Marty Fredrickson and Christian Pedersen have been gardening partners for five years.
With a large garden plot on the corner of Second and Miller Sts. and some hard work, the pair grow enough produce to feed their families and then some.
Already this year’s seeds have been nestled under the ground.
The abundant yield from the garden allows the partners to give fruits and vegetables to Marion County Resource Center and Food Bank, Marion Senior Center, Hilltop Manor, and occasionally to families they know are having a rough financial time.
They don’t make much ado about sharing the harvest. In fact, their gifts to the senior center are always left outside the building door, and have been mentioned by the senior center as “gifts from the tomato fairy.”
Janet Bryant, site manager for Marion Senior Center, said the “tomato fairy” comes often during the summer.
“Sometimes it’s happened several times a week,” Bryant said. “They’re outside the door and I’ve never caught the person yet. They are nice, ripe, red tomatoes. They leave big sackfuls, it’s wonderful. I hope the tomato fairy comes back this summer, too.”
In addition to tomatoes, the men grow potatoes, onions, cucumbers, beets, carrots, cauliflower, cantaloupe, bell and jalapeno peppers, and asparagus. Some plants are grown in rows and others planted in wood boxes.
They are contemplating adding a few fruit trees, perhaps apple, pear, peach, and cherry varieties.
Fredrickson and Pedersen are proud to say they buy their plants locally.
They also keep a few chickens on the property for eggs.
The garden provides more than food for the men and their families.
“Just the relaxation — you can go work on the garden after getting off work,” Fredrickson said. “By October it’s like, ‘Isn’t it time for this to be over?’”
Fredrickson said that his family always had a garden when he was growing up. It helped feed the cash-strapped family, he said.
Pedersen said the men wish more young people would learn the art of gardening, not just for its practical purposes but so they understand more about the cycle of nature and sustainable living.
“We’ve encouraged young men and women both to come down here, and if they just put in one tomato plant, they could,” Pedersen said.
Fredrickson and Pedersen said the garden has been at the site for 50 years, and was worked by Norman Funk and Earl and Dorothy Lawrence in the past.
“We had to promise we’d continue it as a garden,” Fredrickson said.
Pedersen’s wife, who works at St. Luke, saves coffee grounds as a soil additive. The grounds lend copper, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium to the soil, plus nitrogen as they degrade.
The gardeners are careful to avoid putting chemicals on the plants.
“When we spray for mosquitoes, we cover them up,” Fredrickson said. “I don’t like putting chemicals on it.”