Hope springs from growing food

It’s spring again in New England and the gardeners are out in force. Most of my neighbors know I have a big garden, raise chickens, collect honey from my backyard bee hive and harvest greens throughout the winter in an unheated greenhouse.

So I often get the question (while walking Riley our dog), Why do you want to do all that work?  My first thought often goes to the reality of our current global situation, which in my mind includes the “perfect storm” of climate change, peak oil and economic downturn.

But rather than launching into my rap about the need for more community and family-level self-sufficiency in the face of this global crisis, I generally choose to tell my neighbor about a book I just read.

“Prelude” by Kurt Cobb is a fast-paced espionage story set in a time of escalating oil and gas prices. One of my favorite scenes comes when Cassie Young, a rising star at a Washington, D.C., energy consulting firm, asks a friend, Victor Chernov, “…so what do we do now that we know the truth about peak oil?”  For Cassie, this is a moment of despair, which many of us have felt.

And Victor’s response — grow a garden!  It seems this former oil executive is learning to grow tomatoes at his Washington, D.C. townhouse.

While not destined to become a classic, the appearance of mass market books like “Prelude” suggests we are beginning to accept the fact that we are facing an oil/climate crisis — and yes, at least one of the solutions might be to grow food for myself, my family and my neighborhood.

The author, a founding member of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, proposes a simple response to the crisis we seem afraid to face. Cobb reminds us that “fear trumps hope” and finding a source of hope is a necessary first step toward developing solutions to a problem.

I believe that if we can’t imagine reasonable solutions to a crisis, then we are not going to face the problem – not matter how real and critical it may be. So yes, let’s grow more food. This might be anything from a single potted herb on a windowsill to a big family garden. For me, I like to give fresh eggs from my backyard hens to my neighbors.  One of my favorite local groups is Grow Food Amherst, which works to encourage others to grow food in my hometown, Amherst, Massachusetts.

We realize of course, that a potted herb plant, a few eggs or even bushels of tomatoes won’t solve global problems like climate change and rising oil prices, but it is a place to begin to find hope.

And with hope, anything is possible.

My neighbors often ask if I really believe the “perfect storm” was imminent.  So, I take a deep breath, give the dog another biscuit and launch into the “do it anyway” rap.  That’s the one that says that taking care of each other is a better way to live, even if there was no crisis. And if the perfect storm slams us sooner than any one of us would hope, at least we’ve begun to take some steps to be better prepared.

  • So yes, let’s learn to grow more food.

  • And let’s learn to cook real food.

  • And let’s buy from local farmers.

  • And let’s teach each other how to do all these things better by sharing our knowledge and experience.

I was interviewed by a TV news reporter recently about my involvement with Grow Food Amherst, that encourages others to grow more food. I asked her if she had ever grown a garden and when I learned that she had not, I encouraged her to start with a potted herb plant on the windowsill – and she did.

In fact she sent me a picture of herself with her first food plant which she purchased on her way home that same day!  It’s a beginning!


Please check out my Just Food Now Resource Page and see our Sustainable Food and Farming page. Please share this blog with anyone who might be interested in either the Bachelor of Sciences degree or our 15 credit Certificate Program at the University of Massachusetts.

One thought on “Hope springs from growing food”

  1. Everyone hopes that spring brings growth to their food. With the change in the weather lately so much in Illinois, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the food doesn’t turn out how it is supposed too. One second it is really hot outside and then the next day is really cold. This effects the food and it might ruin the food. That is why when you have a garden you can’t plant the plants all at the same time you have to space them out. Some plants like the sun while others love the shade. Gardening is environmentally friendly and with people raising more crops and plants it helps balance out the negative effects of population and pollution. Gardening is a great and easy way to get people together and to interact with others. It is also cheaper to buy seeds and to plant vegetables and plants by yourself then to go to the store and buy it. Community gardens provide fresh produce and plants as well as satisfying labor, neighborhood improvement, sense of community and connection to the environment. Some advantages of having a community garden range from helping out yourself, or even helping out the environment. Community gardens gives gardening space to those who live in apartments, have yards that are not garden friendly or live in cities. Gardening takes time and effort but if it is done the right way then there shouldn’t be any stress!

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