by Lindsay Popper
Owl and Spade
(publication of Warren Wilson College)
It's like one of those running jokes that you can drop back into without explanation, except that we're serious about it: as we drive around in Nathan's clunky, faithful truck--the one which only recently acquired turn signals and a hatch that opens--we'll pass wide-open sunny patches of grass and say, simply, there. After just a few months growing food in Tallahassee, I'm beginning to see possible gardens everywhere.
I had grown approximately two things--a cup of grass seed in kingergarten and a kohlrabi in 3rd grade--before I moved down to Florida with just a backpack and a small suitcase to join Nathan Ballentine with his business of "helping people grow their own food and share it."
Within 12 hours of getting off the bus, I'd sown rows of turnips, beets, carrots, and rutabagas, and within 24 hours I was helping 3-12 year olds at Nathan's church plant a garden of vegetables to give away at the food pantry. Within a week I had learned how to build the raised-bed gardens that serve as the moneymaking center of "Tallahassee Food Gardens," and gotten a good handle on what you can grow in the fall. After two weeks, I had found the first two churches whose community gardens I would be helping to start or expand, learned how to install microirrigation, and helped lead two more workshops (one for patrons of the food pantry, another for teens with developmental disabilities). I was learning.
Nathan graduated three years ago with an Integrative Studies degree in Community Organizing, and came back to Tallahassee--where he's lived his whole life--with the thought of re-rooting himself in the community. When I ask him how his current business got started, he launches into half an hour of vaguely-connected stories with the take-away point being, "well, I really don't know." (He did, though, jump-start publicity for his business by spending a week standing by the side of the road in overalls with a pitchfork--a la "American Gothic"-- holding signs saying "Grow your own food and share it",
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