Local Garden Grows Crops and Character
By Sarah Steele Wilson
Jul 23, 2012, 13:56
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Wayne Dotson in his garden with wife, Kefaya, son Evan, daughter Sarah, family friend Bryan Ramos, son Elliott and a fresh watermelon.
Wayne Dotson has always used his backyard garden in Prince George County to teach his children life lessons.
“I really started the garden as a tool to teach my kids,” he said.
“I did the garden when my kids were very small so they would understand how to put a seed in the ground and how to get it to grow...” he continued.
Dotson, who comes “from a long line of farmers,” has used the garden to teach his daughter, Sarah, and his two sons, Evan and Elliott, the value of hard work as well as horticultural, agricultural and biological lessons. Selling the fruits and vegetables they harvest at the weekly Prince George County Farmers Market has also taught them business skills.
Through the first ever Governor’s Bowl Chamber of Commerce Food and Fund Drive, Dotson has been able to teach his children another lesson.
“We’re now teaching our children the lesson of charity and the importance of being generous,” Dotson said.
Dotson said he and his wife and children had planned on donating the food they couldn’t eat themselves, give to their neighbors or sell to the county’s food bank even before he bumped into Sarita Harding at the weekly, outdoor market.
Harding, the owner of S&B Designs and the Hopewell-Prince George Chamber of Commerce coordinator for the Governor’s Bowl, told him about the drive and the need for donations at food banks across the state.
“He was so kind to donate from his garden,” Harding said.
The 184 lbs of food Dotson and his family grew and gave will help the over one million food insecure Virginians put fresh food on their tables.
Dotson said his watermelons and canteloupes are starting to come in, and he’s looking forward to taking them to the local food bank in Prince George.
“I think that’s a very good thing that people who are having to rely on the food bank can hopefully pick up a watermelon to take home, instead of just canned goods,” Dotson said.
Harding said Dotson, who works as an I.T. specialist at Fort Lee, was just one of the generous donors in the food and funds challenge, which aims to boost donations to food banks during the summer. In the summer, donations frequently decline while need rises as children who typically receive free breakfasts and lunches at school are at home during the day.
Although the exact amount of food donated by different localities throughout the state has not been tallied yet, Harding said the response in Hopewell and Prince George was strong.
“I feel we had a great response from our members,” Harding said. She said that organizing the drive and visiting the local food bank had made her more aware of the need for consistant donations, something she thought the drive would help reinforce in people’s minds.
“I think it has made more of the community aware that there is a need,” she said.
Dotson said he was already considering doubling the size of his garden next year, something he now definitely intends to do.
“Now that we know that we have those needs...those places that can use those vegetables, we’ll definitely do so,” he said.
Once the official donation numbers are totaled, the Hopewell-Prince George Chamber of Commerce will announce nine internal winners, three each from the categories of small, medium and large businesses.