Photo by Fotolia/nkarol
I will never forget the day a few years ago when I visited the Seed Savers Exchange farm in Decorah, Iowa. It was November, so the farm’s expansive gardens weren’t in bloom, but still I left the place in total awe. I was most struck by the meeting of past and present — the farm houses thousands of seeds that have been saved and handed down from gardener to gardener, many for hundreds of years, yet it’s also home to sophisticated labs where white-coated technicians tend seedlings growing in test tubes in climate-controlled incubators.
Combining the technological and communications capabilities of today with the wisdom of the past to improve our world always makes me feel a little giddy. I love honoring our generations of collective human wisdom and experience while also utilizing the marvels of modern technology.
We can connect the past with the future in this way in our own gardens by growing heirloom crops, many of which have been passed down for generations. When we do, we preserve a piece of the past, honoring our ancestors by growing, preparing and eating the very same plants they grew in their gardens and served on their tables. And with the same action we help safeguard the future by contributing to the preservation of our planet’s agrobiodiversity. We build upon the work of our predecessors to help shape the future we want for our posterity.
For many of us, the present feels like a momentous time in history. Some long for a past that seemed simpler and easier, while others are eager to move toward a more progressive future. Whatever mix of these feelings lies within you, the garden may help ground you. Physically connecting with the earth can offer comfort, providing a link to our human history, our place in the world, and hark back to the past. Growing food for ourselves and our communities can also feel revolutionary: After all, by tending and sharing crops, we circumvent the industrial food system, and reach across tribal divides toward a shared prosperity. Gardening is also scientifically proven to calm us, reduce anger and stress, and soothe the senses — which is why it’s used therapeutically for everyone from elementary school students to soldiers suffering PTSD and prison populations. Plus, it yields nutritious food we can gather together to prepare and share, one of humanity’s most deep-seated cultural touchstones.
This season, whether you’re motivated to plant a garden for the flavor of homegrown tomatoes; to physically connect with memories of the past; or to take a small step toward a sustainable future, working in the garden is certain to offer good medicine indeed.
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