Eight-year-old Andy asked his father “How big is our farm? Where does our land end?” His father replied, “Son if you get on our horse and ride the whole day in any direction you will still not come to the end of our property.” This enormous tract of land had been in Andy’s family for hundreds of years. In fact, the land had been in the family since Spain had colonized the island in the 1600s.
Andy’s family at this time was quite wealthy but it all came to an end In 1959 when the Cuban Revolution changed everything. Fidel Castro came into power and with his leadership so did Communism.
One day when Andy’s father was at work at the farm government officials showed up and stated that Cuba had been nationalized meaning that the land now was owned by the government. His father was instructed to go home but to leave his car, as that was also now government property. Bank accounts were seized as well. Food rations had not yet been established. While Andy’s family was permitted to stay in their home, they had no way to provide for the needs of the family.
Because Andy’s family had withstood Castro, friends, and neighbors were afraid to help them knowing that the family was being watched. They now lived in poverty with their livelihood being completely cut off.
The house where Andy lived did not have what we think of as a backyard. Because of their former affluence, they had a courtyard that was paved in beautiful Italian marble. Because of this, they were not able to grow food in their yard. Andy’s first memory of gardening was chipping away the stone courtyard so that they could find soil to plant seeds in. And so, his passion for growing food and feeding people began.
After escape attempts (Andy says “That’s a story for another day.”) there was a counter-revolution known as the Bay of Pigs. This is a fascinating historical event that you should Google if you are not familiar with this era of history during the US presidency of J F Kennedy. It was this event that ultimately led to the Cuban Missile Crisis, and to Andy’s family being able to escape Cuba, and move to Miami, Florida when Andy was 15 years old.
A few years later Andy and his family moved to the state of NY where he and his brother finished school. Andy and his cousins started a band and played at events and that was how he met his wife Barbara. They married in 1974 and are still constant companions and partners.
In 1976, they moved to rural Connecticut, started a family having two daughters, and planted their first garden together. Over the years they moved back to NY to start a farm and their gardens got bigger as they raised sheep, chickens and horses, and a pond with fish. They spent 25 years in Virginia where they raised their family and now have seven grandchildren. Andy’s passion for growing was relaxation for him as they both worked full-time jobs. Barbara in government planning and economic development and Andy in home improvements and repairs.
In 1993 they visited the Outer Banks and just like so many others fell in love with the area and knew this is where they would retire. Finally, after retirement, they decided to move full-time to the Outer Banks in 2018.
They wasted no time becoming involved in our community. They are full-time volunteers it seems! They volunteer at the North Carolina Aquarium in Manteo, The Elizabethan Gardens, The North Carolina Coastal Federation, and previously at the community garden. They met Justin Lachine when they volunteered to help prepare a Christmas dinner at the Dare Center and a friendship grew. Since that time, they have faithfully sown into the Source of Hope Food Pantry donating a tremendous quantity of fresh produce in season as well as cooking and washing mountains of dishes at our community dinners.
While they have continued to help cook and serve meals with us, they have also stepped into a new project at Source Church. The raised garden beds in the parking lot are now teaming with plants that will provide fresh vegetables to those in need in our community.
Last year Gina and Sumner Scarborough (who are also one of our Food Pantry drivers) built and prepared our first garden bed. It is so wonderful to see Andy and Barbara moving forward with this project with such enthusiasm. AND while they are at the church watering the plants, they may just be found trimming the bushes, power washing the building, or using a leaf blower to clean off the porches.
Sometimes people are born with servant’s hearts. Sometimes they are shamed into serving... But sometimes there is a little boy who had to chip through the marble to get to the soil to plant some seeds to feed some people.
Feeling thankful and blessed for our volunteers.