Thursday, January 7, 2010

Farmer or Gardener: We Need Both!

Syke and I are home again today, although very little snow seems to have fallen last night. Love reports black ice on the roads and recommends that we stay home. It is cold, cold, cold: 11 degrees at 7:30 this morning. The news is full of reports of cold weather over much of the eastern half of the country. Citrus and strawberry farmers in Florida are battling for their crops and losing those battles. Such reports always bring back memories for me of life as a farmer's daughter, watching the weather take the year's profits. It takes great courage and faith to be a good farmer, and the country certainly needs more, especially young ones. But every family needs a gardener -- no, not a gardener on staff, but a family member who grows some of the family's food!

Sharon Astyk ran a piece several months ago about what makes one a farmer, and her definition -- and that of many of her readers -- is much broader than mine. I've thought a lot since then about how I define a farmer. I am not a farmer, and neither is my daughter. Growing things is an absolute necessity for my sanity, I spend much of my time at home in the gardens, my family eats what I grow, and we even sell blueberries most summers. Skye sells eggs on a weekly basis. But we're not farmers. If I call myself a "farmer," then the stakes change. If the garden fails, we can still afford to eat and pay the mortgage. If the farm fails, we lose the paycheck and the house and the farm.

And yet, there are farmers who farm in their spare time. Farmers who take day jobs (or the night shift) to keep the farm going. Farming couples who depend on one spouse's income to keep the family afloat. What makes them farmers while I'm not?

True farmers know that farming is a business. They may be true masters of the art and science that is farming, but they must be business people as well. Even if it's hard times for the business, even if it's running in the red, a farm is a business. Gardening is not. Gardening is growing food for your own table and panty and maybe a bit left over. That doesn't make "gardening" a dirty word (although there is plenty of dirt involved!) Gardens can make the difference between an abundance of food for a family and scarity, between a well-laden pantry and a bare one, between healthy food and junk food. Gardens made a difference for the country during World War II and for families during the Great Depression. And gardens can make a difference now.

So, if you haven't made a New Year's resolution, here's one for you: Garden! Whether it's a couple of pots on the patio, a couple of raised beds in the back yard, or your own personal paradise, garden! If you already garden, add something: a new variety of okra or a new technique or an additional bed. If you are a gardener who doesn't grow food, make a few changes or additions: a blueberry bush where you were planning a flowering quince, an apple tree where you had planned a Bradford pear, a few herbs among the posies, or even edible flowers -- nasturtiums add flavor and color to salads. Everyone gardens (or farms) in 2010!

No comments: