While driving through Greenlawn recently I passed a sign that said Robert M. Kubecka Memorial Garden. And that brought back memories.
More than 50 years ago, the Town of Huntington purchased 15 acres of land from the Hazeltine Corporation for residents to use as an organic farm, originally called Huntington Organic Gardens. It was subdivided into 20-foot-by-40-foot plots, and one of them was mine. I lived just a short two-minute drive away.
All my vegetables had been coming from the supermarket. I knew they originated from farms someplace out east or out west, but did my three little kids know that? I needed to broaden their limited outlook on life. I wanted them to learn of the world beyond the local stores.
As it was an organic garden, this meant no pesticides and no non-organic fertilizer. However, the town provided us with one huge pile of fresh, steaming wet manure. I was hoping to use a well-advertised fertilizer. Nowadays, agribusiness farmers till the soil with a tractor and plow, while we of the town vegetable gardens must resort to methods more often seen in the Third World. The baked soil was broken up with a pitchfork, then wheelbarrows of the manure were worked into the claylike soil to create a fertile environment.
Initially, I brought my two sons to our “farm,” at the intersection of Dunlop and Greenlawn roads, to show them we were one with the soil. I lectured them on the bounties of Mother Earth, this byproduct of all our energy. My parental diatribe passed like X-rays through their little ears, leaving no trace of its path. How did I know? “Daddy, can we go home?” was their all-too-familiar refrain.
But would I give up? Never! At least not for a while.
That summer, I watched my fellow “farmers” plant fast-growing vegetables, along with marigolds whose odor discouraged insects. I planted corn on half of my plot while the other half lay barren. Why? It’s a simple answer: I ran out of the energy and patience required to prepare the soil.
But I awaited the corn harvest. I had read that corn eaten shortly after being picked was at its tastiest. You had to eat it before its natural sugar turned to starch. I checked it regularly, kept it watered and watched its microscopic growth, envious of my neighbors’ bountiful crops. I wish I liked zucchini. That stuff grows as you watch it.
Then one day, I noticed worms among my maturing corn kernels. Frantically, I broke off the edible portions of the ears, rushed home in a race to cook and savor this bounty -- this culinary delight -- before its sugar transformed into the accursed starch.
What were the results of this experiment in living off the land, of eating corn fresh off the stalk? All I can say is that the next year and every year since, the supermarket is where my wife gets our vegetables. They may come from out east, they may come from out west, they may even come from Mexico. However, I know where they don’t come from. They don’t come from my organic garden.
Postscript: Stephen, my son who lives nearby, regularly provides me with honey from his beehive and also delicious homegrown tomatoes. Maybe not all those long-ago lectures passed through his little ears like X-rays.
Reader Bill Domjan lives in Melville.