Fruits And Vegetables,
The Old-Fashioned Way
(Philadelphia) Amos Rogers was born in North Carolina 79 years ago. His grandparents, the children of slaves, taught him everything.
Mr. Amos Rogers (Gardener): I think that's taken care of that.
Smith: No one around here grows prettier eggplants or ore sumptuous tomatoes, tomatoes you just can't buy in a store.
Mr. Rogers: Yeah, I used to have corn, but the squirrel and I, like, we couldn't agree on who it belongs to.
Smith: Yes, this is a true country garden with squash and beans, collards and cantaloupe.
Mr. Rogers: Very nice.
Smith: But Amos Rogers and his garden are not out in the country, they are smack dab in the middle of Philadelphia. Amos Rogers is an honest-to-goodness urban legend.
His neighborhood is a place where sirens wail and graffiti grows like weeds. Still, Amos nurtures his organic masterpiece. Here, nature rules.
Mr. Rogers: It's all natural. Don't you know that the chemicals kill the worms, eventually they're going to kill you, too, because you're eating the same thing that the worm was eating.
Smith: Natural is the way his grandparents taught him. It's the way they kept themselves fed.
Mr. Rogers: Gardening back there was a matter of life and death. They did it because they had to. I'm doing it because I want to. See, that's the difference, that I love it. I love it, and it's part of my inheritance.
Smith: Amos was heir to a priceless fortune in old-fashioned farming know-how.
I guess man has been gardening for a long time.
Mr. Rogers: Yes, ever since the beginning of creation, the Garden of Eden.
Smith: Do you think you were born to do this?
Mr. Rogers: I think so. I think it's a gift that you-that different people has to do certain things, and I think mine's to do this.
Smith: He says his garden is only a fraction of what it ought to be this year, a spring that never came, a summer too dry. His garden is thirsty.
Mr. Rogers: And the garden hose won't do what the rain will do. Nothing can take the place of rain but rain itself.
Smith: And nobody, it seems, can grow vegetables quite like Amos Rogers. He's been harvesting first-place awards for years.
Mr. Rogers: The first time I entered the contest, in '82, I won first prize.
Smith: How many times did you win?
Mr. Rogers: Oh, about eight or nine, somewhere along there, I think it is.
Smith: And then what did they say?
Mr. Rogers: Oh, they stopped sending me the application to fill out to enter the contest.
Smith: Amos has arthritis so bad some mornings he can barely get out of bed, but the garden always lures him out of the house.
Mr. Rogers: That's the secret of life Â— a part of life. You keep moving. Because if you stop moing, more or less, sometime the undertaker is going to be coming for you. And I don't want him to get me, not quite yet.
Smith: Amos gives away much of what he grows, the wisdom is free, too. Ask him about tomatoes and you'll learn a lot about life. Harry Smith, CBS News, Philadelphia.
First aired on the CBS Evening News
September 19, 1997