Sumner Machinist cultivates crops and community

SUMNER — People living in and around Sumner have been eating more fresh vegetables this year, thanks to the efforts of Machinists Union member Terry “Caveman” Henderson.

Henderson and his girlfriend, Monica Kenney, spent much of the past spring and summer roto-tilling more than 50 garden plots, then planting, tending and eventually harvesting fresh vegetables at Shepherd’s Field, which is part of Sumner Community Garden.

The two of them devoted countless hours helping Sumner-area residents optimize their pea patch and communal gardens, and they say the harvest was well worth it.

By late summer and early fall, their local food bank had received literally tons of fresh vegetables — a commodity that’s not typically donated. The garden yielded 20 to 25 gallons of green beans for the food bank every three days, along with boxes of tomatoes, squash and zucchini.

The residents tending the pea patch also enjoyed their own produce.

“It is a real community effort,” Henderson said. “Everybody helps take care of the garden by watering, weeding and picking the vegetables.”

Henderson also dug into his pocket to enhance the garden by paying for material to build signs for the garden gate and the shed. He also paid for and build a white picket fence at the entrance, and rented a dump truck to bring in 50 yards of fertilizer.

Henderson is active in several of the community service events sponsored by Machinists Union District Lodge 751 in Seattle. He says his union membership makes it possible for him to do more in the community.

“It’s my way of saying thanks,” Henderson said. “If I didn’t have a good union job, I wouldn’t have been able to afford to give back this much.”

Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at the Boeing Co., District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents some 33,000 working men and women at 48 employers across Washington, Oregon and California. In 2011, members of the Machinists Volunteer Program gave more than 10,000 hours of their time to community service, while other volunteers collected more than $263,000 for Guide Dogs of America, the union’s charity of choice.

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