June 30, 2005 | By: Aimee Nielson
MIDDLESBORO, Ky.

Biggerstaff is a 100-percent organic gardener with about 30 raised beds in her backyard.

For Pat Biggerstaff, backyard gardening is more than a hobby; it’s also a way to feed needy families in Bell County. She recently began working with the Bell County Cooperative Extension office’s Expanded Food, Nutrition and Education Program (EFNEP) by planting seeds donated to them by Southern States Cooperative.

Biggerstaff’s garden is no ordinary operation either. She maintains approximately 30 raised beds and grows a variety of produce such as corn, squash, beans, berries, greens and even fruit trees on the perimeter.

“I call it condensed gardening,” she explained. “Each bed is equivalent to 60 or 70 feet of a row in a field. A lot of food comes out of here and I just have to give it away to anybody who will come and get it.”

Biggerstaff offers ripened crops to anyone who will come help her harvest them. She also takes items each week of the growing season to some homebound neighbors who can’t come to her.

Brenda Harris, Bell County EFNEP assistant, checks on Pat regularly and brings her seed. If Pat can’t use the seed, she gives it to people who can. Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent Stacy White has worked with Pat on several occasions.

“You can see that even on a small spot in town, you can grow vegetables to eat,” he said. “I think Pat does a wonderful job with her beds, she maintains them really well and keeps something growing year round, either a cover crop or the crop she is producing. It takes a lot of elbow grease, but she is willing to do it and does an excellent job with it.”

Biggerstaff has been gardening since the early 1940s. Her garden is completely organic and free of pesticides. She also cans a majority of her produce and doesn’t make money from any of it, even offering canned items to those who want them, if they only agree to return the jars. She also believes her work could easily be duplicated.

“I would say that anybody that has the space to do this can do it,” she admitted. “You only need a 4- by 10-foot space to do it. I would say that anybody who wants some nutritious food, whether it be beans or tomatoes, just ought to go out and get some seed and try it. You will really be rewarded and you will get hooked on doing it. One bed will lead to two which could lead to 10.”

White said future plans include Pat using the donated seed to grow plants that can be given to people who live in public housing to grow in container, backyard and patio gardens.

 

Contact: 

Writer: Aimee Nielson 859-257-4736, ext. 267

Contact: Stacy White 606-337-2376