by Steve Bivans
One of the central ideas in Be a Hobbit is that food—especially the production of our food—is essential to solving all of the world’s major problems. The best way to regain control of what we eat is to plant it ourselves, much as our grandparents and great-grandparents did during the Second World War when they were encouraged to plant ‘Victory Gardens’ for the war effort. We are at war again, this time against corporate Sarumans and Saruons who are quickly claiming proprietary ownership over the seeds we need to feed ourselves and our families. If planting our own gardens is important to solving that problem, planting food together works towards building the sense of community needed to overcome many of the other problems we face: crime, violence, ignorance, bigotry, health-care, and poverty. Many people do not have access to land in which to grow food. Community gardens are a logical solution to this problem.
Planting community gardens, or Shire gardens is one of the most important things we can do to Save the Earth. It empowers people with a skill that is life-sustaining. It’s a skill that everyone should have. For too long have we abrogated our right and duty towards our own food to others. It’s time to say, “NO!” to the Sarumans of this world, and take back our agricultural heritage before it’s too late.
The following is an excerpt from Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth, from Chapter 39, Planting Shire Gardens: Toppling the Towers with Veggies.
A Young Hobbit Mama Learns to Garden!
Pamela is a young, single mother in my Shire who I know is struggling to make ends meet.
You can see it in her face, at least when she’s not smiling and laughing, which she does a lot. But you can see the weariness in her eyes. I know that look.
I met her this summer in our community garden. Recently I sat down with her to find out how she got into gardening and how she got into community gardening. She told me that one day the idea came to her to start planting vegetables in her kitchen. She said, “I had no idea where I was going to plant them after that! But I was like, ‘I don’t care! I’m gonna start them anyway!’” She took some sweet potatoes that she had, cut them into pieces and put them in glasses of water to see if they would sprout, and they did! She was amazed and excited. But because she lives in an apartment, she still had nowhere to plant them. Then she ran into Carol.
Carol runs our community garden, the Stryker Community Garden. Carol told her about the garden and how it was only $20 a year for a box, so Pamela rented one and started planting. She’d never planted a garden in her life but she dove in head first. Nearly every time I went over to check on our box, she was there, with about 5 kids in tow—she has one son that lives with her and she watches kids for other people. I remember the first time I met her. I was quickly covering my plot with a tarp because hail had been predicted for that evening. She came over and asked me what I was doing. When I told her, she was very concerned, “Oh my! Do you think I should cover mine too? I don’t really have anything to cover it with. This is my first time growing a garden.”
I said, “Oh, I’m probably being overly cautious, you’ll probably be fine.” Her plants fared better than mine so I probably won’t be covering mine next year when the lightning strikes.
On another day, she showed Patience and I how to harvest kale because neither of us had ever done it and she had just learned herself. But the best day was in late September when we were volunteering to help clean up the garden. She was there harvesting her sweet potatoes. Those same sweet potatoes she had started in her kitchen. She was so nervous before she began to dig into the dirt. Then something magical happened; sweet potatoes began to come out of the ground! And I mean some big-assed ‘taters man. Loads of’em!
I’ve never seen the face of a child at Christmas as happy as her face that day. I thought she was gonna cry and she probably would have if she weren’t so busy running around the garden showing off her harvest to everyone. She had planted little chunks of ‘taters and reaped a harvest any farmer would have been proud to claim. But I think it was much more than that, though she didn’t say it. She didn’t have to. She had not just grown sweet potatoes, no, she had fed her family! SHE had done it. Not some grocery store, not welfare, not Saruman. Nothing can replace that feeling. By planting sweet potatoes she had not only created food for her family, she had found something much more important: her self confidence—which I don’t think Pamela really lacked anyway—it would be more accurate to say more self confidence. And that feeling is worth more than all the dragon gold on the planet.
For more information on finding, or starting a community garden near you, check out the website for the American Community Garden Association.
For more information on how gardens and food can help to save the Earth, read my book, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living!