What are you growing in your garden? Perhaps you have a raised bed in your backyard, or several containers on your apartment balcony. Perhaps you have a raised bed in your local community garden. Perhaps you live out in the country, with lots of land, and you have a very large vegetable garden, or even acres of soy beans, or corn, or wheat. Wherever and whatever it is, you are engaging in a very human activity. For the longest time, scientists have dated human agriculture to 12,000 years ago. Back in 2015, however, evidence has been uncovered of human beings cultivating plants as far back as 23,000 years ago!! Growing our own food is a very human thing to do! And it is making a comeback.
The pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives over the last 15 months, and things are slowly returning to something like pre-covid normal. However, one thing that happened in 2020 was a massive resurgence in gardening. You can read more about this from the Illinois Extension Service. Especially among young people, growing food for ourselves took off as a response to interruptions in the food system around the world. People also had a lot more time on their hands, time to cultivate, weed, water, and harvest their own food. Working in the garden gives of each of us a chance to slow down, relearn patience, allow nature’s cycles to become our own. It forces us to pay attention to the marvelous workings of Mother Earth as she abundantly supplies us with food to eat. It reminds us that our food, so much of our food, comes from the labor of those we never meet but whose labor is essential for the functioning of our society.
At CFET we have a dozen or so raised beds available for members of the South Camden community, 6th and Ferry Ave., to adopt for their households. They can grow their own vegetables: tomatoes, salad greens, peas, green beans, carrots, collard greens, zucchini, etc. CFET provides the tools, expert advice, seedlings and seeds, to help an individual or a family to supply food for their table, from South Camden land, by their own sweat. It is a great opportunity to connect with the earth, with one’s kids, with one’s neighbors. There are still raised beds available for South Camden residents. Drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 856-365-8111 to secure a spot.
As we emerge from the pandemic, I hope the vegetable gardening continues for everyone who started it this past year. In the busyness of our lives we often were disconnected from the people whose work gave us something to eat. This includes all those farmworkers who get up early in the morning and toil through the day to pick lettuce, strawberries, green beans and apples. It includes the people who package those fruits and vegetables, and those who transport them, and those in our local grocery stores who make sure they are presentable on the shelves, and, of course, we have to remember our husband or wife, mom or dad, grandmom or granddad, our aunt or uncle or neighbor, who goes to purchase that fruit and vegetables. If we didn’t have all of these people, most of whom we have never met, we would be much less likely to have any food on our table.
We’ve come a long way as human beings over the last 23,000 years. But we have a long way yet to go to make sure that every human being has enough to eat, clean water to drink, fresh air to breathe, dignified work, safe living conditions, high quality healthcare and an opportunity to participate fully in the life of their society. Growing food, getting our hands into the rich soil of Mother Earth is just a beginning, but an important one.
I wish you all happy growing. And if you are not growing, and even if you are, do your bit to support those who are growing food in South Camden. CFET is growing food to be sold at our Farmer’s Market, and we support local neighbors growing food in the raised bed garden. There is much more that can be done. Do your bit today to move us a bit closer to a day when hunger and fear and poor health are no longer a scourge on this beautiful planet. It is possible, if we each do our bit.
Blessings on you and your family,
Mark Doorley, Ph.D.
Chair, Board of Trustees
The Center for Environmental Transformation