Let me introduce you a friend of ours, Wayne Wilson. The Wilsons came into our lives when Dan decided to start a community Scout troop and Wayne’s father, Charlie, raised his hand to help.
Wayne was 11 at the time, the perfect age to hire to help around the farm and the house. Wayne and Dan cleared land; Wayne and I washed windows and painted the parts of the house we could reach. Wayne’s sister Susan babysat our children, and Wayne’s pediatric nurse mother, Jennie, took special care of our premature son during his two-weeks stay at her hospital.
When Wayne graduated from high school, he went to Nashville Auto-Diesel College and upon graduation, went to work for a car dealership. Soon after that, he opened his own garage and was quite successful.
As time passed, Wayne began noticing a tingling in his hands and feet, a tingling that quickly progressed to numbness. Wayne realized soon he would be unable to safely work on equipment. A trip to the doctor suggested a tumor, but spinal surgery proved that wrong. Eventually, MS was diagnosed.
Wayne tried the natural remedy of multiple bee stings to build up his system’s anti-inflammatory response. This treatment initially helped but later was no longer effective. By now Wayne was married, and he and his wife, Jo Ann, who works in human resources/payroll, sat down to make a plan.
The couple lived on the family farm and decided to see if they could make the land work for them. Jo Ann quit her job, and they began growing vegetables and flowers, selling their produce at local farmers markets. I’m not sure what kind of training they had in farming, but they made it work.
As Wayne’s disease progressed, he and Jo Ann continued to think of ways to make the farm work. Wayne continuously altered equipment to meet his needs. When they bought some hens, Wayne built a portable hen house so the hens’ droppings could help fertilize the land. They began selling fresh hen eggs.
As their business grew, they started a Community Supported Agriculture Program Food Cooperative, CSA for short. Clients paid for a full or half portion of a weekly produce box filled with vegetables currently growing. Clients could also purchase winter produce boxes. Jo Ann began adding recipes to try with the produce. Her recipe for garlic scapes is amazing, precious as it can only be made during late spring, when the scapes are available. Eating local and fresh, not a new idea to the Wilsons.
Wayne and Jo Ann continue to work the farm. They continue to alter and innovate. Although the farm is not large, through thought, skills and creativity, it yields sufficiently to meet their needs. In a world no longer guaranteeing a gold watch after 30 years’ service, Jo Ann and Wayne remain calm and productive. They give back to the land and enrich others by their actions.
The Wilsons, Dan and I are proud to call them our friends.
Cindy Arp, teacher/librarian, retired from Knox County Schools. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell.