If you're into organic gardening, or interested in learning more about it, thank you. You may not realize how much we need your growing body of knowledge. You see, up until about World War II, just about everyone knew how to grow food in one way or another. It was common knowledge that kids picked up at home and in their communities. But the war, of course, changed American culture. Wartime chemicals and engineering knowledge birthed the industrial farming movement; booming business provided jobs for returning servicemen in cities and factories; more women entered the workforce; convenience foods started taking center-stage on dinner tables; and, of course, television ate up a whole lot more leisure time.
In short, over the past 60 years or so, traditional food-growing knowledge has skipped two generations and is nearing a third. Those who have begun gardening are helping to plug this knowledge void. Today's gardeners leave a lasting legacy unlike anything else, helping to return critical, life-sustaining knowledge to humanity. How's that for a satisfying day's work?
In my work helping to start and sustain numerous school and community gardens, I continually notice how much additional help is needed. Some parents and teachers simply don't have the experience to lead a school garden successfully. Sure, they "learn as they grow," and, in the best cases, this can be lots of fun for adults and children to learn together. In many cases, however, an experienced volunteer gardener moves on when his or her child leaves that school. Look around many cities, and you'll find abandoned school and community gardens that were once (possibly in the last school year) filled with good intentions. I'd like to suggest that you get involved, whether or not you have children at your local school (or even have children).
You may even want to see if there is a school near your place of business where you can volunteer at lunchtime once a week, or before or after work (this is a great way to get out in the fresh air for an hour or so). Chances are, a mom and/or teacher may hug you when you offer this service. You will not only lighten some spirits and lift the school's load, you may very well change a child's life.
Here are some other ways to "plant a legacy" through gardening:
1. Donate time. If schools aren't your thing, consider hanging out at your local community garden. Ask what you can do to help, and just dig in whether or not you are a member. Offer to teach a class or serve as a mentor to a beginner. Don't think you know enough? Please realize that many people do not know how to plant a seed, and I am not kidding you. Anything you know is more than many people know. Your knowledge, no matter how limited or vast, is valuable.
2. Plant a tree. What more enduring symbol do we have but trees? Many cities have community volunteer groups that plant trees throughout the city, and many are specifically planting orchards. Also, both schools and community gardens may need some help with planting trees. Worried that your work isn't bearing fruit in this challenging economy? This will.
3. Give when you're gone. Established community gardens and nature centers in your area may offer something called "planned giving," which is a way for you to leave a contribution as part of your final wishes. OK, OK, we don't usually like to think about this, but I know how hard you work. Why not ensure all of your hard work pays off in a way that gives back and keeps your money growing—literally—for many, many years? Plus, I can pretty much guarantee you that it will be appreciated as most gardens operate on a true shoestring budget.
4. Share through social media. Start a blog, share photos of your fall veggies on Facebook and Pinterest, and connect with friends and family near and far in ways that old-time gardeners never could have imagined. By doing this, you plant a legacy of knowledge recorded for posterity. We've been blogging in order to share what we know as well, and to make sure we help parents and teachers transfer knowledge to the next generations. Why not join us? Follow Farmer D Organics on Facebook, and let us know how you're planting a legacy through gardening.
Tap in next week when I tell you how businesses can reap rewards from being involved with community gardens.
Hungry for more? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions, concerns, and feedback.
Daron Joffe is a 30-something eco-entrepreneur who lives to make a difference in the world one homegrown organic fruit and vegetable at a time. Known as "Farmer D," Joffe has grown food for celebrities, private communities, and elementary schools in his "town-by-town mission to re-energize the food culture." His products are sold at select Whole Foods and Williams-Sonoma stores. Born in South Africa and based in Atlanta, Farmer D is online at www.farmerD.com.