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Cuban of the Month: Jim Brant
Cuban Jim Brant
Jim Brant stands in his garden in Cuba City. - photo by Dena Harris

CUBA CITY— Maintaining a garden may seem like a lot of work to one person, but it is just something to do for Jim Brant. His garden continues to expand each year and he donates most of the produce he harvests.

Brant moved to Cuba City in 2000. After he bought his home, he wanted to add a shed, but needed more space on his lot. He said he asked his neighbors several times if he could purchase the small amount of land, but they refused. When the neighbor’s house was in foreclosure, Brant purchased the property, demolished the house, filled in the basement and had room for his garage as well as a massive garden.

“I’m an outdoor person,” Brant said. “It’s something to do during the summer. I don’t like sitting around.”

Brant also owns farmland north of Cuba City and has reduced his garden size at that property from three times his backyard garden to approximately the same size as his current plot. He raises carrots, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, three types of regular potatoes, beans, peas, small and large pumpkins, two types of squash, strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, two types of onions and peppers. To give an idea of the amount of produce he has, he believes he has more than 800 onion plants alone.

He planted his garden mostly from seed he germinated in his basement this spring. He starts 90 percent of his garden from seed.

“I give most of my garden produce away,” Brant said. “I tried selling it at the farmer’s market one year, but I don’t like selling things. It takes a lot of work to wash and prepare everything for selling at a farmer’s market. I’d rather just harvest it and give it to someone who will use it.”

A lot of his produce he donates to the Cuba City Mealsite. If he has a lot of something he has harvested, he will take it to Cuba City Apartments for the residents to use. He also gives some to neighbors and friends, “whoever wants some,” he said.

“I say I’m going to cut down the size of my garden, but I keep adding more,” Brant said. “I really enjoy it. It is something to do in the summer.”

Brant doesn’t have help with his garden. His son, Allen, also gardens, but lives in the Appleton area. Brant also has three daughters—Lisa Pack, Linda Brant and Brenda Brown—as well as 10 grandchildren.

Brant uses his equipment to till the city’s community garden plots. He wants to promote others’ growing their own produce and taking pride in a garden.

“Jim has always been willing to give of his time and talents to help others,” Cuba City Mayor Tom Gile said. “He is one that does not do things for recognition. No matter when something or someone needs help, Jim is there with a smile. He is very deserving of the Cuban of the Month recognition.”

Brant has other interests besides gardening. He loves archery and even makes his own bows and arrows. He also helps teach hunter safety for both bow and gun hunters.

He also likes to fish and turkey hunt. Brant is a proud lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, Wisconsin Bow Hunter Association, Wisconsin Traditional Archers and Wisconsin Trappers Association.

He has been involved with the Knights of Columbus since 1965, belongs to the local American Legion and V.F.W. and participates in the burial detail. He served in the United States Airforce from 1961-64.

Brant comes from a large family. Of the 10 boys, eight were in the military. There were three sets of twins and he was one of them; his twin sister was Jeanette.

“At home we didn’t have chairs at our dining table, we had benches,” Brant said. “We were no stranger to helping in the gardens growing up.”

Brant also went through the Master Gardener courses in Iowa.

“I don’t feel I learned much,” Brant said. “It was mostly about flowers. Plus, I always gardened as a kid, so I knew what they had to tell me about growing vegetables.”

When Brant demolished the house next door, he filled the basement with material that was dredged from the Cole Acres Golf Course. He said he finds a few balls every time he tills the soil. He keeps them in a 5-gallon bucket, most of them marked up from the tiller.

Editor's Note: This column will be a special addition to the Tri-County Press on a monthly basis. Look for each installment near the end of the month. All volunteers are recomended for the article by Mayor Tom Gile. If you have ideas for future volunteers in the community to be recognized, contact Gile at 608-744-3203.