By Tessa Alberts
My garden is a place I find solace from the plentiful strains of my life. It is a place for me to reconnect with something real, something tangible. This is my medicine, my Zen. Every year my hard work and beds of black gold are replaced by sustenance, growth and gratitude. That is irreplaceable in my world, where nothing is expected to take time. I have humble hopes of a river rock path that winds and wriggles through the many stalks and bushes of edibles, ending in a shingled shack. A place I can sow seeds and watch my garden grow…a place of my very own. I often wonder about the history of this small plot. Was it used for vegetable growing as well?–or maybe the raising of livestock. I have on many occasions watched deer munch my lettuce and beet greens. I inherently attempt to expel them, as if I have apt claim. But maybe this was their land not too long ago. I can share. The smell of minerals and the texture of the earth are solidified when my bounty comes and all the while I am privileged to forgo the supermarket, be outdoors and share it with numerous living things.
The supermarkets aren’t terrible, save the fluorescent lighting and hoards of people. In all honesty I have very little against them. My issue is with the agricultural system from which we derive our nourishment. We have lost our connection with the natural world and have chosen to altogether disassociate ourselves from the most basic origins of our food. For most, absent are the thoughts beyond or behind those tightly wrapped packages of meat and produce for purchase in those pretty little stores. Aside from the ingestion of these living creatures, we at some point stopped knowing them–where they live, what they eat and how they are raised. This should be as important to us as eating, for we are a part of that very cycle. A cycle that is delicate and potent, which encompasses all living things and their environment. To ignore or deny this fact would mean we would most certainly break that cycle, condemning all of us to an existence void of life.
I choose not to preach about GMOs and the harsh treatment of our livestock. I would hope that most are aware. Instead I choose to address the governmental agencies that are forcibly preventing us from the reconnection we so desperately need. The process goes as such: we grow or raise the food; agencies like the FDA decide how much poison or non-food is acceptable in its cultivation, process and transfer. They decide when, where and how our food is grown and sold. For their services they get a portion of the profit. This process affects the price and quality of the foods we eat and makes it almost impossible for there to be a market for foods grown and sold outside of this system. Such agencies can and have penalized those who refuse this arrangement. There have been raids, nation-wide, on family owned farms and ranches that sell their product without the permission of the federal government, as if they have just authority. Hundreds upon thousands of dollars in livestock and equipment seized in the name of public health (Farm Food Freedom Coalition 2013). It seems as though the Feds don’t like being cutout. This structure is based solely on monetary gain for a miniscule portion of our society–not the health and wellness of the people.
Adversely, there are many farmers, ranchers and people like me that do not feel the need for such a middle-man. We would much rather grow ourselves and sell, or give, those goods directly to the consumer. The Pacific Northwest as a plethora of family run, organic farms and coops such as: Boistfort Valley Farm, Puddleton Farm and Black Sheep Creamery. It takes little effort to find them. Supporting such entities will send a very clear and non-violent message to those who see fit to regulate OUR agricultural progression. In the meantime, read labels–closely–know where the food you are putting in your body comes from and start growing. Even if it is an herb garden in your window sill or tomatoes on your patio, these simple activities aid in breaking down a system not vested in your long-term well-being. They also give you a chance to reconnect with the natural world which supports us in ways we have yet to truly appreciate.
With four small vegetable beds and a hoop house of sheet plastic and PVC piping, all of which I made myself, I can reap the rewards for months. I am forever amazed at the resilience and plasticity of our earth. Even now, in the first weeks of October, my garden still produces. My carrots and cucumbers are there to be plucked and tossed into a salad, my fingerlings are ready to be dug and roasted and my Romas are ripening still. The strawberry patch is bearing down for winter, having produced dozens of shoots for next year’s harvest and the lavender, dried brittle, remains sweet with scent.
Tessa Alberts lives in Centralia, Washington where she grows food, raises a family, and attends college.