I recently started volunteering with the Sharing Farm and I wanted to share with you my story. I believe strongly in the farm’s mission of providing fresh, healthy, local produce to our less fortunate neighbours. I am deeply concerned about the loss of farmland in Richmond and food Security. All the Sharing Farm’s farming practices are organic and sustainable, though not certified organic (due to expense and time of doing so) and that commitment makes me proud. I also wanted to volunteer because of my many fond memories of my father’s garden as well as my own childhood secret garden, and to try and recapture and engage those happy memories. I love the diversity of the volunteers and the sense of community that the Sharing Farm cultivates among us.
My Father’s Garden
Some of my most precious childhood memories are around gardening. Growing up, my father had a large vegetable garden and many fruit trees when we lived in Winnipeg. He had a compost pile and in those days, that was quite unusual compared to our neighbours. I loved the idea of our food scraps and lawn clippings nurturing our vegetable bounty rather than the use of any chemical. Although the compost did have a somewhat unpleasant odour and appearance, it was magic to our garden, the plants loved it! No other vegetables were as tasty as a salad made from ingredients harvested minutes earlier! My father had an impressive variety of vegetables such as cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini, and many more he planted every year; plants like strawberries, raspberries, and rhubarb; and fruit trees like apples, plums and crabapples. In those days, much of the produce in the store came from far away and was quite expensive. There was not the variety in stores we can find today and what was available was not very appealing. My father’s garden provided us with delicacies you could not buy as well as well as more delicious options for those items in the store.
Cornucopia of Sounds, Sights, Smells, Touch, and Tastes
My father’s garden was always a place of safety and serenity. Being in the garden had a way of instantly calming me and engaging a parasympathetic response in my body. It was also a glorious source of delightful and pleasing sensory input.
Despite being squeamish and yes, let me admit it, scared of the flying and creepy crawling things in the garden, I was also very fascinated by them. As long as my dad was in the garden with me, I was ok and I was safe. Often times just the sound of hum of a bee can take me back to my father’s garden. Today in the modern world of “unlimited” digital photography, my favourite thing to photograph is flowers also starring insects.
To this day I am still in awe when I see plant bursting with delicious abundance. I love the colourful symphony of colors in a garden. One cannot beat the sense of accomplishment and empowerment of planting a seed, nourishing the plant, and then enjoying its harvest. I always felt a connection to my food when I knew on what kind of plant or tree it grew, what that looked like, as well as knowing a little something about how to help that along.
More than any other sense, smell seems capable of transporting us to other places and times. My father’s garden had intoxicating sweet and savoury aromas wafting throughout. Every plant has it’s own scent and together these fragrances sang. Sometimes just smelling my produce transports me back to my childhood.
The garden had many textures from soft, fuzzy, and squishy to spiky and prickly. Is that a leaf, a twig, or bee touching my arm? The sensation of the earth between my fingers had a way of making me feel grounded and connected. My favourite sensation of touch, however, was harvesting the different vegetables and fruit we grew. It was exciting to hold the firm cucumber or soft raspberry in my hand and knowing I soon would be enjoying it! Cucumbers are some of my strongest memories as when in the season, every day, I would harvest them, and then together with my mother we would make pickles. I will never forget the way the plants smelled or how the leaves felt on my arms as I picked the cucumbers.
When I was young, like most kids, I was a very fussy eater and refused to eat most vegetable. Given what we could buy locally in Winnipeg, at the time, especially during the winter, was not very appealing, not surprising vegetables did not interest me. I credit my father’s garden and my connection and relationship to it for inspiring me to try and eat many vegetables and nurturing my love for them. Today, the sexy term for this that restaurants use to evoke this connection is “Farm to Table”.
I also had a secret garden that I made with Andy, my friend who was my neighbour’s relative. When my Andy’s family would come visit my neighbours, he would come play with me. My neighbours gave us a small hidden patch of land between their garage and fence. Behind my childhood home were large fields surrounding railroad tracks. Andy & I used to replant wild growing flowers from the fields behind my house and plant them in our secret garden.
In those days, we did not take photos the same way we do today and sadly, I do not have any photos of either my father’s garden or my secret garden I shared with my friend Andy. Here are some photos from the Sharing Farm that evoke some of those special memories for me.
Invitation to Share
What are your most powerful garden memories? What is your experience growing your own food? If you are not a gardener but like visiting gardens, how does being in a garden make you feel? What thoughts, and feelings do garden evoke in you? Please share with us your memories below in the comments.
This blog post was written by Tamar Cohen.