By Tom Kane
If you’re driving down Main Street in Honesdale and your eye catches something colorful by the Country Dawn Gift Shoppe at 7th and Main, make sure you go around the block for a second look at the colorful mural that’s just emerged on the shop’s side wall.
The mural–painted by local artists and other non-artist volunteers–is called “WAYNE COUNTY GROWN” and is dedicated to the diversity of agricultural endeavors in Wayne County.
“We looking for ways to attract people, especially youth, to get involved in agriculture,” says Billy Templeton, a member of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) and one of the creators of the mural project. “Our group has done some things in the middle school and the high school; now we want to move a little closer to other Honesdale residents, especially other youths,” he adds.
Agriculture is still one of the main businesses in the county even though many dairy farms have closed. Other kinds of agriculture are taking the place of the retreating dairy business.
“Farming is a tough business to be in, but it has many rewards–like being with your family all the time and with nature,” says Sky Ballentine, owner of the Anthill Farm outside Honesdale which is attracting many young people to farming.
“There are many aspects of agriculture expressed here in the mural, from dairy farming, to poultry, to growing vegetables, to raising sheep and steer, chicken and eggs,” says Roger Hill, a local farmer and tree expert who is also a member of PASA. “If you look closely at the mural, you’ll see them all colorfully portrayed here.” Hill sees a growing interest in local farm produce with the multiplying of farmers’ markets all over the area. “People are interested in wanting to know what they eat and where their food comes from like never before,” he says. “Most of the food we grow is organic. Even some of our local restaurants are buying produce from local farms. We’re supplying restaurants from Milford to Scranton to New York City.”
How did the mural project get under way? “Our PASA group received a grant that paid for the paint and for a project leader – Jeff George — a designer from Dyberry,” explains Hill. “We pulled together several artists through the Wayne County Arts Alliance who submitted drawings to go into the mural and we also asked them to offer a name to the mural,” says George. “The majority liked the name ‘WAYNE COUNTY GROWN’ to show the diversity of what is grown in the county.”
“One evening we projected the sketch that was created by the artists on to the wall of the shop and drew in pencil the outline of the figures,” George says. “Some of the figures require the skill of an artist but many other figures can be done by anyone with a steady hand.”
Many of the volunteer painters are not professional artists so that a broad representation of local residents can get involved. “We like the community aspect of the project,” George says.
Tucked away in the middle of the mural you can see the church spires of Honesdale nestled among the farms, hills and greenery. “I think this is great for our town,” says Paul Meagher, an avid walker and local businessman who happened by. “And the site is very prominent. People can easily see it.”
“What’s good about this mural is that you don’t have to see it in a gallery, all closed up and hidden away,” Roger Hill agrees. “It’s out in the open for all to see any time of day.”