Gary, Hydroponics Garden

Gary came to the ministry in February 2011. A week after he graduated from the program in August of the same year, Gary was approached with the opportunity of managing Lighthouse’s Hydroponic Garden. While he had dome some work there during his residency and internship, Gary wasn’t expecting to have the mantle of management passed on to him, but the process intrigued him, so he accepted the responsibility.

He had done some research on hydroponics, and what makes the process unique is the elimination of soil and growing the plants in a mixture of nutrients. Gary mixes and pumps a special solution directly to the root system of the plants, increasing the growth rate. The system also allows for a greater crop yield. The wide variety of fruits and vegetables grown in the garden all go to benefit the residents of the ministry.

Born and raised in South Florida, Gary has spent most of his life in the Keys. Gary had gotten used to a life of independence after his divorce. “I spent a lot of years by myself doing what I wanted and when I wanted and that’s not ways a good thing.” The leaving and passing of family members drew Gary into a 7 year long estate battle, and a struggling economy made it difficult – and ultimately impossible – for him to win the fight. Gary was in construction, and the industry suffered greatly in the economic turn. “So I resorted to a lot of drinking, bars, stuff like that…it came to a point where I knew I had to get out of South Florida…I needed a new environment.”

So Gary moved to Citrus County in February 2009, and spent a year within a ministry there, but it wasn’t offering him what he needed. Gary heard about Lighthouse when the ministry he was involved came back from touring the facility. Once part of the program, Gary was able to obtain his GED and benefit from the Polk Healthcare plan, allowing him to have cataract surgery. Gary appreciates the atmosphere of discipline here at the ministry. “That’s what the ministry is all about…coming and going and doing as I want is not always a good thing.”

One of the ministry’s dreams is to expand the garden, and Gary hopes is to be involved with that. Meanwhile, he is just grateful to be a part of something that benefits so many people…and has the potential of blessing so many more.