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Longtime Henderson resident Karen O'Nan Martin ponders the challenge of hauling plywood on top of her SUV. She ultimately delivered it to her son.

Play in the dirt

story by Lisa Di Giacomo

As a child, Karen O'Nan Martin was never one to get dirty. In fact, no one, not even her mother, could predict that she would one day grow up to live off the land she knew as a child. No one could predict that she would play in the dirt.

A lifelong resident of Henderson County, Karen is constantly busy.

"No grass is gonna crawl under my feet, " Karen calmly expresses early one morning as she performs her morning chores.

While weather generally dictates her schedule, Karen begins her day feeding and tending to her farm animals. Currently, she breeds Boer goats, raises chickens and ducks, and takes care of several dogs, cats and a rabbit.

Karen owns Hillcrest Baskets and Greenhouse. What began as a small herb greenhouse in 1993 has blossomed into a thriving greenhouse and landscape business.

Throughout most of the year, Karen tends to the yards and gardens of several clients from Henderson and Evansville. She does everything from planning and designing gardens to growing many of the plants for them. She also maintains gardens for many of her customers. Sometimes, she has helpers; often she works alone.

Despite the dirt and hard work, it's all worth it in the end.

"Nothing is wasted," she declares. "My parents taught me to work hard and waste nothing."

As she gets dirty each day and keeps her family's farming heritage alive, the lessons that Karen's mother taught her echo in her mind. She wouldn't have it any other way.


Karen O'Nan Martin feeds her dog, Odis, during her early morning chores. Among a variety of other farm animals, Karen cares for four dogs.


Karen O'Nan Martin attends to one of her customer's back yard in Henderson.


So fresh you can taste them — bell peppers from Karen O'Nan's Martin's garden — create a still life. Karen sells them to her Henderson customers.


Karen O'Nan Martin (right) picks up some tomatoes from another Henderson gardener.


Karen O'Nan Martin weaves one of many baskets she needs to complete for her customers.


Karen O'Nan Martin feeds her Boer goats during her morning chores.


Karen O'Nan Martin diplays her "Kentucky Crafted" label on the baskets she weaves.


Longtime Henderson resident, Karen O'Nan Martin, snuggles with her granddaughter, Hadley. After a long day's work, Karen says it feels good just to hold her.

26 of 55 stories