Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
With a little help from their new friends in the Lone Star Military Farmers group, Adam Gipson and his wife Melodee are getting back to the basics by growing their own produce this summer.
On Friday, three LSMF members showed up at the couple's home in Troup, and helped prepare a 20- by 50-foot plot in the left-hand corner of his backyard.
Although his wife has been in regular contact with the group since last year, Gipson admits surprise that a group of strangers would help him and Melodee create a garden.
“You hear about things like this happening, and you're happy that it does, but it's not often that you get know (first-hand) the people who come to help,” he said, adding, they “are helping us get a good garden started.”
The couple began looking into gardening to help stretch their budget, as well as provide healthy food for their young son.
“The cost of food is going up, but the quality seems to be going down,” Gipson said. “At least if you grow (your own food) you know there's nothing wrong with it, and you don't have to worry about chemicals used. If you want it, you can grow it.”
Lois Hutson, a LSMF farm support and resource development specialist, said the program is a new one, designed to help people like the Gipsons, who want to grow their own food, for whatever reasons.
“Being in Lone Star Military Farmers, I see the need of people, who say 'I'd love a garden, but I don't have the right (equipment),'” she said.
Group members worked together to pull together needed equipment, both from their own resources and asking the greater community to help, then Hutson began contacting people who expressed interest in help with tilling a plot of land.
“That's what our programs are about – educating people about what they can do, so not only is there a garden where they grow produce, but (they get) knowledge of how to grow, put up what is grown” from the monthly classes Hutson hosts in Rusk “Because once they get the land broken up, if they continue to garden, that land continues to be broken up for them.”
Gipson, meanwhile, was excited about what was going in his garden.
“There will be a whole bunch of stuff – we're hoping to put in some green beans and okra, and some tomatoes and peppers,” he said.
Now that their plot is tilled, the Gipsons, and Melodee's dad, Chuck Lower, will spend time preparing the ground – digging a bed of about 18 inches deep and removing rocks and roots from it – and germinating seeds.
Gipson will spend time researching methods and talking to folks with gardening knowledge, in this case, his dad and his father-in-law.
“They have got a real good green thumb,” he said.
Hutson said the LSMF is accepting requests for help with tilling, and had five plots lined up the day they visited the Gipson family.
For practical purposes, “we're trying to do several at one time, not just one here and there,” she said. “We've had a real good response from (publicity about the program). I was kind of surprised, because you never know how it's going to go.”
Every residence receives a “harvest basket,” a container donated by the Texas Basket Factory, decorated with a yellow bow in recognition of the Lone Star Military Support Group's yellow ribbon campaign, and filled with seeds donated by the Spooktacular Bull Bash of Jacksonville.
The group will travel throughout Cherokee County, helping launch a grass-roots project, one garden at a time.
Even if plot is small, “whatever little bit they get is that much less that they have to purchase. And they're getting fresh vegetables,” Hutson said. “All they have to do is plant seeds, maintain garden and harvest vegetables.”
For more information about the gardening project or the monthly LSMF classes, contact Lois Hutson at 903-243-0487 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Find the group online at lonestarmilitary.com, as well as on Facebook, under Lone Star Military Resource Group/Lone Star Military Farmers.