A Photo Essay by Sharon Gerald
It started with a book. I listened to Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle on my iPod, and suddenly my world was a different place. I spend my life teaching people that this can happen through a love of books, but it’s still a rare thing when it happens to me in quite this way.
Kingsolver inspired me to think about my food in a whole new way, new to me at any rate. I started to wonder, not just how healthy my food was for me, but how healthy it was for the world I live in, how much cost there was to the environment to bring it to me.
How much does it cost the environment to bring an avocado grown in Mexico to my table in Mississippi? How much fuel is used in its transportation? Maybe these are obvious questions, but I had not considered them before reading Kingsolver’s book. She inspired me to start investigating the environmental consequences of my own diet.
I can buy locally grown produce that is cheaper, healthier, and better tasting than commercially grown foods. Maybe I can’t buy local avocados or bananas, but I can buy potatoes, tomatoes, greens, beans, onions, strawberries, blueberries, pears, corn, okra, cucumbers, squash, peppers, eggplant, and other garden vegetables that have been grown either in my state or in a neighboring state.
I can also pick up a shovel and get to work growing my own food.
Growing food, even in small amounts, is hard work, both mentally and physically. I had a lot to learn about soil conditions, overwatering and underwatering, insect control, and the right plants to grow in small spaces. Plus, I had not spent a great deal of time with a shovel before this project. Books are more my thing.
On the other hand, it can be very rewarding to watch your food grow, knowing that you have been the one to nurture and tend it. It’s become a daily ritual for me to walk around my small garden checking to see what has changed since the day before. And there is always change. Vegetables grow quickly. You can literally see them grow.
I’ve particularly enjoyed watching the bees at work in my garden, watching the process of life taking shape. I don’t know much about growing my own food, but I do know that bees do the most necessary part of the work. I’m thrilled every time I see a bumble bee buzzing about.
I even love seeing birds come around to check out what I have growing, though I have my arguments with them. They don’t always appreciate my rules about what belongs to me and what belongs to them. A cardinal may look pretty and innocent, but she will eat a green peach just for spite.