Want to feed your local food system? Pass on the passion for growing food.
|Photo © Stephen L. Garrett, excerpted from Epic Tomatoes|
I call my own gardening habits a “hobby grown slightly out of control.” For the past 15 years we’ve sold a plethora of tomato, pepper, and eggplant varieties, and the various people we’ve met in this time have become our “annual seedling friends” — like-minded, giving, and warm and wonderful people we eagerly anticipate seeing each spring. Once we’ve saturated our local market, the best part, for me, arrives: finding an easily accessible, well-publicized event or venue to bring plants and give them to those who will grow and cherish them.
Through serendipity, I’ve become good friends with folks involved with a library located in downtown Durham, North Carolina. This year we christened my plant giveaway “Plantapalooza.” I load my truck with plants (twice — it needs two trips!), and we gather in the parking lot early in the morning. People begin to arrive well in advance of the event, read tags, and fire several thoughtful, curious questions at me. Within a few hours, 600 plants find new homes. There are countless hugs, a few tears, stories exchanged, contact information swapped, pictures snapped. Nothing makes a seed-starting gardener happier than the knowledge that the offspring will find good homes in which to mature — garden patches where the results will be wondered at, discussed, loved, and handed down. During the summer I receive e-mails with pictures attached and stories of meals where the tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers we gave away as seedlings in the spring are scrutinized, eaten, and appreciated.
Sharing seeds and seedlings is never just about the tomatoes, the peppers, or any other single crop. Getting other people growing is about sharing both plants and techniques. It is about food, and food is about more than just physical nourishment: it is about stories and community. It is about growing future gardeners, cajoling young folks away from their smartphones and laptops and TVs out into the warm air, sweet-smelling garden soil, and chorus of bird song. It is everything, really, to those who get it. And, hopefully, all of us who garden and share can bring more and more people into our world of joy.