Lessons from 2021
In the Spring of 2020 we, like most seed companies, were booming with orders from people motivated to grow their own food! Small scale farmers moved quickly to answer the demand for fresh local produce buying diversified crops to supply local farmers markets, and successful Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription orders filled out in record numbers at the commencement of the growing season. People wanted to secure locally grown healthy food! By the time 2021 started, many had come to consider investing in bioregional food sources a wise investment.
Some of our growers pivoted quickly with these changes in 2020 and 2021 and produced high quantities of crop seed that are in demand, while others worked to maintain, and others made cut-backs out of necessity. Overall SRSC growers have produced more together, introducing several new varieties, with a high germination rates! This all happened with late frosts, early heatwaves, and increasingly smoke-filled skies in the summers.
1. When we work with our shared history, community-to-community, we grow more than food.
New gardeners rose to the challenge during 2020 when lockdowns were happening everywhere—an answering echo to prior generations taking up gardening en masse during WWI and WWII. 80 years later there are some who are starting 1st and 2nd-year gardens with the awareness of the history about the revival of the Victory Garden program in WWII. It was necessary to supplement the loss of domestic food and vegetable production due to the internment of Japanese American farmers, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor December 7th, 1941, who produced 9% of the nations truck crops in 1940 and were expected to produce "40% of the truck crops needed for the war effort."
In 2021 newcomers (aware or not of this history) adapted to shifting priorities and demands, while trying to follow through with the timeline of gardening. Weeds won't wait for short summer trips, zucchinis won’t wait for demanding weeks at work, and a frost warning threatening late-season tomatoes won't wait for conferences or challenging new school year demands.
Folks that gardened for the first time through all the weather conditions mentioned above also learned some about what goes into food production now. Compassion and awareness for Latine farm workers grew as well. National conversations continue, helping to connect us to the part of United States history that isn’t often discussed, and that is our systemic reliance on exploited labor, and utilizing land that was stolen from Indigenous Peoples. Now, some of us are building deeper understanding. When we are called upon for support, many more of us are listening and responding, and carrying conversations into the next phases of becoming communities that pull together, but we have a long way to go. Many people want to heal historic wrongs or just want to live in a peaceful co-existence with all people. Working with our shared history consciously is a good first step.
2. New gardeners are learning how hard it is to grow good food.
We are living in a world where much is happening in digital spaces. Many new gardeners came into this world during the Age of Information, growing up with hours of television, smartphones, and apps filling time. Educational programming and hiring practices have led to lots of technical jobs presenting us with new free tools for understanding and sharing, a wealth of information—but a generation (or two) of disconnection from old wisdom about the ways of plants, and even older wisdom about the ways of soil, water and wildlife is evident.
Our grandparents and parents may have come from a lineage of farmers/gardeners before them. Some newcomers to this practice may be hearing the echoes about “waste not, want not” wringing through our ears as we stared with overwhelm at one notification after another about a free permaculture course, or an entire family-supporting garden program available through a local college online. Seed saving, compost, raised beds, hügel rows, and all sorts of garden starting information flooded social media groups, YouTube, and inboxes. Yet, many folks are adapting, letting that resonant information sift to the top of their mental winnowing processes, trying their hands at new things, hopefully tracking a season's progress (if there's time), and planning for next season.
3. Generations have much to offer each other.
Folks are figuring out how to skillshare, grow cooperatively, and even plumb the knowledge of those with experience and maybe more time (available in retirement) by asking questions that lead to stories of how to grow food, how to put it by, how to avoid waste... Combining forces with “digital natives” able to navigate the high seas of information overload we all actually stand a pretty good chance of shifting to meet these ever-changing times.
We continue to find in 2021, that there is solace in gardening, the discovery of freshly harvested greens from early planting, the thinning of young onion greens from a tightly planted row in spring, and the bounty successive plantings can bring. There is a satisfaction to be realized on a sweet summer’s night, looking back over a row or two of weeded beds and enjoying those first tomatoes, those uber-fresh cucumbers, and the flowers that are inviting pollinators back into our world.
All this food means we make time to process it, cook it, and share it. Our gatherings may be turning into harvest parties, barbecues, and adventures in seed saving. For many of us we grow food for mutual aid, and it feels really good to deliver pounds of it to local food banks or prepare meals to smaller-scale direct-to-the-dehoused programs like Boise Kitchen Collective. Some educators are developing and adapting curricula that include outdoor learning, where the soil is full of living science, and calculations waiting to be worked out (between the wonder of it all)!
Generations living now are in agreement that there is food and nutrition security in figuring out how to grow and maintain our own food, so we rally on! The lifecycle of a seed brings consistency to us stewards, new, experienced, and returning to the art of it. In times of uncertainty, caring for seeds, plants and saving those seeds is an empowering and abundant answer to this time in our shared history.
Mary K came to this work because of the many ways growing our own food can help us individually, community to community, bio-regionally, and across this continent. A new gardener, experimental in nature, learning by the seat of her pants, thirsty for know-how, and was definitely (partly) responsible for a whole mess of strange new squash varieties in the shared yard garden where she lives.
Bradsher, Greg. (2012). How the West was Settled: The 150-year-old Homestead Act Lured Americans Looking for New Life and Opportunities. US National Archives. https://www.archives.gov/files/publications/prologue/2012/winter/homestead.pdf
Guilford, Gwynn. (2018) "The dangerous economics of racial resentment during World War II." Quartz. https://qz.com/1201502/japanese-internment-camps-during-world-war-ii-are-a-lesson-in-the-scary-economics-of-racial-resentment/
National Park Service. Native Americans and the Homestead Act - National Park Service. https://www.nps.gov/home/learn/historyculture/native-americans-and-the-homestead-act.htm