It all started when one woman wanted fresh vegetables, and it grew into a garden full of food for friends, family and neighbors.

Mary Payne, a west Capitol Hill resident, had plenty of land in her back yard to produce a garden. But she lacked the physical ability and the funds to fulfill her wish."I wanted fresh vegetables, and I knew I couldn't do the work," Payne said. "I decided to let anyone who wanted garden space have it in my garden, but in return, I wanted shares."

A friend told Payne about a 67-year-old Russian immigrant looking for land to produce a garden. Soon, Pavel Magdalin, who lives only a block from her home, arrived at her door asking, in broken English, how much it would cost to rent her land. Payne explained "You work. I provide water, seeds and soil. We share profit."

The first day, Magdalin let the soil trickle through his fingers and looked as if he were praying for it, Payne said. "I had no idea how good he was at gardening."

Beginning in February, Magdalin started growing crops from seed in his apartment on any flat surface available. By late April he had Payne's land clear of weeds and rocks and ready for planting.

"The land was just a weed patch but fertile," and Magdalin worked hard to prepare the soil, she said. "He's an old-fashioned farmer. He could go out in the middle of a forest and fix a garden."

All of Magdalin's gardening work is done manually. He visits Payne's home nearly every day to water and dress the garden. "He has the hands of a master farmer, and he does it all alone," she said. "I wanted to rent a tiller but he refused. He refused every type of machinery."

This summer marks the third year of the garden, and every year, Magdalin plants a new crop. Each week he spends nearly 20 hours tilling, dressing and watering the garden and sometimes he works just to relax.

"This is my hobby. I like working in the garden," Magdalin said. "When I have a headache, I ask my wife if I can go to the garden, and when I am at the garden my headache goes away."

Earlier this year, Payne called Catholic Community Services, 2300 W. 1700 South, asking for help with her garden. "I am not after a food order, but I need some seeds," she told them.

"They were stunned that someone would call up and ask for seeds and not food," she recalls.

The community services provided several kinds of vegetable seeds, making this year's garden the biggest ever, Payne said. Next year, the additional seeds won't be necessary because Magdalin carefully saves the seeds of the best fruit for next year's crop.

"He is proud of his garden, and he has a right to be proud of it," Payne said.

Magdalin immigrated to Utah nearly three years ago. While in Russia, he worked as a collective farmer for 25 years. He wonders why more people don't grow gardens in Utah, but he said it must be because "Smith's (grocery store) is nearby."

He spends 29 hours each week studying English, but weekends are devoted to the garden. He is proud of his 19 grandchildren and tries to provide them with his home-grown vegetables.

Besides satisfying the needs of his family, Magdalin makes sure Payne has what she wants and then the two share the rest of the harvest with friends and neighbors.