By Joyce Johnson
Heroes, usually our friends and neighbors, go “boots down” when fire, accidents, and emergencies happen; these warriors and protectors are mostly of Alpha DNA, but heroes of all kinds spout up all over the place; some are out spoken leaders or creatives who dare tell the truth, like in “The Sound of Freedom.” But some are quiet and almost invisible like… ...those heroes whose vision and mission is to grow produce and sell/share with community; They are who I wish to thank in this issue.
The present challenges to farming in our country is to me a stimulant to seriously try to grow food individually and in community co-ops. The supermarkets are showing signs of strained supply lately, but I have admired my “grower” friends around the valley for over 3 decades. I say from my not-green thumb…but from heart, that it must feel so fulfilling to assist Creation in making green appear and grow up into edible and/or beautiful life out of the earth.
I was privileged to know Emigrant’s Richard Johnson, in his 80’s, Volunteer Fireman/ EMR, and Grower who also found the time to plant a lot for community, sold at People’s Market and delivered to you if needed. I feel the same total awe and respect for the humble produce vendor I sat next to at People’s Market here recently who raised her children almost solely on the food she grew. And now gardens one whole acre, and with help of neighborhood kids, shares and sells it. We have unsung heroes in our midst.
Is growing our own food such a big order? Large quantity growing can only be done by those with large enough land, and so only a relative few of us can. But, “At the very least,” a neighbor said: “Sprout seeds and beans!” They do, and continuously share the sprouts with lucky neighbors; also they cleverly grow produce in plant beds made of large, tall trash bins pushed together. It is brilliant space-saving and you don’t have to bend over hardly at all which is real nice. Another neighbor puts bridal netting on their plant beds held up by sticks, and weighted down by big enough rocks, which keep bugs and even hail, etc., out. But sprouting inside is easy. Your kids could do it. And, it’s super nourishing for salads and sandwiches—all year round grow-able in your climate controlled kitchen in a few quart jars. Lots of You Tubes online show how easy it is.
It takes a whole village—Over the years many growers around here have experimented with new methods to grow food in this challenging climate. Many of us non-green thumbs and elders could in future get our hands in the dirt to assist nearby big growers for a share of harvest. No money exchanged even, old as the earth actually. [Add potlucks. It could be fun.]...and a lot of us doing a little, or just our best, and especially getting youth involved, is doable. And I dare say might be necessary.
Challenges and upshots – One of Montana’s “local elements” (besides bears…) is the wind—well, and late frosts and...okay,… hail, heatwaves, wildfire,...and short summers,...is all. And, um...you know, grasshoppers have to eat too! Try netting on the beds! And little homemade greenhouses! Those of us old enough, know hands-on that dealing with challenges defines and builds character. Whats a little wind? [teaches us to dig in heels or blow away]. More upshots: wind blows away pollution and smoke, which I particularly appreciate coming from L.A. Our powerful native wind sows seeds, sweeps the ground, regularly prunes our very own beloved, dry old cottonwood trees,... and provides thermal carousels for birds to glide in. :-) MacDonald’s original sign blew down when it first came to town, remember anyone? A few old guard towns’ people warned them that it would, and it did...get pruned. Lesson is: listen to your elders. They have strong roots.
Just a quick sketch of only a few Growers and sellers that I know of close by: D & D West Greenhouses who run that farm stand and greenhouse on 89 just south of Livingston, with harvest specials, hanging flowers and plants. Paradise Permaculture whose team and guest teachers stop at nothing to teach effective organic growing methods for produce, medicinal herbs, seed saving, and sell around town, and give how-to classes. Peoples Market on Sat. mornings in Emigrant has growers; LivingstonFarmers Market, has several regular produce vendors representing big growers, every Wed., 4 to 7, through Sept. FoodWorks in Livingston provides year round solely locally grown organic produce, which I find lasts 3 times longer. Costs a bit more but worth it.
Brave new Earth – We can grow 3 seasons here, with greenhouses big and small; and with “preserving” food for the winter, be self sustaining; it is seriously healthier, and we take back some power by growing our own. Herbs and other natural elements are turning out to be good medicine. Search DIY greenhouses for fun, clever, easy and cheap DIY small, and/or ambitious gardening. The Fire chief deputy said when there is an alarm, it’s All Hands on Deck. A tee shirt logo could say: “All hands in Dirt!” (well why not have some fun with this?) The idea of cooperative, community food growing is far from new. It is a core, first priority survival thing since our beginnings, or at least since ancient heroes of a sort stopped throwing rocks and spears at Dinos for lunch, and began to plant stuff, and form tribes i.e.“community.” Serious big growing practices are thriving with family run and alternative farming communities around the country.
“Wanna eat? Pull weeds!” could be a logo for another tee shirt. Perhaps a bit of tough love is needed to reach many of our youth for their assistance. We need “rock-pickers!,”...said a local, home-schooled, grower-raised youngster who knows how to Grow. The need for self-sustained living is simply wise, at any level because,...we have gotten too used to being taken care of and fed and controlled by big industry in a system that is gravely wounded. When we the people are in co-operation with each other, we soar, but there is also this: Individual and Community growing of our own food is one potent life-saving legacy to teach and pass on to our youth.
[There are many growers around the county. If you or other established or wannabe community growers might be interested in gathering to discuss ideas and brain storm, please share and form your own neighborhood garden clubs. Search the net for a ton of helpful ideas tried and true. Feel free to let us know your thoughts. Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Put in subject line: Growers.]