Why grow your own food (reason #25)
Even just a teensy-weensy bit

Hosted by Marion Owen, Fearless Weeder for PlanTea, Inc. and
Co-author of Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul


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organic carrots, organic vegetable gardeningGardening is loaded with metaphors for life. You go out on limb to achieve a goal, or you learn to bloom where you are planted. And when the mechanic tinkers with valves and wires under the hood to figure out why your car won't start, he is said to be getting to the root of the problem.

Let's put the quaint garden phrases aside for a minute. Growing your own food digs even deeper (there I go again). I was reminded of such a deeper meaning when I read an article at DailyOM (www.dailyom.com), a "daily source of inspirational thoughts for a happy, healthy and fulfilling day."

The title of this particular DailyOM article (OM is pronounced with a long "o" as in home) is Conscious Harvest: Growing Your Own Food and it begins by saying that "growing a garden of food at home is an experience anyone can enjoy." I'll take that one step further by saying,

Whether your garden is a postage stamp, balcony or half-acre, growing your own food, even just a teensy weensy bit, is a joy and freedom that everyone should experience at least once in a lifetime.

beans, organic, runner
Organic runner beans grown in Kodiak, Alaska
(Photo by Marion Owen)

So you see, your garden doesn't need to be fancy or measured in mega-acres. A simple container of salad greens on the porch or a row of carrots "can enhance your connection with the cycle of life." [Article of interest: A Tiny Garden Makes a Big Difference in this Vancouver, B.C. school garden, posted on Marion's Acorns blog)

Connecting with the cycles of life...
What the heck does that mean?

The article continues with, "If you have space outdoors, the green and blooming colors of the edible delights you are growing will decorate any view while tempting you to enjoy the outdoors. [These days, getting outside is becoming more important, since most people spend 90 percent of their day indoors.] The edible plants we nurture allow us to literally taste the fruits (or vegetables or herbs) of our labor while helping us more consciously participate in the circulating energy of nature."

To consciously participate in the circulation energy of nature, of life. How the heck do we do that?

Start the journey by s-l-o-w-i-n-g down

Why are we in such a hurry? We need to take life a bit slower and be aware of what we are doing in the moment. By not hurrying, we can notice the little things, like cat whiskers, and changes like you'd see in the desclouds forming on the horizon. As John Lennon said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

In other words, if, while you're outside picking tomatoes, you're also thinking about when to pick up the kids from school, you're not in the garden. But that's a whole other topic.

"Allow yourself to begin slowly and simply," the article continues, "so that you Gardening newsletter and radio showcan learn to dance with nature's intricate orchestrations." If you're a new gardener, you can put that into practice, by asking questions, attending garden club meetings, checking out library books and by spending time with veteran gardeners. [Article of interest: Are You a Beginner-Gardener? Includes a list of easy-to-grow varieties for northern climates]

Gardeners are cool. You'll find many experienced gardeners out there willing and able to assist you as you choose seeds or small plants to start your garden. (While nothing replaces actually doing it yourself, it's always nice to have someone show you the way, in gardening and in life.) And then, "As you learn to heed the seasons, soil, sun, frost, and shade, you become more than a mere spectator of life's cycle." You become an active participant.

What my students taught me...

During my organic gardening class, which I teach at Kodiak College, one of my students, Samantha Marlar, emphasized the concept of connecting more with nature in a writing assignment. I asked the class to take out a sheet of paper and answer the question, "why garden?"

"Garden for yourself," Samantha wrote, "for relaxation and stress reduction. Garden for your food; grow your own fruits and vegetables. Garden for your eyes; grow beautiful plants. Garden for your children; help connect them to nature, instill within them a sense of respect, awe and appreciation for the natural world around them."

St. Francis of Assisi
Bumper sticker (3x5 inches) available on Marion's shopping page.

Gardening in Kodiak, Alaska, an island in the North Pacific, is no small achievement. The benefits are there for you, no matter where you rest your shovel. "No matter how large or small the size of your garden," continued the DailyOM piece, "you can benefit from growing your own organic, fresh, and nutritious food while also reveling in the depth of flavor and texture that comes from plants that have been well-tended, nurtured, and loved."

Reach out and touch someone, with food

Food is such a personal thing. In Tibet it is considered a holy gesture, an honor, to serve food to family and guests. While we can recognize and appreciate the food we've grown in our own garden, we can extend that appreciation outward. We can also be grateful for the care that farmers put into the produce most of us buy at the grocery store. While traveling in Vermont, a rural farming state, I spotted a bumper sticker that sums it up in another way:

"Don't complain about farmers with your mouth full"

Pike Place market organic farmers produce
Customer buys produce from farmer in Seattle's
Pike Place Market (Photo by Marion Owen)

"When we grow our food, we participate more fully in nature's cycles and form a closer bond with Mother Earth. Knowing how to grow your own food allows for a sense of freedom and pride that you can feed and provide for yourself, one of the most basic necessities."

Samantha completed her essay with an attitude beyond herself and her own needs: "…Garden for the earth, love it, take care of it, be nourished by it, tall others, show them, help them. Make friends, make community, promote a healthy interdependence."

In their essays, most students noted the satisfaction of growing your own. Sue Knoth, for example, looked forward to a sense of freedom that only homegrown vegetables can provide. "I garden because I like to spend time outside and eat fresh food, nourish my body, nourish my soul, be self-sufficient and avoid the lines at the grocery store."

When we allow our appreciation of life in all its forms to expand, we harvest so much more than food. And the taste is that much sweeter.

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