Michael Pollan really gets me

You may know of Michael Pollan. He is author of five New York Times Best Sellers: The Omnivore's Dilemma:  A Natural History of Four Meals, The Botany of Desire, In Defense of Food, Food Rules and, mostly recently, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. In 2010 he was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine.

First, let me be clear - I do not know Michael Pollan, but reading a recent interview Rodale's Organic Life did with him, Why Organic Isn't All It's Cracked Up To Be, I felt completely understood. The interview is (not surprisingly) thought-provoking and covers several interesting ideas/proposals about local fresh food, organic farming practices, and the relationship we have with the food we grow and/or the people who grow our food. I highly suggest you take the time to read it. Some of the interview is about individuals gardening and cooking with fresh food, as well as the importance of supporting local producers at Farmers Markets (not necessarily the same as "Local" in supermarkets). He is spot on when he says that building relationships with your local growers is important. But, what really hit me in a personal way was this statement:

"The longer I'm at it, the more I'm convinced that gardening and cooking are really important activities, both at a practical level and at a spiritual or philosophical level. Both are ways to reconnect with the earth, with all the processes that keep us alive. And then there are all the practical benefits. A lot of people say, 'Oh, I can't afford high-quality organic produce.' Well, if you have space for a garden, you can afford it. Anyone can afford it. You can grow better stuff than you can find anywhere. And you don't need a lot of space to do it."

I was in the middle of a restaurant when I read this and I had to fight the urge to stand up on my chair and yell "THAT'S IT! THAT'S EVERYTHING!" But, I just bookmarked the article on my phone and decided to take the more civilized route and just write about it later. Those restaurant patrons have no idea that they narrowly escaped being suddenly scared out of their seats.

This is really what I feel to the core when I garden. And, believe me when I tell you that my yard is the size of a postage stamp, yet I grow more food than I sometimes know what to do with. I'm out there every day all summer tending to the garden, so it's a lot of work, but the cliche is true - it's a labor of love. There's something visceral about how I feel when I go out in my tiny backyard and see the growth of actual, fresh, honest-to-goodness healthy food. I have to admit, it makes me feel powerful - in control. Until, of course, I find blossom end rot on my tomatoes,  my cucumbers catch a bad case of fungus on their leaves, or my beans don't produce what they should. It's humbling too.

Pollan comments on our increased consumption of processed food that has no nutritional value and is a detriment to our bodies and our environment. He states, "'The people who are vegetable gardening are cooking. I don't think you garden unless you're going to cook. Fifty-eight percent of Americans are still cooking, but the numbers are trending downward." Over my lifetime, I cook more than I used to (in my earlier years, I had no idea how to cook) - and I definitely take advantage of having fresh organic goods in my backyard to make dinner with. I love going out and "picking" dinner. It doesn't mean that I won't eat some questionable food choices...I do....too often. But, for example, when I had an overabundance of lettuce in my garden, I ate salad a LOT more often during the season. I hate letting food go to waste, particularly the food I slaved over growing.

I still rely on shopping outside of my garden for food though, even during the peak season. Pollan's point is not that organic isn't important, but there is a difference between buying organic from a food source that you're not familiar with and one that you are. (e.g., many certified organic farmers are just factory farms). Know your growers. One of the best ways to know your growers is to be one.

What are you growing this season? What local farmers are you looking forward to buying from?

I'm Catherine, a small-space urban gardener in New Jersey (Zone 7a) who started gardening out of upcycled wooden wine boxes. For years, I wanted to try gardening, but didn't know where to start. I got up the nerve to give it a try - starting small with a single wooden wine box that turned an idea into reality. That reality quickly turned into my filling every sunny inch of space of my postage-stamp size lawn and turning it into a garden oasis. I grow mostly vegetables and herbs with some exception for fruits (when the squirrels and rabbits don't get to them first). I love learning from gardening communities (and lots of trial and error).

I hope one day to take all that I'm learning and apply it to a larger plot of land. To help me get there, I'm extending my learning through the University of Massachusetts, Stockbridge School of Agriculture's, Sustainable Food & Farming program. (I'm addicted to learning as much as I am to gardening.)

This blog isn't just for gardeners (although I hope it inspires some of you to try growing a plant or two). The recipes (food & cocktails) in theRecipes section of this blog contain ingredients that don't have to come from your own backyard. If you like visiting your local farmer's market(or even your grocery store) and would like to get some new recipes you can use with the fresh produce and herbs you get from your local growers, this blog will have plenty for you too.

In addition to gardening and cooking, I also love to visit and photograph my surroundings. I feel fortunate to have so many amazing places here in New York/New Jersey, where I live and work. Visits to local farms, farmer's markets, and cycling through rural farming areas help me feel connected and refreshed. share these experiences in theExploring section of the blog so that you might visit through proxy or be inspired enough to visit yourself. 

With very few exceptions, all of the photographs on this site are ones I have taken myself. (For the photographers out there, I shoot with a Canon 7D and sometimes with my Lumix  DMC-ZS15 compact camera.) 

I hope this blog inspires you to grow, create, explore, and try something new. The best way to stay up-to-date is to follow me using the social buttons above, or click Subscribe and sign up for my email newsletters.    

Happy Gardening and Healthful Living!

- Catherine