By Kate Raddatz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Despite the chilly start to spring, farmers markets around the Twin Cities have been planting the idea of gardening into many Minnesotans’ heads.

One of the best places to start is the Friends School Plant Sale in the Twin Cities.

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Celebrating 25 years this weekend, the annual sale is bringing thousands of varieties of plants and hundreds of growers together at the Minnesota State Fair Grounds.

With over 2,300 varieties of plants, and 40 growers, The Friends School Plant Sale has grown into something much different than when it started in 1989.

“We didn’t even know what plants were coming in or how many tables to set up. We kinda showed up and said let’s wing it,” said volunteer Victoria Erhart.

Twenty five years later “winging it” turned into a massive annual fundraiser that benefits the Friends School of Minnesota.

More than one thousand volunteers help, including the school’s students.

“It’s directly connected to our mission. So, we care about the world, we care about doing good things and we care about community. And this sale has grown based on that,” head of the Friends School Lili Herbert said.

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In keeping with their care for the community, this year the sale took on a new challenge.

All of the plants sold are neonicitonide free, meaning no pesticides that hurt bees.

“It’s been an extraordinary, extraordinary journey over the last year. I think now, people in this community anyway, are getting very much on the same page,” Erhart said.

Organizers say another change is a focus on vegetable gardens, namely basil.

They’ll sell over 8,000 sweet basil plants in just one day.

As organizers expect their biggest year yet, they’re looking forward to another 25 years.

“We can’t get a whole lot bigger unless we take over the whole fairgrounds, so maybe we’ll do that. Go to the cattle barn next. That would be fun!” Erhart said.

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The plant sale is open until 6 p.m. Saturday and then from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

Kate Raddatz