Archive for Sunday, July 25, 2004

Therapeutic farming

Working outdoors part of ‘recovering’

July 25, 2004


In the summer of 2002, Jamie Kelley was patiently waiting for a bone marrow donor.

He had already gone through the disappointment of two potential donors falling through and he realized he might have to accept a less than ideal match in order to survive. Jamie and his wife, Shawn, headed to Seattle to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to undergo a six-month procedure that would hopefully save Jamie's life and rid him of leukemia.

"Up until right before we left they hadn't found a match, so it was going to be a mismatch," Jamie recalled of that summer. "But luckily a donor turned up that was a wonderful fit. I have a great chance of making it, but it is extremely scary because a lot of people don't survive."

Members of the Lawrence community raised money through a fund set up to assist the Kelleys while they were in Seattle for six months.

"The money raised in Lawrence paid for the apartment (in Seattle) and was such a huge show of generosity," Jamie said. "It really made a difficult process much easier and we want to thank everyone for their support."

Two years later, the Kelleys have bought a house in the country and the summer seems to be less stressful than summers past. The cancer is gone. However, side effects linger. Jamie will have hip-replacement surgery on his second hip in August; the other hip was replaced last year.

"It is all part of the process of recovering," he said. "It just takes time."

During the recovery period, Jamie has taken on a new passion: gardening. When the Kelleys moved into their country home in northern Franklin County, they unknowingly transplanted themselves into a neighborhood of organic gardeners. Jamie has teamed up with neighbors Robert Hickerson and Alvin Ray to produce an array of foods.

"I have a little plot on my property that is used to grow herbs, shallots, onions and greens," Jamie said. "And we are soon going to have apples and pears on my property. Robert's land is used to grow the tomatoes, beets, potatoes, beans and peas, and Alvin had an abundance of beans this year he has shared as well as letting us use his land to plant sweet corn. So, we have five to six garden spots we use."

Jamie Kelley harvests peppers on his Franklin County farm. Kelley,
who has overcome leukemia, sells his vegetables at the Ottawa
Farmers Market.

Jamie Kelley harvests peppers on his Franklin County farm. Kelley, who has overcome leukemia, sells his vegetables at the Ottawa Farmers Market.

Jamie has always had a love of food and has worked as a chef in Lawrence restaurants. He has a new appreciation for gardening and working with Mother Nature.

"I'm new to all this," he said. "I'm learning a lot from Alvin and Robert. Last week, I picked a bunch of corn and had to spray it down to keep it cool. I would have never known that. Everyday I learn something new from those guys."

Jamie and Hickerson start most of their plants from seeds.

"During the winter we use grow lights," Jamie said. "We start in about March with the seeds for most foods then we are ready to go and put plants into the ground after the first frost."

Jamie is a regular at the Ottawa Farmers Market on Saturdays. He helps keep the city teeming with organic foods.

"The fresh herbs sell really well at the Ottawa Farmers Market," he said. "We seem to be one of the few vendors with herbs."

Jamie and Hickerson have recently branched out to selling their organic foods to Lawrence restaurants such as Wheatfields, Free State Brewing Co. and Milton's.

"This week we did so well selling to the restaurants, all we have left for the farmer's market this weekend are green beans, corn and beets," Jamie said.

Working outdoors has benefited Jamie.

"Gardening is a nice option for me because on bad days when I'm not feeling well I don't have to do this, but on good days it is something I love to do," Jamie said. "Plus, I'm helping out my neighbor, which is a great feeling."

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