Growing food: a radical act

June 7, 2013

Author: Neighborhood Farm Initiative

Category: General News Stories from the Garden

Joe, instructor for the 2013 Garden Education Program, shared something in this summer’s first class that really made an impression on me. He highlighted that the act of growing our own food means that we are doing something beyond just ourselves. We are participating in and helping to build a local food system. 

Having worked previously for an organization promoting policies to ensure food sovereignty for hungry people, I felt connected to what Joe said. Drafting policy position papers, however, is altogether different than putting one’s spade into the ground, hoping that through your efforts, something will grow that can nourish you and your family. 

I began to think more about some of the “macro” implications of the “micro” process of working in a garden plot. A couple quotes I found seemed to get at the heart of the matter: 
“The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone.” – Bill Mollison, “father of permaculture”

(Jules Dervaes and his family live on an urban farm in Pasadena, CA and promote self-sufficiency in urban settings)

Through the seemingly-small act of tending one’s plot, a person takes a counter-cultural stance in light of pervasive consumerism and also helps to contribute to food security in her community. Growing one’s own food provides an alternative vision to that of agribusiness and monocropping. And perhaps most important, as Dervaes highlights, gardening brings us in harmony with nature and can transform us. 

I already find myself paying more attention to the weather and its rhythms. I can anticipate learning a good deal about patience as I observe the slow, steady work of a plant producing more leaves, flowers, and fruits. I hope to learn each plant’s signs indicating what it may need from the grower to support its work–a new form of attentiveness.  

I hope that this post hasn’t become too philosophical. The work we’ve been doing in class is quite practical — weeding, mixing compost into soil, spreading woodchips along the path, more weeding, planning how to best use the space in our plots, planting seedlings and seeds, watering, and more weeding. 

I’ll leave you with a few pictures of my plot’s progress… and the promise of a less abstract reflection in a future post!

Looking at a plant with fellow classmate Dani


Jenn Svetlik is grateful to be a member of NFI’s Garden Education Program for the 2013 season. She’ll be reflecting on the experience throughout the summer.

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