A man with a keen interest and expertise in gardening is leading several of his co-workers at Telephonics Corp. in Huntington in a project to help feed the hungry.
Pedro Yepes is a certified master gardener through the Cornell University Cooperative Extension Program. He started the Telephonics program last year with five beds; the company built five more beds this year to double the harvest.
About 20 employees work on the project on Friday afternoons throughout the growing season, which runs from April into November, producing lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, kale, onions, eggplant and more.
Last year, the garden beds, which on Telephonics property, produced 100 pounds of produce, which is then donated to Long Island Cares. This year, they’ve already harvested more than 100 pounds of produce, with more expected with the harvesting of late summer produce.
Yepes works 7 days a week on the project because he “has a passion for gardens,” he said. With his certification as a master gardener, he is qualified to teach gardening, and hopes to reach out further into the community, working with schools and others. “God willing, we can take care of the senior centers,” he said, providing seniors the motivationto get out and successfully garden.
Brothers Kay Jon La-Rode and Keshawn La-Rode said a friend they worked enticed them to try their hand at gardening. And while they don’t claim complete expertise, once they began, Keshawn said, “It just really clicked with us. It’s very relaxing and very calming. Pedro’s teaching us what to do.”
They are thinking about their own garden at their home in Amityville, noting both the enjoyment of gardening and the price of food at grocery stores.
The garden is organic, with compost made from scraps from the company cafeteria and other sources.
Volunteer gardener Purnima said, “I always loved to grow plants and do a lot of stuff around my house. When they opened up this project, we feel good that we are doing something good for the community.”
This is her second year of working on the project. She particularly likes to grow cucumbers, squash, beans and tomaotes. “Now we are doing beans and tomoators and eggplants,” she said. “I thank Telephonics and the whole team for supporting this project.”
Huntington gardener Barbara Wildfeir complimented Yepes on his skills, nothing that he has a successful bed at Gateway Gardens. Many Gateway gardeners contribute their produce to the organization Community Solidarity, which gives away food every Tuesday night in Huntington Station.
“It’s so nice to see an organization really support their employees in an endeavor like this,” she said of Telephonics. “Not everybody is able to easily access healthy produce. He’s provided quite a lot to Long Island Cares.”