A Front Yard Gardener's Tales and Adventures

Sunday, January 10, 2010


About three and a half years ago, I moved to Colorado from North Carolina. I was straight out of college. Born and raised in NC, I was excited about the opportunity to tweak my lifestyle, I was excited about moving west. My girlfriend, Julia and I would have conversations about how we could live differently once we got to Colorado. We wanted to be unique, try something new. Through all the brainstorming, I never thought I would become a gardener.

I didn't eat vegetables as a kid. I ate poorly, got headaches and I now believe I would have been an inch or two taller if I didn't drink so much soda. My sister can sum up my childhood eating habits with two words, 'plain cheeseburger.'

Julia and I were lucky to get a community garden plot our second year and I feel like we will never give up that plot of land. We started to eat better, grow our own food, bike and walk most of the time. My headaches are gone.


I read somewhere that all of north Boulder used to be farmland, not surprising. The Iris farm and the Hawthorn community gardens are the only farmland left; the deer know this. Some homesteader used to own and operate an orchard that went from Broadway to the mountains, Alpine to Grape. Many of the apple trees in the area are leftovers from his farm. Our friend Brookstar has made a map of all the best apple trees in this section of town. Just don't go to the house where he has drawn a skull and crossbones.

My grandfather, Bruce Sr., is a walking example of what the G.I. Bill accomplished. He grew up in eastern North Carolina on his dad's eight acre tobacco farm. Poor and uneducated, it looked like he would become a farmer as well, probably not making it our of the county. The World War II happened and he entered the war as a medic. When the war was over, he used the G.I. Bill to go to UNC, married his math tutor, and became a pharmacist. It is interesting to think that he left the farm life, said 'good riddance' to a life of manual labor, and, conversely, about seventy years later I have growing aspirations to learn everything I can about farming.

I understand that there is little chance that I will ever own a farm. But, this fact will not stop me from learning as much as possible about the subject. Hell, I might as well learn about something, right? Being in Boulder is a great first step. The people who live in this town are very aware of the shortcomings of American agriculture. That is why they stuff their pockets full of dolla dolla bills and head down to the farmers' market each and every week that it is open. There are more natural and organic based grocery stores then conventional ones. The city of Boulder is one of the only cities in the United States that taxes it's citizens to preserve open space. CSAs (community shared agriculture) thrive here because of the affluent and worldly population.

I think it is important for people my age to take a step back and look at how this world is growing and changing. Inevitably, every one's favorite woods are gone, replaced by cookie cutter houses that have already begun to crumple. Farmland is being lost to the everlasting suburban flight. The globalization of agriculture has gone down a path that only leads to a dead end. Pres Ike, who built the highway system for national defense purposes (he liked the autobahn), paved the way for commercial agriculture and killed the small farm.

Julia and I went to a cupcake place one time in Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco (www.karascupcakes.com). A cute store selling incredibly delicious cupcakes, the place was full of affluent moms and their crying children, all of whom were too big for their strollers. A visit to their website, one can easily recognize that the cupcake place has made it a point to buy their ingredients from local farms, most (if not all) of which are organic. On the wall there was a map, listing the farms from where all of the ingredients came from. Similarly, as I was reading a magazine the other day, there was an illustration of a map, depicting all the places a particular restaurant received their goods. I believe they called it a 'foodshed,' a play on 'watershed,' announcing that this is where they get their food. This is their corner of the world.

Everyone should have a foodshed. Local and organic. I know the challenges that non-Californians face when trying to eat only within their foodshed. Here in Colorado, our foodshed is limited because of our climate - it is not Mediterranean. However, it is of the utmost importance that everyone eat as much local and organic food as possible. It is a fact that this world is struggling to keep up with the current population and doomsday predictions have been made about the future of food. People feel powerless and they can't do the math - they don't understand how they can make a difference.

Then how? What can I do? Not much. Or maybe everything. I can be an example, a voice. I can grow as much as I can and eat appropriately. I am a part of a movement, one that I don't fully understand. If people see me in my front yard, tending to my tomatoes, hopefully it will encourage them to do the same. In an altruistic world, a grassroots campaign regarding 'backyard gardening' will bring the people out of their houses and instill the citizens with a sense of community.

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