MAY 26, 1997

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Eat--and grow--your vegies for a long life

Antonio Corpuz

Antonio Corpuz holds up bundles of spinach he will sell at a Saturday market in Seattle. The 92-year-old farmer grows his vegetables on Hollywood Hill.
Photo by Andrew Walgamott/Northwest News.

gardener by Andrew Walgamott, staff reporter
"I do it for my health, this gardening," says 92-year-old Antonio Corpuz. Gardening is also Antonio's business. Modest, healthy, and hale from 70 years of farming in western Washington, Antonio tends a half-acre plot of vegetables on Hollywood Hill. Yet he says that this year, he may be going back to his family in the Philippines.
   Antonio works a garden on property he used to own on the west side of Hollywood Hill. He farms there from spring until fall. Five days a week, from nine in the morning until two in the afternoon, Antonio can be found plowing, weeding, and harvesting his garden. He uses only hand tools and raises spinach, green onions, tomatoes, turnips, bok choy, peas, broccoli, mustard greens, and other vegetables. By Friday, he's banding bunches of greens and placing them in wooden boxes for the market.
   Sharyl Admire, whose family until recently owned the property that Antonio farms, said his garden is his everything. "When you talk to him about his garden, his face just lights up like when someone talks about their children."
   Saturdays find Antonio in the International District, at the corner of Maynard and King, selling his produce. He says everybody has a different taste in vegetables.
   Moving to Washington from the Philippines when he was 22 years old, Antonio has farmed in one way or another for most of his adult life. He began working in daffodil fields near Sumner. He lived in Bellevue for 55 years, tending a 20-acre farm. In 1970, he worked on the McBride farm, where Chateau Ste. Michelle is located, grooming the grounds and landscaping.
   Antonio moved to Hollywood Hill in 1982 as a landscape contractor. He lived on the hill overlooking the Sammamish Valley for eight years. After he moved, the Admire family who moved in allowed him to continue farming on the land. Antonio took care of their yard, poodle-cutting trees and fertilizing plants.
   According to Antonio, the dirt to farm isn't in the Sammamish Valley, but on the hill. "Nobody got in up here. They all work below. Higher ground is better," Antonio says.
   He shares. He gives away some of his abundant crop to friends and family. He gave a sackful of spinach and green onions to a wandering reporter. The kids in the neighborhood know him as "Grandpa Corpuz."
   Yet he may be leaving. According to Admire, Antonio has said many times in the past that he would be returning to the Philippines. But she feels that he's serious this time.
   Antonio says that his vegetable farm keeps him happy. "Half-acre. That's enough for me. I'm strong yet. Vegetables make me happy." His hands are still firm and strong, his eyes are sharp. He doesn't look a day over 70. It's easy to imagine Antonio farming forever.
   Whether it's here or elsewhere has yet to be determined.