a photo essay
by Sharon Gerald
It started with a
book. I listened to
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.
I have a long way to go before my garden rivals my dad’s. He turns 79
this year, and he has worked a garden every year of his life since he was
the size of my nephew who is in this picture with him. My nephew takes
his job of strawberry harvester seriously, and we all enjoy the fruits of my
I’ve even managed a time or two to beat my nephew to my dad’s
strawberries, and in doing so, I’ve made new and unexpected friends.
Overall, I am thrilled with my gardening efforts. Through gardening, I’ve
found relaxation, joy in my accomplishments, a stronger connection
with the natural world, and a stronger connection with other
gardeners, not the least of whom is my dad. And I don’t have to
wonder where my food comes from, or how much fuel it took to bring
it to me.
But sometimes I do wonder what it is thinking.