Part 2: Gardening
It’s spring time, and people’s fancy turns to, no not THAT, to gardening.
Our grandparents lived the original “hundred mile diet.” Did they eat avocados in January? No. For that matter, did they even know what an avocado was? No!
They did know about gardening because, being farmers, they had huge gardens. We had two gardens which we switched between in alternate years, plus a huge potato patch just outside the farm yard. Even most people who lived in cities had some sort of garden.
During both world wars, every city, town and village had its “Victory Garden,” usually an unused plot of land. They were promoted as providing a healthy, patriotic activity, for more produce grown at home meant more produce shipped to the troops overseas. Although they were more of a symbolic rather than an actual benefit, people felt they were doing something tangible in defeating the enemy.
Gardening provided more than fresh vegetables during the growing season; it was the source of all vegetables and fruits that would be eaten during the winter. August was a mad house of canning – and once electricity arrived, freezing – the garden produce: peas, beans, carrots, corn, tomatoes, and beets. Root crops – potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips, onions – together with squash and cabbage went into the root cellar. Berries and apples became jams and jellies. Cucumbers became pickles. It was a matter of pride to have one’s cellar stacked from floor to ceiling with gleaming jars of preserves.
Now, we go to the store. It’s easier. And it makes us vulnerable.
Of course, there’s a significant difference between then and now. During the war periods, a large proportion of people lived in rural areas, either on farms or in villages and small towns, and city-dwellers lived predominately in single family homes. It was possible then for almost everyone to have a garden.
Today, the population is predominately urban, and many people live in high-density neighbourhoods – condos, townhouses or apartment buildings. It’s difficult to have a garden when you have only a tiny balcony, if that, for a couple of potted tomato plants.
Limited garden space hasn’t stopped people this spring. Nurseries have never been more popular. Seed packets are as scarce as toilet paper. Bedding plants are flying out the doors. Cabbages are preferred to calendula, parsley to poppies.
A garden may ensure at least a small proportion of food but more important is the emotional and gustatorial satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment that no trip to the grocery store can match. And, as people will learn when they pick that first ripe tomato or zucchini or lettuce leaves – the taste! Oh, the taste! No store-bought vegetable can match that.
Alas, gardening is no longer an adequate solution to feed the many and not just because of lack of space. Most urbanites are now removed one or more generations from the gardening protocol. They have lost the knowledge of how to grow a garden and preserve its produce, nor do they have the room to store a winter’s supply. To compound the problem, they often have no one with experience to turn to. Even though community gardens and farmers’ markets provide some locally-sourced food security, they’re insufficient to feed an entire city.
So, if the idea of rationing rankles and gardening is a band-aid solution at best, how can we ensure food security during this pandemic?
Next: Security in the Time of COVID, Part 3: Relief
P.S. Tell me: what are your gardening plans this spring?
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