I taught a class on vegetable gardening at a local garden center last week and it was standing room only. Over a hundred people crammed into the big greenhouse to hear about growing their own food. There were 20-somethings, middle-agers and retired folks; all levels of gardening experience were represented.
This interest in vegetable gardening isn’t unique to Cape Cod, where I live and garden. All over the country people are thinking about growing their own. The attraction to vegetable gardening is a result of, I think, a perfect storm combination of the economy, food safety issues, the local food movement and the interest in organics.
Although I’m sorry that it took a recession to bring people back to growing vegetables, I’m glad that they’ve arrived in the garden despite the road that brought them here. E-coli tainted spinach, or the cost of organic food at Whole Paycheck, might just be what gets young people to pick up a shovel and plant. No matter. The scarecrow in the garden lifts his pitchfork and proclaims, “Give me your tired, your poor, your hungry masses yearning to eat well.”
I was fortunate to have a mother who loved gardening, although her interest in vegetables blossomed after I’d gone to college. In earlier years she had five small children to care for. I was at the University of Wisconsin in the late ‘60’s, where the popular culture echoed my mother’s passion for gardening. “Back to the land,” was one of the slogans of the day.
Everything old is new again, and I am pleased that once more the young people are turning to the garden. It is up to us, the longtime growers of veg, to be as helpful and encouraging as we can.
For those of you who are just beginning, I urge you to take advantage of our experience. Send us emails. Visit garden blogs and websites, and read gardening books. Keep in mind that much of the information about soils, bugs and diseases is regional, so when it comes to specifics, look for local sources of information.