Sun Dog Farm is living true to its name as the Sun has been out everyday for what feels like months. We haven’t had a decent rain and many of our Spring time crops are showing signs of stress. We are fortunate to have a deep well that has given us hope and kept our plants alive through the arid 90 degree weather. Our chickens have done well enough laying eggs everyday and our other livestock have made the best of it by staying under the shade of trees and in areas of cool, dense brush. The Summer crops seem to grow a foot a day; Tomatoes already whispering words like trellising and blooms. Our Eggplants look as if they are war veterans with Flea Beetle holes like gun wounds creating leaves of delicate lace. Timid Squash plants have nervously set their first fruits as their rivals, the Squash bugs, have begun to lay their eggs upon the Squash greens. The battle for food in the summer heat has just begun and we can only be hopeful for a spell of rain and the balancing acts of Nature’s grace.
All of this slaving away in the field during the immense heat and aridity has brought me to thinking about what it takes to grow food for yourself and others. We’ve put in hours that far surpass the average 9-5 job and yet we awake in the early morning with smiles on our faces, a little bit of anxiety to keep the ambition alive, and the desire to do good work and heal people utilizing the natural world, everyday. The concept of a “green thumb” is troubling to me. I have spoken with several people recently about how they just “don’t have a green thumb” and I can assure you that it has nothing to do with your thumb (besides the evolutionary advantage of having a thumb, that is.) Having a “green thumb” is an oversimplified explanation for a connection to the natural systems of the planet. By stating that you do not have a “green thumb” you are simply saying that you do not understand or are removed from what it takes to make a living organism thrive. There are varying levels of difficulty when it comes to making plants and animals survive that have been domesticated by the human species. While I do understand how our modern civilization has removed many of us from the ever important task of nurturing life, I do not take “I don’t have a green thumb” as a reasonable excuse for being oblivious to the role that our natural world plays in our everyday survival.
First we must examine the plants and animals we eat. These creatures have been bred to produce high levels of fats, sugars, starches, proteins, and other necessary nutrients we crave and grow on. They have been manipulated by our hands and have grown to produce more of the beneficial structures we now rely on to gain weight, utilized energy, and reproduce. This is somewhat of a double edged sword for both the human species and the animals themselves. Our manipulation has assured their species survival, but it has also eliminated their instincts and other attributes that allow them to survive on their own. That makes tomato plants, cows, chickens, watermelons, goats, lettuce, and other plants and animals very vulnerable to our abuse and misuse. Having a family milking cow or a small grass based dairy is the most respectful example of the human to animal symbiotic relationship while the factory farm dairies in the United States and beyond are examples of how easily these relationships can lead to abuse and exploitation.
Second we must review our role as stewards of this planet. It is not our fault or the fault of any other organism on Earth that we have evolved such that our frail bodies have been time and time again protected by the ingenuity of our brains, allowing us to reach such great numbers. Having been placed in that position, it is our responsibility to regulate the actions of our culture and the needs of our societies. We have created a reality so vast and consuming that many of us do not even recognize how the natural world plays a role in our everyday lives beyond the lifestyle Soap Operas we all operate in; human centric and based on the idea of commerce. Having a “green thumb” is left to the hippies, the idealists, and the outdoorsmen (and women) who, for reasons beyond even their own comprehension, open up ornamental nurseries, hike the Appalachian Trail, plant school gardens, or start working for close to nothing raising food for themselves and their community. I believe that the desire to grow is a part of our intuition, it is the realization that human beings were once delicately placed in the balance with all organisms working together, not in competition, to share this place we call home.
The modern age of convenience has robbed many of us of the ability, the work ethic, and the passion to take care of ourselves using the most basic of human instincts. We’ve taken the lessons you learned from your grandparents about cooking food and growing vegetables and handed you Poptarts and an Excell spreadsheet. We’ve compartmentalized your day so that you value only parts of your life as yours and accept that much of your life belongs to others to fulfill endeavors that are not your own. This has been normalized, advertised, and explained to anyone who will listen as being the “American Dream” that will lead you to happiness, peace and prosperity. But what does this really lead us to? It leads us to a hierarchy that ensures that the “Haves” will easily and efficiently keep control of the “Have Nots” while swiftly overusing and wasting our natural resources
So what do we do? What can we do in a system that is so slated against those of us who have a dime in our pockets and a full time job meant to support ourselves and those that we care for? We have to find it within us to explore the instincts hidden deep within our bodies and souls. We must not accept that we just “don’t have a green thumb” and become more in sync with the rhythm of life that surrounds us and keeps us afloat. We must plant gardens and watch them fail season after season before our questions and prayers are answered and our first perfect Tomato is enjoyed, as is, with a touch of salt. We must enroll our students in the school of Universal-Reality where they realize that even at their smallest size, their bodies and minds can affect the greatest change. We must take this age of convenience and feel bored, mentally exhausted, and thirst for the satisfaction of a hard day’s work that serves as the best weight control tool, making us look better, feel healthier, and all the while steering us away from having to wear spandex in a room full of other humans rhythmically lifting and tugging on weights made of synthetics. Your body was meant to do things, it has evolved to be strong and accomplished, to be beautiful every day and it is a sad waste of your precious figure to be glued to a desk with a screen, a Snickers Bar, and a bad attitude.
Change is not easy or quick, but the most positive aspect of it, is that it is happening all of the time. We are moving towards a sustainable future and so many of us understand the benefits that lie within ourselves and in the hidden geometry and complexity of nature and it is only a matter of time before real change can be seen within Atlanta and the United States as a whole. The more Urban Gardens that fill vacant lawns and parking lots, the more farmers that fill the rural horizons of Georgia, the closer we come to embracing our “green thumbs,” our instincts, and our natural ability to nurture and take care of our resources and each other. All is not lost and we are very close to a future that may allow us to leave this landscape in better shape than we found it for the children we raise and the lives they will one day lead without our guidance. It is time to take value from the dollar bill, the clothing store, and the appliance outlet, and apply it to the green things in our lives that are at risk of disappearing all together. It is time to take this movement from a trend and turn it into a real way of living life. It is time to support all farmers and growers who respect your health and the health of their land, everywhere. You and I both may have little money, but we are powerful. We have the perfect set of thumbs for the job and we can make change. If we work together and recognize the biological world as kin, we can make things in our hearts, our forests, and in our gardens, grow as one.