Ardent Eden

Ardent Eden is a place to explore my thoughts about the interdependence of life - humanity and nature - and to engage with others for collective problem-solving.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Little Piece of the Earth

I want to plant a little garden with you now, take care of a piece of the earth somehow...Greg Brown

From the comments to yesterday's post, it seems that a lot of us have something in common: a love of fresh, locally-grown foods and the benefits that come from supporting sustainable agriculture. It was a few years after I became a vegetarian that I started to really think about food choices and the bigger environmental picture.

What good was it to eat a food that was strictly vegetarian but had been shipped over 3,000 miles to reach me? Sure, an animal didn't suffer in factory farming conditions, but there are myriad other problems with this kind of industrialized food system. From the genetically-modified seed to the pesticides coating the leaves of the plant to the pollution generated from a big rig driving across the country to the days spent languishing on a supermarket shelf, I started to think that most of the food deemed "conventional" really wasn't in line with any convention that would sustain our planet or our health. I picked up a memoir called This Organic Life by Joan Dye Gussow. (Check out a Q&A with Gussow here on the Slow Food Forum.) Gussow tells the tale of growing an organic garden and eating locally from her suburban home on the Hudson River in New York. Before reading Gussow, I understood the problems, the theories about our food system. What I didn't know was the beauty of the alternative.

Being stuck in a series of urban apartments due to various circumstances didn't create ideal conditions for getting my hands into the dirt. So I continued to read and to search out farmers markets. Cooking seemed to go hand in hand with discovering the beautiful new-to-me heirloom varieities of veggies from small farms. I didn't (and still don't) have time to always seek out the family-farmed local option, but I did what I could and always felt better, more whole, when I created a meal from these delicious ingredients.

A couple of years passed, our passion for the pure pleasure (not to mention the environmental and health benefits) of natural, whole foods grew, and we decided that we were ready to take on the next step: growing some of our own food. Since we were still in an apartment, we tracked down a community garden in our neighborhood and signed up for a plot. Then the real love affair began. We poured over seed catalogs through the winter, cleared out and turned the soil in early spring, transplanted seedlings from our kitchen to the soil later in the spring, and enjoyed the harvest all summer and fall. We began to feel the seasons more acutely.

The small garden plot gives us a bounty of fresh, delicious vegetables. Now we grow multiple varieties of lettuce, beans, tomatoes (Oh Lord, the tomatoes!), kale, collards, chard, herbs and flowers. We are constantly amazed by the abundance that springs forth from a small plot in a vacant lot.

Next year, we hope to take our dream of living closer to the land a step further by buying a house with room to grow more food. We'll have a lot to learn. So for 2006, my next steps are:


  • At 10:14 PM, Blogger spiral said…

    While waiting for my biscotti to cool (I'm trying out Farmgirl's recipe), I enjoyed reading this post. I'm heading toward my first year of attempting a garden, and I'm pretty excited about it: I've been spending way too much time looking over catalogues and circling possibilities. I can't wait to see if I can keep plants outside going, as I know it will require more time than my indoor babies.

  • At 10:20 PM, Blogger lauren said…

    We've been enjoying Farmgirl's chocolate biscotti too! I made some a few days ago. Emboldened by my success with that recipe, tomorrow I'm going to attempt an almond-chocolate chip biscotti recipe that my brother served up at Thanksgiving. How exciting that you'll have a garden this spring for the first time! It's funny how much we focus on our houseplants during the winter, then completely shift gears into garden mode come March. Believe me, you'll have those seed catalogs well-worn in a couple months!

  • At 8:27 AM, Blogger breadchick said…

    When I first moved to MA (15 years ago), I picked the apartment complex I moved into because each apartment had a 5 x 10 foot garden plot in the community garden. When I moved a few years later, I took up "tub" gardening because the places I moved to didn't have garden plots. I haven't done a good tub garden in a few years but this post has inspired me to plant one again this spring.

  • At 8:47 AM, Blogger lauren said…

    breadchick-Those are the kind of comments that make me keep writing! :) What a cool building to offer plots in a community garden. I often walk past vacant lots and think how great it would be if they were turned into community gardens. Besides the food, I've found good conversation and neighborliness at the garden plot on a summer evening after a long day at work. It somehow also brings out generosity -- someone's got an extra tomato seedling to share, another has picked way too many beans to cook up that night, etc.

    I think the tub garden is a splendid idea.

  • At 12:17 PM, Blogger Roger, Gone Green said…

    Even in your current circumstances (community plot) you might be able to add one of the compact compost bins . . . or a worm bin on an apartment patio (not in winter, though) . . . Good practice for that house with some yard for food . . .

  • At 3:52 PM, Blogger farmgirl said…

    Hi Lauren,
    Tee hee, I didn't think there would be biscotti comments over here. : ) I loved reading this inspiring post. I think This Organic Life is a great book, and your 2006 goals are fantastic.

    Wishing you and yours a wonderful and delicious holiday season. Thanks for helping to make Farmgirl Fare one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done. : )


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