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John Hardin FFA plants organic garden

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By Anna Taylor

FFA students from John Hardin High School spent their primary election day tilling and planting a garden at the new Magnolia Farms LLC development, but it isn’t your typical garden.

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“The unique thing about this garden is that it’s completely organic,” said FFA Chapter President Vasiliki Wilk. “No pesticides will be involved in growing the produce and there is a pond next to it for irrigation.”

The Magnolia Farms development will be a sustainable living community that stimulates going green and living healthy. The development is to the right of Patriot Parkway at the intersection of Ky. 1600/Rineyville Road.

This is Kentucky’s first eco-friendly development, said Kelly Emerine, Magnolia Farms marketing director. The development consists of sustainable housing, a walking trail, recycling center, compost center, community pavilion and the organic garden. The 1-acre garden will provide produce to the residents who live there.

The students started the garden by tilling cleared ground for soft soil. Students helped plant tomatoes and peppers Tuesday, but are adding more vegetables to the garden in the future. The students had to measure the garden so they could place a tomato or pepper plant every 24 inches.

In preparing for the garden, the students and their adviser, Jeremy Hall, had to communicate with Magnolia Farms before starting the planting process.

“We kind of all sat down and said, ‘OK, what’s the plan going to be, how do we want it to look?’ and Will (Harris) and our adviser were pretty particular about it being neat, having easy access and being organic,” Chapter Vice President Ebonie Hampton said.

Emerine said the students were given the freedom to choose which kinds of produce to grow.

“We told them that we wanted to try to grow something as long as we possibly could,” Emerine said. “Whether that meant crops, flowers, herbs, vegetables, fruit — anything that we can grow so we can keep it going as much of the year as possible.”

The FFA students received a $1,000 grant for the project, which Magnolia Farms will match.

“We will use (the grant) for rain barrels so the pavilion gutters will lead into the rain barrels, which will irrigate,” Wilk said.

Once the garden is finished, the result will be a fenced and contained area exclusive to the Magnolia Farms community. The garden will continue to be maintained throughout the year by the FFA chapter after planting is finished.

“We have to have what we call SAEs — supervised agriculture experience — and a lot of the students are actually using this as their SAE,” Wilk said.

After community residents are moved in, they will receive baskets of the fresh produce each Friday straight from the garden.

Magnolia Farms decided to work with John Hardin’s FFA chapter because it is nearby and the chapter expressed a great interest.

“We knew their school was close and we wanted to somehow incorporate with students so they could learn while doing it and we thought that would be a neat community partnership,” Emerine said. “They were super excited. It was all great timing.”

The students are more than happy to help with the garden because of the opportunity it is giving them to work.

“God didn’t put us here to help just ourselves, but to help others while helping ourselves,” said Jacy Foushee, sophomore FFA member.

Will Harris, one of the lead directors of the project, said he is thrilled to work with the students.

“This is a partnership with a local development whereby they’re going to be afforded an acre of great area and great soil, plus they’ve got a lake there that they can use to irrigate to water,” he said. “It’s really just worked out perfectly.”

John Hardin’s FFA chapter is ranked seventh in the state based on academic performance.

Anna Taylor can be reached at 270-505-1747 or ataylor@thenewsenterprise.com.