Growing through grief and praising the urban food movement


(photo credit: Kenneth Byes)

<Orchard Sigh>   This photo was taken in a beloved orchard of around 20 citrus varieties, some specimens over 50 years old.  This place of production and respite has long since disappeared for high tech greenhouses.  Change rocks your world and you look back to happier times, missing old orchards.

A habit of planting trees wherever I go can be explained by my lifelong awareness of our mortal condition.  Even with that knowledge, I feel crushed by the loss of a parent – someone who made a difference – and it’s making me think back to what I have done of significance –  if anything.  To me it seems, most significantly, I grow plants.  Perhaps my propagating habits will rescue me from regret in the end.  ‘Live Long and Propagate.’

<Portable Plants and Tolerant Crops>   Like a goldfish in a tiny bowl, trees that are constricted in a pot will be limited in growth and production. And so my potted plant collection continues to exist, awaiting a permanent home for unrestricted growth.

It is a testimony to their greatness that plants will withstand such confinement.  And, as with domesticated animals, the great industrial vegetable crops (tomatoes, corn, beans to name a few) withstand immense stressors and pressures to provide high volumes of uniform product.  It’s truly amazing.

Despite the violent successes of industrial agriculture, I am more encouraged by the energy and persistence of food democracy advocates and the ever growing Organic food movement which promotes better alternatives for a well fed and peaceful world.

<Growing Local Food Systems>   It’s all about education and celebration of our powers as individuals who can make change locally.  We are moving to a more decentralized and locally integrated model of food production and consumption.  I’m excited that today’s urban food movement is waking up new generations of citizens about taking responsibility for growing and securing local food systems.

Local community gardens, School Gardens and activist organizations like  Judith Yisrael’s family farm in Oak Park are enriching and popularizing the urban food movement.  Besides producing great veggies, it creates opportunities to strengthen ties and build community.  In an age of big data and kids lost in digital space, I can think of no better way than gardening – to help them ground their energies in the real stuff of life that makes all things possible.




1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Mahaj
    Mar 20, 2016 @ 13:55:49

    Grieving and growing: what a fine blend. I have grieved for family and friends, as you now grieve for your mother, and as well have grieved for the losses in the coniferous forest of Salmon River during the fires that raged there decades apart. Now, I stare up to the coastal foothills ravaged by the fires of the summer of 2015 and see so many oaks that were already drought stressed that will likely not live, as the cambium at their bases is burned.

    What can we do? Our neighbor gave us sprouting acorns the other day and Cedar and I planted them in pots to give them head start and are thinking about where best to plant them.
    When I garden; harvesting, planting, getting my fingers in the soil, I feel rejuvenated. When I think about the hundreds of thousands of citrus and other fruit trees and shrubs that we sent to gardeners across the nation during our tenure at Four Winds, I feel good – And it is still going on; planting, pruning, fertilizing and shipping.

    As you plant and garden, may your spirit grow lighter and your connection with loved ones grow deeper.


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