Malcolm McDowell Woods

From the Outpost Exchange editor

By - May 8th, 2010 12:27 pm
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Malcolm McDowell Woods

The freeze has left the soil and the dirt now easily yields to the spade. Each scoop upturns a menagerie of worms and larvae, freshly awakened from winter’s slumber. It is spring and the garden calls.

I have to be honest: for me, gardening has typically meant planning and planting flowering perennials and shrubs, providing color and fragrance throughout the summer months. At garden stores, I have hurried past the vegetable shoots and lingered at the racks of bright annuals.

But a trend is afoot and across the nation our gardening interests are changing. Vegetable plant sales have increased steadily in recent years, as more and more people contemplate growing their own food. A survey by the National Gardening Association shows a near 20 percent jump in hobby farms and edible gardens in the last year alone.

Market researchers are calling it slow gardening — growing fruits and veggies, sharing garden plots with neighbors, shopping at farmers markets and even the rise in community supported agriculture — a move back to the land and a step away from the fast-paced world.

No doubt, some of this is fueled by the current economic climate. Even people unaffected by job cutbacks seem more willing to exchange sweat and labor for food.

But I think a deeper, more profound shift is at work. Several years ago, I interviewed Bill McKibben. The environmental activist had just written the book Deep Economy, urging that we change our relationship with money, food and the land. His book argued for a new way of thinking that rejected the old focus on constant and endless growth.

McKibben argued that growth couldn’t be limitless, that our national zeal to always want more and more was in fact destroying our planet.

But McKibben’s nature doesn’t allow him to  dwell in pessimism and his book is full of examples of people across the globe turning in a new direction — homeward. Our future wealth, McKibben declared, will come from healthier, more vibrant home neighborhoods. Like a stand of trees in shallow soil, our strength will come from the tighter weavings of our interlocked roots.

We can do this – in the backyard or neighborhood garden, at the farmers market, at the CSA, in the aisles of the co-op — we can take the first few steps, our feet sinking into the rich loamy soil, and begin a journey toward a healthier future together.

We have the seeds of our abundance right here.

{In the May issue of the Exchange, several stories will help you with your foray into self-sustenance. Our piece on the new urban agrarian looks into the “growing your own food” trend and profiles Gretchen Mead, founder of the Victory Garden Initiative. And our Natural Gardener column offers numerous gardening resources.}

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