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Precision Ag students make an impact

By   Erin Wood
08/24/2015

A service project by Lake Region State College ag students is harvesting bushels of hope.

Students of the Precision Ag Club at Lake Region State College have spent the past spring and summer months planting and tending to a garden with the goal to donate the harvested produce to the Hope Center in Devils Lake. The Hope Center food pantry serves the needs of the Devils Lake Community.

Early this spring, Winfield Ag Solutions and Land O’Lakes Foundation supported the club to purchase supplies to grow a variety of produce that would eventually be donated to the Hope Center.

At the end of May, the students and staff rolled up their sleeves and planted a wide variety of seeds in three separate tiers of land called the Answer Plot Community Garden. The garden was located east of town in the Winfield Answer plot north of the rest area.  Each tier consists of a 60 x 120 plot of land. The first tier consists of watermelon and squash. The more traditional produce items, including peas, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, Swiss chard, and pumpkins make up the second tier. The third tier consists of strictly potatoes, which were kindly donated my Mark’s Greenhouse of Devils Lake.

Students and staff then tended to the garden during the growing season, including weeding and watching for any pests or plant health issues.

Other young adults helped out with garden due to the precision ag students involvement in farms, agronomy centers and dealerships thorough the summer. Students from the local Harmony House as well as the LRSC volleyball players also tended to the gardens.

“This project is a great opportunity for students. They are gaining hands-on knowledge of planting, soils, and growing conditions while making a positive impact in the community,” said Preston Sundeen, assistant director of the Dakota Precision Ag Center at Lake Region State College.

The Answer Plot gardens are planted by FFA clubs in high schools, but Land O’ Lakes reached out to the LRSC Precision Ag club to help increase the number of gardens in the United States. The gardens have been in operation for five years and have been planted in 13 different states at 27 sites. In these five years, a total of 550,000 servings of fresh produce has been harvested from all the combined sites.

So far the radishes, spinach, yellow & red onions, beans, peas, baby potatoes, peppers, beets, and Swiss chard have been harvested.

“In one week we brought in more than 200 pounds of fresh produce,” Sundeen said. Before printing he believes they are standing between 450 and 550 lbs. of produce.

The Hope Center food pantry served 160 families in the month of June. The pantry was organized in 2013 when federal budget cuts threatened to eliminate the only food pantry in Devils Lake, a few concerned individuals got together and decided to change the story. A Planning Committee was formed with a mission of finding 20 Founding Supporters who believed in the vision of the Hope Center and would pledge to support it for three years. A mix of churches, businesses and families stepped forward to fill the need and make the Hope Center a reality!

 

The Precision Ag Club was started during the past school year. Preston Sundeen, Precision Ag assistant Director and club advisor, says that they club was created to become active in the community. He says they plan to continue to participate in projects like this, travel and tour various agricultural plants and equipment businesses, as well as being active in the industry  through ways that otherwise may not be as achievable.

 

“This past year was the first year of PAC. This next year we hope to become more active in the community and continue to be involved in various community events to share more about the club.”

During their first year, the Precision Ag Club participated in a local Halloween event for families by having a booth at the event and helped with Lake Region State College’s biggest scholarship fundraiser, the Key Event. This next year they hope to continue their involvement in those events, as well as get involved in more. They have thoughts of something around Halloween but details have not been finalized.

“Our mission is to be involving the community,” Sundeen said.  “We have over a dozen students that really want to make this an active club and volunteer their time in the Lake Region, as well as visit and see different parts of North Dakota’s agricultural industries.

Another separate garden project by the students includes sweet corn. Since the corn is ripe at one time and in amounts too large for the Hope Center alone, the Precision Ag program decided to have a friendly competition to disperse the remaining corn.

The Precision Ag Club organized a competition between the area farm equipment dealerships that was held August 18.  People purchased sweet corn with a free will donation to their favorite color (implement dealer). The color that raised the most dollars will win.

 

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