Ever walked through a garden and wondered what type of insect you were looking at? Or perhaps, maybe you have wondered about what type of tree tis standing in your yard, and how long it has been there.
If you’re walking with Holly Grove resident Mel Sandlin, you’ll soon find out. A certified Master Gardener of 12 years, Sandlin has a wealth of knowledge on anything alfresco.
“I just love to learn things,” Sandlin said as he gazed out onto his 16-acre farm. “I get up in the morning, and I have the pond over here, I have the geese coming in.”
“I just love the outdoor life,” he adds.
Though 82 years old, Sandlin’s perception hasn’t faded over time, it has expanded. He can sound off on a variety of topics that were discussed during his five-month course to become certified. The four-inch binder he used for the class, neatly kept, but packed to the brim with information, is his version of a cell phone. It is kept close at hand, until a situation arrives on his farm that requires him to consult the manual again.
Take his garden out back, for example, which was planted based on the tenets he learned during the class. There are the recently planted nut trees that adorn Sandlin’s property, all planted with a purpose: to provide food.
“I think a lot different than a lot of people,” Sandlin said. “But a lot of people like the direction I’m going.”
Whatever direction Sandlin is headed in, he’s always remained on an almost-predetermined path. Sandlin was raised on a 1,600-acre farm in Ohio, with land so fertile that it “could cause a telephone line to sprout,” Sandlin joked. During his upbringing, he learned to appreciate the simplistic beauty of a tilled field and the intrinsic value of a hard day’s work.
“I was born into [gardening],” Sandlin said. “When you have that many acres, if your parent says, ‘Go get a tool,’ you didn’t walk to get it, you ran!”
It’s a mindset that Sandlin still keeps now on his own farm that borders the South Anna River, which he bought in 1976. Most people want to tour the house when they visit a property they plan on purchasing.
Sandlin just wanted to dig. Upon arriving to the property, he took a shovel out of the back of his car, took a few chunks out of the earth, and investigated.
He was sold on the soil.
“I wrote a check right then and there,” Sandlin said. “I knew it was good land.”
On that land, Sandlin currently raises 50 heads of cattle and a few hogs, maintains hundreds of berry bushes and bales hay. Over the years, Sandlin has given large portions of his property to each of his five sons to build on, and in doing so, he reveals about the only thing he doesn’t enjoy doing.
To read the entire story, see the March 20 edition of The Central Virginian.