Gardening in Florida is tricky business. Blessed with year-round growing temperatures and ample sun, the Florida farmer is often vexed by a complicated array of not easily solved problems. In permaculture, we learn that the problem is the solution and more often than not, what we want is not what the garden wants to give. Take the garden staple tomato as example. Everyone wants to grow them, we love to eat them, but the fact is, they simply don’t grow very well here. Of course, there are always exceptions. I’ve had excellent tomato plants that were prolific producers, though season in and season out, this fruit is the ficklest of them all. We don’t want to spend the day fighting with the garden and its various interlopers because we’ll end up burning more calories than we grow…and that my friend is futile.
The other thing we don’t want to do is spend all our money purchasing nutrients. Yes, it’s easier to go to the store and buy all the things a garden needs in neat pre-packaged plastic bags. We could also forgo the idea of starting a garden in the first place and buy our produce from the local grocery store. If you’re following along with this blog and you’re thinking that this gardening stuff is hard work, you’re correct. It is much easier NOT to grow food, but is that really something we should leave to large industrial corporations?
I won’t re-hash all the informative statistics and evidence of how three to four giants control our food supply and how our food is turning into nutritionless frankenfood. Pick up any recently written piece by Michael Pollan and you’ll get an eyeful. Growing food for me is personal and the personal is political.
Not everyone has the skills, knowledge or ambition to grow food, nor should they, but we all have to eat. In most developed countries, we trade money that we make at a job, for food we purchase at the grocery store. This seems to be completely rational behavior. Believe me, I question myself everyday, asking why would I want to coax food out of the ground, when I can be at the Publix in seven minutes and have a cart full of groceries within a half hour? Must I be insane?
No, I am a quiet activist, who enjoys tasty and nutritious food. There is a pervasive notion in this country that we must acquire more things and acquire them through debt and working a job that we may not find fulfilling. What if we decide to NOT participate in this aspect of citizenry? This requires discipline in actively reducing one’s reliance on outside inputs or becoming independently wealthy. Either way, the concept of being truly free in a democratic society is beyond our reach, unless we are able to choose or not choose to take part in the status quo economy and at what level.
Growing food is one way to reclaim some of these choices. Further decoupling from the formal economy by choosing to reduce our ecological footprint and living a less energy intensive life can provide even more freedom and choice. It’s no secret that the wealthiest 10% of the population hold more wealth, and control more GDP than the other 90%. The income disparity grows by the year as the middle class vanishes. Real incomes adjusted for inflation have decreased over the last few decades and more people will slip into poverty and go hungry in 2010 than any time since the great Depression. Yet, we continue to believe the next year will be better or somehow we will miraculously return to the past of borrowing and buying our way to exponential growth and a joyous good time for all.
I am choosing to grow food. I grow food so my family can eat well. I grow food because I am passionate about growing food. I grow food to sell to others who want to eat well, but are unable to grow their own food. I choose to grow food because it is a valuable skill that requires a certain knowledge of ancient biological mechanisms, something that few individuals possess or are interested in acquiring. I grow food because it is empowering. I grow food because it is a worthwhile job to do.