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Center Snapshot: Ed Generazio
Ed Generazio. Image above: Ed Generazio spends time each day tending to his 1,000-square-foot garden at NASA's Langley Research Center. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

By: Denise Lineberry

The fruits of Ed Generazio's labor benefit those who are at risk for hunger. And also, those who could be at risk in space.

In 2010, Generazio donated 320 pounds of his own-grown produce during the Feds Feed Families campaign, which is a nationwide effort to feed local families in need. Even after the campaign ended at NASA's Langley Research Center, he continued to donate. By October 7, 2010, he donated 510 pounds.

This year's campaign kicked off on June 10 and will continue through August 31. As of Friday, 2,632 pounds of food have been donated. Langley needs to collect 7,368 more pounds to reach its goal.

NASA's Langley Research Center and the Foodbank of the Virginia Peninsula are partnering for a second year to provide non-perishable food items to local individuals living below the poverty level, $22,050 a year for a family of four, through the Feds Feed Families Campaign.


NASA Langley's Feds Feed Families Campaign:

Foodbank of the Virginia Peninsula:

For a second year, Generazio is helping Langley get there.

"Right now I am about 30 percent ahead of last year, so things are looking good," Generazio said. "I am very confident that I will exceed the 510 pounds from last year."

He wakes up and tends to his garden at home. He arrives at NASA's Langley Research Center where he serves as the agency's nondestructive evaluation specialist. At lunch, he tends to his 1,000-square-foot garden at the center, which was allocated to him by Langley's Garden Club.

By the completion of his workday, it's back to the garden and then home. Weekly, his wife, Sue, delivers produce to the Food Pantry at St. Katari Tekakwitha in Poquoson where she volunteers.

Generazio's home garden is filled with fruit trees, grapes, and berries. His apple and peach trees flourished this year. He works to keep away fungus, insects and animals. He also consulted with a local peach tree grower for tips. If he does use chemicals, he is careful with them.

He rotates the crops and checks the soil every eight weeks throughout the summer months to make sure the produce has the proper nutrients. He considers shading for certain types of plants.

"It's mostly about timing," Generazio said. "You need to check gardens every day and make plans on what needs to be done."

Each day from his Langley garden, he fills up three to four baskets of beans, cabbage, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes or corn.

"I try planting something new every year, and this year I am trying peanuts," he said.

In the last two weeks, he has tilled a sizeable portion of his Langley garden and is in his second, third and fourth plantings of some of the vegetables. He has already donated 214 pounds of food to the Feds Feed Families campaign since June 10.

His work and knowledge in the garden pays off when its time to harvest and deliver.

Last week, the food pantry called Generazio at home to let him know about a special need of a man who was living without electricity. All of the tomatoes from the previous day were gone and they asked for more.

"I packed up six of the ripest tomatoes and drove them down to the food pantry," he said. "I received a big 'thank you' from an 80-year-old gentleman that loved tomato sandwiches."

To make an online donation to the Foodbank of the Virginia Peninsula:
+ Click on "Donate Today"
+ Select your donation amount
+ Populate information

For NASA Langley to receive credit,
please type "NASA FFF" on the donor code field

Generazio learned to garden as a child, while growing up on a mink farm in Massachusetts. His father’s cue for him to return home from the neighbors, which was about a mile away, was three gunshots fired into the air.

"My family canned vegetables. It was always a big production that went like clockwork," he said.

He has had a garden at every house since. And his hard work hasn’t failed him yet.

He worked evenings and weekends at the Deaconess Hospital Intensive and Coronary Care Units in Boston to pay his way through college. He received a Bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Massachusetts - Boston, a Master’s degree in physics from the Illinois Institute of Technology, and a PhD in physics from Pennsylvania State University.

Shortly after the Columbia accident, he served at the nondestructive evaluation discipline expert in the NASA Engineering and Safety Center.

"One particular issue, the probability of detection of mission critical flaws caught my attention as an area that needed much more work," he said. Generazio is working to establish uniform systems for applying many different tests to space vehicles.

"Aging wiring has been a critical issue in both aeronautic and space systems. I have developed an electric field sensing system (e-Sensor) for determining the electronic properties of aged insulation," he said.

He continues to work with others to develop a health monitoring system for pressure vessels, an impact detection system for inflatable structures and thermal protection systems and inspection methods for heat shields.

Whether by space or by land, Generazio does what he can to help.

The Researcher News
NASA Langley Research Center
Editor & Curator: Denise Lineberry
Managing Editor: Jim Hodges
Executive Editor & Responsible NASA Official: Rob Wyman