Thursday, July 23, 2009

What Does My Garden Mean to Me?

There are so many layers of meaning and intent. I grow my garden as part of my program to regain my health, as an antidote to the years of graduate school that corroded my physical (and spiritual) well-being. During those years, I spent too much time sitting, thinking, reading. We have evolved to move, not to be immobile and utilize only our brains. Gardening nourishes the body by requiring time spent outside in physical labor and by providing a source of organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

I garden as an investment, the “greenest” investment one can make for retirement. Financial guru Catherine Austin Fitts advises
rethinking diversification” of one’s investments from the traditional portfolio, to multiple types of assets including tangible assets, such as a paid-off home and inventory of household goods; and social capital, such as mutually supportive networks of family and friends, multiple skill sets, and our physical health. She writes:

Diversification means that we invest in our physical and mental well-being. We invest our time in understanding the toxic chemicals, drugs and other influences that increasingly contribute to poor health and cause us to need so much more funding for more drugs and medical treatments to cure what ails us. One of the greatest – and growing — threats to our financial health is physical illness. The notion that corporate stock investments will create security while one saves money eating unhealthy food is contradictory to the principles of building real wealth.

My gardening “investments” include dwarf cherry trees and blueberry bushes (high in antioxidants), columnar apple trees, strawberries (higher in vitamin C than citrus fruit), perennial vegetables such as asparagus and multiplier onions, and herbs for medicinal and culinary uses.

Additionally, I invest in the land, by turning kitchen scraps and chicken manure into rich compost and by shredding every leaf in autumn from the many trees in and around our yard to create a rich mulch for the garden that will contribute to building up the soil over time.

I garden to promote our health in old age by ensuring we have access to high quality organic fruits and vegetables even on a fixed income. By the time my husband retires in 10 years, we will have a paid off home, mature fruit trees and berry bushes, established perennial vegetables, and productive soil in which to grow our annual crop of vegetables and melons.

I garden because I have learned that food will become less abundant and thus more costly in the future. Climate change has already resulted in drought in many places – such as Australia and Africa. California, where almost half of our nation’s fruit and vegetables are grown, is in its third year of a drought serious enough to have been declared a state emergency by governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. There
many thousands of acres were not planted this year (2009) because farmers could not get loans without guaranteed access to water for irrigation.

I garden because fossil fuel depletion and “peak oil” means that it will become more expensive to ship food cross-country and around the world. And that the fertilizers derived from natural gas that made possible abundant harvests in depleted soil will become more expensive.

I increasingly grow heirloom vegetables and am learning to save seeds and slips as a political act of resistance to the oppression of Monsanto and other corporate interests who seek to force us all to buy seeds from them every year for sustenance, by foisting GM and terminator seed technology on us and crushing farmers who attempt to save and develop their own seeds. Of terminator seeds, which are genetically designed to be sterile after producing one season’s crop, Indian activist Vandana Shiva has said, “You really need to have a brutal mind . . . to even think in those terms. But quite clearly, the profits are so much higher” (see the documentary film,
The Corporation.)

Finally, I garden now for the same reasons I began my first garden, nearly 30 years ago – the joy of watching a seed sprout, the satisfaction of harvesting food we produced ourselves, the pleasure of savoring the flavor of fresh picked produce, and the sense of peace I feel when working in the garden.

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