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North Sider turns lot’s weeds into garden that feeds hungry

Thu., July 1, 2010, midnight

The diversity in Kerry Absher’s vegetable garden is a bit like paradise what with plums and potatoes, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, dill, radishes and squash among the wealth of fruits and vegetables the unassuming man is growing on his corner lot on West Kiernan Avenue. The sign, however, says it all: this is God’s Garden.

“The last yard I had was something like 20 years ago. I’m a carpenter so you can say I’m learning as I’m going,” said Absher, who grows the garden for the food bank and meal programs associated with Off Broadway Family Outreach and Family of Faith Community Church. “I started out blind and I grew all the plants from seed. At one point we had 144 of those little green houses in the basement.”

Absher said the inspiration to grow the garden came from two things: having a completely overgrown side yard that he needed to do “something” with and from the rescue efforts in Haiti.

“The city said it was going to fine me if I didn’t do something about the tall weeds, so I started cutting and rototilling,” said Absher. “We are a poor ministry and it seemed like when all the millions were being sent to Haiti, there wasn’t a lot left for us here.”

So Absher set out to grow food. People donated seeds and Absher set up his nursery in the basement of the house where’s he’s lived for 1 ½ years.

Help has come unexpectedly.

“One evening this guy pulled up with a huge rototiller and just said, ‘Hey, you want some help?’ He finished the job for me, it was incredible,” said Absher.

He’s carefully expanding the rows of vegetables, rotating lettuce so there’s always new leaves on the way and pulling weeds nonstop.

“There were so many weeds here and these big stumps,” said Absher. “It’s not perfect, by no means.”

His carpentry skills have come in handy constructing a water-collecting system off the roof of the garden shed, building a composting bin and rigging up what he calls “a poor man’s sprinkler system” consisting of hoses and sprinkler heads.

The potatoes are already a foot tall, and the tomatoes are looking healthy now that the sun is out.

Corn has been planted at the far northern end of the plot, sweet peas climb the fence and two plots are ready for watermelon and pumpkins.

The ministries Absher is associated with have several food programs including handing out food on Monday mornings in West Central, and serving dinner at a church called The Porch on West Broadway Monday evenings.

“Every other Tuesday we feed the homeless under the I-90 bridge downtown,” said Absher. “And Friday night we feed people at our church and give out food.”

Absher moved to Spokane from the West Side of the state about two years ago. He’s been in the little white house on Kiernan for most of that time, and he’s struggled with unemployment. The latter is probably what really got him going on the garden this spring.

“The way I look at it God gave me a lot of time off, and I had to do something with it,” said Absher. “And this has been fun.”

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