Guest Blogger: Holly Ordinans, AmeriCorps VISTA, Food For All Mendocino Coordinator
She also has her own blog which you can read by clicking here.
Born and raised in Wisconsin, my experience with growing my own food is quite different compared to someone raised in California, specifically this northern region of Mendocino and Lake County. Before moving to Ukiah, I thought I had a pretty solid knowledge base about gardening—and I did! Gardening though, not farming, and not gardening to the extent that exists here. Growing up, my mom always had a backyard garden, and my sister and I learned a great deal from her about planting, watering, weeding, picking, etc. We always spend the summers eating what we grow. However, this is not at all common in Wisconsin. And it’s even less common to grow your own food year-round since the winters are so cold.
That being said, when I moved to California, my perspective on growing what you eat was immediately challenged and enhanced. Like I said, I felt I had a pretty good grasp on gardening; but it turns out, I know less than I thought. I know how to plant seeds, I know you need to water your plants, I know how to harvest a backyard garden in the summer… but I had never been exposed to this amazing level of gardening, farming, and growing.
I went through an unexpected culture shock when I entered into a community filled with sustainable growers- all of whom are filled with a wealth of knowledge on gardening and farming. In a short amount of time, I have gained a much deeper understanding and appreciation for how food is grown and harvested. I was already a veggie and fruit lover, healthy eater, and love to cook with fresh produce; now, though, I have this whole new perspective on words like “organic” and “sustainable.” I have found deeper connections in our food system, and feel as though my understanding of growing food has been expanded tenfold.
In Wisconsin, there are of course many farms in various parts of the state, and there are definitely areas where people hold true to living off the land. Northern California takes that to a whole new level though. I cannot believe how much I have learned in such a short amount of time just about this one aspect of our food system—and I still have a lot left to learn! I know much less than I thought I knew coming into this, and am finding myself becoming more and more obsessed with the gardening and farming culture of this place. I planted quite a few seeds, my starts are growing, and I can’t wait to get started in my community garden plot.
It hasn’t even been two months of living here yet, and I have already learned so much about growing my own food. It’s really inspiring to live among so many knowledgeable growers who truly practice what they preach in terms of farming sustainably and eating organic, plant-based foods. Growing your own food and living off of what is available/in season is so incredible. I’m learning that there is so much you can do using only what you’ve grown, and I am eager about all there is for me to learn about gardening—more in depth than the basics I came here with. Every time I go to the community garden to water my starts, I learn something new from one of the other gardeners who is also there. Just the other day, one of the gardeners talked to me for a good 10 minutes just about tomatoes. My previous understanding of tomatoes was they are easy to grow, my family has always grown tomatoes in our garden, and one plant produces quite a few. Then, after just one conversation with another community gardener, I learned so many little details about how tomatoes grow, and which types grow which ways, and even left with some advice for my own tomato starts.
In reflecting on the past two months just on the subject of growing your own food, I can conclude that this is a very special place for growing. I can tell that the gardeners and farmers here are so passionate, knowledgeable, and genuinely interested in sharing what they know. Whether I’m at the garden or the farmers’ market, someone is enlightening me with something I didn’t already know about a particular vegetable or how to grow it. Like I’ve mentioned a few times, I REALLY know less than I thought I knew, and I’m so thrilled that I am in a position to learn so much.
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