SARTELL -- Students in the Sartell-St. Stephen school district will be getting some fresh veggies to eat for lunch this year, grown by residents.

The North Ridge Community Garden began ten years ago as a collaborative effort between Sartell residents and the city to provide a space residents could put their green thumbs to work.

Dennis Molitor was instrumental in getting the garden started. He says for $25 residents can get a 20 by 20 foot plot to grow all types of plants and vegetables.

The city tills it, it's on city property. We got water available, tools and things in the shed for people to use. There is also a compost site for them to put their waste.

Over time, many residents found themselves with more food than they could eat and that extra produce would end up in the gardens' compost site.

Jayme Steinbach is the Director of Food Service for the Sartell-St. Stephen School District. She says with food waste a hot button issue right now, the idea of residents donating their extra produce from the garden to the school started to sprout.

Anyone who has had a garden knows you can be sick of eating the same vegetables after a week or so. A lot of the times we saw that produce from the garden go into the compost site and the thought came of how can we rescue that food. Thus came this idea.

Steinbach says her staff goes out once a day to collect any food in the donation buckets. She says so far they have collected beans, cabbage, zucchini, peppers and more which they plan to use in new recipes for the students.

Former Sartell Mayor Bob Pogatchnik has had a spot in the garden since it first began. He says what he loves most about gardening is the serenity it brings.

What I enjoy most is being out here early in the morning and it's so peaceful. You can weed your garden, pick your vegetables and it's just a real quiet setting.

Molitor says all of the 96 units available are full every year. He says at the start of each growing season they do have about 10-15 gardens available for various reasons.

If you're interested in having your own space at the community garden you can call Sartell city hall.

The Sartell community garden is located next to Oak Ridge Elementary.

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(Photo: Alex Svejkovsky, WJON)