TO PLANT A GARDEN IS TO BELIEVE IN TOMORROW – Community Spotlight
Rick Ritter believes in giving back. A disabled veteran following a three-year stint in the Marine Corps, he “feels blessed on so many counts.” Beating prostate and skin cancers and soon to be turning 70 years old, Rick remembers those friends who served and never lived beyond the age of 20. It is inspiring to note that everything that is most important to him, also seems to benefits others.
An Advanced Master Gardener for over seven years, Rick raises vegetables primarily to donate to St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen. He maintains a number of organic gardens. One is located at the Old Fort where his crop reflects an authentic theme, true to the mission of the Fort. He reportedly has the largest crop of Miami White Flour Corn in the country. Another unusual plant they harvest is Amaranth, yielding a grain where the seeds are eventually ground into flour. The remainder of the plant resembles spinach. Young’s Flowers generously donates the seeds and plants each year, such as potatoes, Indian popcorn, squash, radishes, etc. One goal of Rick’s is to incorporate more of each of the variety of native seeds to add to the historical presentation.
Additionally, at the Old Fort, Rick nurtures an herb garden, including tobacco plants, and the staff there include many of the herbs for cooking in their event demonstrations. He also utilizes the banks of the nearby Maumee River to plant a variety of squash and sunflowers, just as they did in the early 1800s. Always finding the best use of all resources, Rick even incorporates the coffee grounds that the Java Cup donates into his gardens as fertilizer.
Another garden Rick maintains is five acres on Decatur Road that is owned by a friend. He likes to grow green beans, soup beans and produce that is not perishable.
He grew up in Illinois, then attended Indiana University where he got his Bachelors in Sociology, continuing on to obtain his Master’s degree in Social Work at the University of Michigan. A retired trauma therapist, Rick has helped others while working at the Veterans Administration Center, Charter Beacon and as a Social Worker at Parkview ER. Prior to retiring, he had his own private practice. Married to Hui Liu, who is a Registered Nurse at Lutheran, they boast five children and nine grandchildren and a “beserk” Jack Russell Terrier.
Rick and Hui Liu live southwest of Waynedale near the airport. A portion of their seven acres are dedicated to gardens, some to orchards and another part is devoted to rescue animals. Rick currently cares for three horses, five head of sheep and a miniature donkey. The wool from the sheep is even recycled to a woman who makes throws out of it.
A former distance runner, but due to his knee injury, Rick has taken to hand-cycling, which is arm powered. He won a Gold Medal in England at the World Wheelchair Games. He also enjoys spending time with his grandkids, reading, and listening to music.
In his “spare” time, Rick also likes beekeeping. Near home, he currently houses eight hives, specifically growing milkweed and other flowers that attract bees. He also picks up swarms of bees for Southwest Honey Company and does “cutouts”, removal of bee colonies in structures. In the future, Rick hopes to add a two-foot skep, a vintage frontier beehive that is typically woven, to place at the Old Fort as an educational piece.
Rick and his friend, Scott Krieg, founded Three Rivers Fruit Growers, a club that promotes food, fun and fellowship. Their mission statement promotes the sustainable growing and enjoyment of fruit. Rick is a published author and a member of the Northeastern Indiana Beekeepers Association, as well as, Gardens Across America. You might also find him teaching about home grown foods at Master Gardener classes and Solomon Farms.
Rick expresses that he has to be “selective about where he spends his time and energy.” With as many projects as he is passionate about, it is easy to understand why. But he’s truly vehement about growing and saving seeds. He states that “growing food for personal use is a disappearing art” and he hopes that his contributions can change that. He continues to advocate for those who can’t speak for themselves and to memorialize those who served.
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