By Susan Hayhurst
Special to the Tribune-Star
Editor’s Note: Many Wabash Valley youths excel in 4-H, whether their interests lie in livestock, horticulture, foods, photography or other areas. The Tribune-Star will highlight a few 4-H'ers in coming weeks. Be sure to read through the Valley Life section for the details on these youths, their achievements and their impressive work ethics.
TERRE HAUTE — Comfortably sitting in his collapsible 4-H chair under a big shade tree, ice water jug in one hand and eyes on his sprawling garden, 13-year-old Joshua Pruitt is vigilant. With the patience of Job, he waits for the season’s first ripe tomato, ear of sweet corn and head of cauliflower.
And to think this dedication all began with a science fair project and a greenhouse in his bedroom.
Pruitt’s sixth-grade science fair project at Honey Creek Middle School involved assessing the effects various levels of phosphorous, nitrogen and lime had on soybeans plants. His parents, Mike and Ginger, bought him a 4- by 2-foot greenhouse, which Pruitt housed in his bedroom complete with a light to spur the plants’ growth 24 hours a day. His hard work netted him a blue ribbon and a trip with the project’s display board to the regional science fair at DePauw University. He placed in the competition’s second division.
Now an eighth-grader and a seven-year 4-H’er, Pruitt knows he can turn in completed school projects as 4-H projects. “I entered my project board at the Vigo County Fair that summer and won a blue ribbon and reserve grand champion.”
His marathon undertaking further whetted his gardening appetite that was initiated by his great-grandpa, Martin Pruitt, and Joshua’s love for tagging along with his dad, Mike, when he goes to work at Hayhurst Farms in southern Vigo County. “My great-grandpa used to be a huge gardener and had a humongous garden,” said Joshua. “I love hearing Dad tell how he used to help Grandpa with the garden and I thought it would be neat to do a garden too. Plus, Terry Hayhurst’s farm inspired me. I like having my own little farm with my garden, and I like to get dirty.”
While Pruitt has done farm scene displays, computers, electricity, woodworking and swine, his love seems to be dirt and the success it brings. This year’s garden is sporting eggplant, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, peppers, celery, zucchini, okra, sweet corn, green beans, watermelon, cucumbers and sunflowers. The squash, gourds and pumpkins were started in his greenhouse. He also planted marigolds for Ginger’s flower beds. And this, his second year of strawberries, provided five gallons of fruit, which he and Ginger enjoyed turning into strawberry pie, smoothies and ice cream sandwiches.
What has he learned from his ever-growing green thumb experiences? “I collect rain water to water the garden because city water has some chlorine and that can harm plants,” said Pruitt. “It’s really not that hard to garden. You put in a little effort, you get dirty, you need someone to help you like your mom or dad or a friend, and you have to stay on top of it because a garden can get really weedy.
“I like 4-H because there’s a lot of opportunity to do things you wouldn’t normally do or take time to do. I like my garden, and depending on how much I have I’ll probably give some things away. I might even do some canning and freezing with my mom.”