I’ve been known to kill things. By things, I mean plants, and lots of them. Even simple herbs like basil don’t really stand a chance when under my care. (It’s yet another good reason why I don’t have kids.) Thank goodness I compost, or not only would I just be untalented in the green thumb department (let’s just call my thumb moldy), but I would also be wasteful. And we can’t have that…
I really want to grow things. I want to make a salad and know that I made it happen. I want to give birth to a melon. (Wow, okay, that actually sounds kind of painful…)
Blame it on Portland, where I’m temporarily residing. There are gardens everywhere. You literally see kids in their front yards picking tomatoes and eating them… for fun… with their friends… kind of like party-style. In my day, we played with Barbie. Here in Portland, they prefer to farm. I’m intrigued. I’m longing for it. I am, it seems, a vegan chameleon.
I might as well just suck it up and join the club. I can do it, right? A year ago, I could barely walk up a flight of stairs, and now, I am well into training to run a half-marathon. If I can run 13 miles, I can certainly grow shit. And plus, most importantly, there’s an activist mentality behind it. Because, after all, as with anything else, there are ethical, animal-friendly ways of doing anything, and gardening in an earth- and animal-friendly way is pretty much a no-brainer (assuming you don’t kill things all the time). If I can relate growing plants to growing compassion, then I can tie this new hobby into my life’s mission to change the world for animals. I’m determined.
Ever since this seed was planted (ha!), I have not been able to get out of my mind the importance (and, dare I say, accessibility?) of veganic gardening. I want this to be a part of my life, and I want to sing its praises in a first-person I-DID-THIS! kind of way.
Veganic gardening has been gaining more traction in the mainstream of late, and it’s about time. For those of you who garden, transitioning to veganic systems (if you’re not there already), and then talking loudly for all to hear about the tremendous benefits of it for the planet and the animals, can extend well beyond just your backyard, and into the consciousness of others with a green thumb and a desire to change the world.
Meet-Up and Discuss
It seems like a good time to visit Arizona. Those lucky enough to be in the Tucson area are about to learn about veganic gardening all too well, because the Vegan Meet-Up there is currently organizing a tour of Sunizona Family Farms in Wilcox. Road trip, anyone?
Sunizona describes veganic gardening in an easy-to-remember way: “Think of it as Vegan-Organic, meaning certified organic growing that is free from the use of animal products (manures, blood, bone or fish meals, etc.) and uses strictly plant-based materials.” I love that this Meet-Up is going there (literally!), exploring veganic gardening with their members, supporting an amazing local farm (a farm that even has a vegan bakery), and furthering the importance of creating produce without the use of animal products. According to the Meet-Up page:
Sunizona has pioneered their own veganic fertilizers using composted plant matter instead of manure, bloodmeal, fishmeal, and bonemeal typically used in organic farming. You may have heard the myth that we need animal products to grow vegetables. However, animals get nutrients from plants and we can skip the animal’s body and instead compost plant matter directly to attain nutrient rich soil without animal hormones, antibiotics and mercury (all which can uptake into plants) as well as harmful bacteria.
Veganic Food for Thought
When Meet-Up organizer Ben Braman — who also helps us hens with loads of tech questions, and happens to be the mastermind behind the vegan media aggregator The Vegan Feed — emailed me to tell me about this Meet-Up (little did he know that I have been nursing a penchant for home-grown carrots), I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Perhaps it’s because I’m temporarily residing in the very lush and garden-happy Portland, OR — away from the Our Hen House headquarters in NYC. Regardless of the reason for my newfound flirtation with Jasmin-created-kale (Oops — “Only God can create kale!”), the idea of furthering consciousness about veganic gardening has become extremely compelling to me.
It was around the time that I received Ben’s email that I started playing with that handy google machine, and it seems my fascination with veganic gardening is a day late. Maybe my 11th-hour awakening is due to the fact that, as noted, I am remarkably ill-adept at growing things (except pity, and perhaps aggravation). Veganic gardening seems to have a cult-like following, a subculture of followers who understand the importance of growing food in a non-exploitative way. I want in!
I shouldn’t have been surprised to find that one of the most thorough online resources for veganic gardening is based here in Portland (serendipity?), thanks to the wonderful people at Northwest Veg (they are also the organizers behind the Portland VegFest, where Mariann and I will be presenting later this month, as well as the upcoming September potluck, where we’ll also be presenting). Northwest Veg has an entire Vegan Gardening Group, which includes a discussion forum, online articles, and other resources to get even a moldy-thumbed newbie like me started. Gentle World also offers a thorough Beginner’s Guide to Veganic Gardening.
Other useful resources for those with an interest in veganic gardening include those offered by the Veganic Agriculture Network and Vegan Organic Network. Also, in the interest of shameless self-promotion — and because I’m a big fan of the guy — when animal rights luminary Gene Baur joined us on our podcast a gazillion moons ago way back on Episode 15, he discussed his love of veganic gardening, too.
(So for those of you with a bumper sticker asking “WWGD?” — What Would Gene Do? — now you know. Gene would veganically garden. So get on that, and perhaps you have a better chance of becoming besties with Gene. You can discuss things like Extreme Frisbee as you plant your compost together. But I digress…)
But I Don’t Have a Backyard
Perhaps even city slickers like me have a future in this, even if we lack a backyard (back in NYC, I barely even have a living room). A fire escape is enough to start a container garden which can be used for a bunch of different veggie growing applications. Note to self: This would also be a great use for the vegan compost that I collect (there are indeed compost systems that work well indoors, ranging from homemade systems, to more high-tech elaborate ones).
If you live in a city and want to get involved with veganic gardening, you might consider getting your own plot at your neighborhood’s community gardening project — that is, if you’re lucky enough to have one. If you’re not, you could always take the first steps in starting one.
Most Importantly, Squawk About It
It’s not enough to be a veganic gardener, nor is it enough to sign up for that really cool Meet-Up trip to that incredibly inspiring veganic farm, visit, and then go home and just go to bed. If we want to change the world and alert people to the countless cruelty-free alternatives to unjust systems that rely on the blood of animals, we have to start talking. We need to raise awareness about our ethical discoveries in whatever ways we can — be it through letters to the editor, community outreach, online forums, education campaigns, or good old-fashioned conversations with our neighbors. Just like Sunizona is doing by not only walking the walk, but actually really truly talking the talk (and planting the plant!), it is our job — not the other guy’s — to change the world for animals. Exploring and enjoying the endless benefits of veganic gardening is just one of many ways in.
OMG. I mean honestly: OMG! In putzing around on Sunizona’s website, I found a music video they made about their veganically-produced homegrown tomatoes! If this isn’t a creative way to advocate for ethical gardening — with no gross dead stuff — then I don’t know what is. ADORABLE!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go plant some seeds.***
Photo at top of blog: Source is Sunizona Family Farms.
***My apologies, readers. I simply could not end this blog entry without using that incredibly cheesy, yet glaringly appropriate, metaphor at least twice. Feel free to use it yourself, too. Several times. I won’t tell…