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December 14, 2020

JCCC’s Open Petal Farm continues to operate and bring fresh produce to many.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit in the spring, Sustainable Agriculture graduate Nina Danner immediately thought of the Open Petal Farm.

“After all of the prep and planning you do in the winter to be ready for the growing season, it was disheartening to think that all of the seedlings and plants growing in the greenhouse would be left without water and the chance to bear fruit to feed people,” she said.

"It’s been hard work, I but I really like what I do and I’m glad I can keep doing it." — Rick Mareske, Open Petal Farm Manager

Luckily, she had nothing to fear. Sustainability interns Sherry Bredemeier and Luke Sprowls had been hard at work making sure the farm stayed on track. Rick Mareske, Farm Manager, has remained motivated thanks to their hard work and dedication. His love for sustainable agriculture drove him to make sure that the fresh food growing on the farm didn’t go to waste.

A Community Effort

Open Petal Farm participates in the Rolling Prairie CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, which serves customers who sign up for weekly pickups of farm-fresh produce. Mareske was determined to keep this partnership strong.

“When the pandemic hit, we tried to grow as much food as we could and support the CSA,” he said. “We sold about $14,000 worth of fruits and vegetables this year through CSA. That is a 40% increase compared to last year. That’s huge in terms of income for the farm.”

The ‘After’ Effect

That wasn’t all. The farm also works with After the Harvest, a volunteer organization that gleans fields post-harvest, picking what’s left and distributing leftover produce.

“We’ve donated 750 pounds of food through After the Harvest,” he said. “It’s been a year-round effort.”

The pandemic has led to an increased workload, but Mareske’s passion for his work keeps him going.

“It’s been hard work, but I really like what I do and I’m glad I can keep doing it.”

Sustain the Future

If you would like to learn the science of growing food for local markets, take a look at the Sustainable Agriculture Certificate