CONRAD — Potatoes are just one of the many crops grown in the community garden in Conrad, and despite the heat we've had recently, the garden has actually been doing quite well, which is important because this garden is a critical resource for the community.
On Wednesday morning, Conrad Community Garden volunteer Pete McKeone spent time planting tomatoes while volunteer Cathy Jones dug up potatoes.
McKeone said, "I enjoy the gardening, I enjoy seeing things. You'd be surprised how many mistakes. Every year's different. I just enjoy it, is why I do it.”
"Pete asked me to join in after his partner left. I've always gardened, but it's more fun doing it with other people,” said Jones.
The garden was started with a $750 grant and relies solely on volunteers and donations.
The Pondera County Conservation District has been in charge of the garden since 2017 and administrator Brandee Fladstol said the community has really rallied around the garden.
She explained, "The Conservation District reimbursed the volunteers for any seed that was purchased. Some of the local (Hutterite) colonies have also helped with any excess seed that they had, any surplus, and also New Miami dropped off 50 tomato starts just yesterday."
Some of the produce goes to senior living facilities or to other seniors in the Conrad area.
"You have Pete and Cathy and a lot of the volunteers that know a lot of elderly people and people in need within the community and they take it upon themselves to deliver produce to those people,” Fladstol said.
The bulk of the produce, however, goes to the Pondera Food Pantry at 220 S. Front Street (phone # 406-289-0092).
"We can provide canned fruits and vegetables, but whenever you can get fresh and give that out that's always a welcome thing,” said Pondera Food Pantry board member Debbie Mecham. "We love getting donations, especially with the fresh fruit, (because) we do have several folks that like to can."
Pete and Cathy said knowing they're helping the community makes them feel good.
"We're going to pick peas and they have to be shelled. Retired ladies at the nursing facilities are thrilled to shell the peas. It brings back memories I think,” said McKeone.
If you’re interested in helping with the garden, contact the Pondera County Conservation District via their Facebook page, or call 406-866-0020. Financial donations as well as donations of tools, including a push mower, and sand are needed.