A while back, I spoke on a panel discussing the current troubling state of affairs in this country and abroad.
Topics included; food shortages, collapsing economies, climate change and drought. The gloomy, yet very real situations surrounding us every day.
As a panelist listening to questions coming our way, I sensed an increasing uneasiness in our audience. It was the same uneasiness I have felt time and again, most particularly when being inundated by loads of negative information. Where you want to scream through the confusion of what to do next and actually make some change.
As a permaculture teacher and practitioner, I constantly remind myself of a word I encourage all my students to keep at the forefront of their thoughts when assessing challenges…probortunity. As you might deduce, this is a combo word of problem and opportunity.
Basically, we should be looking at every problem as an opportunity for something else, something better, that there is a more positive path, we just have to find it or create it.
As the conversation continued on and the uneasiness continued to increase; a question was asked of each of us. “How do you get started, what would you recommend, what should I do?”
I’m a gardener, so naturally one would not be surprised when I say, ‘well, plant a seed’. I got a few puzzled looks, so I continued on with what planting a seed really means to a person, a human being.
When I was a child, my neighbors and I shared a small veggie garden between our two houses.
I remember the sheer ecstasy of not planting a seed, but of watching it sprout, grow, and then transform itself into something I could eat, and not only that, but into something I could eat that was good for me.
Imagine, as a child, that the only food you eat comes out of a package or has a sticker on it, a barcode, something indicating that it came from ‘somewhere else’.
Not knowing where that ‘somewhere else’ is or giving a thought to why you should care. Then imagine going into your yard, picking it straight from the plant or ground, and then eating it!
I currently teach gardening and permaculture to tall ages. For the past 3.5 years, I had the pleasure of working with 14 BVSD elementary schools.
Every time I taught, the sheer ecstasy of planting and harvesting collectively emanated from the children into this cloud of excitement, curiosity, and both independence and interdependence. But what is almost just as electrifying is the ecstasy that emanates from adults as well.
As a society, we are so disconnected from our food source. But what does that matter? It’s just food. We can run down the street to a supermarket or restaurant to get food (if we’re fortunate enough not to live in a food desert).
Where it comes from is no matter of mine. But third to water and air, we need food to survive. And not only do we need it to survive, we need healthy food to thrive.
I’m not an expert in, well, anything, but when you look at the bigger picture, our bigger food system entwined in a dangerous relationship with our political and pharmaceutical systems, you’ll realize what food really means to us and our environment, and that it’s time for a change.
So I told all these folks anxiously awaiting a profound solution to their woes and I gave them the simple challenge of planting a seed, any seed.
Take care of it, watch it grow, and see what the feelings and energy stirred up in you can do for you and those around you.
Whether you live on 100 acres, or simply have a 5 foot by 5 foot balcony, or just a pot, plant a seed.
We all don’t need to be farmers or to become completely self-sufficient. We weren’t designed that way. We were designed to be part of a community, a community among many communities, among many more communities.
But before we think too big, we must understand the life that sustains us, the life force in the plants we (or the cows, or chickens, or pigs) consume. To understand that when we plant something, coax it out of its coat, water it, bring it to life, nourish it, that it will do the same for us.
Edited by Hayley Samuelson.
Laura Ruby is an avid foodie enthusiast, sniffing out fresh, local and yummy food wherever she goes. She worked as the Garden Coordinator for the Growe Foundation for the past three and a half years installing gardens and teaching garden curriculum at Boulder Valley elementary schools. She is also the founder and owner of YummyYards, an edible landscaping company, working to co-create more functioning, self-sufficient landscapes, and is a co-facilitator and teacher at the Lyons Permaculture Design Course at the Farmette. When not teaching about growing food, you can usually find her in a garden somewhere.