Who's afraid of a little organic garden?
*By_ Barbara Damrosch_, published Thursday, May 7, 2009 in The
It seems like a pretty innocent idea, doesn't it? Planting an organic
vegetable garden in your yard so that your kids can eat fresh,
nutritious, safe food. But now that Michelle Obama has gone and done it,
big agriculture is terrified that we'll all follow her example. First
came a letter addressed to her from the Mid America CropLife
Association, which represents the chemical fertilizer and pesticide
industries, urging the first lady to give "conventional" agriculture
equal time. One of the authors separately told association members that
the thought of an organic garden at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. made her
"shudder." And an industrial agriculture media group, CropLife, started
an online letter-writing campaign to encourage Obama to use synthetic
pesticides, euphemistically called "crop protection products," which her
effort seemed to impugn.
Such a response might seem comical if it did not highlight so clearly
the fear these industries try to inspire to convince us that our world
would crumble without them. The association's letter asked Obama, "If
Americans were still required to farm to support their family's basic
food and fiber needs, would the U.S. have been leaders in the
advancement of science, communication, education, medicine,
transportation and the arts?" It goes on to explain that nobody has time
to grow their own food. The message: Leave food production to the experts.
The fact is, Americans are planting peas, carrots and potatoes in
surging numbers, partly out of economic necessity and partly out of
dissatisfaction with the nation's commercial food supply. And a lot of
these new gardeners are using organic methods. The Obamas' garden is a
great example to follow, but it's also just a sign of the times.
Maybe the pesticide ads, with their military rhetoric, aren't working
anymore. Perhaps gardeners are taking a wait-and-see attitude about
stocking their sheds with an arsenal of poisons. What if we staged a war
against the beetles and the caterpillars and it turned out there were no
weapons of mass destruction to be found, only the odd nibbling pest here
and there to pick off and squish? What if we found that well-rotted
manure and homemade compost, patterned on the natural world's fertility
program, grew plants better than something sold in a bottle? When
gardeners nurture the life in their soil by keeping it free of harsh
products that might imperil it, they often find that there is nothing
they have to buy except for a few seeds. That's dangerous knowledge.
The great dark secret is that nature is generous and determined to make
plants grow. Much of how this happens is still a mystery and a worthy
study for our country's best scientific minds. It is also a worthy
subject for you, and if you are naturally curious you can learn a lot
from your garden. Meanwhile, grow some tomatoes. You're in charge.
/Article copyright of/_/ Barbara Damrosch/_/. Reprinted with permission./
/Creative Commons photo credit:/_/ Green Colander/_