It was a fresh veggie frenzy as people rushed to get their pick of free produce from the Matanuska Experiment Farm.

“Can we find some zucchini? They look like the yellow squash, but they’re green,” April Beardslee asked her kids.

The Beardslee family was one of about 100 that came out for the first-ever community harvest.

They just started their own garden and wanted to supplement their home harvest.

“We’re adding a little variety and teaching the kiddos what all these different plants look like,” Beardslee said.

She also wants to teach her children where their food comes from.

“It gives them a sense of responsibility for their diet and it encourages them to eat different foods because they help grow them and see how much work goes into it. So they’re a little less picky at the dinner table which is kind of nice,” the Chugiak mother-of-three said.

The vegetables at the farm are variety trials from Fairbanks and the Plant Materials Center in the Butte.

At the end of the season, the staff will compare plants to see which types grow best in our climate.

“I love being able to see everything grow because it seems like just yesterday I planted everything and it sprung up so fast. And everything is so beautiful and happy and healthy,” said a student worker April Nichols.

Three-and-a-half-year-old Harmony Snider fueled up on raw kale to do some heavy lifting.

“It’s a bakini,” the little girl said as she hoisted a behemoth zucchini out of the bag and took a bite of a 'dinosaur' kale leaf. “I’m strong,” she said.

“They love vegetables. They’re unusual in that way. They’re eating it raw,” said Harmony’s grandmother Cindy Calzada. “They’re healthy kids.”

It didn’t take long for families to fill their grocery bags. Many headed home with a heaping helping of greens for the dinner table.

The Experiment Farm will likely hold another community harvest when its potato crop is ready to go in a few weeks.

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