Planting Old Wisdom

Written by
FH staff writer
Published on
April 4, 2023 at 3:17:00 PM PDT April 4, 2023 at 3:17:00 PM PDTth, April 4, 2023 at 3:17:00 PM PDT

It’s spring! Well, we’ve passed the March 20 signpost, at least. And, while much of Canada may be under snow this weekend, it’s time to pull out your warming lamps and start germinating those tomato seeds.

Gardening has a rich history in our country. Many speak fondly of their grandparents’ lush gardens—boasting of fresh vegetables and bright flowers all summer long as well as fresh eggs and even sometimes fresh milk. Our grandparents knew how to live sustainable lives. They worked hard, cultivated and raised much of their own food, and took care of their neighbours.

But, today, much of that knowledge has been lost or simply relegated to nostalgic memories. Today, we live busy lives and we rely on supermarkets to feed us, which works pretty well when you’re running around trying to hold down a job and a family and a church small group and a gym membership and....

It works, that is, until it doesn’t.

The COVID-19 pandemic shocked our global food system. It painfully revealed many of the cracks in our not-so-resilient supply chains. One of the negative results appears to be ever-increasing food prices that are causing more employed Canadians than ever before to visit food banks.

One positive outcome, however, has been a revival of interest in the wily ways of our brilliant grandparents. How did they do it? How did they grow those amazing food gardens?

A renewed interest in vegetable gardening is beginning to flourish in Canada and presents a unique opportunity for connection with families all over the world.

Whether here or in Canada or “over there” in Uganda, we’re all reaching for the same thing—sustainable livelihoods that will enable us to feed our families and survive future shocks to our food system. Sarah’s is one such family.

Sarah was able to join a FH farmers’ group where she learned new, sustainable gardening techniques like mulching that enable her to grow vegetables all year round, even in the dry season when the sky is empty for months. 

Sarah lives in the rural community of Burukuru, Bukiende in Uganda. When Sarah could no longer afford her children’s school supplies or school fees, they had to drop out of school. In addition, they suffered from malnutrition because Sarah didn’t have enough money for food at every meal, let alone feed them the right kinds of foods

She felt cursed, and regretted not finishing her own schooling. She didn’t want to see her children go down the same path.

Thanks to generous Canadian supporters, however, Sarah was able to join a FH farmers’ group where she learned new, sustainable gardening techniques like mulching that enable her to grow vegetables all year round, even in the dry season when the sky is empty for months. 

She grows tomatoes, eggplant, spinach, collard greens, and plantains, and has enough food to cook her kids nutritious, filling meals every day.

By feeding her children from this fresh abundance, Sarah has been able to reverse their malnutrition—they’re healthy now! She grew so much produce that she now sells the surplus in the local market. With this new stream of income, Sarah has been able to send her children back to school, giving them the opportunity for a future she never had.

Sarah explains the impact of gardens on her community: “When FH came and introduced kitchen gardening, and we also welcomed the idea, everything changed because most households are [now] growing vegetables and are now able to eat a variety [of food], thus improving their diet and meeting their needs.”

“These changes bring happiness in my life!” she exclaims.

Sarah also raises chickens and goats who fertilize her garden and provide eggs, meat, and milk for the family and for sale.

Can you imagine if those of us with a little space in our yards (or apartment patios!) started growing our own veggies like Sarah? Her garden isn’t huge, it’s just really effective. Could we actually offset our grocery bills by growing (and trading) some of our favourite vegetables? 

Could we improve our own health and strengthen our kids’ immune systems by incorporating homegrown, fresh, nutritious food into our daily meals?

In other words, could we renew our lives with the wisdom of our grandparents? 

If you’re at all interested in trying, check out this free, online course from Thrive for Good on how to launch your own home garden in Canada!