“Everybody eats,” Ross said. “It’s the common ground we all share. Everybody’s got to eat. We are all the same in that way, and that’s what can bring us together, as a community, as people. In a garden, it’s the diversity that makes it work because everybody has different skills and abilities, and all of that is what comes together around the shared goal of the fact that we all have got to eat.”
Ross returned to Danville nearly two years ago after living in San Fransisco for many years where he worked as an organizer of community gardens.
He talks about his experiences there when addressing the community gardeners, about how the intent was to clean up neighborhoods, fill the void left behind with plants to discourage a return of the trash, and to maybe make the neighborhood a sweeter place. The unintended benefits of the projects were even better.
Neighbors came out of the dark houses to become friends while kids chased each other with shovels and learned about nature and got a taste for real food.
“Community gardening is not a new thing, not at all. It was how people used to eat. One of the fun parts of this is to challenge people’s ideas about that,” he said. “If this is something enough people want in a community and it’s not coming together, you just haven’t talked to the right people. Talk long enough and people will listen.”
Ross, 54, has been married to his wife, Lisa, for 24 years. The couple have five children. “We have three grown, so we have three California girls and two Kentucky boys,” he said.
He was born and raised in Danville and has a sister who still lives in the house that was his dad’s on Lexington Avenue. He has family all around Danville, he said, some who have never left and so probably don’t realize how good they have it in Danville.
“When you go away and then come back, you find out that life is good here,” he said.
Ross wants to help make it even better.
“Most kids think food grows in a can. We are going to die from the food we eat — or lack of food. Real food. In schools? They could easily grow their own food,” he said.
“It’s not about me. I’m just a simple guy, feeding people.”
Ross invites all who are interested to consider volunteering time or donating tools or supplies. As a United Way agency, he said he can sign off on community service hours for people who have to help to satisfy a judgment. He said he will not discriminate against any who are willing to help in any way.
“If someone is a farmer, scientist or a president, doesn’t matter.”