Local Farming Enthusiast to Help Create Community Garden
Future farmer puts his farming dreams to work at Minooka Community High School.
Andrew Parton, 15, sophomore, Minooka Community High School
Andrew Parton has wanted to be a farmer since the age of 3. His collection of John Deere tractors proves it.
His family of great aunts and second and third cousins living in Southern Illinois have allowed him to visit during the summers to fulfill his dream of farming. Parton maintains the fields and helps with the harvest of crops in the fall.
Working at Dollinger Family Farm this pumpkin season also gave him a taste of what it’s like to work on a farm.
“Picking pumpkins and working with the community was fun,” Parton said. “I highly recommend people who want to get into the agriculture field to work at Dollinger’s.”
Patron is definitely set on attending Southern Illinois University after graduating MCHS in 2014. He wants to study livestock management and production. Upon entering a career in that, he plans later to go back to school and earn a degree in crop farming.
“Many do not realize that agriculture is more than just becoming a farmer,” Parton said. “The study of agriculture includes veterinary, engineering, biology and chemistry.”
Until he ventures off to further his studies in agriculture, Parton has begun a program right here in Minooka.
As a student involved in the school’s FFA, (Future Farmers of America), Parton has created a plan to create a community garden on campus.
The garden will allow community members a place to plant a garden if they do not have the room for it in their own backyard, Parton said. Some will start a family tradition and other groups will grow fruit, vegetables and flowers for donation to local food pantries and homeless shelters, he added.
Located at central campus on land between the school cafeteria and the neighboring medical building, Parton said the organization plans to sell 15 plots in the spring. After buying a 15x20 plot, gardeners purchase their vegetable plants, seed packets and flowers for planting. They then plant and maintain their garden as they would if it was in their own backyard, Parton said. Paths between the plots will be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and prevent gardeners from walking on each others gardens, he said.
However, the upkeep of the area around the garden is what Parton and his fellow FFA members are responsible for this summer. They will have to make sure there are no weeds or critters disturbing the garden.
If the program is a success the first season, Parton said he will consider expanding the program. There is room at South Campus to expand, he said.
Although the land has been tilled, there is still the task of running a waterline from the baseball fields to the garden, Parton said. It will cost the district $600 to install the water line, but Quest Foods has already come through with a $500 donation for the installation, Parton said.
Parton introduced the idea, his class project, to the school board in November and was met with great support. He is currently working on contracts for gardeners to complete, the costs for the plots and purchasing a compost bin.
“I wanted to get this program started now, so when I graduate, FFA members can continue the program,” Parton said. “My family is very supportive of me. I have 100 percent support from my parents.”
Parton likes to spend time with his family and go to the movies. He is close with his grandma and aunt. He enjoys fishing at the lake in his backyard and hunting. He takes care of two pet rabbits.
Gardening, though is a Parton family tradition. Every summer, Parton and his family plant one in their backyard. It includes tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, squash and a variety of peppers.
“We just till, plant the seeds, and hope for the best,” Parton said.