Gardening? You’re a farmer
It’s almost summer! I have been enjoying all the pre-summer activities, including planting season, lawn mowing season and gardening season.
Those three things are probably some of my favorite pre-summer activities; however, I do love gardening quite a bit. There is something so fun about playing in the dirt, putting in plants, and then waiting, hoping and even praying that something delicious springs up.
From as early as I can remember, my family has had a garden. Originally, I remember my great-grandparents having a garden patch out at their farm, but those memories are very vague and hazy because I would have been very little at the time. The next garden I remember was at my grandparents’ house and it was a large strip of dirt behind the barn that Grandpa planted and then we ate out of all summer.
I’m not sure where they bought their plants or even how they decided what to plant, but I remember green beans, peppers, tomatoes of all kinds, zucchini and corn. I’m sure there were some vegetables that I have lost to the sands of time, but as a kid, I can remember helping him weed the garden and picking off bright red jewels from the tomato plants and popping them into my mouth. Those little sun-warmed rubies were unlike the tomatoes found in the grocery store and I was obsessed with them.
Green beans provided another treat. The crispy crunch of a fresh bean between my teeth was heaven. Watery slices of fresh cucumbers provided a welcome relief on those burning summer days as we sat on the swing under the pine trees.
While those summer days may just be beautiful memories now, the garden still exists.
As my grandfather got older, it went from a huge patch to a smaller strip until finally the garden was handed over to my mother. Her yard possessed a large square garden, similar to my grandfather’s. However, hers needed to be surrounded by a fence to protect it from the deer that frequented my mother’s house.
Many hours were spent with her in the garden picking ruby red tomatoes, crispy green beans and watery cucumbers. We also attempted to branch out. One year there were sweet potatoes, another year jalapenos, another year watermelons, and a few more experiments whose results have been forgotten. That garden not only provided delicious food but life lessons in cooking and canning.
Now my mom’s giant garden has been passed on to me. If you drive by my home, there is a huge garden plot visible from that kitchen window. Right now, it does not look like much. My plants are tiny and still growing; my flowers have been planted in the front of the garden to bring some joy to people passing by. The garden has expanded — pumpkins, watermelon, corn, four different types of tomatoes, two different types of peppers, okra, Brussels sprouts, green beans, zucchini, strawberries and asparagus. It’s not always beautifully manicured, and by the end of the summer it looks overrun and scraggly, but it still produces those ruby red tomatoes, crispy green beans and watery cucumbers that bring to mind summers of the past.
So why this trip down the garden memory lane you ask? Well, gardening is actually farming on a much smaller scale. It runs in the blood. Think about how many of you are excited to get out and play in your backyard dirt as soon as the weather gets nice. It’s exactly like that with farmers.
Then once everything is planted, there is that anticipation of harvest. For gardening the question focuses on what will I get first? Will I get a crispy green bean first? A dark green zucchini? A deep red tomato? Same for farmers, except they know what they are getting; the question just focuses on how much exactly will they get to the acre.
So often when I’m trying to talk to people about why they should join Farm Bureau, I get the answer of, “Well, I’m not a farmer.” My response to that answer is to ask if the person gardens. Often the answer is yes.
Gardening is farming; in fact, gardeners are probably the original farmers. But it’s more than that. As the Lorax said, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” (Dr. Seuss). And that’s the truth. It’s not just farmers that are needed to help influence policy, provide feedback and do outreach work. It’s all of us: farmers, gardeners, dabblers and even eaters.
So this summer, as you get ready to head out to the garden, think about all the things that go into your garden (memories, plants, manure, labor, and love) and think about how you can make sure that you can pass those garden memories onto the next generation.
Clemson is a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau and completed her doctorate at the Pennsylvania State University. She and her family farm in Mecca.