A ramble through the garden

With all the tizzy about the primary and the historic presidential election, I’m glad I can return to my gardens for a few minutes. While these things (politics) are important, there’s nothing like working the soil and reconnecting with the earth. I’m no tree-hugger, but I sure am a dirt-lover!

It was none other than President Abraham Lincoln, who said in his address to the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society on September 30, 1859:

“…no other human occupation opens so wide a field for the profitable and agreeable combination of labor with cultivated thought, as agriculture. I know of nothing so pleasant to the mind, as the discovery of anything which is at once new and valuable — nothing which so lightens and sweetens toil, as the hopeful pursuit of such discovery. And how vast, and how varied a field is agriculture, for such discovery. The mind, already trained to thought, in the country school, or higher school, cannot fail to find there an exhaustless source of profitable enjoyment.”

Be it urban farming, mini-agriculture, or whatever you wish to call it, I could not agree more. We have had at least three major harvests from our Milwaukee gardens this year. Back when I was in elemenatary school, I had the impression from the songs we sang and living somewhat near Wisconsin farms that there was one big harvest, and that everything grew all at once during the summer to be harvested in the fall. Looking back now, that seems just a little simplistic. But it also tells me something about how used to industrial agriculture and supermarket culture we are today. Watching the rise of corn fields (and the later rise of McMansions where the corn fields once stood) is actually a useless in telling how food is grown. If there was just one harvest per year, how could we survive? How could our ancestors have survived the countless centuries before the corner grocer had the essentials we need? They couldn’t. It was an ongoing process or farming, foraging, gathering, hunting, and fishing. While it would be hard to hunt for my family’s food (in the city of Milwaukee?!), I can raise a lot of food crops. In fact, you can raise a huge amount of food in a very small space, much more than you’d think possible. As I said, we just had our third harvest. Granted, it was small, much smaller than the first two, but it was still significant, as it provided most of two meals.

You’re calling that significant? Yes I am. That’s an impressive yield for a totally amateur urban gardener in his first year of gardening. Two meals is a lot more than I suspected I could get from a garden prior to doing it. And I know I’ve barely scratched the surface.

Author: Jason Haas

Jason is an elected member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, occasionally moonlights as an amateur gardener, and is a proud father of two, or three, depending on how you do the math.