Since this month we’re highlighting our company’s sustainability practices, we thought we’d share how our employees are taking it upon themselves to be kind to the environment and others. Rhonda Searcy is this year’s Core Values Awards winner from YKK (U.S.A.) Inc. Snap and Button Products in Lawrenceburg, KY. Rhonda has been working at YKK for almost 24 years. She was nominated by her peers because of her passion for giving back and helping others. Rhonda spends her free time helping her community and neighbors. She does so by allowing neighbors to take fresh produce from her garden without having to ask for permission by just following a simple rule – no canning.
How long have you been working at YKK?
I started working at YKK, then Universal Fasteners, 24 years ago. I was 20 years old and needed a job to support my son, who at the time was close to turning one, and myself. We were living at home with my parents and I was babysitting the neighbors’ children during the summer and trying to figure out how I was going to be the mom that my son needed me to be.
Tell us a little bit about your garden project and how are you supporting your community with this initiative.
Typically I have around 200 tomato plants that I have seeded by hand. I also have cucumbers, bell pepper, yellow crooked neck squash, zucchini, green beans, sweat corn, okra, watermelon and cantaloupe in my garden. There is nothing like fresh produce from your garden, so when neighbors would stop by and ask if they can have a tomato or mess of corn, there is no way we can say no. I have one rule for our garden and it is, “Please stop by and pick what you want, but please do not can out of it.” I will do the majority of my canning and freezing first, then I start calling people who want to do some canning. There is usually plenty to go around.
When did you start your garden?
I grew up canning and freezing food my whole life. So when I got married it was just natural that I would start to fill my basement shelves like we did at home. Everything from canned tomato juice, tomatoes, salsa and green beans straight from our garden that we raised. We fill our deep freeze with everything from corn, squash, and zucchini. When you make a big pot of vegetable soup in the winter it tastes so good!
What inspired you to start this project?
Some years when we had such an abundance of produce in the garden, we picked all that we could and would drive around asking friends and neighbors to get what they want out of the truck. We live on a road that goes to the wildlife management area and have even made a few friends by stopping them and asking if they wanted some fresh corn. They would tell us about their fishing that day and went on their way with a good mess of corn for supper that night. To me, that is a win-win situation.
What recommendations do you have for people who would like to start a project like yours?
My recommendation for anyone who wants to start a project is to not be scared of failure. In my garden I have tried to grow other vegetables. Last year I tried beets. Growing up, I always loved pickled beets, so last year I planted a row about 5 feet long. I think I had a total of two beets grow. Not sure exactly what I did wrong, but I am not giving up. This year I am going to try it again. I’m also looking at growing peas as well. We will see how this turns out.
How is this project helping take care of our environment?
I love feeding my family with the produce from our garden because I know exactly what is in it and what it took to make it grow. There are not a lot of chemicals and pesticides on our produce.
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