Wilbourn, who was born here in Quitman County, Miss., says his love for growing things started when he was six years old, helping his father with vegetable production.

“I just loved seeing things grow — putting seeds in the ground and tending them to produce food. In those days, everyone had a garden and grew a lot of their own food. We didn’t go to the grocery store for everything.”

In the 1960s, he says, “Things were really tough in this area; there just weren’t any jobs. I went to Milwaukee, Wisc., and worked in the steel mills. It was hard, exhausting work, but even there, I had gardens to help feed my family — we had six children.”

In 1990, he returned to Mississippi, bought his parents’ place where he had grown up, and began growing vegetables again.”

“Everybody knows Mr. Frank,” says Larry Pride, “and they know the quality of his vegetables. He doesn’t have any problem selling everything he produces.”

“I grow vegetables of all kinds,” Wilbourn says. “Red potatoes, white potatoes, spinach, kale, string beans, butter beans, eggplant, onions, tomatoes, sweet peas, okra, turnips/greens, squash, watermelons, muskmelons, and whatever else I decide on in any given year. And a lot of herbs — rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley, and others.”

He sells to local area residents and also at farmer markets at nearby Clarksdale and Batesville.

“But I give away a lot of stuff, too,” Wilbourn says. “Times are tough and there are a lot of needy folks. Where I can help, I do. There are folks who come out here and help me do things in exchange for vegetables, and I welcome them.

“This is a talent the Lord has blessed me with and it helped me to better take care of my family and to lend a hand to others who were less fortunate.

“Folks today have become so citified they’ve forgotten how to grow things,” Wilbourn says. “If everybody could just grow 5 percent to 10 percent of their own food, it would really make a difference. Too many people have forgotten that the earth is there to help us survive.

“I’m 71 years old, and except for surgery to remove some tumors, which thank the Lord weren’t cancer, I’m still out here every day, planting things and watching them grow.

“I love what I do — when I’m out here working, the problems of the world just fade away. I pray while I work and thank God for all the blessings He has given me and that He is still allowing me, as best I can, to help others.”