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May 26, 2009

Children of Recession: Grow a Row

Seedlings My son has always loved to garden. Recently, he presented me and my huz with a picture of our backyard, the seedlings growing there, and a carefully hand-lettered note: "I love to plant things with you, mama and daddy." The community organic garden belonging to his current school has always been a source of pleasure and deep, hands-in-the-dirt satisfaction for us as well as him. I'm convinced the reason my kid eats greens of all kinds (Chinese pea sprouts, bok choy, snow peas, broccoli, sugar snap peas, tomatoes, mesclun, arugula, the occasional carrot, giant quantities of berries, apples, cantaloupe, and so on) is what he's exposed to at home and his time in that garden. He and his classmates are actually able to reach up and pick tiny ripe peaches off the community garden tree.

I'm not a terribly good or experienced gardener, but I have had some luck with this year's basil, watermelons, and tomatoes so far. (Knock wood. My sugar snap pea sprouts were getting scorched by the sun, I think.) The veggie compost in the backyard is looking loamy and dark, and soon we'll be adding meat scraps, bones and dairy that's undergone a Japanese anaroebic pickling process to hasten the decomposition into useable compost. I need to figure out frames for the cukes eventually, and wrestle what looks like a grapevine in the backyard into a more productive state.

It's hard to explain "food insecurity" to a well-fed child, or have them understand that many children (up to a half million, maybe more among the 35 million people in America experiencing hunger) might skip or miss a meal due to poverty or their parents' underemployment. I thought since my son enjoys eating what he grows so much, a good way to explain to him about the hows and whys of hungry people and their need to eat good food is through our backyard garden.

So little by little I'm introducing him to our own adaptation of the America's Grow A Row program, where home gardeners plant an extra row with the plan to donate fresh organic produce to local food banks. This requires explaining things like food stamps and what they buy, why they're needed and why they sometimes don't fill all the gaps, and why it's always preferable to eat locally grown pesticide-free produce no matter your situation.

In the meantime, he learns to water, weed, and tend. Cause and effect. Effort and reward. He learns patience. And when we drop off what we grow to a nearby church that runs a food bank, he'll see what it means to give to others in need. That being unlucky is neither a permanent nor a shameful state. That plenty doesn't just mean an abundance of money, but the time and care he put in too.

And hopefully he'll see that his own good luck isn't a cause for pride so much as it is gratitude and graciousness. 

This is an original post to LA Moms Blog. Cynematic blogs at P i l l o w b o o k, and blogged about home Victory gardens last summer at MOMocrats.


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