A Community of Gardeners

Buckeye Farm Beat

Growing vegetables makes a community all its own.

Published on: June 22, 2011

Dr. Henry Hood from Lancaster is a retired orthopedic surgeon and a born-again farmer. As an International Medical Corps volunteer Henry has been to Afghanistan and Haiti and who knows where else. He’s always ready to go and always has something going.

So it was no surprise when I saw him last weekend that he asked, “Have you heard about the garden?”

Kevin Schmelzer mixes in some topsoil to the First Presbyterian Church’s raised bed at the Lancaster Community Garden.

In fact most of what I have heard about gardening this spring is “too much rain, not enough planting.” That’s only partially the case with Henry’s garden. Well, he won’t call it his garden. In fact he won’t even pose for a photo with it because he says it’s all the doing of Bill Steinman, an Ohio University Lancaster computer instructor. Steinman decided a year ago that the community needed a garden. Hood decided he would offer his 20 acres of ground for $1. Together the two gathered volunteers and managed to produce 9.2 tons of fresh vegetables for local food pantries. This year they are shooting for twice that amount.

Nancy Barrett represents one of man community organizations that are participating in the community gardening project. Here she waters some of the tomatoes in the first Presbyterian Church’s plot.

They are getting lots of help. The Fairfield Soil and Water District helped design the spring-fed irrigation system. More than 50 volunteers showed up last fall to harvest the crops. About 40 youngsters showed up to help plant beans in June. Various church organizations have plowed out their own spaces to contribute to the effort. Even detainees from Lancaster’s Community Transitions Center, a local halfway house for inmates, come to help plow a row for the garden. Dick Waibel a retired local businessman arranges delivery of the food to several local pantries.

Corie Ward, left, from MacArthur, and Frederick Saunders, right, from Texas, flank their grandmother Irma Snyder from Lancaster.

 “And when nobody else can come help us, we bring in the farmers,” Henry says.

That includes Dave Brandt, who loaned the group an antique potato planter to put in the spuds this year, and Randy Fisher who helped plant corn and beans and sunflowers.

Anthony Ross, from Zanesville, is an inmate at the local halfway house. He recalls his mother getting food from the local pantry when he was young. "I'm learning how to plant beans," he says. "I've never done this before in my life."

“When we’re in a jam, the farmers get us out if,” Hood says.

Jack Edington, from Lancaster, says it's better to be out hoeing a garden that sitting around the local halfway house. "At least I can get outside and do something that will help someone else," he says.

June 21st  you could all see the gardeners in action. You see it’s the local United Way’s first ever Day of Action. The theme is Pack the Pantry. And Henry Hood is right in the thick of it all.