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A little over a year ago, my daughter came home from school with a permission slip. “I need you to sign this for me,” she said as I scanned it. “It’s so that I can go to the nursery with the class tomorrow.”
“Oh, are you going to learn about plants?” I asked, reaching for a pen.
“Well, yes … but also we’re going to buy plants. For our class garden.”
More questioning revealed that my daughter’s class, as classes before them had done, was going to create a square-foot garden: each child would be responsible for tending a square foot. As I listened to her describe what she wanted to grow in her section of the garden, I felt a nagging guilt, and the fact that I had only recently watched this video by guerrilla gardener Ron Finley didn’t help matters. I signed the permission slip, and took a deep breath: it was time.
Even though my grandmother always had a huge fruit and vegetable garden in her back yard, my parents’ garden has always made up primarily of flowers, with few edible crops. For this reason, I didn’t grow up knowing really anything about how to grow food. And the truth is, the prospect has terrified me. But for a brief little taste of success growing zinnias a few years ago, green things had always tended to shrivel up and die if I so much as look at them. But suddenly, it felt important for us to grow food. Ron Finley’s exhortation that growing food is a revolutionary act resonated with me. That fact that food deserts even exist in a country as wealthy as the United States seemed wrong. And besides, it feels like supporting the learning Alex is getting in school with regard to growing our own vegetables is an important thing for us to do.
And so, I begged my husband Marcus to build a couple of beds in our back yard (using a bit of reclaimed wood we had lying around), so we could plant. And happily he did. So we did.
It didn’t look like much, but in the end we grew cherry tomatoes, peppers, mint, rosemary, asparagus beans and limes. Throughout the summer, it was amazing that as we decided what we wanted to cook for our evening meal, it invariably included walking into our back garden and harvesting something from our small beds. By the end of the summer, we had built two more beds, adding peppers, okra and even ginger to our little “farm.” It was an amazing little project that my daughter and I did together — particularly since she could take the learnings that she absorbed from her class garden, and bring them home to teach me.
This year, we’re late in planting — our beds are cleared, but we’ve yet to sow any seeds — but I hope to repeat our little farming experiment. Because there’s something about eating produce from your own garden — it just tastes better, somehow.