I heard a great story this morning from Crystal Shepherd, an employee here at St Vincent Mission and a farmer who tends about twelve acres for food for her family and a bit to sell. Her six year old son, JB grew an Atlantic Giant pumpkin this year. He is a savvy young man who knows the value of his crop. He carved his 75lb pumpkin-saving the seeds-and took it to the local general store to show it off. The man who owns the store told JB that if he grew pumpkins next year he’d buy one. Well because he’d read the seed catalogues this young entrepreneur knew his product and told the store owner he would sell him some seeds so he could grow his own pumpkins next year. When the store owner replied, “you mean you won’t give me some seeds?” JB said, “Nope, but I’ll sell you some.”
JB has already decided to plant a “pumpkin bottom” next year and his parents are all for it. The Shepherd family has been growing their own food for generations and while their neighbors know they can help themselves to the field if they need it, the Shepherds also have regular “customers” who come looking to buy corn, sweet potatoes, cabbage and more. They are teaching their children the same values they have been taught and that mountain families have known for generations. You won’t go hungry if you work the land.
Crystal told me that she learned everything she knows about farming from her mother-in-law and she is passing that wisdom on at home. She also said that her children are learning about planting, cooking and saving home grown produce in their school in Magoffin County and that they have a great FFA group there where kids are excited about farming, raising cattle and even keeping bees. She is glad that her kids are learning how to be self sufficient. “It’s hard work”, she says, “but you have to feed your family.”
Crystal is an inspiration and I am blessed to have her close at hand as a resource. And I am very interested in following the career of young JB and his pumpkin patch. I might even have to buy some of his seed.
Kathy Curtis, OSB