I went out to my garden this morning and was so pleased. It gave me such a sense of well-being and thankfulness to look out over the fall crops, still dripping from yesterdays rain. The cool air of autumn gently kissed my face and arms as I bent among the pepper plants weighed to the ground with their offerings, and the tomato vines sprawling across the ground. I looked out over the small peas and winter greens, the sweet potatoes nearly ready to be harvested, the broccoli and cabbage plants growing huge in the fresh, cool air. Near-by the chickens clucked contentedly in their run wile enjoying the chickweed I tossed in. I gathered 9 eggs this morning from my gentle hens, and one from the ducks, plenty for our needs.
As I walked among the plants and animals I thought about all the hungry people in just my town alone. I thought about all those struggling, and I thought about the waste in our culture. Our small garden provided more than we actually need so we bought pigs to clean up the extra and still provide yet another form of food for our table. Very little of our land is given to garden, and yet we have enough, if I had help, to feed at least half of the fresh food needs of 3 families, or 75% of the needs of 2 families. If a neighbor were to help with weeding and caring for the garden and plants and preserve some of the food, our garden could easily meet needs beyond our own family. Of course, they won’t. Most of the time I just have people ask for some of the free, effortless food growing out of our ground. Here is the thing, though; no one needs to go hungry! Between the wild plants (often called weeds) and the planned plantings, there is an abundance of food! In our little town there are hungry people. Some of those people are just users, but others are too old or too young or simply have no idea where to start in providing for themselves. I love the community gardens that have begun to crop up in cities and small towns, in country clubs and inner city government housing areas. Sadly, they are in short supply. Many elderly grow flowers instead of vegetables and children are not allowed to get dirty or play with worms in a family garden plot. It wasn’t all that long ago the government told people it was their civic duty to grow a small garden and provide some of their own food needs, but today most people are so busy they just say they couldn’t possibly have time, or the ability, to grow vegetables, yet they take expensive vacations, buy short-life electronics, spend evenings in front of the television.
It is my belief that all able-bodied persons have a duty to grow at least a little food. Maybe its just some salad greens, or maybe a tomato or two in a bucket, but everyone should grow something. I believe that everyone should have access to information on how to garden, and children should be taught agriculture and gardening from an early age, and even spend an hour a day helping in school or community gardens by the time they are in middle school. I believe that extra should be shared with those too weak or ill to garden for themselves; can you imagine what it would do to take a basket of fresh veggies to an elderly neighbor each day? How it would change their lives and improve their health? Can you imagine what it would do for our children to help pick those hard won foods and then share the bounty with a friends family that is struggling because their dad got laid off or their mom was ill? I realize there are picky, wasteful people out there, but I also think that if more people started growing their own foods that much of those traits would dissolve. We can’t let those that have forgotten what real food is, those that have forgotten how to be thankful for simple things and not waste them, we can’t allow them to stop us from sharing our knowledge or stop us from helping those in need.
Here is the point of all this; what are YOU doing to help others in your community? Are you only concerned with your own family, or do you reach out with your knowledge and skills and bounty to help at least one other person or family? If this never occurred to you, I would challenge you to find an elderly or down-on-their-luck person in your circle and see what you can do to help them. Take the a basket of garden veggies to the old widow in the carefully mended dress that your church is praying for. Offer to teach the struggling young mother with 4 children two houses down how to plant a kiddie pool with fresh veggies. And maybe even take them a cup of tea and sit and visit for a few minutes. It will be a blessing to you as well as them. And if, by some chance, you hit on a dud, don’t give up! Try again because we can only change the world in small ways, but the ripples from one small act can change the world.