It’s almost summer! I enjoy all the pre-summer activities including planting season, lawn mowing season, and gardening season.
These three things are probably some of my favorite pre-summer activities; however, I really love gardening. There is something so fun about playing in the mud, planting plants, and then waiting, hoping, and even praying for something delicious to grow.
As far back as I can remember, my family had a garden. Initially, I remember how my great-grandparents set up a vegetable garden on their farm, but these memories are very vague and hazy, because at that time I was very young. The next garden I remember was in my grandparents’ house, and it was a large strip of land behind the barn that my grandfather planted, and then we ate all summer.
I’m not sure where they bought their plants or even how they decided what to plant, but I remember legumes, peppers, tomatoes of all kinds, squash and corn. I’m sure there were some vegetables that I lost in the sands of time, but as a child I remember helping him weed the garden, collecting bright red jewelry from tomatoes and putting them in my mouth. These sun-warmed little rubies were unlike the tomatoes found in the grocery store, and I was obsessed with them.
Green beans have become another delicacy. The crunchy crunch of fresh beans between my teeth was heaven. The watery slices of fresh cucumber were a welcome relief on those hot summer days as we sat on the swing under the pine trees.
While those summer days may just be wonderful memories now, the garden still exists.
As my grandfather got older, it went from being a huge lot to a smaller strip, until finally the garden was handed over to my mother. In her yard there was a large square garden, similar to the garden of my grandfather. However, she needed to be surrounded by a fence to protect her from the deer that often visited my mother’s house.
She spent many hours with her in the garden, picking ruby red tomatoes, crispy green beans and watery cucumbers. We also tried to expand. One year was sweet potatoes, another year jalapenos, another year watermelons, and a few more experiments, the results of which were forgotten. In this garden, one could not only eat deliciously, but also lessons in cooking and canning.
Now my mom’s huge garden has been handed over to me. If you drive past my house, you will see a huge garden plot from the kitchen window. It doesn’t seem like much right now. My plants are tiny and still growing; my flowers were planted in front of the garden to bring joy to passers-by. The garden has expanded – pumpkins, watermelon, corn, four different types of tomatoes, two different types of peppers, okra, Brussels sprouts, green beans, zucchini, strawberries and asparagus. It’s not always beautifully groomed, and looks crowded and shabby by the end of summer, but it still produces those ruby red tomatoes, crispy green beans, and watery cucumbers that are reminiscent of last summer.
So why is this trip down the lane of garden memories, you ask? Well, gardening is actually farming on a much smaller scale. It flows in the blood. Think about how many of you are happy to go out and play in the mud in your backyard as soon as the weather is fine. It’s the same with farmers.
Then, when everything is planted, comes the expectation of the harvest. When it comes to gardening, the question is, what do I get first? Will I get crispy green beans first? Dark green squash? A dark red tomato? It’s the same with farmers, except they know what they are getting; the question simply focuses on how much they get per acre.
Very often, when I try to talk to people about why they should join the Farm Bureau, I get the answer: “Well, I’m not a farmer.” My answer to this answer is to ask if this person sits down. Often the answer is yes.
Gardening is agriculture; in fact, gardeners are probably the first farmers. But that’s not all. As Lorax said, “If a person like you doesn’t take care of himself, nothing will get better. Is not.” (Dr. Seuss). And it is true. Farmers are not the only ones needed to influence policy, provide feedback and advocate. These are all of us: farmers, gardeners, amateurs and even eaters.
So, this summer, when you go to the garden, think about all the things that fall into your garden (memories, plants, dung, labor and love) and think about how you can make sure you can pass them by. garden memories for the next generation.
Clemson is a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau and received her Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University. She and her family farm in Mecca.