I am a child of the generation who fought World War Two. England was a country hemmed in by Hitler’s armies with only 20 miles of water between them. The British entered a siege mentality. In the cities, they took empty plots of land and began growing vegetables. Dig for Victory was the mantra.
Thirty years on, when I grew up in London, these parcels of lands – allotments – commanded a waiting list of people still trapped in that siege mentality. The ability to grow your own crops was a reassuring subconscious feeling of freedom.
Fast-forward to today and we are seeing another agricultural grassroots consciousness. Community gardens are springing up all over the place. Here in the Bay Area, they are particularly prolific. But the motivation is different.
Today people seem to derive great satisfaction leaving their screen -dominated worlds for an afternoon to get dirt under their finger nails, want to make a connection with their food source, and are relieved to bear witness to a pure (organic) form of growth for the nourishment they will put into their mouths.
It doesn’t matter if you have no knowledge. There will be others ready to show you. Some go to the gardens to work, others to buy their produce.
And above all, it helps create an organic (pun intended) community. Perhaps there is a historic psyche, remembering the closeness of human bonds in our agrarian pasts.
If you are in the Bay Area, here is a good source for community gardens near you. (http://www.sfgro.org/sfgardens.php)
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com