I have been so blessed for many years to have been able to know and visit with Jacob Mittleider personally and/or by telephone whenever I had a gardening question I couldn’t figure out!
Jacob knew so much, he truly had forgotten more than I’ll ever know, and it was a real education to jog his memory on virtually any subject having to do with vegetable or fruit gardening. He would tell me fascinating stories from all over the world to illustrate the things he wanted me to learn.
The Mittleiders moved to Salt Lake City in 1976 or 1977 (I can’t remember), mostly to teach and assist members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, many of whom were very interested in his highly effective gardening principles and procedures.
Jacob and Mildred, his wife, have always been devout Seventh Day Adventists and vegetarians, and they enjoyed friendly discussions with the Mormons on points of doctrine on which they differed, but they were always kind, generous beyond measure with time, materials, and talents, and really came to love living in Salt Lake City.
A large percentage of the time Jacob and his wife, who almost always filled humanitarian assignments together, were gone from their home creating model demonstration/teaching gardens and greenhouses in 27 countries. Sometimes they stayed as long as 3 years, as in the case of Papua New Guinea (one of the toughest of all their projects), and almost always they were in one location for 6 months to a year.
In 1989 Jacob and Mildred responded to the request of their Church to establish an agriculture department at the Zaoksky Theological Seminary College in the Tula Region of Communist Russia. The Russian authorities began by being so suspicious of Jacob’s work that they stole his plants and took them to their labs for analysis – sure that he was poisoning them with “nitrate toxicity” or other chemical overdoses – because they were so beautiful and uniform.
Within 2 years he had been awarded an honorary pHD from the most prestigious agricultural university in the Soviet Union, and was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Yalta Conference of Agriculture Ministers. The agriculture authorities went on national television with the statement that “the only food grown in Russia that’s fit to eat is grown in a Mittleider garden.”
Over the years the Zaokski Agriculture College has taught about 800 students from all over the commonwealth, and today the Mittleider Method is, by all accounts, the most popular and productive method of growing food for the family garden in the country.
Meanwhile, whenever he was home for any length of time, Jacob was holed up in his basement writing illustrated gardening books and producing gardening lectures. He ended up with 10 books, 9 manuals, 2 CD’s – one of which has almost the entire library in a searchable database – and 90 lectures using voice-over slides and words, that cover vegetable gardening like nothing else on the planet.
A truly great man, who was humble and unassuming, Jacob and Mildred lived modestly, and used their time and money to bless the lives of others all over the world. Their two daughters can rest assured their parents’ lives had great meaning, and that they will be remembered for good by millions of people on every continent.
And now he’s gone.
With God’s help, and that of my wonderful wife Araksya, I hope to keep Jacob’s memory alive by spreading the Mittleider Method of gardening, and teaching the world productive vegetable gardening “one family at a time” the best we can.