About 25 years ago, Clark Humphries thought he would try growing a few tomatoes in his backyard.Today his back and front yards are filled with homegrown vegetables, fruits and herbs. “My wife jokes that we no longer have a garden. We now have a farm,” Humphries said.Humphries, 50, lives in south Charlotte’s Mountainbrook neighborhood and is the director of sales and marketing for a Boston-based consulting company. While he is passionate about growing his own food, he is just as passionate about getting other people to grow their own. Three of his neighbors either are growing gardens Humphries helped them start or are giving him space to grow more of his produce.“Eat Local” is the slogan many use to encourage regional agriculture through the consumption of locally grown fruits and vegetables. Humphries wants to take that a step further by encouraging people to “Pick Local.”“It is tremendous to buy food at your local farmers market as opposed to something grown in California or Mexico. But we have all this space in our yards that we use to grow grass. Instead, it could be used productively to grow food. What is more local than growing something right in your backyard?” Humphries said.Humphries produces a wide variety of vegetables: cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes and 10 varieties of peppers. His yard also yields raspberries, blackberries and grapes. “At the height of summer, I was picking a 5-gallon bucket of tomatoes every couple days. I planted 4 pounds of potatoes and dug 50 pounds. Just one of my pepper plants produced 300 peppers. I picked about 9 gallons each of blackberries and raspberries. And I probably picked at least 500 cucumbers this summer,” Humphries said.He also has herbs growing in the front yard: basil, thyme, cilantro, oregano and parsley, among others. “There is nothing better than going out right before dinner and getting the rosemary to throw in the chicken,” Humphries said.All this food has led him to learn other, complementary skills.He’s learned to can vegetables and to pickle. He has turned his peppers into hot sauce and his fruit into preserves. Three years ago he became a beekeeper, after noticing a drop-off in the honeybee population. Like all gardeners, he depends on the bees for pollination. Now there are plenty of bees, and honey.Humphries says that often people – upon learning of his passion for gardening – say, “I wish that I could do that.” His response is always: “You can! Just get out there and dig up the soil and put a tomato plant in the ground.”“Seriously, though, if you’ve got just a small piece of ground that gets four to six hours of sun each day, you can get started. I would encourage people to look around their yards this winter and find a spot.“This spring you can get started in a small way. Try planting some spinach and some lettuce. See where it goes.” Stores that sell seeds can be a good place to turn for information on how to get started, Humphries said. “David, at Renfrow Hardware in downtown Matthews, is a great source of advice,” he said.
Friday, Jan. 04, 2013
Gardener leads ‘Pick Local’ movement
South Charlotte resident turns yards into a ‘farm’
Clark Humphries added a beehive to his yard to help with pollination. COURTESY OF CLARK HUMPHRIES
Peppers become hot sauce. COURTESY OF CLARK HUMPHRIES
Cucumbers become pickles. COURTESY OF CLARK HUMPHRIES
Clark Humphries grows several varieties of tomatoes. COURTESY OF CLARK HUMPHRIES
Clark Humphries with a sampling of his tomato harvest. COURTESY OF CLARK HUMPHRIES
Learn more: Clark Humphries will talk with anyone who wants to start a garden: email firstname.lastname@example.org.