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March 24, 2009

As a man sows

Garden With the economy forcing people to, well, economize, Americans are rolling up their sleeves and rediscovering vegetable gardens. According to the AP, we're supposed to call them "recession gardens," although the 1940s name of "victory gardens" sounds a whole lot cheerier. 

Those gardens, modeled after a White House patch planted by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1943, were intended to inspire self-sufficiency, and at their peak supplied 40 percent of the nation's fresh produce, said Roger Doiron, founding director of Kitchen Gardeners International.

Wow--can you imagine if 40 percent of our fresh produce came from our backyards? What would that look like? Maybe we could stop popping so many vitamin pills and get the healthy glow that comes from fresh vegetables and sunshine. Maybe the Global Food Crisis would disappear as American farmers were able to meet international need. Maybe people in our own communities wouldn't go hungry if we were each able to plant one extra row for a local food bank. Maybe we would one day hear Jesus say, "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat." Sounds like victory to me.

(Image © AP)

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These will be illegal in short order due to a bill recently past creating a new federal food safety agency, effectively outlawing farmer's markets and potentially small farms and even gardens by creating onerous regulations that only large corporations can afford to comply with.

Most urbanites don't have room for a sufficiently large garden, anyway.

Jason Taylor

That is a bad idea. It is a way of reminding people that there is a recession, and therefore prolonging the recession as well as instilling a temptation to make such concessions as are appropriate to a crises. Economic downturns are crises' of morale, not efficiency.


Speaking of a crisis of morale... just listen to yourselves! Kristine, it is a wonderful thought. And no one is going to outlaw giving away food. Let's not call the gardens anything, becasue to do so implies they are part of a "campaign" that is, by definition, transient. It would be better if gardens became a permanent fixture in peoples lives - and not just for economic efficiency.

Daniel Knight

Recession be damned - seeds and water and compost all cost money - so gardening is not cheap, but it is valuable

Federal laws be damned - I'll grow whatever I want in my small plot of land.

Urbanite I am...my small plot of land is a 20 ft x 2 ft swath beside my garage where I plant 4 tomatoes plants and 10 ft of carrots and 3 ft of peas. The produce of which is the best tasting vegetables I eat all year.

So the garden plot is a great grand and glorious idea: One akin to the Creator himself who planted a garden.


While I do not want to appear to contradict the prolific commentators above, what my church is doing, I think, is a good idea. This year, my church is partnering with a community organization to allow anyone in the neighborhood be a part of a community garden on our property. We see this as a ministry in many ways. We are affirming God's command to be custodians of His creation, we are demonstrating God's concern not only for the salvation of men, but also for creation and we hope to be able to give away some of the produce in the free food give away we host weekly at the church. This does not have to be a recession garden but a garden that gives glory to God for His provision.

Dan Gill

What would it look like if we grew 40% of our produce ourselves? We'd have tons and tons of zucchini and okra nobody wanted. We'd also have lots of home-canned vegetables that have possibly less nutrition than the canned vegetables we buy at the store.

But there would be good tomatoes - during the season.


You don't think, Dan Gill, that people would grow vegetables they want to eat? No zucchini or okra in my family's garden -- but lots of tomatoes, chilis, and delicious squash. This year we're adding potatoes. We grow all of this ourselves in containers and we have enough tomatoes and peppers when the season hits that we can barely use them fast enough... though if we froze or canned them we grow enough tomatoes to have them all year 'round. There's plenty of fall and winter vegetables (leeks come to mind) that would feed people nutritiously if we got back in touch with the cyclical nature of the seasons in many parts of the world.

Personally I think if we replaced decorative landscaping with vegetable or herb gardens people would be a lot happier...

Ben W

And basil! It's great for pesto.. and there's *so* much you can do with tomatoes and peppers. My wife keeps a small garden in our lawn.

I wouldn't be too worried about the gov't.. there's no way they could illegalize gardens, and anyway the bill doesn't apply to gardens or farmer's markets (although it may apply to small farms, which sell their wares at those markets). But I think it'll probably die or get changed anyway, there's a lot of outcry over it.

It'd be great if more people kept gardens - most of us need to be eating healthier and getting out more (myself included).


Ben W wrote: "I wouldn't be too worried about the gov't.. there's no way they could illegalize gardens"

Where I live it is illegal to bury a family pet in the backyard. (Gee, I could go to jail for that - several times over.) It is highly discouraged to dig in the earth at all, due to the risk of rupturing a water main or gas line.

And in several communities in North America (Vancouver, BC was where I saw it) there are laws regulating the overgrowth of one's lawn.

My point is that it's not such a stretch, Ben. A little zealous legislation, plus a large tax on seeds, and next thing ya know the gov't. doesn't just want a tenth of your mint and cumin, but all of it.

A friend of mine once calculated that one of those Civil War cannons, mounted on the roof of his house in the middle of his family farm, could probably reach the county courthouse where they were busily regulating the family farms out of existence in favor of oh-so-profitable subdivisions. And family farms are the main suppliers of farmers' markets.

Animal *what*, Mr. Orwell?


Actually, David, giving away food -has- been outlawed at verious points. I seem to recall reading about a church's soup kitchen. Failed to live up to restaurant code or something like that. Never underestimate the need for bureaucrats for control, no matter the consequences.

Daniel, I don't mean you shouldn't do what you can, I just mean that to do more than grow some condiments and spices (which I highly recommend - though in urban areas, you should be thinking about lead and other contaminants in the soil and air) takes a lot more land than you might think. But grow your own spices (chiles, chives, parsley, basil, whatever grows where you live) and fresh, *ripe* tomatoes, can't be beat!

Good to hear Jerry. Lobby the government not to make that stupid rule!

Kim Moreland

Labrialumn and others are correct--charity isn't allowed in some areas.

I live in a condo, and unfortunately have two air conditioners under my deck. I seem to have a difficult time growing patio tomatoes--maybe because of the hot air blowing all summer long. Any tips for veggies that thrive in hot temps?
All is not lost: I can grow all sorts of herbs--I love the smell and look of them.

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