November 2010: Community gardens

November 2010: Community gardens

Martin Luther, the 16th century Protestant reformer, is reputed to have said that, even if he knew the world would end tomorrow, he would plant an apple tree today.

My mother, whose family garden in England many years ago contained a Variegated Weigela, has planted one of those shrubs in her last three gardens in Australia.

My father is now more often swinging a golf club than a mattock; but he still helps friends with their gardens and proudly provides vegetables for my mother’s kitchen.

Dick Smith, in his documentary The Population Puzzle, returns to his childhood home and remembers his father’s vegetable garden.

Smith’s interest in simpler times and the satisfaction of growing your own is driven by a concern that we are building over Australia’s precious arable farmland.

At the same time we are warned that foreign companies using land in Africa to grow food and bio-fuel crops are undermining food security for millions of poor people on that continent.

Joe Bageant in his recent book laments that even in the good ol’ US of A his grandfather’s farm and those of his neighbours have been driven out of business and no longer produce wholesome fruit and vegetables that contribute to and sustain the local economy.

He says there has been a loss of an abidance in, and nurture of, a specific place. A nation is nothing but a place, he says; a piece of dirt that people either do or do not take the time to contemplate, to care for and care about.

Bageant is big on community — people banding together, a place to which you can always return to find meaning. He writes of a time when his grandfather couldn’t imagine a life without the security of a garden.

Like our own community gardeners he recognises the benefit of putting farms and the people who eat their products back into closer proximity, requiring the use of fewer petrochemicals, agri-chemical inputs and industrial-scale farm machinery involved. As long as healthier, fresher food is not just a luxury for the privileged.

My parents recently asked if I would grow vegetables if I had a garden. I’ve heard that even unit dwellers can grow all their dietary needs but I’m not sure my balcony has the right aspect.

Finding the right aspect regarding food production and consumption is something we all need to consider if we are to find abidance. Mid-North-Coast ecominister Jason John asks us to contemplate, “How does the food we choose to eat, and the way we eat it, reflect our faith?”

Stephen Webb

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