation, a tractor, a tiller, and tools. K-State Extension pays for seeds. The city leveled the ground and did dirt work.
The garden recently gained four fruit trees and a blackberry bush.
“I don’t know how they’ll be received,” Byer said. “Homegrown fruit does not profit at the grocery store because of bugs and things like that. People are still conditioned to have the perfect fruit.”
Time will tell how the fruit fares, but food bank patrons — as well as Byer herself — adore the produce.
“I think they’re delicious, the cantaloupe,” Byer said.