Historically, I've done things the hard way. It's my nature. I joined the Marine Corps my junior year of high school because it was the "hardest" of the armed forces. After 4 years of struggle and stories upon stories to tell my grandchildren some day I got out of the Marines and plunged right into a career as a stand-up comic. That's harder than being a Marine, take my word for it. And after a decade in the performing arts, I decide to be a farmer?! What the hell is wrong with me? I could do anything with my life. I could make my focus in life something simple.. something easy on the body and the mind that leaves me plenty of time to take it easy... but that's just not my style. I like being in the trenches. Don't ask me why. I can only tell you that I feel more connected to my soul when I'm striving, when I'm in a struggle to overcome my doubts and fears. Those types of experiences have taught me everything I understand about life. I have put myself through the ringer time and again in order to understand life and myself better.
I think there's something about farming that resonates with struggle. Maybe that's why i connect with it so much. Every year is a gamble, nothing is guaranteed, but the reward at harvest time is beautiful and makes us appreciative of everything we have and have accomplished. I've been thinking a lot about comfort these past few weeks. Years ago, people didn't really live very comfortably. We lived without many of the "creature comforts" we have today like central air and heat, cars, grocery stores, refrigerators, stoves, TVs... the list goes on. Now those are just custom things. Everyone has a TV right? No one wonders where food comes from. It comes from the grocery store. Duh. But this idea of comfort has us trapped. We are slaves to comfort and our value of comfort is making us ignorant and unhealthy.
We have been sold on this idea of independence. You grow up, go to school, get a job and move out "on your own." Years ago, people lived in village communities where everyone provided life's necessities for one another. That's not common at all in our culture. Sure, we live in gated communities but no one really relies on one another. That's what we make money for. You go to work, specialize in one or two areas of expertise and get a paycheck and that money provides us with all of life's necessities that were once provided to us by our neighbors. We have taken the community out of the equation. We believe in this idea of independence. We live on our, that means we're independent in our culture, but it's a farce. We are ever more dependent upon the systems that provide us life. We are "plugged in" to the IV fluid of life, and money makes it all work. So what happens if we don't have money? Well, as we've seen, we don't get those necessities met like everyone else and we suffer.
We can't escape from our interdependence on one another. We can pretend that we have for as long as our financial system works but in doing so we are leaving a lot of our community members in the dust. Our American idea of independence might be a selfish idea. I bring all of this up because I am realizing, as I live in Baltimore for my first growing season, that there are a lot of people in the heart of this city who do not have access to healthy food. There are a lot of people who wouldn't know where to get it and if they did, they couldn't afford it. That's a problem. There are organizations and individuals throughout the country who are attempting to fix this. A group in Oakland called "Phat Beets Produce" are working for what they call "food justice." That's the idea that, no matter how wealthy or poor a person may be, they have a right, as a human to healthy, fresh food. I love this idea and it has really gotten my mind racing. I've spent the last few week looking into Baltimore's urban gardening initiatives and am coming up with a plan.
These past few years, I've been selling produce to Cafe Nola and have thought about organic gardening with a "Whole Foods" type consumer in mind. That is no longer my focus. People who can afford Whole Foods have Whole Foods. I don't have to do that, it's already taken care of. I want to join the fight to feed the people who really need it. I want to work with the farmers in Baltimore to help to fix the "Food Desert" situation in this city. In the next year I plan to acquire a vacant lot somewhere in the city and turn it into a micro farm intended on growing food for people in the city who need it. As I'm researching these ideas, I'm realizing just how many vacant lots there are in Baltimore. Over the past few decades, the city's population has been reduced by about 30%. Most of the people have left the city for the suburbs and while I can understand that, that's just not my style. I like to do things the hard way. I'm going to roll up my sleeves and put in some work. I want community in my life. I want to know that I did what I could for the people around me. I don't know why that's so strong in me... I guess it doesn't matter, it's just there.
As for our garden in Mt. Airy, this spring has been relaxing and fun. We've involved some members of my girlfriend's family and I've really enjoyed having them there. It's great to see the budding enthusiasm of people as they begin on their path. I like inspiring that. We've decided that, since Mt. Airy is a bit of a drive from our house that we shouldn't try to over do it this year. We're just growing food for ourselves and a few other families. It's nice. I'm trying to stay sharp. This year I want to learn everything I can about Urban Farming. Luckily I live in Baltimore. It's the perfect place for someone like me to end up. I never, in a million years would have thought that I'd live in Baltimore. I guess I'm not one of those guys who plans things out like that. Life just kind of takes me where I'm needed. It's always been that way. Maryland is a hot mess environmentally and I'm glad I ended up here. It's a great place to learn.
Till next time