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From Seeds to Salsa - home garden turns into campus project


 It all started when Pattie Combs planted a garden at home. Word spread, and seven years later the idea (and plants) grew to include a garden at Topeka Presbyterian Manor, cooking sessions with the homegrown food and a fundraiser.

“When the residents heard I started a garden at home, they wanted to do that,” said Pattie. “So I saved seeds. The next year, they planted them in little pots inside so they could watch them grow and they were nice and big before we put them in the garden here. That way they have a better chance of surviving.”

The garden at Presbyterian Manor typically includes tomatoes, peas, green beans, jalapeno peppers and bell peppers. Once the plants are harvested, Pattie and the residents choose what they want to make with them.

“We’ve made zucchini bread, salsa with tomatoes and peppers and many different breads,” Pattie said. “Every year we have more people who want more vegetables, so this year we have a lot more variety.”

In addition to serving up dishes the residents enjoy, the extra plants are sold to staff, family members and the public to raise money for the local Alzheimer’s Association.

“We sell the plants in May so they’re really nice and big,” said Pattie. “One plant is $1. Last year we raised $85 and this year’s goal is $100.”

When she isn’t getting her hands dirty, Pattie is the Activity Assistant at Presbyterian Manor, where she creates event calendars, organizes craft projects and manages community outings. She’ll celebrate her 10th anniversary in July.

At home, Pattie enjoys sewing, working out and spending time with her husband, Ralph, of 23 years and their three children.