Harrisonville couple explore urban gardening

Special to the Democrat MissourianJuly 3, 2014 

Ricky and Joanie Painter both lead busy lives.

By trade, Ricky drives an OATS bus and works as a carpenter. Joanie works in the healthcare field with medical records.

Despite their active lives, the Harrisonville couple made the decision to have an urban garden on their residential corner lot town.

An urban garden is any type of area used to grow produce within an urban setting, and the Painters have done just that with a twist. Their garden is all organic.

“We are trying to educate people how to grow their food,” Ricky said. “We know that natural is the best way and organic foods in stores are expensive.”

In their efforts to keep it clear of any harmful substances, the Painters pay careful attention to what goes into their garden.

“Our garden is completely chemical free,” Ricky said. “This even includes the fertilizer, as we use manure from the local dairy. We also check all of our seed packets. We buy heirloom seeds instead of hybrids because they have no GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and if we keep them and try them out, we can use those seeds the next year.”

In addition to using manure for their fertilizer, Ricky will go and mow others’ grass and save the clippings in order to create green manure.

Ricky and Joanie have been married for six years, and in that time, Joanie has shared her gardening tricks with Ricky.

“I have been a flower gardener for most of my life, but I didn’t know a whole bunch about vegetable gardening until Joanie,” Ricky said.

Joanie grew up in Napoleon where both her grandparents were farmers. Throughout her childhood, she picked up much of what they were doing.

“You don’t realize you’re learning from them, but you are,” Joanie said. “I even remember my grandmother teaching me how to can.”

Canning vegetables is a way to preserve the produce they do not eat immediately or give out to friends and family. The shelf life of canned vegetables is three years.

Joanie and Ricky grow a large variety of produce including peas, lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes.

“It’s more like a crop rotation,” said Joanie. “In March we plant our cool crops like the peas, lettuces and potatoes, and then as it gets warmer we plant our warmer crops like the tomatoes and peppers.”

According to Joanie, the “killing frost” that came through this May was threatening to their garden, but Ricky was able to save it.

“Ricky actually came out and watered the plants before the sun hit them and knocked all the frost of the plants,” Joanie said. “If it weren’t for Ricky, we would have lost it all and had to start over.”

Beyond their vegetable garden, the Painters also recently obtained a permit from the city and added nine chickens to the property.

“We use the chickens for all natural eggs,” Joanie said. “With store bought eggs you really don’t know what they’ve eaten or what their environment is like.”

Ricky and Joanie’s decision to own an urban garden has provided them with the resources to eat healthy and, ultimately, saved them money.

“We eat well for the amount of income we make, probably better than most,” Ricky said. “But, if we didn’t garden, we couldn’t afford to eat this way. Like I said, we don’t make much, but we have money leftover because we do this.”

The garden also allows them to live out an idea that is near and dear to them.

“We firmly believe the best gift in the world that you can give is food,” Ricky said.

According to Joanie, friends and family now just expect it out of them and appreciate it.

“We went to visit my son in Colorado and he was practically jumping up and down because he knew we were bringing salsa and what not,” Joanie said.

Joanie says their trips to visit family and other vacations are scheduled around the garden.

“We work around it,” Joanie said. “Actually, last year we went on vacation, came back and picked peas and canned them, then went back on vacation.”

Though the job seems laborious, Ricky and Joanie say it is more of a hobby to them.

“For us, it’s not work; it’s play,” Ricky said. “We can come over and sit down anytime; we don’t work ourselves to death.”

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