Those who go before us can teach and inspire us to make our lives better and improve our shared destiny. Michael Pollan wonderfully stated that the “Food” community stands on the shoulders of Joan Gussow, Wendell Berry, and Alice Waters. Those of us who grow food acknowledge a similar role to the Nearings’, Rodale’s and William Woys Weaver. On Saturday March 2nd it was my pleasure to attend a presentation by Dr. W. W. Weaver at Goshen College. The author of 16 books, contributor to magazines and teacher has been influencing gardeners to undertake his mission of growing, eating and enjoying heirloom plants.
The talk was broken into two separate lectures delivered with Power Point support. The first lecture was more historical and concentrated on the Kitchen/Potager gardens that developed along with Western Civilization. The layout of gardens through history, the development of basic foods, and how they influence what we eat and grow today. The garden was presented as a key factor in supporting both the food needs and medical needs. Gardens traditionally had a medicinal group of plants that were grown to support health. I enjoyed this aspect of the lecture. So much of our health and wellness has been separated from its traditional place in our lives and gardens. The garden had a much more holistic importance in times past. A last comment from Dr. Weaver sticks with me, “There should be a brick pathway between the kitchen and the garden.” In addition to growing year round the garden needs to be an integral part of our lives.
The second lecture was about Heirloom plants and food. This tied in with his award winning book, Vegetable Heirloom Gardening. I enjoyed his easy definitions and manner during the lectures. Of particular note was his definition of an Heirloom. “like me, something more than 50 years old!” He went on to detail important points: owning the seed, encouraging Biodiversity, supporting a biologically active ecosystem that is resistant to pests and diseases. He explained that his book was lauded with lots of praise and it may have “moved the mountain a few inches.” We now see “heirloom” products all over our foodscapes from restaurants and Farmers Markets to the big box Grocers.
As a farmer I really enjoyed his enthusiasm for plants. His farm, Roughwood Farm in Devan, Pa maintains a seed stock of 4500 plants! He encouraged us all to be involved in saving seed, sharing with others and learning from the plants. “Plants talk! They have their own language. It’s not French or Italian, so you’ve got to learn their language. When you do you will be gaining a connection with the life force of the plant.” He concluded the lecture with this quote, “Seeds are the common heritage of all mankind, they are the hope of our shared destiny.”
A wonderful inspiration for this time of year…