Tito Caba is our Lead Gardener, as well as an accomplished tailor and artist. He has been working with us since 2020 and has become an essential part of our garden program. Tito works closely with our volunteers and Grounds Manager to maintain our six gardens in Fairhill. In addition to providing beauty, these gardens also produce over 1200 pounds of vegetables a year for our neighbors.
How did you become involved with Historic Fair Hill?
I have a friend from childhood who was on the board, Jorge Diaz. I had been tailoring in NYC and was taking care of my mom at home. I had always been leaning towards learning how to plant crops and stuff like that, but I never really gave it the time. I would try and things would die, but it happened to be the right situation where I could put a few hours in and still help out in the house. Jorge was the bridge that introduced me to Jean.
Why do you think that gardening is important?
Food is the place that’s a meeting ground for everybody. Everybody has to eat. Everybody has a stomach. That’s where culture and everything mixes together and it unites people in a way. What I like about it, too, is whenever you put something in the ground and you nurture it, the same thing you’re doing for that plant, the plant will do for you. You plant that seed and then that plant is going to grow and give you more seeds to plant. Ultimately, it’s a giving and receiving. That’s why I love it. It’s not even work to me.
Do you have a favorite thing you’ve learned how to grow?
My favorite thing is actually not even growing. I like chopping the ground and turning over the dirt. I really like that. It might not seem like much, but it’s actually the most important thing because if you don’t ready the soil, then you can’t grow things well. You need a solid foundation to build upon. And you need to be creative about moving around the crops – it has to make sense. We’re a small garden and most seeds are given to us, so we have to be smart about how we’re arranging things. It’s an art in a way.
Plants are like babies and it’s even more intimate in a way because they don’t talk to you and you have to really pay attention to how they’re behaving. They’ll kind of let you know without letting you know. You just have to be receptive. Every day when I walk in here it’s like a new day. I have to check and see what’s going on and figure out what they need. You get what you give.
What’s your favorite thing to cook from what’s grown in the gardens?
I like making veggie burgers. What I’ll do is take squash, carrots, celery, oatmeal, some peanut butter, and spices. I’ll blend them together and I’ll make a patty and then pop it in the oven and put it on a bun. We actually did a demo here last year and folks who tried it thought it was pretty tasty. And soups are my thing – kale soup, mustard soup, 3 bean soup, tomato sauce soup. I went to school for culinary arts, so I have an idea of what can be paired together. The garden is an ideal place if you want people to come together – everybody has to eat, regardless of where you’re at or where you come from.
Is there an aspect of gardening that you’re looking forward to learning more about?
I want to do more companion planting. So say for instance we just planted lettuce over there, you could introduce a type of oregano with the lettuce – so that way when the pests come to try to take care of the lettuce they have their buddy there to fight it out. Instead of just planting, it’s about being strategic. And also I’ve been making my own soil at home and creating my own compost from the things my mom cooks – trying to fine tune it to figure out how I want it to be. It’s such a mix of art and science. It’s very interesting to me.
What are you most proud of about your work here?
I think what makes me the proudest is the relationships with the people who come over here. When they come and start conversations and see the interest in what I’m doing and how much I love what I’m doing. I’m placed in a situation where I can talk about what I love to do and share my passion. It’s become a second hobby, not just a job.
Join Tito on Saturdays from 10-3 for our Community Gardening Days.