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Robert Thibault, community gardener

“I am an avid gardener, I'm here everyday,” says Lompoc, California, community garden activist Robert Thibault. “It gives you good exercise, fresh air and its fun to watch things grow. You eat your own vegetables and there’s a lot of pride in that. Putting blueberries, blackberries, on your ice cream or making your own salad; it’s a kind of pride. It’s all organic, better for your body, no poisons, no chances of pesticides, and much more natural. If you want to make sure you food is free of pesticides, that’s what happens here.”

Robert Thibault
Robert Cuthbert

Thibault is part of a steadily growing social and environmental movement. Advocates of sustainable economy tout the advantages of community gardens. From these small plots are produced fruits and vegetables eliminating pesticide use and transportation’s carbon footprint. For these urban farmers there is the satisfaction of working the soil, improving the neighborhood, and socializing with other gardeners — the produce for many is secondary.

The former adventurer, who spent a decade on horseback exploring the Pacific mountain ranges, and who is as familiar with the costal waters as a yachtsman, has settled into his third career. Thibault is a daily sight at the garden as he helps in common tasks, gives his advice, and keeps the plots secure. He is always encouraging newcomers, and passerby are subject to an invitation to join in.

His advice for new gardeners: “Just realize it’s going to be a bit of work. You start as a beginner and it takes awhile, but its very rewarding — completely rewarding, nothing wrong with it at all. Even if you fail at least you got some fresh air.”

More than practical advice, he has a vision for the young and the not so old. “kids can do this, it’s something for them to think about” says Thibault. “Kids need to get good fresh air and exercise. I wish more kids would get involved because it’s an education. If you grow a strawberry you get to taste it while it’s fresh; they learn more about gardening. It makes for an educational tool.”

“For older folks,” the community gardener says, “its exercise — its something to do. You’re not sitting at home watching television just wasting away. Fresh air and exercise, and then you can share it with your grandkids. I’m retired so I like to putt-around, and I do what ever I can. A little weeding here and there. I keep the compost pile, and raise worms. I like taking the dirt and making it a better soil by adding the worms and compost.”

But it’s not all serious for the retired adventurer, “I make my own beet wine; I may be famous someday for my wine,” he says. “It’s a depression era recipe and this is my second year making it. It is very good actually, probably good for you. No additives, nothing chemical.”

“I feel healthier being closer to the land, I always have,” says Mr. Thibault. “I have never forgotten that. I feel the fresh air and ground is part of being human. It always has been since the beginning days. To stray away from it is not a good idea. The closer I get to the soil the happier I personally am.”

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