Monday, April 07, 2008
It's Gardening Time in Alabama
Over the weekend my family and I made what we consider a major investment when we purchased the hoss tiller pictured above. We have wanted one forever. Tried to buy one last year but all we could find locally were little toy-looking ones that the rocky ground around here would have ground to shreds in short order.
Now, we can have a real garden like the bountiful ones I remember from my childhood. I think home gardening is about to become very important again with the crashing economy and high fuel and food prices. Wages aren't going up and there are only so many choices for feeding your family on a very tight budget. A garden or food stamps. Most Alabamians I know would much rather go back to their agrarian roots than ask the state to feed them. You can count me among them.
There are so many other good reasons for gardening. You know where and how the food was grown. Homegrown veggies beat the tar out of anything you can get at the local grocery store. You can preserve the food you grow. You can grow whatever you like and not be dependent on what is available in the produce section. Growing your own food is much cheaper than buying produce that was shipped from across the country or in some cases from outside the country. Gardening teaches people to appreciate the work that goes into producing food. Gardening connects people to the land that they live on. And, perhaps when everything has gone to dogs and you're broke you can always have a tomato sandwich with a couple slices of cucumber on the side. You won't starve if you know how to garden.
There is also a new breed of home based business that is very appealing to me called Community Sustained Agriculture. This is where a local farm grows the food and families in the community sign up to have fresh produce delivered on a regular schedule during growing season. Now, we only have a little over two acres so we couldn't make a living entirely off of that...but side cash is a great thing in hard times. I could see producing enough tomatoes, squash and beans to sell a few.
Two other things of note that relate to gardening. There is a great story in today's Birmingham News about a woman in Sand Mountain, AL who has a seed bank which preserves heirloom seeds. For those of you who might not know...heirloom seeds are seeds handed down from generation to generation that have adapted to growing in our climate conditions, but have mostly been lost because of huge seed companies selling varieties that are more geared towards being mass marketed. Heirloom varieties have more taste and are more resistant to pests and things like mold and mildew. My favorite heirloom so far is the Brandywine tomato. They are so delicious. The only way I can describe them is to say that they taste like a tomato did when you were a kid. You simply must get some. I have about 20 plants right now waiting to get big enough to go in the ground. When they begin to come in you'll know I really love you if I give you one of my Brandywine's.
Finally, there is a blog called Eating Alabama which is currently documenting people who for the next four months will eat only food which is grown in Alabama. What a wonderful idea. Their documentation is a fascinating look at Alabama agriculture from Huntsville to Mobile. Did you know we have cheese makers in Alabama? I didn't.