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Seeding, not reading, at 'Rock' garden

Editor's note: A number of passages in the original version of this article presented as direct quotations language that differed from the wording used by the individuals quoted.

Corrections to the misquotations have been made below. Changes are made in italics, with parentheses indicating words that were erroneously included in the quotations in the original version of the article.

The Herald is committed to accuracy in its reporting and regrets the misquotations.

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It's easy not to notice Jim Hannon's vegetable garden. It's tucked away in a corner of the parking lot behind the Rockefeller Library, between a dumpster and a brick wall. But for those who do spot it, the garden is a source of joy.

For 25 years, the library technical assistant has been growing tomatoes, cucumbers, sunflowers and zucchini on the 4 foot by 9 foot plot of land.

"I'm a gardener," he said. "That's what I do."

In good years, the little plot has yielded 18-foot sunflowers and zucchini that "grows like grass."

"(Those) sunflowers attract everyone in the world(, or at least everyone) on the East Side," Hannon said.

In other years, he said, pumpkin vines have climbed up the brick wall surrounding the parking lot. Sometimes cucumbers hang from the caution tape that marks one edge of the garden.

The garden is right outside the door to his office — Hannon, who has worked in the Rock's mail room for 25 years, started his job at Brown after working as a fisherman.

The opportunity to work inside was tempting, he said, especially compared to conditions on the water.

"(It was often) 12 above out there," he said, "(and this was) a little more comfortable."
Though Hannon takes advantage of the comforts of office life, he still makes a point to enjoy the outdoors.

In many ways, the garden is a collaborative affair. One of his co-workers raises rabbits and brings in their manure to help fertilize the plants, Hannon said. Others take on watering duties or pitch in during the planting season. The rewards, in turn, are also shared.
"I just spread (the vegetables) around," Hannon said.

"My main involvement is eating tomatoes," said Rick Hurdis, another mail room employee, who sometimes greets Hannon with a cheerful "Farmer Jim!"

"I'm going to mow it over!" joked Nancy Flynn, another co-worker. She said she sometimes helps to water the garden.

Hannon has never gotten permission to plant vegetables in the parking lot, he said.
In fact, just last year, a dumpster was moved next to the plot, cutting the garden's size in half. But Hannon did not complain.

"(It's not that important,)" he said.

Hannon said he has been gardening since "before forever." He attributes his green thumb to his grandfather, an Irish immigrant who was a horticulturalist in Pawtucket.

Hannon was only four years old when his grandfather died, but he thinks that gardening may be in his blood.

"(My family had a little) backyard (when I was a kid,)" he said, "and I was (always) the gardener."

He also said he's always favored organic methods — he avoids pesticides, fungicides and chemical fertilizers.

"I'm a farmer, not a chemist," he said.

Since spraining his ankle two years ago, he's stopped weeding as frequently. But Hannon's little plot doesn't ask much of him.

"(There's a lot of work when you first plant,)" he said. "After that (, it's) duck soup."




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