Even though 17-year-old Lauren Schroeder is a member of Future Farmers of America (FFA), some people in Iowa would tell you she’s already a farmer, and then some.
A junior at Calamus-Wheatland High School, Schroeder has grown and donated 7,000 pounds of fresh vegetables to local area nonprofit groups in the Quad Cities area, according to KWQC-TV. The outlet estimated she has given away approximately $15,000 in produce in less than two years.
Schroeder told KWQC she was volunteering at a community food bank three years ago when she first noticed fresh produce wasn’t being given to families in need.
“I thought it would be great to change that,” she told the Washington Post. “I wanted people to get the nutrition they needed from fresh vegetables.”
A daughter of farmers, Schroeder told her parents about her idea to plant vegetables for needy families and they let her use a half-acre of their property to start a garden. After receiving a national grant from the FFA for supplies, she soon planted 15 different types of vegetables, and later harvested them, donating the produce to nonprofits including Carroll Assistance Center, Wheatland Nursing Home, Café on Vine, River Bend Food Bank, Lost Nation Food Pantry, Family Resources, Lady of the Prairie, and Community Action of Eastern Iowa, according to the Good News Network.
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After she received a second grant from the FFA national organization, she expanded her vegetable patch to one acre and planted over 20 types of produce including tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, squash, cauliflower, zucchini, broccoli, herbs, and more, according to KWQC.
“I wanted to have something that would impact people and not just go show cattle,” Schroeder told the outlet. “I want to impact community members.”
She added, “Many people help you out, but it makes more difference when you help other people out. That’s what makes me most happy.”
She’s already planning her vegetable garden next year with a goal of growing another 13,000 pounds of produce, bringing her overall vegetable total to 20,000 pounds by the time she graduates high school in June of 2025, KWQC reported.
“I haven’t planted radishes yet, so that’s on the list for next time,” Schroeder told The Post. “And I’m hoping to expand the garden to two acres so we can feed even more people.”
Nancy Renkes, president and CEO of River Bend Food Bank in Davenport, told the outlet she is grateful for the teenager’s commitment to help area food banks.
“Not only is she helping our mission of ending hunger, she demonstrates the selflessness and philanthropy that is so wonderful to see in younger people,” Renkes said.
Katie Schroeder, the teen’s mother, told KWQC she’s proud of the way her daughter took charge and became the leader of a project that encompasses both her passion for farming and serving others.
“How could you not be proud,” Schroeder, said. “She really chose to focus on learning about agronomy, learning about gardening, learning about vegetables, but just really taking it to the next level and actually helping people out with it.”