Published 3:12 am Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Story and photo by Lydia Grimes
In this modern day of buying everything off the grocery store shelves, it is a little unusual to find someone who is still canning vegetables - at least for the younger generation.
Heath Wilson is the exception. He doesn't care for canned food that is found in the grocery store. He would rather have his food fresh out of the garden, and when he can't get that, he gets the next best thing.
Wilson learned to garden when he was just a young boy following his grandfather around the farm. He is now using what he learned to fill his pantry every summer.
It really comes in handy that he spent all that time with his grandfather when he was young. He learned how to plant and harvest vegetables and preserve them for future meals.
One of the biggest changes that Wilson has made in his food preservation is because of Hurricane Ivan.
With the help of local Extension Service experts like Carolyn Bivins and Buck Farrior, Wilson has learned a lot about planting and taking care of the plants on the farm and how to preserve them.
Wilson has strawberries, apple trees, blueberry bushes, and several citrus fruit trees that produce enough for them to eat fresh and then can some for future use.
The biggest concern this spring and summer has been the lack of rainfall. Crops are hurting and the yield from what has been planted is much smaller than usual.
Even with the problems of a smaller crop than usual, the Wilsons have a pretty pantry with all the different colors of food arranged in rows.
In 2004, the family went on vacation in Pennsylvania and met an Amish couple in Lancaster County who gave them some tips about canning. They even picked up some special tools and recipes used by the Amish to help them.
Wilson was born in Brewton to parents, Buster and Charlene Benefield Wilson. He is the older of two boys, and when he was around 2 years old the family moved to Castleberry, where his maternal grandparents lived.
Wilson's mother drove him to school at Liberty Christian School on Highway 29 for the first three or four years of grammar school. He then attended Castleberry Junior High and graduated from Hillcrest High School in 1992.
During these years he spent a lot of time on his grandfather's farm and learned to love working with growing things.
After graduation from high school, Wilson got a job as a clerk in B.C. Moore's in Brewton. He then went to Reid State College in Evergreen and studied office administration for a year.
He enrolled at Jefferson Davis Community College and later at Bishop State in Mobile. He graduated in 1998 and took the national board of funeral directors/embalmers to receive his license. Because of the proximity to Florida, he went to Orlando and got his license to practice in that state also. All this time he continued to work at Williams.
Wilson met his wife, Jennifer, while he was singing in a gospel group in 1992 and they were married. Their son, Jared Ashton Wilson, was born in June 1994. They are now expecting another baby - a girl who will be named Kynleigh Grace when she is born in September. Jennifer is a secretary at West Gate Nursing Home in Brewton, while Ashton will attend Brewton Middle School in the fall.
The family likes to go antiquing and to yard sales. They have picked up some quite interesting items, which are displayed around their home in southern Conecuh County. Their home was built in 1999 near other family members.
Wilson is a member of the Brewton Rotary Club where he serves as treasurer, and he also serves on the advisory board at Reid State.
He has a talent for imitating people and can sing like several country singers. Perhaps his funniest voice is the one he uses to pretend he is an old man.