Barber beautifies by farming

Nancy Tarnai

It’s been ages since Joe Dinkins left his family’s South Carolina farm, but he’s always carried with him what he learned about growing food at the old home place.

A barber by trade, Dinkins takes on a second “job” in the summer growing vegetables right outside his shop, Just Haircuts, on South Cushman Street. Before and after work he can be found outside working in his garden.

Collards: Just add some Texas Pete.
Photo by Penny Rosier
Collards and other greens grow in Joe Dinkins' capable hands.

Back home in Rembert, S.C., Dinkins helped tend cotton, peanuts, corn, watermelons, cantaloupe, peas, beans, cabbage, hogs, cows, chickens and geese from the tender age of 5. He traveled around working in construction and restaurants and landed in Alaska in 1968 and in Fairbanks in 1986.

The shop is filled with lush green plants year round and in the summer every available surface outdoors is covered in collards, cabbage, squash, peas, beans, potatoes, tomatoes and even okra, which is difficult to grow in Fairbanks.

“I eat some, give some away and sell some,” Dinkins said. “I’ve got plenty of it.” But this time of year his thoughts are not on farming. It will be April before he starts planning his crops. Each year he saves seeds from plants to use for the next season, along with purchasing new seeds.

Asked for secrets to success Dinkins said gardening is nothing more than common sense. “When it needs water, water it; when you see weeds, pull them,” he said. “If it took an education to have a garden I wouldn’t have one.”

People who ask for tips and advice are often shocked at his response. “I tell them if they want advice to give me $10,000 and I’ll send them to school. That stops ‘em right there.”

For Dinkins, growing food is not challenging at all. “It’s a fun thing for me,” he said. “I do it without thinking about it. Whatever grows grows and what doesn’t doesn’t; that’s OK.

Cuts hair, grows food.
Photo by Nancy Tarnai
Joe Dinkins works in a "green" environment in his barber shop, growing plants all around the inside and in the summer vegetable gardens on the outside.

“I don’t depend on it for a living so I accept what does grow.”

He’s never even considered entering his veggies in the fair and another thing he doesn’t do is grow the food because it’s healthier for him. “Everybody says it’s good for me but I just grow it to see it grow,” he said. “When I was coming up I didn’t realize how healthy it was to grow your own food.” What he doesn’t eat or give away he freezes. “Canning is a lot of work,” he added.

One of Dinkins’ objectives is to beautify his property; another is to use the veggies as a conversation piece, although the conversations already flow unabashedly at his shop daily. “I like to give the tourists something to talk about,” he said, “like giant cabbages.”

And even though people are wont to praise Dinkins for his green thumb, he waves away any praise. “I don’t want to make a big deal of it,” he said. “I just plant stuff, water it and let it go.

“But you’ve got to weed. Unfortunately, if you’re going to have a nice garden you’re going to have to weed.”

Asked if he plans to continue his efforts, Dinkins smiled. “The garden will be here this year; just drive by and you’ll see it.”

This column is provided as a service by the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences and the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station.