Over the years I dabbled in gardening (read planted a lot of stuff and watched it die or not thrive). Then I had kids of my own, and initially I was more focused on buying organically and locally grown produce for health reasons. I first joined a CSA, but really had a hard time with it because I did not know what veggies I could expect to be picking up on my pick-up day. Working outside the home 40 hours a week I use the weekends to plan the next week’s meals and also I do some initial food prep for the week. So getting unknown items in the middle of the week was really throwing off our schedule. It made it hard not to waste some of the great veggies I was getting. The nice thing about the CSA was I was supporting the local farmers and my family was eating better and fresher produce. In the end it was the cost that got me, I just could not justify the cost with what we were wasting weekly. So we did not sign up for another year.
I was still concerned about feeding my family organically and locally but finding organic produce in my local grocery store was next to impossible. 5 years later there are more organic choices but still you are very limited and most options are not from local sources. The great thing about the CSA was it delivered foods to me that I would not have tried from my grocery store. So the new found explorer in me was disappointed and needed another way to satisfy my sense of adventure. We then shifted our produce shopping to the local farmers markets. At first find an organic farmer was hard, but doable. Over the years this has changed, I have found more and more farmers at the markets that are growing their food “organically”. I use the quotes because sometimes you ask a farmer if their produce is organically grown, some have started to pause, break eye contact and then say, “well yes it is”… This left me feeling less than confident that what I was feeding my family, was what I wanted them to eat.
That is when I started experimenting in growing my own stuff, but as I stated earlier I was not that successful. My first year I had just gotten a new puppy that was very destructive, so I decided to do some container gardening in my front yard. That was sadly the year of the groundhog… We would almost have a ripe veggie to eat only to find it missing the next day. It was so frustrating. That winter I started researching different gardening methods and in the spring we chose the perfect spot for our small raised bed garden. The spot seemed perfect except for one thing… when the leaves grew in on the surrounding trees our garden was mostly shaded 50% of the day. I called in my dad to consult on cutting down a few trees in the backyard for the garden but was quickly vetoed (by my dad and Dh). Needless to say that although some stuff grew that year we were not harvesting the bounty I had dreamed about.
Then the answer to what I had been looking for came two winters ago I saw a email for a community garden, which was being hosted by someone I had met when pregnant with my second. I went to the initial meeting not sure what to expect, and came away with dreams of fabulous dinners created with all the foods grown by us. I knew we had many months of hard work ahead of us. The garden was 6000 square feet, it had been gardened organically on for 6 years but the year prior it was not gardened. It needed some improvements, new fencing, trenches dug for row ways, mulch laid, a new gate made, composting bins, watering system figured out… Oh and of course planting and gardening.
We got a late start on all of this, starting the month of May. It was June before many of us got anything planted in the ground. It was one of the hardest working spring/summers I have ever had and our list of to do items did not get completely done, but all and all was a year of many successes. I grew things I never would have thought about doing, we ate more produce we grew that what we bought, I learned things from the group I never would have learned on my own, my kids had experiences that will be with them for a lifetime, and our family made friends and found a community that share a common interest and goal and it was fabulous.
As we enter our second year of the garden, our family is excited and eager to garden with the group again. We already have stuff growing in the garden! This is earliest I have ever gotten anything in the ground. The enthusiasm of the group has a way of motivating you and getting you excited, especially when gardening may be the last thing you would want to do. I am really looking forward to enjoying the garden and the community this year again, but I won’t lie, I hope this year is a little easier.