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  • Last modified 140 days ago (June 28, 2018)

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Volunteers keep garden growing

Staff writer

Nothing tastes better than a fresh, sun-ripened tomato straight from the garden — especially a tomato grown by local volunteers for local families.

For the past three years, Marion County food bank patrons have received fresh produce throughout the growing season compliments of Marion’s community garden.

“It’s been such a rewarding experience,” co-founder and current manager Pam Byer said.

Three and a half years ago, members of Marion High School FFA, under the leadership of adviser Mark Meyer, approached the city to see whether there was interest in starting a community garden.

Longtime resident Gordon Malin volunteered to manage the garden with Meyer and Byer as his support team.

FFA pledged to contribute all produce to Marion County Resource Center and Food Bank.

“If we didn’t have the produce from the community garden, our supply of fresh vegetables would be practically non-existent during the summer,” food bank director Cathy Henderson said.

The school owns the lot and lets gardeners use it at no charge. It also has donated mulch to keep weeds down and conserve water.

FFA received a grant from Frontier Farm Credit to purchase equipment and supplies, including a till to work in tandem with the school’s tractor plus hoses and an assortment of other tools.

The group also installed raised beds and drip irrigation, planted onions, and dug sweet potatoes.

An exterior fence around the corn plot keeps out raccoons.

“The school also has let us utilize an old horse trailer as a work shed,” Byer said.

The garden sits on an old, private roping arena east of the Marion water tower that the school purchased a while ago. There is room to expand.

According to Byer, the city provides water for plants and personnel and equipment to grade the plot and bring in bottom soil and compost.

The newest attraction at the garden is a gazebo built in remembrance of co-founder Malin’s contributions. Malin’s friend, Steve Jost, spearheaded the effort to build the gazebo with memorial funds after Malin’s death early this year.

“Steve and numerous friends and acquaintances of Gordon’s contributed their time, money and expertise to build this beautiful tribute to Gordon,” Byer said.

It is a tranquil spot that compliments the garden.

Other volunteers have come from the Mason Lodge, 4-H, Pride and two Marion United Methodist churches.

“Most of the newest volunteers are people who have recently retired and want to stay active in their community,” Byer said.

Serenity Gardens of Hillsboro planted lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, and cabbage in its greenhouses, allowing them to develop earlier and avoid freeze damage.

The three-stage corn plot was planted and fertilized by local gardener Doug Linn.

“Doug has done a great job for us, especially since he has a day job, too!” Byer said.

Byer hopes to incorporate a fall garden with radishes, beets, lettuce, and spinach. Information about volunteering is available from Byer at (620) 382-0495.

Last modified June 28, 2018

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