So 2012 is here. As winter sends its tendrils down South from the Midwest, many of us are inside where it's warm and comfortable, planning for the day when our spring gardens start blooming and our veggies begin sprouting.
From commercial farms to small condo patio container gardens, millions of people every year make some effort to plant and enjoy the beautiful colors, textures and flavors of a new garden or farm plot. There is something inherent in growing that seems to feed our soul. From seed to seedling to mature herbaceous beauty, bringing a living plant to its full and glorious nature takes dedication and a joy for the art.
But planting and growing is more than just a hobby or a profession. It is something that our Creator has implanted within each of us. It is a true survival skill that connects us with the most ancient past, a skill that has sadly in recent times been removed from us.
Whether by design, fate or chance, many have lost touch with a vital part of living that has been with us throughout our history. The decline in farming and homesteading can be traced directly to the 1940s and 1950s as urbanization spread, and the development of interconnected roads and highways made travel a new way of life. People left farming behind and moved to city suburbs, where women became social homemakers, and men left each day for a job outside the home.
As outlying regions began to develop, and supermarkets became the norm, the farm declined dramatically as the main source of fresh food for the family. It is a sad plight that so many people today have no idea where food actually comes from, and that when asked, many children and even young adults will tell you their food comes from the grocery store or McDonald’s.
As a 40-something, the last generation to farm or garden in my family were my grandparents. My grandparents were all familiar with growing their own food, even into their late years when they were relegated to a small suburban backyard garden. My parents never developed a taste for gardening, and as a result, I was never into gardening as a youth.
Thankfully, that has all changed, and as an adult, not only am I seeking to immerse myself in this traditional way of life, I am working to get others back in touch with their roots as well. Every person on this planet shares this common heritage. We all come from a background where we grew our own food, we hunted, we gathered, we cooked and preserved, we fished, and as we have given up this aspect of our heritage for modernization and a technology-based world, we have also given up a huge part of our safety and security.
The tradeoff for living in a modern and “convenient” world is we now rely on others for nearly every aspect of our livelihood. Today we have multiple living generations who are so removed from their roots that they know no other way of life, people who have no idea how at-risk, and how fragile, our food supply is.
The only solution I see is outreach. We all need to talk to one another about how we live and what our goals are for our lives. Are we able to survive on our own in case of a prolonged emergency or disaster? What would we do if our food supply were interrupted? It has happened many times in our past, even our recent past, as witnessed following Hurricane Katrina, with disastrous consequences.
Active community advocacy, perhaps joining or starting a local project like a community garden, or working with neighbors or a senior center to develop a patio garden, are just some ideas to consider. Ever hear of guerrilla gardening? What a fun way to impact the community! But most importantly, if you are not a gardener yourself, this year try growing some simple container produce like tomatoes, or potatoes in a garbage can or grow bag.
There are many local resources available to help you get started, and if you look around your neighborhood, you will probably spot a gardener who can help you get growing. Most gardeners would LOVE to share their skill and knowledge with those seeking to partake of the dirt!
Here are some resources to help get you started:
UGA extension office. These folks are your go to for any and all growing questions here in Paulding County. They can get you connected with people and programs for growers of all types and scale. http://www.caes.uga.edu/extension/paulding
Square Foot Gardening. This is a neat way to grow lots of food in very small spaces, including condos and apartments! http://www.squarefootgardening.com
Grow potatoes in a can. There are lots of links for this topic. People really love to do this and it’s so easy! http://www.gardeningblog.net/2008/06/23/grow-potatoes-in-a-trash-can and there are lots of videos on Youtube with every kind of variation imaginable.
How to make an African-style Keyhole Garden. Cool idea for growing a lot in a small space. The center compost pile continually feeds the plants around the outside. Would work very well in our area! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykCXfjzfaco&feature=related
Guerrilla Gardening. http://www.guerrillagardening.org
Go to Youtube and type in your gardening keywords. There are literally thousands of how to videos for all levels of gardeners.