Our garden is just a place, a few square feet of land dedicated to growing edible plants. If we want these plants to play a meaningful role in our lives, we must enter and look closely at all the garden has to offer. From different perspectives this place can work as a symbol of sustainability or connections to the earth or aesthetics, but up close is where we can best reap its benefits.
No matter how big or small, a garden can help us. By leaving our computer screens and Ipods and cell phones behind, entering the garden can help us to relax, to slow down, to connect with nature. It can help us understand the source of our food and it can help us understand who we are.
A garden is a process
The cycle of life is demonstrated in a garden. Designed to draw the eye, a garden can entice us into participating in its growth. It can encourage us to participate in planting, cultivating, and harvesting, and eating. It makes us aware of life processes, both in the garden and beyond. In the garden we become more aware of the sun, the moon, the seasons, and the cycle of life, death, and decay. We become more aware of the weather, of wind, rain, and of the importance of water.
A garden is a source of life
The fertility of the soil affects our food. Growing food makes us aware of the importance of protecting the soil. In the garden we can learn about our relationship to the earth and all its inhabitants. And we can learn how to keep the soil fertile for future generations. The meaning of living sustainably on the earth is taught in our day-to-day practice of gardening.
A garden is an experience
Working in a garden takes us close to nature. It makes us stop and look closely at the small bud which will turn into a huge red, juicy tomato. And it makes us notice the caterpillar eating that tomato, too. Working in the garden builds courage and strength that can’t be developed through virtual experiences. In the garden we learn to use our bodies and our hands, to use new tools, to make decisions. We also learn to accept what we can’t control, to accept failure and to celebrate the harvest planted with our own hands. Through activities of planting seeds, watering, weeding, digging, harvesting, and eating, we share in the human experience. We also connect with farmers who supply our produce today and with our ancestors who farmed for generations.
A garden is a community
Let’s replace that familiar phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child” with “It Takes a Garden”
A garden is a teacher
In the garden we can learn how to address environmental and health issues that face our public with regard to the food system. The most important are food insecurity, obesity, loss of bio-diversity, and environmental degradation. College students deserve a garden in which to study the systems of life. A garden can be the best teacher, but as in most avenues of life, only if we enter as students to learn through our work. Reading the garden or admiring the garden from a distance is not enough. We need to get in there, physically with our hands and entire body. To really care about the future of the planet, we need to first look closely, to experience physically our connections to the soil. And then we can learn to love, to care for the land through practice.
The commitment of Santa Monica College to an organic garden reflects our commitment to sustainability, which means a commitment to future generations and their needs. My experience, working to help the students of SMC establish a garden, has taught me much, but probably the most important–and a quality required of all gardeners–is patience. It’s also taught me about why SMC students want a garden. First, they want to learn to grow their own delicious food, to be independent. I invite you all to support this garden, and also to grow your own. This garden is going to be much more than a eye-catching field of thriving plants and fruit trees. It’s going to be an oasis in the middle of our campus, a very special place of learning, a place unlike any other.