Updated: Apr 8, 2020
So here we find ourselves. The grocery store shelves are emptying and the inherent risks of a globalized food system are becoming much more clear...
As the reality sets in about the scale of this pandemic, a very fascinating thing is happening. Vegetable seed sales are beginning to SKYrocket. Nurseries are selling out of stock ahead of schedule. Local farms are seeing rising memberships, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) veggie box programs as selling out, and folks are looking at their turf grass lawns differently, realizing the beautiful potential... for a garden.
As people diligently stay home to 'flatten the curve' and help support our medical systems, it seems many are also considering how we might also 'flatten the curve' on our historically peaked reliance on imported foods.
Organically growing your own food - even just a little - not only massively reduces your overall carbon footprint, it also helps improve the resilience of our collective local food systems. And never in recent history has the need for thriving local food economies, based on healthy local ecosystems, been so important.
This phenomenon of an upswell in gardening in face of empty shelves has been termed 'crisis gardening'. As Rose Hayden-Smith, a food historian and author of 'Sowing the Seeds of Victory' pointed out in a recent HuffPost article, "concerns about food security led to the Victory Garden movement during WWI and WWII; seed retailers and greenhouses also saw sales spikes during the Great Recession."
“It’s helpful to be productive and connect with nature" says Hayden-Smith, "and it’s something that’s within our control in a situation that feels entirely out of control."
While I head out to bang pots and pans from my doorstep each night, in thanksgiving to our heroic health care workers at their hour of shift-change, I also feel determined to bang a metaphorical pot or two right now for the local food growers, and for all those who are starting (or increasing) their backyard gardens this year. Many might just fall in love with the communion with nature that gardening provides. Some might realize the work it takes to produce food and look at what is on their plates each day with a new-found sense of respect and gratitude. Some might fail, but will learn from their mistakes. Some will certainly flourish.
Having farmed myself for many years I can speak to the real effort it takes for farmers, large and small, to grow food and medicine in a changing climate. It is not an easy undertaking, no matter how you cut it. From my experience, the joys outweigh the challenges. For others, it may feel differently. For us all, we need to eat. So whether you grow yourself or buy from local farmers in your community, now is a GOOD time to be really looking at ways to support our local food systems, and to take some time to feel grateful for our food, and the land where it comes from. Now is a great time, to step onto your lawn...and dream a garden into being.
Let us continue to support the growth of healthy food systems and ecological farming. Together, let's flatten this curve too.