Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Time for a rant

Okay, it's time for a rant (me getting into blogging was inspired by the ranters on Garden Rant). Yesterday I read an article in the NYT about people too busy to garden or even go to the farmers' market, who are hiring folks to both install and maintain a vegetable garden in their backyard. I think it's a ridiculous concept, especially when someone was quoted as saying "it's the highest form of luxury". But there was something else about it that was bugging me although I couldn't pin my thoughts about it exactly.

So today my yoga instructor gave me an old magazine that she said I might enjoy (July 2007 edition of Shambhala Sun). There's an interview with Barbara Kingsolver about her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. In it she talks about the idea that in the U.S. we believe that hard work and anything to do with rural life and dirt is beneath us. And then she spoke about Gandhi and I realized she hit on exactly what was bugging me about "luxury vegetable gardens". I hope it's okay if I quote her:

"Recently I read the principles that Gandhi followed for right living and I discovered the word sharirshrama, which means "bread work", and my heart just settled into place, because that is exactly how to explain it. No matter how important Gandhi became in the world, he never considered himself too important, too old, or too pressed by duty to neglect his work of spinning
thread for an hour or more every day. Spinning thread was his bread work, and my bread work is the work of making my food. It's why I feel both eager and devout when I hoe the ground or pull weeds, and I don't ever want to think of myself as too important to do those things. Bread work is what makes us both human and holy."

Gardening can be holy. And vegetable gardening is a lot of work, which is why I choose my farmers' market over my backyard (except for my wee "Sungold" tomatoes which I adore and jalepenos for my husband). But now this whole locavore movement is becoming so commercialized. In fact, I just got an email from a major retailer touting their "farmers' market" kitchenware. When will it end? What will the next trend be? I'll admit I'm a locavore but now apparently so is everyone else!

So to soothe my soul, I'm including a picture of chickens. I don't have any but Boggy Creek Farm does and that's where I took this picture. Chickens make me smile.


  1. thanks for the rant Jean,
    but let me play a little devil's advocate...

    I read the article you refer to earlier. And I chuckled when I read it.
    I was already aware of the service mentioned that would come in, plant your veggie garden, maintain it and harvest it for you. I'm in Oakland, California... across the Bay from San Francisco. I could avail myself of that service, but have chosen to do it myself for many years.

    I do agree with your perspective - gardening can be holy and "bread work".
    But from a sociological point of view, as a society we've gone from agraian to industrial to "knowledge" based.

    Most of us really don't "know" how to garden. Many of us don't even really know where food comes from. Ask a group of urban school kids (and adults) where do apples come from and they're likely to say "the grocery store".

    10 years ago it was trendy to be on Prozac. A few years ago it became trendy for adults to be on cholesterol lowering statins and kids to be on ADD drugs.

    From that perspective, I think of this as an evolutionary (dramatic) improvement. First - someone has to have the awareness that it's better to eat locally grown, fresh food. Then they have to have the motivation to make whatever changes they choose to make it so that do eat more that way.

    Even if they "hire out" their gardening... they are at least one step closer to their food, and the healthier for it.
    Not perfect, but evolving.
    Change generally happens slowly. At least this is a positive change.


  2. Thanks for a different perspective Patti. You're right, it's going in the right direction and certainly spreading the gospel of and eating fresh produce can't hurt either. It seems we're cycling back to appreciating the land and what it can give us.

  3. Jean, if chickens make you smile, you probably will enjoy reading this post I remembered reading on Gardening4Life.


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