Kingsport farmer to share tricks of the trade Saturday

Family-run gardens can be a rewarding challenge, but a challenge nonetheless. One Kingsport resident, however, says there is a better way to farm than breaking one’s back every weekend pulling out weeds.

Ben Hunter has been gardening since he was four years old, and after decades of experience in the field, he is continuing to share his knowledge with the greater community.

Hunter will be at Sycamore Shoals State Park Saturday, Feb. 2, to showcase the way he grows his crops every year: raised gardening beds.

He said the technique is ancient.

“The Native Americans used it thousands of years ago,” he said.

Instead of a traditional flower or vegetable garden, he said his beds are six inches above the ground, which he said provides an unparalleled amount of efficiency.

“You do not have to plow it, and you eliminate 90 percent of your weed problems,” Hunter said.

Hunter is a Master Gardener, a title he obtained after taking a 13-week course at his local Agricultural extension office shortly after retiring.

“I started doing vegetables, but I then started doing fruits, berries and trees,” Hunter said.

Every inch of his garden that is not a covered by crops is layered with gravel, which he said eliminates the ability to track mud across the fields, letting him tend to the plants even in the rain or snow.

He said this efficiency approach was part of the reason he teaches his raised bed method.

“Whether it is a small or large garden, it makes work easier, it makes you more efficient and it saves you money,” Hunter said. “It helps those who cannot work all day get a garden going.”

Even the soil he uses is unique, opting to use compost instead of normal soil. The compost is actually the primary purpose of the seminar he is hosting on Saturday.

“I will be showing people how to recognize the good compost and the bad compost, as well as where to find good compost and how to best use it efficiently.”

He said one of the downsides to conventional farming is the need to plant crops a certain way so the machines can better harvest them.

“This way, every crop is planted the way that suits them best,” Hunter said. “Once the beds are up, you just need to worry about replacing the compost and harvesting the crops.”

The seminar will go from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, and the original aim of the seminar is about compost itself. Hunter said anyone who wants to learn about raised garden beds can learn about that, too.

“One hundred percent compost for these plants is paradise,” Hunter said.

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