Shop plants, eat BLTs

Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch to hold 13th Annual BLT Day

Submitted Photos The Boys and Girls Ranch will have a variety of plants for sale at their 13th Annual BLT Day.

Since 2006, the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch have held an annual BLT Day to raise money to cover costs of their Verendrye Electric Greenhouse Program. Tomorrow starting at 9 a.m., their 2018 BLT day begins.

At the event, the community can not only have lunch but also purchase a variety of plants to take home and grow themselves as the weather improves. The Ranch sells a large variety of plants from vegetables to house plants to grasses and herbs to succulents, and this year they are bringing in perennials for the first time.

The former CEO of Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, Gene Kaseman, signed the federal grant for the first solar green house around 1977-78. With a quick turnover, the greenhouse was built and functioning by the fall of 1978.

“One of my classes started raising plants in the green house that winter,” Kaseman said.

After Verendrye provided the necessary funding in 2005 for a second greenhouse, the Ranch decided to start a fundraiser/community awareness event.

“An idea blossomed for kids and staff to grow hydroponic tomatoes,” said Vice President of Education, Marcia Bartok.

The idea led to creating the event where they hoped to make the BLTs from the tomatoes grown by staff. Unfortunately, the tomatoes didn’t quite work out, but the event continued on and 75 people were served BLTs in 2006 along with a tour of the new Greenhouse Technology Center. They also began selling starter vegetables, plants, and flowers.

After Bartok was hired and began working heavily with the students and horticulture classes at the Ranch, the items sold at the event have grown.

All money earned at the event goes back to the program to purchase supplies and equipment, greenhouse utilities, maintenance and repairs, and staff costs that are directly related to the greenhouse program. According to Bartok, most of the children who go to the Ranch have never had the opportunity to care for and grow plants. Many of them come from situations of abuse, neglect, and/or trauma. For them, gardening can be used as a relaxing tool to help them deal with life challenges and stressors.

“Research has shown that school gardening projects have several benefits for the student and the environment,” Bartok said, “including improved overall performance in science class, increased social skills displayed by students, improved attitude towards the environment, increased interest in eating foods like fruits and vegetables, and an overall improvement regarding a student’s attitude towards learning.”

The greenhouse and horticulture classes help the students of Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch communicate more often and with greater success. It allows them to learn and practice leadership skills and learn techniques in small gardening that can be transferred to a life-long skill.

The BLT Day will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with the lunch starting at 11 a.m. and run until 1 p.m. If a plant is purchased, the workers will pot it in any pots or container you bring.

The lunch will cost $7 per person or $15 for a family of three or more.