To Be In The Know, Ask Those Who Grow
By John Sales
OK, friends, spring is coming. In fact, despite our recent snowfall it’s just around the corner. You have made up your mind that this will indeed be the year you try gardening and growing at least a portion of your own food. Perhaps you’ve even decided how much garden you would like to have and what you would care to grow. So what comes next?
How. It’s a simple question with a somewhat complex answer. How do I grow the vegetables I want to grace my kitchen table? When should I plant? Now at this point in your reading you might expect me to go into some vast detail on how to grow or set out the garden of your dreams. Sorry. You might even expect me to list off any number of good books on that very subject that are no doubt waiting at your local library. Nope, wrong again. While I believe in the value of reading and research, there is one source of knowledge that is so very often overlooked because of its simplicity. Perhaps even the best source. The answer is right there in our own neighborhoods and community.
It is those who have simply done it before, or still do. Friends, you and I have access to the best resource on the planet when it comes to all things green. Our seniors. I learned at a very young age a most valuable lesson. If you want to know how to do something, ask those who have done it for a living. Or to even step it up a notch, ask those who have depended on it for their living. Now this suggestion would apply to just about every undertaking one can think of, but we’re talking about food production so that’s what we will focus on. What better source of wisdom can be sought out, than those who grew their own food because they had too. As Americans, most of us are three generations at most, dislocated from the farm. In many areas of our great nation, two or at least one of those same generations mentioned still coexist with the present one.
Did you know that the grocery store concept as we know it today did not come on scene until the 1940s? Perhaps even later in some areas. So how did folks survive? They simply grew and produced their own food. Yes, the answer is indeed that simple. Even the “factory farm” model that is sadly so often promoted as feeding the world, is indeed less than 50 years old. And all too often it doesn’t produce food, real food. Its reward is “food like” products. Acres upon acres of row cropped soybeans or mill corn. No, friends, even though it might welcome an argument at your local CO-OP, most of your big farmers today have no idea how to go about growing actual food, non-dependent upon chemicals or expensive machinery. But guess what? Chances are someone in your neighborhood does. It could even be that little old man who lives just down the road or perhaps even next door.
I’m going to bet my next sandwich there is someone within a short drive of anywhere in rural America that remembers growing up, growing your own food to survive. That’s the key right there. To survive. Not farming as a hobby or growing tomatoes and beans as a novelty, but those who did so because they had too. To do otherwise or to have their crops fail meant going hungry or perhaps worse, starvation. This is the No. 1 resource you will ever find when it comes to learning how to grow your own garden. And sadly, it is most often overlooked and neglected. Don’t make that mistake. More often than not, their wisdom can lead you in the correct direction. They can not only share with you what works and what doesn’t, but often what time of year to begin and which methods work best in your area. Time is running out. For this blessing will not be here forever, none of us will. And, friends, it’s up to us to gain this wisdom and relearn what has been cast aside. Our future very well may depend on it.
Ask your neighbors. Perhaps the elder couple that lives down the road, the farm next door. And chances are, once you do ask and begin down the road that is this topic, you are going to be surprised at how freely the information flows. It’s going to be like a faucet with a broken valve. Take notes. Ask questions, solicit even, but do so kindly with a big smile and always with a welcome gesture. Then later on, return with a gift of the bounty nature has provided. We can read all day long. Pour ourselves into every book published and not come close to knowing what those who might be just next door know. I promise all the answers to the questions you might have are just waiting. To one day count yourself as those in the know, ask those who have grown.
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