I hope that this finds you and yours keeping well.
Like many folks, food and gardening are on my mind. Here’s a wrap of some things you may find interesting to read, as well as some resources that may help you.
Americans went food shopping. I’m a big fan of Rachel Laudan, a food historian and writer extraordinaire. I checked out her blog for insights on food and the pandemic. Her most recent blog post – “In March, of All Months, Americans Went Food Shopping to Shelter in Place” – did not disappoint and provided some historical perspective on how food options for consumers have changed over the decades.
“Now fresh food is season-less, thanks to an extraordinary mix of demand from consumers, construction of hugely expensive infrastructure particularly the cold chain from field to fridge, new forms of packaging from shrink wrap to the diapers under the meat, immigrant labor, transformations in the life cycle of dairy cows and poultry, inventions of new ways of growing and harvesting plants and the concentration of this in areas of comparative advantage, the output of research labs in the big food processors such as ConAgra, General Mills, Nestle, and Unilever, and the growth of middlemen (logistics companies) to get products to consumers.”
Worth a read.
COVID-19 drives surge in gardening. As many UC Food Observer readers know, like Rachel, I’m also a practicing historian. My emphasis is on school, home and community gardening – particularly Victory Gardens. COVID-19 is driving a surge of interest in gardening. Seed companies are selling out. In the last couple of weeks I’ve been included in a few distinctly different – and excellent – pieces about this new garden movement that have appeared in the:
- New York Times: Food Supply Anxiety Brings Back Victory Gardens by Tejal Rao
- Civil Eats: The Moment for Food Sovereignty is Now by Katie Brimm
- Huffington Post: How the Coronavirus Pandemic Has Led To A Boom in Crisis Gardening by Jodi Helmer
(In the way-back machine, I blogged for the latter two publications about the need for more school, home and community gardens).
You can read what I’ve written about the fascinating history of school gardens here. And how World War I poster art holds lessons for us about food waste here.
Like everyone, I deeply regret the situation that is driving this uptick in gardening. The World War I gardening effort – Liberty, then later Victory Gardens – also occurred within the context of a global pandemic. I am hopeful, however, that unlike earlier periods in our history, where gardening was taken up by many and later dropped, that the post-COVID-19 gardening movement will be lasting, inclusive and woven into our cultural fabric.
“A Garden for Everyone. Everyone in a Garden.”
(P.S. This is a tagline I often use. It summarizes my personal and professional mission. I didn’t create it. I adapted it from U.S. government literature produced during World War I, specifically from a federally promoted educational program called the United States School Garden Army, which had as its slogan “A Garden for Every Child. Every Child in a Garden.”) Everything old is new again.
Need gardening tips? UC ANR has resources.
Free, downloadable Master Gardener tip sheets in Spanish and English here.
4-H Vegetable Gardening Project Resource Sheet (for youth and families) here.
About the UC ANR Master Gardeners
Like many around the world, you may find yourself putting in a home garden in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It helps to have a credible source of growing information. Maybe you need someone to answer your questions about pests or plant diseases. Perhaps you need good advice on selecting varieties, growing tips and maximizing harvests. For many Californians, the UC Master Gardener volunteers come to the rescue.
These trained volunteers – more than 5,000 of them – offer free science-based gardening information to people all over the state, The UC Master Gardening Program is administered as part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
“The program has been in California since 1981, and its mission is to extend home horticulture information to the public,” says Melissa Womack, who works with the statewide program. “The program is here to serve the public and has thousands of eager volunteers available to teach you about whatever gardening topic you are interested in. You don’t have to be a gardening expert to benefit.”
In most counties, UC Master Gardener volunteers are still available to support your home gardening questions by e-mail, telephone, or ZOOM. Please note that UC Master Gardener Program public education events statewide are being rescheduled, postponed or moved online until the crisis has passed. Visit the UC Master Gardener home page for more information about how to contact your County’s program
You can also find the statewide UC Master Gardener Program on social media:
Twitter – @UCMasterGarden
Facebook – @UCMasterGardeners
In the meantime, be safe, be healthy, be well.