Each year my parents and I grow edible plants and decorative flowers in Spring and Summer. We have a plot in a community garden down the street from our house, where other people in town also rent plots and grow whatever crops they want. I’ve learned by having this plot over the years that there is a sense of camaraderie and a lot of teamwork in a community garden. I see this in a couple different areas- in the upkeep of the community garden land, and in seeing excess crops being shared between gardeners.
There is always help needed at a community garden. At ours, there is regular weeding and mowing that needs to be done in the grass aisles in between each plot. Sometimes the fences need to be mended, the watering tanks need to be fixed, and gas needs to be put in the lawn mowers and rototillers. The organizer of the garden seeks help with all of these tasks from plot owners. Without it, no one would be able to use the land because it would become messy and unorganized, so community gardeners depend on each other to keep the land workable.
I’ve also seen lots of sharing between gardeners, especially in mid to late summer when plants are growing with copious amounts of fruit and vegetables. There’s a picnic table at the entrance to the plots where gardeners often put a basket or bag of excess produce that’s up for grabs. My parents and I have done that quite a few times, especially when our tomato harvest becomes too much for three people to eat and we’ve exhausted everyone we know with bags of them. Whatever is left on that table always gets taken, which is nice to see. You know that the surplus goods did not go to waste. I also see recipes and planting techniques shared between gardeners, which we do often with our plot neighbor, who’s a master farmer.
I think the bond between people in a community garden comes from not only needing to rely on others to have the land be functional and organized, but also because gardening itself is an act that’s all about giving. With a good harvest, you’re giving yourself and your family homegrown produce, and you could have excess crops to give to others who don’t have a garden so they can experience farm fresh food too. In a community garden, it’s all about teamwork to make the gardening season successful for all.
While many people might not think of ever vacationing in the Mid-West, I have fond memories of spending time in Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska for many summers ever since I was born. My mom is from Iowa, and many of her relatives still live there. I look forward to going seeing grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins each year. While some people might consider the Mid-West “boring” and have no interest in going, I would recommend it to those who want a change of scenery from urban life and to those who have any interest in seeing farming done on a large scale. No matter where you go, you can’t escape wide fields of crops or animals; the highways are lined with farm land and barns. There’s a large cornfield along my grandparent’s street. I always enjoy seeing the landscape because it’s so different from the Massachusetts scenery that I’m familiar with, and it’s beautiful in its own way in the Summer when everything is at peak growing season. It’s serene to look out on the highway and be able to see farm land for miles because Iowa is fairly flat with rolling hills.
During my trips to Iowa, my extended family and I have traveled to many different types of farms. I’ve held baby goats and walked through real corn mazes, ones not merely put up in the Fall for fun. I’ve seen acres of soy farms (Iowa is the largest producer of soy in the country) and Amish people selling their produce at farmers markets. You don’t realize how truly big farming operations can get until you go to a place like Iowa. Farming is a livelihood for many people there, and they have it down to a science.
A couple of years ago we went to a llama farm, where we got to feed and pet around 13 llamas. The older couple who owned the farm sheared them for their wool. While it might seem like llamas are a very unconventional animal to have on a farm, there were no other animals on their land, and they had been raising these llamas for years. They’re very docile, and they were really cute and soft! If you ever have the chance to visit any part of the Mid-West, even for a short time, take it. It’ll give you a window into a way of life that’s unfamiliar to those of us on the East Coast, and you’ll appreciate the time, space, and craft that it takes to farm for a living.