Sparkman High senior athlete Josh Ward tends to his homemade garden he has in the backyard at his home in Harvest. He has numerous eatable plants he grows as he has a strict diet to help him be healthy and play better as starting quarterback for the Senators’ football team. Photo Contributed

Sparkman’s Josh Ward- Quarterback/Gardener

HARVEST- As senior quarterback of the Sparkman High football team Josh Ward is aware he must be a team leader to guide the squad to victories in Class 7A action. He knows he must be in control, make the correct decisions to nurture his teammates and help each one of them, as well as, the team to grow to become well harvested student-athletes among the town of Harvest.

His leadership talents could easily be compared to a head chef of a restaurant or a gardener of a fruitful garden. Ward, who will turn 18 in September, said, “I am a simple dude who loves football and the aspects of life. You know, the little things like my garden I have at my home.”

The garden he referred to is indeed a garden in the backyard of his home where has parents, John and Stacy Ward, and his brother, Jake, call their homestead. The garden includes an arrangement of plants sorted into wooden boxes, which Ward built in the garage of their home where Ward uses wood making tools as a hobby.

“It’s something I like to do trying to be healthy and increase my performance in football through my diet as I know a lot of store-bought food is not good for you,” said Ward.

The young athlete’s grandmother had a wonderful garden, but the young Ward had no interest in gardening until a year ago when he began to realize his diet could be affecting the level of his athleticism on the field coming up the ranks of the Sparkman program. He decided to try and grow his own vegetables and use everything natural around those plants.

“I try and not eat fast food in general and I don’t eat sweets,” said Ward. “I prefer nutritional foods as by the time I get older I’ll need good health. I grow my own food like they did years ago. History does repeat itself.”

The list of plants Ward toils the land to help grow include cucumbers, watermelons, tomatoes, garlic, chives, onions, potatoes, ghost peppers, strawberries, banana and green peppers along with all types of medicinal plants including ashwagandha, lavender and basil. Ward also has pineapples, which he said takes about two years to grow to maturity. These and others are grown in five different boxes filled with the necessary soil and vary in sizes. Ward also incorporates growing certain flowers some of which assist in keeping insects away from the garden plants.

“I’m out there every day as I pick away the stems of the plants to keep the energy flow within the plants for continued growth,” added Ward. “I’ve also installed bird chimes and chairs as the garden becomes a peaceful place and hummingbirds can easily be seen flying around the garden.”

Ward said his plants are organic and he finds them from a woman living in nearby Athens.

Toiling the garden boxes can be time consuming and Ward is lucky he has someone who assists in getting his hands dirty in nature. His girlfriend, Kameryn Parsons, a fellow senior at Sparkman, is the person Wade said keeps him stable and helps at all times.

On the football field, Ward was outstanding in 2022 being named Second Team All-State passing for 2,069 yards on 151 completions for 26 touchdowns and he added five rushing TDs as the Senators had the highest scoring offense among the Class 7A schools in the state. He hopes to continue his efforts in the upcoming season.

“This year I hope to bring out a little more of that run game that I didn’t have last year,” said Ward. “I won’t lie to you, as you’ll see a little bit of an air raid going on, too.”

Besides football and gardening, Ward loves arm wrestling as he built his own specially made arm wrestling table complete with the necessary installed pads. He also enjoys hiking, riding horses, boating and swimming. It’s his passion for growing his garden and wanting to share with others. He said he even eats the same lunch at school every day in an attempt to be healthy. “I eat bison and white rice.”

Ward has dreams of playing college football once graduating from Sparkman in 2024. He also looks to earn an education in business management. In the meantime, he works toward Friday night games and labors in his garden not afraid to get his hands dirty to grow what he knows is good food which will help him live a long, healthy life.

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