Local veteran still gardens like it's 1939

Come for the garden, stay for the stories


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  • Ken Tanis of Sparta, N.J., will be happy to show off his garden at Dirt's Kitchen Garden Tour on Sunday, Aug. 13. Tickets are available.



SPARTA, N.J. — Ken Tanis doesn’t have to hit up the grocery store for his produce.

“I don’t buy vegetables. I raise what I like,” he said with a smile. He’s been working on his backyard kitchen garden in Sparta for 40 years, a habit he picked up during the Great Depression.

“I lived in Clifton then, and we had 89 acres. And we had a garden — a big one,” said Tanis. “For the boys, that was our job. We came home from school and would get goin’ in the garden.”

Today, he’s growing countless beets, carrots, beans, cabbage, peppers, cauliflower and tomatoes. He gives most of it away.

He had lettuce, but the deer got to it before he could, despite the five-foot fence he has surrounding his veggie patch.

“They jump right over it when they’ve still got spots on ‘em — they clear that thing like nothing!” he laughed. “I’ve been here for 40 years and I never had trouble. This year I got trouble…that’s how it goes.”

Stop by to see Tanis’s veggie patch on Dirt’s Kitchen Garden Tour on Sunday, Aug. 13, and get some gardening tips with a side of war stories (ie: when he came home from the marines, there were 42 inches of snow on the ground and he had to walk from Newark Airport to his home in Passaic).

A limited number of tickets are still available at kitchengardentours.com.

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