FOSTER — Obert Parsons knows a little about farming.
“I’ve been gardening just about all my life,” he said.
Parsons, 82, of Foster, is in the “Masters Gardeners Club” through West Virginia University and he also serves as the agricultural advisor to the county.
“We had four classes on agriculture that covered everything from fruit trees, to berry vines, and overall gardening,” he said.
Parsons also taught classes.
Now he is growing two large gardens in Foster near his home to benefit senior citizens in the area.
“We’ve got green beans, corn, tomatoes, onions, cabbage, cucumbers, squash, and sweet peppers,” Parsons said. “It is all given away to the elderly people, mostly widows, and other senior citizens unable to have a garden.”
Parsons oversees the gardens and distribution of the fresh vegetables.
“We delivered squash, sweet peppers and onions to 20 elderly people in the community,” he said. “That’s what this program is all about.”
Last year, the gardening group made over 200 deliveries.
“This year, if we can get some rain, we are going to go beyond that number,” Parsons said.
The garden has 84 tomato plants, 72 sweet pepper plants, six 80-foot rows of green beans and an 80-foot row of squash, an 80-foot row of cucumbers and rows and rows of corn, Parsons said.
“Last year, we gave away over 100 dozen of corn,” Parsons added.
This is the third year Parsons’ group has grown the gardens and given away the ripe vegetables.
Gardens have always been a way of live for those living in West Virginia.
In its early history, West Virginia was a land primarily of small farmers, small family farmers who operated anywhere from a 100 to 300 acres of land, generally running cattle, sheep and hogs in the forests eating off the mast, growing very small quantities of row crops that were consumed primarily by the family on the farm or sold in the local community to neighbors and kin.
“It was a very self-sufficient kind of environment,” Parson said.
There were things that were traded on the open market, but the primary role of the West Virginia farm was for the survival of the family, the family unit. The woodlands covered most to the geography, the terrain.
Parsons’ group helps the elderly who can no longer maintain or grow a garden.
“I donated my gardens for this project and my grandson Michael Cook uses the tractor to get the gardens ready,” Parsons said.
The gardens are fenced in and deer-proof.
“We have about 15 active, working members in the club,” Parsons said.
Those interested in Parsons gardening club must take the agriculture class and test.
“We don’t have an agriculture agent in Boone County because we are thought of as a coal county,” Parsons explained. “So, I am known as the county’s agriculture advisor. I do all this for free and the joy of seeing the happy faces of those receiving the vegetables.”
Parsons wrote a book on gardening and donated all proceeds to the local 4-H Club.
“There have been 750 copies of the book made and distributed,” he said.
Parsons can be reached by calling 304-369-2560.