Megan Dixon, ITS and Ripple Impact NW
Growing things is in my blood. From the generations of Maschmann farmers in Nebraska to my Papa Adams’ backyard vegetable garden, my entire body demands I put things in the ground each spring in anticipation of a fall harvest.
I grew up in Boise, Idaho on a modest 3-acre plot of land designed with intention by my dad – an engineer who (still) doesn’t know how to sit well. He’s an “early to bed, early to rise” man who built scientific machinery during the day and created his urban homestead in the evenings. One acre for the 3-head of cows, one for the garden and chickens, and one for the house and fruit trees. Most of our garden was taken up by corn – the hot Idaho days and warm nights were so ideal that it was often said you could hear the stalks growing if you listened hard enough.
But then, of course, there were experimental crops – pumpkins as tall as toddlers (which then became pureed food for said toddlers) and blue potatoes that were a true novelty to the Idaho Farmer of the 80s. Regardless of what we grew, we ate it. Whether it was fresh, canned, pickled, or hidden in a Jell-O salad, my mother ensured we upheld the “waste not, want not” mantra of the day.
My mother. She was (and is) the cheerleader behind each adventure, the happy energy who took our harvest and canned it into satisfying rows of Ball jars in the pantry. Most of the items were recognizable: jams and snapped green beans. But some… they required a level of trust that only a mom could inspire. One, in particular, was called Apple Rings. The crunchy, sweet rounds were considered a dessert for us kids and, to be honest, I don’t know if I actually liked them or if I was just naive enough to buy into them. I later learned they were not even made of apples, rather, slices of overgrown cucumbers that were missed at harvest and could not, God-forbid, go to waste. The unnatural red brine they swam in came from the handful of Red Hot candies my mother threw in the mix. Apparently, candy thrown into a jar of cucumbers gets a free pass.
Fast forward a few decades, and here I am, a self-proclaimed Urban Farmer living on a corner lot, determined to create the garden of my dreams on 5,600 square feet. I have spent nearly 40 years growing things and, to this day, I have a child-like awe at the process: place a tiny seed in the ground, add water, and an entire plant is created! And best yet, that plant will give you food AND more seeds for the following year (insert brain explosion emoji). I can’t think of a more empowering display of personal agency and direct connection to the Earth.
If you come to my home today, you will find 20 or so varieties of food producing plants and nearly an equal amount of flowers, including: strawberries co-planted with onions for protection, asparagus fronds as tall as your head, raspberry canes that small hands have picked over, tomato plants standing upright as royalty of the yard, cucumbers crawling up a trellis, Mammoth Sunflowers reaching to the sky, and a mystery squash that sprouted from my compost pile but was too lovely to pull.
A garden is something sacred – something hand-created and unique each year. There’s an Audrey Hepburn quote that reads, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” I couldn’t agree more. Every time you cover a seed with dirt and dream about your handful of peas or a crunchy carrot, you are engaging in an act of hope and belief in a process outside of your control. I think we, as humans, can be humbled by this.
If you have a spark of desire to try gardening, I say do it. Have some seeds? Give them a try! Have an old potato that has sprouted? Stick it in the ground! You have very little to lose and so much to gain.
Take a risk and believe in tomorrow. Grow something, my friends.