The Herald Bulletin

July 24, 2013

Growing in the heart of Anderson

Urban farmers deliver produce with love

By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON — Sunshine, rainwater, soil and trust are making things grow at a small, but productive urban farm in Anderson.

Rick and Karen Hersberger are the souls tending the lush Fourth Street garden. They find themselves there after a leap that’s all about faith.

The Hersbergers’ garden is only about a tenth of an acre, measuring about 160 feet by 50 feet, but tended with loads of loving care, it’s producing plenty. It is all organically grown, free of pesticides and chemicals.

Right now the garden is loaded up with vegetables like tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peas, green beans, eggplant and plenty more. Flowers are planted as well to help draw the bees for pollination.

“We’ve always got something coming,” said Rick. He and Karen take their produce to market on Saturdays at the Markleville Farmers Market and the Anderson City Market.

“We try to sell our vegetables to where people who don’t have a great income can have fresh food,” said Rick. “It’s gone really well. People really like it. You don’t make any money. It’s just the gratification of you helping people.” He says money made from the markets just helps to cover costs.

Other produce from the garden is then happily given away to neighbors, or to The Christian Center. Rick hopes to give away even more. His idea is a 4 Corners ministry, based on the Bible’s concept of reserving the harvest at the four corners of the field for the poor.

It’s that desire to reach out and touch others’ lives that landed the Hersbergers on Anderson’s west side last November.

The couple lived out in the country all of their lives. They enjoyed the quiet of the country life on 9 acres. In 2007, they even built a brand new house to be their retirement home, providing input to the design so that it would be just right. In 2012, however, they sold it to move to Anderson, driven by a calling from God.

“God was our catalyst to be less self and more others,” said Karen.

Leaving solitude behind

“We wanted to reach out to the community in Anderson,” said Rick. Their house sold within three days of being put on the market, not that it was a simple decision. “We decided together with a lot of crying,” said Rick, but they both bear an air of satisfaction with that decision.

“We lived in solitude out there, coming here, we’re part of our surroundings, we’re more involved,” said Karen.

“I do all the gardening,” said Rick, who learned to garden as a child. “Every time I plant something, I pray and God blesses it.”

Rick continues to work full time as a construction operator of heavy equipment.

“It’s not all roses,” Rick admits. Even after a tough day at work, though, he said, “When I get out here (in the garden), then it’s all okay.”

Turns out, Karen isn’t really into the gardening – she enjoys the people.

“I don’t plant. I don’t water. I don’t weed. But I pick because I want to go to market,” said Karen with a big smile. She said she loves the reactions and how excited people are to get fresh home grown vegetables.

The couple, married 34 years, named their urban endeavor NERKA Faith Farm. NERKA is an acronym for Niki – Eli – Rick – Karen – Amanda. That includes their two children, Niki, 33, and Eli, 28, as well as Eli’s fiancée, Amanda. Enoch, the Hersbergers' Bernese mountain dog isn't part of the name, but he's definitely part of the operation.

“It’s still a process,” said Rick. He said that right now, “Our mission’s right here, helping the community.” Neither he nor Karen knows where the mission will take them. Rick noted, “We just keep growing in our spiritual walk with God.”

You can find NERKA Faith Farm on Facebook.

Like Nancy Elliott on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @ NancyElliott_HB, or call 640-4805.