The Prepared Response

From the RW&G Facebook page and with regard to Saturday’s speech, a thoughtful reader writes:

I am a bit concerned though how your efforts [at promoting gardens to address hunger] could be harmed by some backlash against seed-savers (as discussed in films like Food, Inc.) I doubt there are problems with tomatillos, but wonder about other seeds like for corn… Any problems thus far?

Here’s my response, which you may tell I was itching to give on Saturday if need be:

Holly and I actually have talked about this issue. And we agreed that, right now, in the midst of the recession, the bigger issue at hand is making sure folks get food. And if that means less-than-ideal seed sources, then that’s what it means. [It was interesting to discover how much Holly and I had in common in our individual stances, especially given that we’d never presented together previously.]

Personally [and I’m definitely speaking for myself from here until the end], I see gardening as a “gateway experience” to larger environmental and sustainability issues, including concerns about seed stock preservation. But if those of us worried about the future of our food supply only ever reach out to the choir of true believers–and by that I mean educated and affluent people with the time and energy to worry about Monsanto et al, then [we’ll never succeed at either feeding more people or moving people away from overly corporatized food systems].

We need to meet ordinary people where they are right now, nurture a positive, can-do spirit in them (just like we did in WWI and II) and then move them along the continuum to make even stronger, bolder lifestyle choices. Otherwise and quite frankly, the inroads made with regard to “sustainable living” initiatives will be deemed “elitist” and out of touch with the concerns of most Americans. That may not be fair, but it’s true.

All that said, my fave book to recommend to folks–even my friends on the extreme Right here in Texas–is the VERY West Coast, left-leaning Food Not Lawns precisely because it presents tips and strategies for shoring up food security right alongside seed saving and storage. It’s interesting because currently it’s hand-wringers on far left and far right that are the most vocal supporters of things like seed preservation, gardening, heavy duty food storage. Go figure. [Note that the book is actually connected to the Food Not Bombs movement, hence the name.]

I look forward to the day when there’s a critical mass of [us] “radical centrists”–both geographically and politically–taking leadership on these issues [specifically food security and sustainable food systems]. That idea was, in fact, a big reason why I launched [RW&G].

Feel free to weigh in with your own response here, there or yonder.


  1. As a hunger fighting organization, The Dinner Garden does not take any political or religious stands. We believe that our gardeners are the experts on their families, and we help them garden in whatever way is comfortable for them. We encourage our gardeners to save seeds from their crops so they never have to worry about food insecurity.

    • Just a hunch–and I know The Dinner Garden has only been in operation a couple of years, Holly, but do you find that as your clients begin to experiment with seed saving that they develop a greater interest in heirlooms, etc?

  2. Our experience has been that The Dinner Gardeners learn to save seeds from the produce they grow. They then like to branch out into growing more unusual varieties of fruits and veggies.

  3. I love this post. I would agree that it’s more important to put food on the table than just about anything else, and to meet people where they are at. My greatest fear is that gardening and/or organic farming is seen as an elite activity. Feeding ourselves and others from our own gardens or farms is a privilege, but not the kind with a silver trowel behind it. It’s a privilege (or a blessing?) to be able to share the bounty with friends, neighbors, or total strangers. It’s my work in the soil paired with the luck of weather, soil, and a little hope.

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