This is a place to start your journey toward gardening as well as a place I hope the more experienced among us can find camaraderie. If you are interested in growing, learning, returning to the soil therapeutically or out of a desire to clean up your life and your body, I hope this space and these experiences speak to you.
In our garden we avoid the use of any synthetic additives, inorganic chemicals or substances that are considered man-made biocides. This means we only use water and biological materials to grow our food. I will go into the details of our methods and share the good, bad and the ugly with you in subsequent posts.
Let me back up here and explain the big WHY. Horribly devoid of details, particularly about my children’s health, here is my story in a nutshell:
People have asked…
Why do I spend so much time in the elements? Why am I usually filthy? Why are my nails ragged and stained? Why do I have bug bites and cuts all over me? Why is my hair constantly in a pony tail? Why am I stinky and tan in rolled up jeans soaked through with sweat, dirt smeared across my face from swatting the gnats and my old back injury threatening my mobility?
For the same reason I am strong and driven, sleep well at night and know my family eats better than most: I am growing much of our food.
I never thought I’d be a preserving, gardening, advocate of clean food.
It was sweet when my future husband told me about how his mother made everything from scratch. It was liberating how my mother worked on the farm.
It was terrifying to to realize I may be expected to replicate these feats.
I was going to be a professional. I was fine wearing heels for 12 hours and speaking to groups about the most recent political issue. And I could buy bread already made.
But we all make choices.
I woke one day and my collective experiences in politics and agriculture hit me in unsteadying waves. My mind was suddenly clear and free of the press release spin I had been regurgitating without critical thought. I started to question the big picture of big, conventional, monocropping agriculture.
With doubts starting to simmer I dug in my heals.
Then I had my first successful pregnancy. My conscience would no longer allow me to ignore the nutrient quality of the food I was eating and passing on to my baby. I started to learn and pay attention to aspects of food quality I had never bothered to consider. It wasn’t enough but it was a start.
I looked around and noticed it was no longer a shock when someone was seriously ill. People seemed to be getting heavier…sicker…more depressed…worn-out all the time…
“Normal” became undesirable.
With my second child I started gaining weight and my life-long skin issues persisted past the age they were supposed to cease. I was utterly exhausted. Then I couldn’t have dairy while I was nursing, forcing me to read labels. My bloodwork was a mess. One thing after another pushed me to learn more, delve deeper, study, research and really consider what we do to our bodies.
And one day I realized I had experienced a complete paradigm shift. What’s more, I never worried about my weight, my skin was almost always clear, I had more energy and we had a completely different relationship with food.
We had standards and they were based on something other than romantic notions and politics.
Then I started to understand the cost to individuals and society of subjecting the least resourced among us to a diet of food-mimicking, highly processed edibles.
I used to call CAFOs “factories” and meat animals “cash crops.” Now I don’t eat meat and don’t serve anything but grass fed, humanely raised animals free of antibiotics to my guests.
I used to think, after years of agriculture classes at one of the best ag schools in the world, that the trans-genetic modification of crops was going to help the world. I’d tell people I didn’t care how it happened if they could grow me a tomato the size of a truck. Now I have dug through study after study, peer reviewed research and so much spin. We do everything in our power to avoid exposure to these organisms and the destruction they usher into our environment and bodies through soil degradation.
I used to think glyphosate was safe to drink and the chemicals we put on protective gear to handle were okay to ingest. I told people they broke down into harmless substances despite not knowing what those were or what damage they caused. And now I know everyone who was also spouting those lines was ignorant as well. Sincere, but ignorant. Now we avoid using or ingesting synthetic herbicides, fungicides and insecticides.
I used to think it was healthy to live on pasteurized dairy. Now, if I imbibe on the lactation of another species, it is usually raw and with full knowledge of the negative health effects. And sometimes it is worth it.
Most basically, I used to use small bits of data to back up what I already believed. I now step back after my research and see the entire picture. I am always looking for where I may be wrong, what data might be significant, what research is objective, where I can improve, and what I need to do to live true to my understanding of the world.
I’m minding the gaps and exploring the intersections of identity and food.
The thing is, I’m not detached from the reality of agriculture. I’ve been immersed in it. I’m not a city person who preaches from ignorance. Far from an idealist, I’m a realist by every definition but that does not give me license to ignore the problems with our food system. It makes me responsible to do what I can.
And so we grow.