Farming Our Everywhere
By Farmer Greg Peterson
A friend went to the South Pacific on a sailing trip a while back. He stopped at one of the tiny islands and asked to be directed to the nearest grocery store. He was handed a bag and invited to go pick his lunch from the surrounding forest. He returned with an interesting collection of tropical fruit and a delicious lunch to boot. I found this relationship with food to be an interesting concept, and one that doesn’t need to be all that foreign to us.
Recently, a group of friends came to visit me at The Urban Farm and a spontaneous community blossomed in the front yard to explore just what the yard offered to eat. We wandered, discovered a sweet-tasting leafy green we later determined to be bok choy, nibbled on the bitter mustard and arugula, and chilled in the shadow of the many citrus trees—enjoying their shade, adornment and their fruit. The place where I live became not just simply a garden, but an entire landscape with one edible delight after another.
Transforming our view of where our food comes from to create a more personal relationship with what we eat is a simple task that looks like planting edibles in all those places we wouldn’t normally consider. Envision food flourishing beyond the typical places we garden by stepping past the traditional garden bed tucked away in your backyard. Expand your garden to fill your property and beyond. Ask yourself how your flower beds and the edges of your property can become planting grounds for the food that fills your salad bowl.
Imagine a community where you walked down the street and found food for the harvesting, where you could grab a bag and collect whatever caught your eye. Such a place, abounding with fruits and vegetables, would magically draw people together simply to harvest dinner. I have been imagining such a community cornucopia for years. And while this botanical utopia may not be here just yet, we can begin to plant the seeds to realize the vision, even if it is only by planting a few fruit trees and garden veggies.
When we look beyond our own yards, we find other areas where we can build food into our landscape. For example, Valley View Elementary School in South Phoenix sports an extensive collection of fruit trees including citrus, stone fruit and apples. I stopped by one day and chatted with the principal about the orchard. I commented that when the trees are mature the school will have plenty of fruit to sell at market. He wasn’t interested in making money from the project, he told me. He simply hoped that by planting the orchard, his students would have plenty of fresh fruit to eat.
Like this school’s project, we have many opportunities in our communities to build gardens into our everyday lives. We just have to expand out concept of where to grow. I invite you to begin exploring, gathering your lunch and experiencing the joy of growing and harvesting what you eat.
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