LYNDHURST, N.J.– Johnny Walker plants seeds -- literal and figurative -- at his Lyndhurst home.
There are those that grew into tomatoes, zucchinis, jalapeños and more in the garden out front that he started with his 5-year-old son, Codi.
And there are those planted in the child’s head, as Walker teaches him about sustainability and sharing.
“It’s a fundamental problem when people go hungry when food grows for free,” said Walker, who grew up around farms in a rural area of Ohio. “You don't need a pass to eat from our garden.”
Passersby often stop to talk.
“It makes you think about the people you meet and their experiences,” Walker said. “You never know what troubles someone else is going through. I’ve been through a lot in life. I think everyone has.”
The retired U.S. Marines diesel mechanic was injured in a car accident that left him with screws and rods in his back and leg. He received an honorable medical discharge in 2001 and joined the 6th Communications Battalion, a reserve unit in Brooklyn.
Walker had an internship with Deutsche Bank – which was across from the World Trade Center’s south tower – and was late to work on 9/11.
He planted the garden's first seeds three years ago. Walker doesn't always have to buy new seeds: He harvests many from his crops, dries them, and replants them. Codi, meanwhile, helps pull weeds and water the plants.
Father and son also enjoy painting and participating in martial arts together.
“We do it for our Zen to center ourselves,” said Walker, a driver for Quest Diagnostics.
Lyndhurst residents post about the garden on social media.
“This is what I call real community,” said one of them, Anthony Scardino.
“We don’t want to leave a negative mark, we don’t want to change the world," Walker said, "just leave it a little bit better."