Written By: Gillian Scruggs- Organic Growers School
“January is the quietest month in the garden. … But just because it looks quiet doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. The soil, open to the sky, absorbs the pure rainfall while microorganisms convert tilled-under fodder into usable nutrients for the next crop of plants. The feasting earthworms tunnel along, aerating the soil and preparing it to welcome the seeds and bare roots to come.”
– Rosalie Muller Wright, Editor of Sunset Magazine, 1/99
February in southeast Appalachia. Dedicated farmers and home growers all over the Southeast are prepping their compost, testing their soils, clearing recent snowfall off their high tunnels, and finalizing seed orders for the Spring. Many of us are still dormant bears, waiting for the first green leaves of the Sweet Birch to remind us to emerge and root around in the earth. And some of us wish to grow our own food, but are faced with barriers that hold us back from planting anything at all.
Results from question, “What are your biggest barriers to the next step in your growing/homesteading goals?” From our 2016 Get Growing Survey, completed by OGS Spring Conference attendees.
The number of people growing food in the United States has decreased in rapid amounts since the birth of our nation. In 1860 90% of the American population farmed. These land-based families provided their own food, fuel, and clothing. 100 years ago, 50% of people farmed and much of the other 50% had basic food, cooking, and growing skills. Today, less than 2% of people farm in this country.
Thanks to the Industrial Revolution, fewer hands are needed to feed our country. In A Nation of Farmers: Defeating the Food Crises on American Soil, authors Aaron Newton and Sharon Astyk explain, “The cost of flying in food from far away and shipping it across the country in refrigerated trucks is rapidly becoming unviable. More Americans than ever before require food stamps and food pantries just to get by, and a worldwide food crisis is unfolding, overseas and in our kitchens.”
The industrialization of food and growing leaves the average person out of touch with the basics of food, kitchen, and garden literacy. The loss of ancestral knowledge and of a local food community leaves people disconnected, disempowered, and insecure. At Organic Growers School, these are the problems we strive to address, and our answer is personalized, small-scale agriculture. And what could be more personal than your own backyard?
Addressing the food crisis is going to take all of us, and we must start now. In order to create strengthened communities, reclaim food sovereignty (the eaters make the decisions about the food life cycle), and to prepare for climate change, we must inspire, encourage, educate, and support the average person to grow food. We know that the small-scale grower is the sustainable grower, which means planting a variety of crops, without chemicals, and eating fresh where the food is produced.
Organic Growers School sees home growers as a confident, empowered, and excited population working towards collective food sovereignty and security. They are our neighborhood movers and shakers, our urban and suburban grassroots support. A key strategic goal at OGS is to increase the number of people who are successfully growing on a home-scale in Western North Carolina. Our program, Get Growing!, will support home growers of all types: from novices with big dreams but little experience, to master gardeners who want advice on drip irrigation systems. How will we do it? In three ways: though a public awareness campaign, education, and coaching and consulting services.
For more Organic Growers School events, such as our 23rd Annual Spring Conference, visit us online: http://organicgrowersschool.org/
Gillian Scruggs is OGS’s first AmeriCorps Project Conserve member. As the Program and Outreach Coordinator, she supports home grower education and coordinates volunteers for the Spring Conference. She comes to OGS from the Alzar School in Idaho and Chile where she was a high school Spanish and AP US History teacher and whitewater kayak instructor. Gillian graduated from UNC Asheville in 2011 with a degree in Spanish, taught experiential science education at Mountain Trail Outdoor School, and worked as the garden assistant for two summers at Mountain Trail’s Educational Garden Center. You are most likely to run into her on the French Broad River, at a farmer’s market, or scrambling around on rocks in Hickory Nut Gorge.