This posting was inspired by planning our church’s garden, which provides fresh organic vegetables to the Dorothy Day food pantry. This spring lots of people have come forward to give us seeds or plants. Planning is required to fit it all into our small plot. During harvest, the food pantry has been able to use all our produce, including the late summer tomato glut.
I’ve only heard of a problem with zucchini. Some pantries can’t give it away fast enough. It’s a symbol of abundance in Italian heraldry. Garrison Keillor tells of a reverse Halloween in the fictional Lake Wobegon, MN, where you place a bag of zucchini on your neighbor’s doorstep, ring the bell and run. If you get away, your neighbor must take your zucchini. If you get caught, you must take a bag of theirs.
Why do people bother? Gardening involves sweat, dirt, sunburn and mosquitoes. It’s much easier to write a check, and the food pantries can buy in bulk. It’s similar to hunting and fishing. Equipment and travel costs can easily drive up the price of fish and game above $50 per pound. You can buy walleye in the grocery store for $8. A little more will buy you walleye dinner. Still, we are eager to hunt, fish and garden. Doing it just for nutrition takes all the joy away.
Some of us have never outgrown the joy of playing in the dirt. I don’t mean soil. Dirt is soil in the wrong place, like on your face, clothes and wherever you track it where it has to be cleaned up later. I love playing in the dirt. Soil is sacred: earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The root of humility is humus. We gain peace from the smell and feel of the soil.
We bring forth life in our gardens. Children delight in the sprouting of seeds. We take pride in showing off the luxuriant growth. We like to just stand between the rows and marvel. We sustain our life by consuming the life produced in our gardens, or other people’s gardens
Still, why bother? We have a saying in my family, “Two things that money can’t buy are true love and home grown tomatoes.” Grow your own tomatoes and you get both. Give them away and you get double. What really sustains us is the love that we grow and give away.