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What Gardening Can Do for Us

On Growing Food

Growing food transforms us into producers — something we desperately need in a passive consumer culture where we have become an audience watching life rather than producers making it. Growing food provides a connection to and an understanding of where our food comes from. It schools us in what food looks like when it comes out of the ground or off of the vine, with all of its shapes, flaws, beauty, and flavor. The work involved in growing our own food provides first-hand knowledge of the labour that goes into growing it and teaches us not to take it or the work that farmers do for granted. It transforms our expectations and turns us into educated consumers who know the value of good, well-grown produce. It challenges us not to accept lesser quality food and lesser quality growing practices. Growing food makes us stronger and more resilient. It gives us pride of self-relience.

On Creativity

We all come to gardening for different reasons, and while the topic is most often plunked in with and categorized as style and design, it doesn’t have to be about either. Much of my own gardening practice is about food production, using plant materials for dyes and other purposes, and feeding pollinators, all of which favour conditions that can sometimes work against aesthetic appeal, at least in the most culturally acceptable forms. However, I think that creativity comes down to self-expression and and a heightened awareness or way of experiencing that can be found and nurtured in unlikely ways. The more mundane aspects of gardening can be creative acts, even when our attentions are not drawn to cultivating a particular aesthetic. I also find that the plants themselves can inspire creativity and that as we live with them, we can’t help but begin to look at them more closely. Looking gives way to seeing, and seeing alters the way we perceive the world as a whole, which is in itself a form of creativity.

On Being More Aware

It’s hard not to notice the processes and cycles of things when we’re firmly embedded within them. Being a gardener has caused me to noticed weather patterns and how the climate shifts and changes from year to year. I quickly gave up the false notion that gardening is a single, repeated act and that every year is predictable and the same. Within that I also started to understand which patterns could be expected and what it means when they shift. That alone has changed how I think about and respond to climate change.

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