Word & Image 

Bob Barnett, 63: Avid gardener and candidate for the House of Delegates.

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

I'm your basic, average intelligent idiot. Completed undergraduate requirements at Southern Illinois University in two years. … And I've changed what I've done every three to five years. When I get good at something I change to a new focus. I've been retired since 1999. I did computers, graphics, résumé writing, I had a printing company that really did good — I modified the presses so that they could print perfect medical forms. One month we did 5 to 6 million impressions.

My life has been very lucky. I was raised in super poverty. Left home in Decatur, Ill., when I was 8 years old. I never saw my father until 22, when someone shot him dead. Someone called up and said: "Hey, you want to see your father? Fly out to Oregon, they're burying him on Tuesday." My mother, she just lost control of her life and started having kids at the age of 15. Had eight kids in nine years. Welfare, public assistance — she was the most unhappy person I ever met. That's the reason I left home. She'd take her anger out on me.

When I left home at the age of 8, the person who took me in told me she didn't have the money to feed me — to pay for the milk and cereal and a few other things you have to put in a garden. This was my great-grandmother who was 75. We had a 2,000-square-foot garden. We had chickens. We had gooseberries. You ever had a gooseberry? They're tart. We made four gooseberry pies this week. It's amazing.

My garden is about showing people how in small spaces they can double their productivity. If you go online you can see pictures from last year. See, the plants grow up, then the vines cross over creating caves. That's why I call it Cave Garden. Last year, my average cucumber plant produced a third of a bushel. I had over 15 bushels of cucumbers — canned over 200 quarts. I have a squash plot. Potatoes over here. They're going to be great. My flags are honoring Nelson Mandela.

I believe in democracy and I believe in true capitalism. Wall Street is the opposite, which is another story and which is why I'm running for office. The expression, "the best government is the least government" — we can't have that unless each one of us better governs ourselves. The gardens are to encourage more people to do more themselves. I'm running for the House of Delegates, the 69th District. The opponent is Betsy Carr, who had no opponent last time. I'm running as an independent. In terms of capitalism, we need to realize that capitalism is not failing, Wall Street is. They have hijacked the term to do the opposite. They de-capitalize production; they decapitate jobs. They should be called de-capitalists. It sounds funny, but it's true.

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