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The Farmer in My Family

Every summer my step-dad, Tom, spends his free time planting a giant fruit and vegetable garden.

Over the years, it has grown from just a couple of rows with tomatoes, green beans, blackberries, and peppers to the jungle of just about any vegetable imaginable that it is now.

When he first started planting the garden, it was a little rough going, as the soil at my parents’ house consists mostly of clay, and my mom would often joke that by the time the vegetables were ready for harvesting each tomato would have the average cost of about $15 because of the amount of topsoil and fertilizers needed to make the plants produce anything.

Now that the ground has been conditioned, and my step-dad has more free time, as he is essentially retired, my mom (and the majority of the rest of the family) enjoys the fruits of his labor. Most weekends, my mom and Tom spend time visiting friends and family to make their “produce deliveries,” where they can share their surplus with people who appreciate the homegrown vegetables.

Growing a garden is something that goes way back in my step-dad’s history, and he will often share stories of growing gardens with his parents and grandparents when he was a child. When their various grandchildren come over to visit, he will always offer up tractor rides (on the riding lawn mower 🙂 ) and show the grandkids how to tell when tomatoes, peppers, squash, etc. are ready to be picked and eaten.

During the time I lived at home with my parents, I spent many of my days off work hanging around the kitchen while Tom would cut up tomatoes for freezing, or slicing cucumbers to make pickles.  When nothing needed to be done for the garden, we’d often watch old movies or cooking shows together, and have a running commentary the entire time. Spending this quality time with him is something I looked forward to, as he is a pretty witty guy, and has taught me a lot of different things over the years.

My mom and Tom met when I was in high school, and the impact he has had on my life since then is something I am very grateful for everyday. We haven’t always agreed on everything, and during my high school years I’m sure it wasn’t always easy for him raising more kids (he already had five kids from his first marriage, who were all grown by then), but he has always been there whenever needed.

For a variety of reasons, Tom is one of my heroes. When I needed someone to drive to Tennessee and help me move back home, he was there (with my mom) with his truck, ready to get me back home. When I bought my first (and only) manual transmission car, he was the person I called to talk me through how to get over a steep hill after a stop sign and without stalling out. His selflessness and willingness to help out anyone in need have taught me how to be a better person.  He isn’t always the best at saying the words “I love you,” out loud, but the love he has for family is evident in his actions.

Even the seemingly simple task of growing a garden is something that can teach a lot of valuable lessons, and I’m grateful that I was able to learn from him, and that he continues to pass down some of his knowledge to his grandchildren.

I’m lucky to have such a nice guy in my life as a father figure and one of my heroes. Who are some of your heroes? How have they helped shape you to the person you are today?


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