MY LIFE WITH Allen IS a garden. And I SO dig it! If you read last week’s article, you know that we were headed to market to buy great products for Garden Works. It was our first market trip to Atlanta since Covid hit, so we had a large itinerary to cover in a few short days. It was a hugely successful trip, and we are very excited about all the cool new things coming our way for you in 2023. Last night Allen mentioned that he had not had time to write an article for this week. Without telling him, I decided this provided a perfect window of opportunity for me to address his loyal readers on his behalf, so thank you for allowing me to fill his spot today.
To properly and honestly begin writing about his article, I should give you some personal intel. That is, however, exactly what his column is about...our personal life. I would like to share with you how I believe this storytelling platform came to be in the first place.....
(Rewind) Our meeting was a bit accidental. A new girlfriend I had met in my dorm was from Jackson. We were riding around one pretty afternoon with the windows down feeling the wind in our hair and enjoying our freshman freedom. She mentioned that an old family friend had a son who lived in a house on Montgomery St. and that we should stop by and say hello. So, that’s what we did. When we knocked on the door, her friend’s roommate, who had just returned home from a bike ride, answered the door. Although his roommate whom we had stopped by to visit wasn’t home, he still invited us in. As it turned out, she also knew the roommate, who was from Jackson, and she introduced me to Allen Martinson. We took a seat at the dining room table. Before we know it, we could see it getting dark outside. We had been sitting there for hours, awestruck by his wild storytelling. He had already begun his globetrotting adventures by this time, and I was mesmerized by his courage and zeal for life.
I suppose he could see the cartwheels sparkling in my eyes, because as soon as I walked out of the front door to leave that late afternoon, he stopped me by pulling on the back of my jacket. When I turned around, he said, “I think I’d like to get to know you better. How do you feel about that?” And the rest is a beautiful history. I thought you might like to know that the day I met Allen, it was his storytelling ability and the experiences his stories were made of that hooked me... .intensely and forever.
His positive nature and propensity to share that energy and outlook with others has steered our lives into many interesting moments, situations, and unexpected meetings. Often, these chance meetings have evolved into lifelong friendships with total strangers. Allen is always eager to connect with other people, all kinds of people. His stories are a great connector, and I am so grateful that he is willing to share his experiences with others as encouragement or just plain entertainment.
SO, THIS IS MY VIEW on how this article came to be. After many years of owning and operating Garden Works together, I began to observe something different in him. It was not a disinterest in what he was doing, but more of a longing for something new. I realized his adventurous spirit was being tamped down on a daily basis by sheer familiarity. His daily routine and role in our business life had become too predictable to allow for many adrenaline rushes, I suppose. Instead of worrying, I began to pray. I thanked God for all our blessings through Garden Works, our employees and our loyal customers...for our mar- riage, our children, and our many, many blessings. I am so grateful for my life, our life. But, if Allen’s restlessness had a purpose in our life story, I prayed God would reveal the purpose and the fulfillment of the purpose.
The invitation to write a weekly column for the Northside Sun was the first of two open doors to new opportunity. Garden Works has been advertising in the Northside Sun for many years, and Allen had been asked to submit a few articles from time to time about specific garden issues, which he seemed to enjoy.
Then, one day, he was contacted by the editor. He was told that Mrs. Herman McKenzie, longtime writer of “Gardening Glimpses” was retiring, and they offered him her space in the newspaper.
He was nervous, at first, about the reality of having enough content to write about EVERY SINGLE WEEK. Then, once that quickly passed, he worried that he would not have the time to get an article written and submitted on deadline, EVERY SINGLE WEEK. Both fears subsided quickly, and he graciously accepted the invitation. We thought and thought about the title. When Allen was a horticulture student at MSU, he had a cool Hort. Dept. t-shirt with a big shovel head on the back of it. Underneath, it said DIG IT! We both always liked that t- shirt and its nod to the industry. Although, “Life’s a garden, dig it!” is a recycled phrase, it seemed to be a perfect fit.
His new “garden column” quickly and organically morphed into travel stories and any other musings bouncing around his head when he sat down to write. He received more welcome feedback from his travel stories than he did the garden content, that it gave him freedom to just write.
Not a day goes by at Garden Works that at least one someone (usually more) doesn’t mention his article. They always speak with the most sincere adoration, and they usually share a story of their own about how his story affected them or reminded them of something wonderful in their own history. This perpetuation is a beautiful thing to witness, and I feel so blessed to be a part of it. We have both been overwhelmed by the kind outpouring of gratitude for his writing. Many people have shared their weekly ritual for reading his article. The sheer fact that they have one is humbling. I have been asked several times by people to please tell him not to stop writing....to keep them coming. Thank you for allowing him the platform to expound. It has offered him a new creative outlet. Apparently there is a need to tell and a need to hear.
THE SECOND VERY unexpected door thrown open for Allen involves his
career in horticulture. He has mentioned it in many articles and wrote one article to explain his new adventure and his whereabouts. As many of you are longtime loyal customers, you have noticed that he is not on the grounds with us anymore. Just before Christmas two years ago, he received a phone call from an old friend and Jackson icon, Nancy King, of Nandy’s Candy. Allen worked for her at Nandy’s when he was in high school, and they have remained friends since.
It was a brief but important call, one that set a new direction in motion. Nandy's had been contacted by a large cannabis company who was making plans to build a cultivation and processing facility in the Jackson area. They were soliciting involvement from the best candy store in town to help them produce the edibles for the medical market coming our way. Although from Oklahoma, they were expressly interested in building a team of local entrepreneurs and investors to run and fund this new endeavor. Their goal was to raise as much capital as possible from Mississippians and employ as many people from our state as they could.
So, with this information, Nancy immediately thought of Allen with his horticultural background and his propensity for a challenge and a new adventure. He was immediately excited about the potential to help grow this valuable new industry in our home state. That is exactly what he’s doing.
I WANT TO PUT MY two cents in on something. People ask me all the time about our adventures together, asking me how I let him take me on these crazy adventures. I’d like to go on record on Allen’s behalf. He did not bribe me, force me, mislead me, or anything of the like to get me to go on any of our crazy trips. I knew exactly what I was signing up for, fully and completely. And I will go it again, next opportunity we get.
Allen is an adventurist and a storyteller. Allen is a horticulturist and a gardener. He is a mentor to many. He is a special kind of father to Mia and Max. Thanks to you, he is now also a writer. He is my best friend and the love of my life.