‘IT’S GREEN, ALL RIGHT’: Robert Boyd grows enough greens to feed 800 people
Published 2:00 am Saturday, November 21, 2015
The sun was warm, almost hot, on Robert Boyd’s back. Even the fickle wind was warm. Not at all like an Alabama late November day.
“A frost would bring sweetness to the greens,” Boyd said as his eyes scanned nearly two acres of sandy soil carpeted in collard greens, turnip greens and green rutabaga tops.
“It’s green all right,” Boyd said with a smile as reached to bag another bunch of collards. “I don’t know how many plants I’ve got. I just know it’s enough.”
Boyd was speaking of the enough greens to feed more than 800 people at a community Thanksgiving dinner, a large church family, a bunch of relatives and friends and everybody else that looks big-eyed and wishful at his patch of greens.
Sharon Gamble calls Boyd, “the Farmer” and, although farming is not Boyd’s paying job, “farmer” is a badge of honor for him. He wears it proudly.
“I’ve been in the garden all my life,” Boyd said. “When you come from a big family, you’ve got to have a garden if you want to eat. There were 14 children in my family that got grown so we had to have a big garden. My daddy started me gardening and I’ve kept it going. I guess gardening is my hobby.”
Boyd quickly admitted that gardening on any scale is work. On a large scale, it’s a lot of work.
“But it’s real rewarding to see the fruits of your labor,” he said. And, being right about that, Boyd’s reward is a hefty one.
He and his wife, Rita, live in the Tarentum community and he has a small garden there. But his big gardens, two of them, are in the Roeton community. And, none of the greens go to waste. He even uses the rag-tail turnip greens as a cover crop.
Boyd has been sharing the fruits of his fall harvest with others as long as he’s been putting the seeds in the ground. But his big opportunity — and his great blessing – came when Cornelius Griffin, gridiron star for the PCHS Bulldogs, the Crimson Tide and then in the NFL, began providing Thanksgiving dinner for the elderly and shut-ins in his hometown, Brundidge.
Griffin wanted to set the table for them with a traditional Southern Thanksgiving dinner – turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, greens and beans.
Farmer Robert Boyd gladly volunteered to supply the greens and the taters for Griffin’s first community Thanksgiving dinner and he’s been doing it every year since.
“It’s Thanksgiving and I’m glad to be a part of it. “It’s something that I can do for others at this special time of year,” Boyd said. “It takes a lot of people to fix the dinner but a lot more get to enjoy it and we are all thankful that we can do this for the people in our community.”
Not many people have the pleasure of putting Thanksgiving dinner on the table for 800 or more. And, Sharon Gamble said it “takes a village.”
Gamble helps “the farmer” with gathering the greens, “I hold the bag,” she said, laughing. And she is also one of the cooks that lend a helping hand to Martha Griffin, the mother of the Thanksgiving dinner host.
Cornelius Griffin and his wife, Kimberly provide the turkey and some of the trimmings and come out of the kitchen to greet their guests and help deliver the Thanksgiving meals to some of the shut-ins.
Dr. S.D. James is a strong supporter of the annual community Thanksgiving meal and then, there are the cooks, Martha Griffin, Rita Boyd, Ella Wheeler, Gamble “and a whole lot more,” the ladies from Lily White Church and New Jerusalem Campground and community volunteers.
“So many people contribute to the meal that it would be hard to begin to name them all,” Gamble said. “It takes all of us to put Thanksgiving dinner on a community table.”
The holiday dinner includes 12 big, long pans of collards, 10 pans of turnip greens and10 pans of sweet potato soufflé, all from “the Farmer’s garden.
There’s dressing to equal all that and beans and gravy and a ton of turkeys. Gamble gets bone weary just thinking about the effort that it takes to put the food on the table.
She and Martha Griffin pull an all-nighter the night before the dinner just to get the dressing “on and going.”
“But it’s worth all the time and effort to know that so many people enjoy the fruits of our labor,” she said.
And, all the preparation starts back in the late summer when Robert Boyd puts the seeds in the ground that will carpet the ground in green in the fall.
Boyd straighten his back and surveyed his garden.
“For five or six dollars you can grow a lot of greens and you can feed a lot of folks,” he said. “I’m blessed to be able to do this. That’s one thing that I’m thankful for and I just hope I can keep holding out to keep my garden going.”
And, when Boyd sits down to his Thanksgiving dinner, it will be a traditional Southern one, with turkey, dressing and giblet gravy, sweet potatoes, green beans, rutabagas, turnips, collards and cornbread.
But when it’s all said and done, “I still favor a good mess of turnip greens,” the Farmer said.