WOODWARD, Okla. (KFOR) — It is with some reluctance that Russell Keele walks the remaining rows of what used to be a huge, five-acre truck garden east of town.
“Everything was planted,” he points, “from here all the way back.”
The rows are a little overgrown.
What’s left is mostly picked over, good for an average garden but nothing like what it used to be.
“What was your mainstay?” we ask.
“Tomatoes, cantaloupes, and watermelons,” he replies.
Russell grew up on a truck garden near Broken Arrow getting up early to pick fresh fruit and vegetables to take to market.
When he left for the Air Force, he never thought he’d be back.
He chuckles, “I left the farm in ’52 and I didn’t think I’d ever be doing this again.”
Once in retirement, and moved to a nice plot of land, his green thumb and sense of charity took over.
Keele muses, “I just needed something to do, I guess.”
What started as a small plot meant to feed him and give away the rest, turned into one of the largest farmers market ventures in the county for a generation.
He recalls, “The first year or two I didn’t have it all planted. Then I kept adding, and adding, and I finally went overboard.”
He still keeps pictures of his pickup piled high with cantaloupes headed to town, of people who lined up hours before he would open.
His wife, then his daughter Margaret, made preserves and sold those too.
What’s left now he gives away to neighbors and old friends.
“I enjoy giving stuff away,” he says, “If I still can.”
The demand is still there, but at the age of 93, Keele and Creekwood Gardens finally reached the end of what they could do.
“I can’t do it anymore,” he states plainly. “If I could, I would still be doing it. I can’t. It’s just that simple.”
A few crates, buckets, and bins represent the last picking inside his professional kitchen building.
Russell and Margaret already had plans to get the tractor out and plow the rest under by the following week.
They both agree it’s been a great run, getting so much from the earth, and, as everything does eventually, returning to it.
Keele’s granddaughter still monitors the Creekwood Gardens Facebook page. She also answers calls from old customers.