A gardener at heart

Due to the economic recession, some people are choosing to plant and grow their own food for the first time ever in order to save money or to be more environmentally conscious.

New Harmony resident Houston Rakestraw plants his own fruits and vegetables for him and his family and friends to enjoy and it has nothing to do with the economic recession. He said, “I just enjoy working in the dirt.

Rakestraw was raised in Union County and has been farming for many years.

At 82 years old, he spends most of his time tending to his garden and making sure his crops are producing. When the fruits and vegetables produce, he gives them to his wife Dale and she cans, preserves, and freezes many of the food. Dale makes pepper relish, preserves, jelly, pickles, salsa, and freezes whatever she cannot use at the time in one of the may deep freezers the Rakestraws own.

Rakestraw worked for the Grapette Bottling Company for 26 years, drove a truck for the Futorian Company for 18 years, worked for L & S Auto Parts for 12 years, and worked as a carpenter for two years. Now he just enjoys working in his garden and tending to his crops.

There is a wide variety of fruits and vegetables that are growing for him and his family and friends to enjoy. The fruits are cantaloupe, fig, thornless blackberries, strawberries, and tomatoes. The vegetables that are growing are corn, okra, squash, lima beans, peas, eggplant, peppers, rattlesnake beans, butterbeans, beets, swiss chard, cucumbers, and more.

Rakestraw grows all of his own plants from seeds on his two acres of land.

He doesn’t have a set time to water the plants and doesn’t have a sprinkler system set up, but said, “We need more rain. It has been too hot these days and not enough rain for the crops to produce.”

Rakestraw’s advice to new farmers is that gardening and farming “will be a good experience because at least grass will grow.

The Rakestraws do not grow enough food to sell for commercial use or at a farmer’s market. However, both Houston and Dale enjoy their parts of gardening. Houston plants the seeds, grows the food, and tends to the garden. Dale takes what Houston grew and saves the food by freezing, canning or preserving.

She said, “I have the easy job. He is the one that does all of the hard work.”