Monday Aug 02

Amanda-McGuire Jane Kenyon, my all-time favorite poet, is responsible for inspiring me to attempt gardening. After reading her essays in A Hundred White Daffodils, I planted hostas, tulips, and daffodils. I didn’t have the green thumb to nurture the daffodils, but there’s something very gratifying about seeing the first blooms of the tulips and hostas each year. 

Once I became involved in the local food movement, again I was inspired to garden. I tried tomatoes, which I basically drowned (and killed) with love. Proof again I don’t have a green thumb, but those who do have all of my support.

In a time when many people associate juicy plump red tomatoes with the supermarket produce section, there are countless farmers and gardeners growing gorgeous, imperfect (or perfect, depending on your point of view), delectable heirloom tomatoes in their own backyards, community spaces, or even abandoned lots in urban centers. Not even twenty years ago, many families had backyard garden beds that were chockfull of tomatoes, squashes, and peppers. Quite a few dedicated folks are dedicating to reconnecting Americans with their land and motivating folks to eat seasonally, eat locally, and to grow—with our own hands—the food we eat.

Here in the kickoff of growing season, I want to share some of the awesome stories of farmers and gardeners who were called to plant, grow, and harvest.

Maia and Jacob of After the Fall Farm in Montville, Maine share how farming became their fate in Arielle Greenberg and Rob Morris’ excerpt from the New Back-to-the-Land Project. Maia and Jacob’s lives illustrate how the earth not only bears food but also creates the bonds of community. In my opinion, the back-to-the-land movement is the seed of a true food revolution, and I love that Arielle and Rob are dedicated to this movement and have devoted their stellar talents to giving voice to something so powerful that it could transform America’s way of thinking about food.

Speaking of food revolutions, before Jamie Oliver came to America to improve school lunches, Chef Charlie Loomis was “digging up schoolyards and planting vegetables where weeds once thrived.” Clara Silverstein, author of A White House Garden Cookbook (Red Rock Press, forthcoming June 1) shows how knowing where food comes from creates much less picky eaters!

Community gardens also provide opportunities for folks to reacquaint themselves with the land. In fact, in an effort to learn more about gardening and contribute to my own community, I’ve pledged time this summer to a local community garden, and come fall I’ll teach a service-learning writing course in which students also will tend to and harvest the community garden, which wouldn’t be possible without Krista Elvey. She’s an inspiration. First because she’s an endlessly resourceful, driving force. Krista cares and she makes change happen. Second, she’s fearless. New to gardening—last year—she’s made a space where people, including herself, can learn gardening skills or hone their mastery. There’s no judgment, just a greater good. I’m really excited to develop my green thumb with Krista. (Lord, I hope I don’t kill more than I grow.) More so, I’m very honored to work with her.

It’s also an honor to include a piece by Lynn Gregor in this issue. She’s a brilliant gardener and devoted community member. And her essay highlights my all-time favorite veggie: Kale. Lynn’s got some great tips for growing kale and cooking it. After I read her piece for the first time my hankering for the “super green” led me to cook and eat two pounds in one afternoon. (I have a feeling if Jane Kenyon were alive she’d plant kale and help out with a community garden…)

I hope the tales from these farmers and gardeners inspire you to plant a few seeds this spring—be it in a garden bed or window box. Or, if you’re like me and kill more than you actually grow, I hope our May issue leads you to buy some fresh, seasonal produce from a local farmer who’s experienced enough to keep the produce alive and feed the lot of us whose thumbs are only green with envy.