29 December, 2008

It's Still Winter in The Garden

One of the Learning Garden's volunteers, Carolina, shows a handful of carrot seed prior to sowing them on a prepared bed and covering with screened compost. Thoroughly watering the freshly planted seeds is last step.

It’s still Winter in the Garden and we are still very much planting winter vegetables – while in the catalogs we are looking at summer veggies, we are still planting winter’s crops. We won’t begin to sow summer seeds, until the end of January – and even then, we are pushing the envelope – I want to get early tomatoes in especially early so our high school gardeners can harvest a ripe tomato before they leave for the summer (it seems like a long way away, but our foggy, cool coastal climate slows tomatoes down to a crawl until July through September when we get some real heat).

Today in the Garden we were sowing carrots. We could have also sown beets, parsnips, radishes, and turnips, but we were fixed on carrots today. I lost a baseball bet with Mike McGrath, infamous from a variety of horticultural pursuits, including currently hosting WHYY’s “You Bet Your Garden.” Mike is a rabid Phillies fan - but then, there is no other kind, they're all 'rabid,' and I am a Dodger fan, so when the Dodgers faced the Phillies in last year’s National League Pennant Championship Series, I challenged him with a bet of five pounds of carrots – somehow he figured that I was already growing five pounds of carrots, but I had no intention of losing.

Thus it was that we sowed carrots – a lot of carrots to fulfill payment to the winning Mr. McGrath, and we transplanted cabbages from starter pots in the greenhouse out to the garden. We have baby plants of lettuce, broccoli, more cabbage and celeriac in pots a few weeks away from setting out in the garden. He can gloat with his victorious baseball team, but I wonder what he's planting two days from New Years?

After setting the cabbages out in the garden, we sowed more seeds of lettuces (four different varieties – including Red Deer Tongue, Green Deer Tongue, and two others) for setting out in the garden in the next month. We will still start more seeds of broccoli, cabbage and lots more lettuce – I’ll keep starting lettuce up through May although I’ll switch to varieties described as “heat resistant” like Summertime and Jericho and I’ll plant them in dappled shade – and I’ll be direct sowing more seeds in the garden of beets, parsnips, and other root crops in spots here and there. Here and there, I might also sow a short row of arugula, spinach and other greens that don’t like heat.

We did get some rain last week and the soil is soft which makes for pulling weeds easier than normal so we’ve also been doing some good weeding too. Even the really long rooted mallow plants come out more easily – as long as they aren’t above belt high and then you need to inspire them with a hand grenade or something to free that tap root from its hold on the soil. (On the other hand, these plants do bring up nutrients from the subsoil and make a wonderful addition to a compost pile.)

It’s a gorgeous time to be a gardener in Los Angeles; this is one of our premier times in a Mediterranean garden. Grab a cup of coffee and come on out into the Garden – it’s like a Monet painting.


28 December, 2008

Instead of A Bomber...

Venice High School students grow a variety of winter vegetables in their gardens at The Learning Garden, including broccoli, cabbages, chard, kale, lettuce and peas.

In 2002, volunteers from the community gathered to create a garden at Venice High School on the unused portion of a garden site that was being used as a dumping ground by the high school. There were a few gardening classes, but their efforts only used a small portion of the almost one acre site, with the rest of it untouched.

The community volunteers, led by David Crow and Julie Mann, both educated in the traditions of using plants (herbs) as medicine, formed a not for profit, 501 (c) 3, called The Learning Garden. From that day forward, the portion of the garden not used by the high school students has been transformed into a vibrant and lush little Eden in that part of Los Angeles called Mar Vista.

In the six years The Learning Garden has been around, we have brought a considerable amount of resources to bear on this corner at Walgrove Avenue and Venice Boulevard. The Garden boasts one of the most eclectic collections of Chinese Medicinal plants in any public garden, as well as plants from the Ayurvedic and homeopathic herbal traditions. We have planted over 50 fruit trees and have a beautiful succulent garden and a California Native garden, both curated and cared for by one very dedicated volunteer.

The garden sends all excess produce to the West Los Angeles Food Bank – in many weeks we take over 20 to 40 pounds of food – we always include fresh herbs as well as the vegetables and occasional fruit because all food, even food for people in need, should taste good. Most of the food we send over is excess grown by high school students or by the volunteers – our goal is for nothing to be wasted.

We have worked hard to create not just a garden, but also a community. Almost every month the Garden has an event, ranging from our big gala whoop-de-do, Pesto Day, to other, more low-key events like Valentines’ Day where we make the valentines from plants and objects found in the Garden.

Now in it’s sixth year, the Garden is no longer funded. We hold plant sales which pay for potting soil and other incidentals but there is no more money for staff. The one single reason this Garden has been a success when so many others like this have failed is that we have had an on-site garden manager (the Gardenmaster) who has coordinated the efforts of all the volunteers and has been there to water the plants when volunteers didn’t come through. At this time, the Gardenmaster is an unpaid volunteer who shows up as much as he can while finding work to pay bills like rent, food and little things like that.

So now, the Garden struggles forward. As a gardener, I cannot plant as though there is no tomorrow; the only way to steward the land is to act as though we will be still be here and working this soil a year or more from now. I helped plant carrots today. There will be no carrots to eat for better than 75 days, that’s two and a half months. And they might not even be ready then if we have a colder than normal winter/spring. However, in order to garden, I am required to think in this kind of time line and of the future. It is said, “there will always be hope as long as seed catalogs are printed.”

In moments like these, I remember the old Vietnam War era slogan, “What if the Air Force had to have a bake sale to buy a bomber?” recalling our government’s fascination with funding wars and war making and not funding benefits for the citizens and their children. Truly, one day in Iraq could do an awful lot of good here in our own country towards ameliorating poverty and feeding everyone good, clean, healthy food.

Some of us are blessed to do the work they were called to do. Having been the Gardenmaster in charge of this project, for the last six years, I have been one of those so blessed. The time I have spent with The Learning Garden has been an economic challenge, but I would not trade one day at the Garden for a paycheck from behind the desk. The lives that have been touched by this project cannot be calculated – from pre-schoolers, to elementary students, to high school students from several different schools, and the adults that volunteer and the students of UCLA Extension and other adult schools.

Every school needs a learning garden. But it is not a priority among the brass at the LA Unified School District – and probably at very few schools. Still, we, as a society, cannot forget where our food comes from and ought not forget how it’s grown. Remaining somewhat connected to the earth aids our society in ways large and small, though we might not see it for a decade or more. Our detachment from nature in a world of cement and shopping malls and gang violence can be ameliorated with the presence of a garden in a school that gives respite to the students and teachers and provides an object lesson in the ever changing canvass of life.

Funding opportunities exist! Will you help us keep the gates to The Learning Garden open? Contact me and I’ll put you in touch with our treasurer; all donations are tax-deductible – might be better karma to help fund The Learning Garden instead of another bomber.


20 December, 2008

Towards a Healthier Food System

Any document signed by Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, Bill McKibben, and Alice Waters bears a considerable look over. Such a document does exist appended with some fourteen thousand other signatures online at http://fooddeclaration.org/.

The document opens with the following paragraph:

We, the undersigned, believe that a healthy food system is necessary to meet the urgent challenges of our time. Behind us stands a half-century of industrial food production, underwritten by cheap fossil fuels, abundant land and water resources, and a drive to maximize the global harvest of cheap calories. Ahead lie rising energy and food costs, a changing climate, declining water supplies, a growing population, and the paradox of widespread hunger and obesity.

And the rest of the document reads just as poignantly.

As we look ahead, some of us see the future increasingly fraught with the difficulties observed in the document. Signing this document is valuable, although it is only a small step in a very long journey. (I can’t help but wonder about the the folks who signed as ‘anonymous;’ how much more anonymous do you need to be than simply your name in a list on the internet? That really shows some heady determination of support – I’ll be sure to count on them!)

The document’s intent is to influence the future of the United States agricultural policy. Our food policy, as dictated by our so-called "Farm Bill," has been misguided over the past fifty some odd years and I doubt that an internet document will help change it. My name is there, but it didn’t take long to put it there and I think it will have about as much affect on the policy wonks. It may influence a number of citizens to become more aware of the harmful policies of our government that enable obesity and diabetes in children, destroy farming communities and a farming ethic, ruin the economies of the family farm and wreck the environment all for the profit of larger corporations. The farm policy of the United States is one of the most harmful policies our government has ever promulgated. Because it is known as the “Farm Bill” many Americans pay it no mind; however, should it be called the “Consumer Bill” because there is no reason to farm without the end consumer, as has been suggested, then perhaps more of us would sit up and pay notice.

We need to change and do a lot more than simply sign an online petition. Fundamental changes are necessary but what you do will be defined by your own situation, still everyone can contribute to the solution rather than the problem. I know when I first looked at this problem, a friend of mine had purchased a Prius and was all on about her righteous contribution to the solution. I felt oppressed. I couldn’t buy a Prius and because I need to haul things, I needed my SUV. I felt guilty. I couldn’t do what I thought I needed to do to be a part of the change.

That was the wrong approach. I had to get used to the fact that I couldn’t do those things and once I did overcame my feelings of impotence, I could seek out the things I really could do. One of the first ones that came to my attention was to drive the speed limit because that saves fuel and puts out less greenhouse gas than speeding – I am not known for a light foot on the pedal. It is still a battle, but I’m working on it. I hadn’t planned on having to deal with some feelings about being the old man in the slow vehicle holding up traffic. I never expected to be that guy!

But what can we do about FOOD? That is the big question and that is where we can all start to make a fundamental shift that would make the above petition superfluous.

Each of us can do something to change the way America eats by changing the way we eat and the emphasis we put on our own food.

If I want to eat clean healthy and fresh food, I need to find out how I can get it. The first way is to grow it myself, but like millions of Americans, I can’t grow all of my own calories on my patio and I won’t be able to supply even most of them with a plot at a community garden. But I can grow some and some of that can be a valuable contribution to my spending plan and to my caloric intake. Next, what I don’t grow, perhaps I can trade with a fellow gardener at the community garden. If I have too much basil and they have a yellow tomato I covet, perhaps an accommodation can be made.

But there are squashes and other land intensive crops that we simply won’t grow in a 14 foot square plot. The next stop is the farmers’ market. Here in Southern California, there is a market within striking distance almost every single day of the week, with three or four or more available close at hand on Saturday and Sunday. Almost all the basic vegetables are available in season (and what long seasons we have!) from farms producing locally. Not all are within the 100 mile diet limit, but most are and those that aren’t are pretty darn close, and if opposed to the 1500 mile figure applied to most supermarket food, they are plenty close enough!

If those methods fail, then one can choose to do without or go to the supermarket. If we diligently apply this model to our food consumption, most of the damage done to the environment by food production and shipping will become financial unsustainable – we will be able to see it getting more expensive as time goes on at any rate. I propose this set of guidelines rather than trying to adhere to the hard and fast rules of the 100 mile diet and Plant Animal Miracle proposal of Kingsolver’s wonderful book. Those certainly do point us in the way to go, but for many city dwellers, they simply ask too much of most consumers.

Whatever it is you can do and are willing to do, please do it now. As we make our choices towards a different future, the other choices, the next steps, will become more apparent and more palatable, while also becoming ever more effective. We have to start here, where we are because we can start no where else.


17 December, 2008

Veggie Porn: The Seed Savers Exchange Catalog Arrived

Another page of nekked tomatoes! Who will stop them?
Probably not yours truly...

The seed catalogs keep coming and they are all devoured with gusto – I’ve not only already ordered from Pinetree (see a previous post), I’ve gotten the seeds and some of them are already planted (onion and shallot seeds needed to go in ASAP because they really are a little late). The Seed Savers Exchange catalog arrived a couple of days ago and I got to feast my eyes on this year’s beautiful edition of offerings. So gorgeous are the photos of all their delicious vegetables, I find myself drooling and fantasizing about the harvest I’m going to realize when I buy all these seeds: folks, I submit that these catalogs cause such visceral reactions in gardeners that there is no way to avoid calling them “vegetable porn.”

Not that I want to denigrate Seed Savers Exchange; their catalog is one of the highlights of the winter months. The photos are stunning and well done – if you get the catalog, may I refer you to their famous photo of a wagon load of many different squashes spilling out to the ground with a red barn as the backdrop. If you don’t get their catalog, go online and order it – whatever Seed Savers Exchange wants for it is cheap – that one photo alone is worth bankrolling.

But the reason Seed Savers Exchange is important goes much deeper than the gorgeous vegetable photos in their catalog – and if you are not a member, I urge you to consider it. Kind of like, beauty, in this case, is more than skin deep.

Before the modern time, seeds were passed down from generation to generation – a single person or family, might have raised a tomato on that parcel of land for twenty years or more, each year selecting the best, or the earliest or the most disease resistant. As this was done over all those years, the genetic composition of this tomato gradually changed and became more adapted to just that area. This occurred over the entire agricultural world and by the early 1900’s gardeners were privy to a veritable smorgasbord of different varieties of many different vegetables. These varieties were stable hybrids that became what they were over a long period of time, they are open-pollinated and represent a genetic diversity that is one of the truly great treasures of human kind; we now call them 'heirloom' seeds. The world was blessed with thousands of such tomatoes and other vegetables. However, the richness of these differences began to be lost soon thereafter.

On one hand, our food supplies were being put in the hands of larger farms with shipping over longer distances and the operations were being carried by larger corporations and machinery was replacing hand labor as fast as inventors could come up with machines to do the work. The qualities valued were of consistency, uniformity, and shipping and holding ability. And productivity above all else. These qualities were the qualities of modern plant breeding and most seed breeding (especially in the US) was done for the benefit of these large corporations to put veggies in our local supermarkets.

Not only did our vegetables begin to taste like cardboard, which was not important to the large corporations wanting uniformity and shipping ability above all else, the many different regional varieties, with their rich diversity of genetics began to disappear. Losing this genetic diversity is as frightening as leaving our food supply in the hands of a few huge corporations that have nothing more than their own profit as their guiding interest. The potato famine in Ireland, though exacerbated by the politics of the day, had a lack of genetic diversity in potatoes grown in Ireland at that time as a root cause. Once the blight had made landfall on the island, it romped through the entire country without stopping because the two major varieties planted there shared a genetic susceptibility to the blight. Other potatoes, not grown in Ireland, and ignored for food production at that time, were not susceptible to the blight and it was these other potatoes that provided the genetic material for Ireland to be able to resume growing potatoes to feed their population.

On one hand, governments have established seed banks filled with seeds of commercial crops kept in very cold and very dry conditions to preserve some of the genetic diversity for future generations. Every so often, a seed is selected and grown out to provide more seeds for the seed bank. Though expensive, it is one way genetic diversity can be preserved. Typical of a governmental operation, it is expensive and a large, capital-intense operation.

But the other way of preserving this genetic cornucopia is for gardeners all over the world to grow them and keep the genetic lines vibrant and alive – and even creating more diversity by growing different varieties in their own gardens – or even doing their own crossing and coming up with their own stable hybrids. And enjoying the produce in the meantime! Not nearly as expensive while being more diverse and a lot more fun.

A ‘lite’ version, is to purchase from Seed Savers Exchange and allow them to continue their efforts at growing out the seeds – or join Seed Savers Exchange and be a more integral part of their effort. I support Seed Savers Exchange; investigate them and I think you’ll find their efforts essential too.

At $35, it's not that expensive and would make a wonderful holiday present for someone on your list!


09 December, 2008

Gourmet Garlic for The Masses

Garlic in my garden, planted in October, doesn't really need a sign to tell us what they are, but the sign blends right in with our rustic style.

It’s a bit late, but I finally got around to cleaning up last year’s garlic harvest. It’s a jumble, but there are three varieties of garlic in the bag and not a one of them is available at any local supermarket, although a fortunate soul may find them at a farmers’ market from someone who specializes in garlic. These are hard neck garlics and are not favored in the mass-production/consumption world for several reasons, none of which should deter the home gardener from planting them with abandon.

Hard neck garlic has a reputation of being harder to grow than the more common soft neck garlic. I have not found this to be true. They have grown fine for me in every garden I’ve grown them (three, since I stated this journey) and the payoff in flavor makes any additional difficulty well worth any extra effort.

The main reason supermarkets give for avoiding the hard neck garlic (Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon) though is the fact that they do not keep as well as soft neck garlic (Allium sativum var. sativum). The ‘soft neck’ collapses at the top of the garlic bulb sealing in the flavor and keeping the moisture level perfect for long storage. In addition, the soft neck garlic has more wrapping layers and so are a lot less inclined to spoil while in transit or waiting to be sold, the main consideration of our food marketing system in the US. Flavor is not a factor in the decision-making process for the providers of the American diet and the supermarket garlic is almost always ‘California Early’ or ‘California Late,’ reliable producers, reliable keepers; just lame on real garlicky flavor.

Hard neck garlic, to my taste buds, is as different to the common garlic as a fine cabernet (with a date, no less!) is to a box of red wine. Some of the garlic one can find in this category include: Chesnok Red, Spanish Roja, Killarney Red and Romanian Red, all with a robust flavor that puts the supermarket garlic to shame.

We can still plant garlic here in Southern California gardens, although prime planting time is usually from late September to late November. My garlic is up about ten inches, right now, but with our moderate climate, garlic planted even this late will still provide a lovely harvest – once you’ve gotten towards planting in January though, the bulbs wont’ have time to size up nicely before July/August’s heat and lack of water. Garlic is usually ready to pull in late May and June.

It is easy to plant and to grow.

The garlic bulb is broken into the individual cloves which are then planted pointy end up (you can tell the blunt end is the end where roots were once attached and the pointy end is the end with the leaves), about six inches apart. They are pushed into the ground only as deep as the clove – if some of the clove is still sticking above ground, that’s ok. I know most books (and websites) would have you plant them much deeper, but they are helping you avoid frost damage. Los Angeles hasn’t had a frost in ages so it is not necessary to plant our garlic that deep (it’s also why you can still plant garlic this late in the season!). Garlic does not need a lot of water, but if we have no rain, water it like you would most vegetables, or a little less.

Garlic’s only problematic feature is that it must be allowed to dry out before harvesting – in fact, water should be withheld in the last month or so before pulling the garlic so that it begins to form reasonable wrapping layers that allow it to store. If it is planted near plants that will continue to need water through May and June, this can be hard on those plants or the garlic – you choose.

Garlic can be pulled without the benefit of drying out in the soil, but this does not promote long term storage and hard neck garlic is not well inclined towards long term storage under the best of conditions, so plan on eating your garlic sooner rather than later. That isn’t necessarily a problem for eating it, but it makes saving bulbs for next year’s planting a game of chance.

You can purchase garlic at an organic market (just to make certain its not been treated with something to inhibit sprouting) and plant that, but why bother? It probably won’t be as flavorful of a garlic as one where you buy a named variety as noted above, and if something is available locally there is less incentive to grow it yourself.

Finding seed garlic can be hard at this time of the season, but a quick check on the web will net you some folks with garlic still to sell. If you haven’t done so yet, do it now and you’ll be very pleased with the result.

‘Gourmet’ is within your reach!


06 December, 2008

Seed Catalogs: A Fine Tradition

Casey inspects winter vegetables: quality control at its most effective!

By now most of us have been pretty inundated with the host of shopping catalogs, a problem year round nowadays, but as the year wanes away they are more ubiquitous than chiles at a TexMex cookoff. However, in the midst of all the consumer crap, don’t miss the truly valuable traditional catalogs of this season: the new years’ seed catalogs.

In Southern California, we don’t have the stark seasons that mark the months in other climes. We do have seasons, let no fool tell you we don’t – they have confused ‘weather,’ of which we have very little, being bathed in sunshine for over 350 days a year, with ‘seasons’ which all gardeners know we do have – just try to grow tomatoes in winter – or carrots in summer. But it was in these other climes that the tradition of seed catalogs got established and, being a boy from Kansas, I’m here to tell you that the annual photographic orgy of new seeds still warms my heart with memories.

In the winter months of my childhood, the garden was frozen over and buried under a blanket of snow and my youth was preoccupied with keeping my feet warm. My feet were invariably frozen from the first of November through the end of March and it made me miserable. I never learned to sled or skate because I did not want to venture from the warm house for recreation. I did learn a ferocious game of chess and became somewhat skilled as a cat herder in attempting to get them to stay on my cold feet for warmth. A few cats got the message and were delights – I wouldn’t say they were ‘trained’ but they did spend considerable time ameliorating my suffering.

The other blessing of those winter months were the seed catalogs. We were mailed catalogs from Burpee, Henry Fields, Gurney’s and others, which all came at the time of year when gardeners throughout the frozen world were depressed and undone. With their analgesic daily efforts in the earth ripped from their clutches and the beauty of the garden hidden by ice and snow, these people were prime targets for pictures of blooms in rich glorious color, eggplants hanging seductively from gorgeous green plants, sweet corn ears with the husks teasingly parted to show the heady sight of fresh kernels bursting with milk and flavor. Yes, folks, vegetable porn has been a problem with much deeper roots than you would have imagined. It’s amazing that the Kansas attorney generals, with so much free time on their hands to reconsider Darwin at length and other such superficial pursuits, did not at one time take Mr. Burpee to task for his wanton display of plant sexuality.

But, let me tell you that it was probably those very pictures, added to the experience of cold feet and the sting of losing yet another game of chess to my grandfather that has warped my mind completely and is the real purpose you find me writing here today. Those seed catalogs were not my problem, but my salvation.

Burpee’s was the best because the layout afforded bigger pictures than the others and the printing quality was top notch. Near the fireplace, I spent hour after hour reading all the descriptions of the multitude of varieties, my mouth watering, my fingers aching for dirt under my nails and my clean knees begging to be covered in moist, brown earth. I circled hundreds of choices which I showed Grandpa, not understanding that he would not order a tenth of what I had circled. He saved seed from year to year and thus had little interest, or need, for the gorgeous pictures that had seduced me. He ordered a little here and there, but it was not the ones I drooled over.

Still, a young man, when confronted with a ripely red strawberry, fresh corn, peas and potatoes, does not quibble that this is not the one that helped him survive his depression in the middle of winter. The eating was always good.

I still look through the seed catalogs in winter. The names have changed, Burpee is no longer a respected name in the seed business having forgotten the home gardener and catering pretty much to the hybrid, ‘bigger is better’ crowd. New names have appeared, like Native Seed/Search, Pinetree Garden Seeds (my favorite), Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, Seed Savers Exchange and Nichols in Oregon. I eschew the big names – even Cook’s is no longer a family enterprise. I want the seeds my grandfather saved and not the big fancy hybrids that produce luscious, tasteless fruit that ships well and sets pound after pound of uniformly shippable quasi-food.

My Pinetree catalog was in the mail a week ago, buried among ten others of dubious value hawking electronic goods made in China that help depress our economy (why do we think that the problem is that we are not buying enough vs. not producing enough?) and oppress the Chinese workers to the profit of the very people the American taxpayer is bailing out (not that I have any feelings on any part of this subject), and within the week I had a seed order of $30 off to them. The cover is already ripped from the catalog proper, it’s been abused so badly. Not only have I gone through it several times in as many hours, I spent a memorable afternoon with someone I love very much going through the pages and noting her preferences in the margins so that I may properly plant her summer garden too.

The other catalogs are instantly recyclable, I say. Keep the seed catalogs – they entertain, they inform, they are a tradition of an agricultural society and they have proven as efficacious as Playboy for keeping at least one young man out of harm’s way.


04 December, 2008

"Community Garden"

In the Learning Garden, we try to stay focused on building community. Evidently, according to the news I hear, we will all have the opportunity to face some unprecedented challenges over the coming years. No matter what we have to face, if we can face it as a community, there is a lot of reason to hope. If we will continue to persist to apply old solutions and try to maintain the old individualistic American "gunslinger" mentality ("I can do it myself") tough times only get tougher because no individual is smarter than a group.

What will get us through - not only 'get us through,' but provide the consummate vehicle - is community; sharing ideas, and reaching consensus. Most of us felt a new huge sense of community when we learned the results of our presidential election on November 5th. No matter how one voted, upon hearing the results, we all knew we were witness to history. In the half a century I’ve been alive, the only other times we have come together this way was after some disaster. Here was something we could rejoice about connecting us into a larger group.

Those who volunteer at The Learning Garden are committed to bringing that feeling into this Garden and making it permeate our vision of a community built on plants and sharing the healing and wealth of nature.

Yes, a garden such as our Garden, or any of the community gardens over the world, is about plants, but it doesn't end with plants. In fact, our Garden and others are more about the people who tend them. In that sense, we all grow so much more than plants: A Garden that depends on volunteers and community needs to remember that it is more about ‘growing’ people than plants. So many get involved in a community garden and think that growing food - just because you need food - should be the focus. My experience shows me such an approach is short-sighted.

This is the start of a change. We plant a row of carrots and weed the row, water it as needed and sooner or later get some carrots we can eat. But that is just a part of the woof and warp of this enterprise we call The Learning Garden. We also get to remember the high school students who come through the garden to grow their own carrots, as well as the ones that only get to look through the fence while they wait on the bus: knowing where food comes from cannot always be taken for granted now days. The gulf of missing knowledge about how to live in this world is writ large on some of them. “I don’t want to eat that carrot because it’s been in the dirt,” I heard one student say one day. It would be interesting to see what would happen to his diet if he could see the whole journey his Big Mac made before getting to be his lunch. While we are at it, I wonder where those French fries came from?

Who will grow our food? Where will it come from? Will we outsource it all to foreign countries? How will the cost of food change as the price of oil increases if we have to ship all our food from thousands of miles away? These are legitimate questions that will have to be answered in the very near future. I have my answer.

Here we have a Garden and a community. This world needs both.