Passion and Pride Through Young Eyes
I had never before attended an event designed so specifically for all things food-related.
Having never seen anything like this, you would think that my most inspiring memory would be of something monumental, like the mile-long table which spanned the entire event, or the numerous food trucks each with their own personality and long line of hungry and excited customers, or maybe even the dozens of 5-gallon buckets loaded with seedlings and plants for the mobile-garden-parade, solar-oven demonstrations, hand-crafted goods, people just wanting to talk, and a mobile seed bank truck spouting out stories and information over a bullhorn like a commanding preacher at Sunday mass. All of these elements were exciting and fun and I will always look back on them with a smile. However, there was one display which evoked more emotion and inspiration than the rest.
At first glance, most would not think much of the horseshoe setup of tables dressed with white tablecloths and covered with stacked baskets of freshly harvested vegetables slowly being cooked by the hot Arizona sun, even though partially covered by a small white canopy.
In fact, I would have walked past it myself had I not made eye contact with the young boy standing in front of the display. He was shy, but solemnly asked for a donation. I was interested and thought that there had to be more to the story, so I began to inquire about their display and why exactly they were participating in the event. He quietly told me about their organization, Tigermountain Foundation, a non-profit community garden which targets the youth for participation. Upon showing more interest, a second young boy appeared and was eager to talk about the garden and how they both helped to grow all of the vegetables and harvest them. Their pride and confidence began to emerge, and as I watched I became fascinated and excited at the fact that gardening was truly something special and important to these two boys. Amazing! I thanked them both, gladly handed over a modest donation and bagged a few carrots and jalapeños from their collection to take home. I didn’t expect this brief exchange to stand out in my mind, but as the following days passed I could not dismiss the importance of what I had witnessed.
When I saw these two boys and their passion and pride for growing their own food it gave me a sense of hope that maybe someday gardening will be a bigger part of all of our lives, and not solely left up to large profit driven corporations to figure out how to grow it, engineer it and deliver it to our dinner plate. A growing primary concern of mine is the food infrastructure and in what direction it is headed. We went from the days of early settlers who focused almost exclusively on food, its production, harvest and storage to modern times where knowledge about the origin and processing of our food is at the bottom of the priority list for the average citizen. As a result, our whole system has gone totally awry and will eventually prove itself to be unsustainable. As you walk through the grocery isle tonight, or as you prepare those carrots and jalapenos for your dinner I urge you to think to yourself, “Where did this food come from? Who grew it? What pesticides were used? Are the crops genetically modified? Was there any passion or excitement put into growing this crop?” At your typical grocery store, you’ll never know the answer to all of those questions. However, when sourcing from your local farmers market, community gardens and even from food grown in your own backyard you’ll know the answer to each and every one of those questions, and you will feel a new satisfaction during the simple act of eating dinner.
Gardening is cool, it’s important, and these two boys from Tigermountain Foundation totally get it!!! My hope is that we all follow their lead.