Vegetable Gardens - A way of life for three senior citizens in Blairsville, Georgia

Willie Turner

Mrs. Willie Turner's garden is hard to miss. It's the one on Haralson Drive in Blairsville, Georgia with all the colorful zinnias flowering in the front row.

Mrs. Turner always has a pretty vegetable garden and puts up lots of food every year. With help from her son Charles, the garden produces enough to can beans, tomatoes, pickles, and sauerkraut. Mrs. Turner also puts stuff in the freezer including okra, peaches, corn, berries, and field peas. The best thing is the blackberry jelly. "I also put up peach preserves and grape jelly." Says Willie.

Mrs. Turner just recently had a light heart attack and is on oxygen. She says, "I still plan on canning. My daughter lives up there behind me and she will help." Willie Turner has lived in Union County all of her life. She is eighty-one and has three granddaughters, one grandson, and three great great grandchildren.

As we toured the yard, I admired the flowers and manicured lawn. The trees were surrounded with hostas and there was not a weed in sight. Her yard and garden was picture perfect.

Edgar MasonA little further out of town in the Coosa section of Union County, Mr. Edgar Mason tends his productive vegetable garden. Mr. Mason has always had a garden. "It helped feed the family and tasted a lot better than store bought produce." Says Edgar.

Edgar Mason raised collards in Union County for thirty years. It was a familiar sight to see Edgar and his tractor on Mulky Gap hauling a load of collards from the field. Mason's collards were sold all over Georgia and people say they were the best money could buy.

"The vegetable garden is more of a hobby now." Says Edgar who is now eighty-two. "I can't do as much as I used to." We admired the healthy tomato vines and sturdy looking corn stalks. There was a nice breeze as we talked about the weather. "It wouldn't hurt to have a good soaking rain." Said Mason and I agreed.

Edgar was eyeing the nearby blackberry bushes. "Those berries look about ready for picking. Maybe Raymond can get enough for a cobbler."

Edgar Mason's wife Virginia passed away ten years ago. Together they raised five boys and one girl. Besides farming, Mason worked at Union County Nursing Home for twenty-five years. Virginia Mason had a long career at Union General Hospital.

After admiring Edgar's vegetable plants, we relaxed under the old shade tree. Mason laughed, "Come on by anytime. I'll put you to work pulling weeds."

Irene BrownOn the other side of Union County, Mrs. Irene Brown still gardens at age 97. No walker or cane for this fit and trim lady. I asked her if it was too hot for a tour of her garden. "Why not!" She replied. "I get out in it everyday." She grabbed the hoe and off we went.

Irene Brown raised a large family on fresh vegetables. "There wasn't any money to run to the store. All we ever bought in town was salt and coffee. I had a milk cow until the 80's. We didn't even buy much sugar because there was plenty of honey." Says Irene.

Mrs. Brown has eight children, 19 grandchildren, and 30 great great grandchildren. "I still have to raise a big garden so I can feed them all when they come over." Irene's husband, Emory Brown passed away three years ago. "We both are from here." Says Irene. "We met at Church. My daddy's sister, Matilda Gillispie, donated the land to build Trackrock Church and I've been going there all my life."

Irene Brown was born on Mother's Day - May 8, 1909. She bends over to show me a big bunch of tomatoes. "These are Bonnie Hybrids. They are doing really good this year. The deer have about eaten up all the okra plants, though." Irene has already canned her beets and fifteen pints of blackberry jelly. She says, "I guess we'll have lots of tomatoes and vegetable soup later on."

I asked Mrs. Brown the obvious question, "What do you think has contributed to your long and healthy life?" She answered, "Eating good fresh vegetables, lots of physical labor, and of course, the good Lord's help."