From Kate Hofstetter,
TIES Alumna

My recent learning and teaching projects have brought me into communion with natural food production. Lying in the prickly, three-inch, match weed (Phyla Nodiflora) that mats a swath of earth outside my boat, observing bees voraciously flying from head to head crowned with micro florets, I feel the heat of my perspective dampening my shirt. Itsy moths weave and pass the bees, ants march the peduncles, and I feel a bit like Gulliver trying to be a well-behaved Lilliput guest, stepping gently, moving slowly, observing quietly. I consider how this wild 10’ x 20’ (3.5m x 6.5m) system works in conjunction with my adjacent, miniature, permaculture/polyculture, garden system: the companions, the consumers, the communicators, the nectars, the incubators. I flash to the day before when I heard the whir of my neighbor and his weed wacker edging closer as I rushed to request he not slash this precious, petite plot. He kindly considered the Nodiflora weeds and I a bit eccentric.

The definitive considerations of us both make me smile. As I write, I posit: how might this transaction mimic the dance between myself and the garden and how might such observations be a function of basic, human understanding? I reflect and consider in what ways the TIES program resonates within my current life experience. Integration and interdependence flood forth and endogenously waken me as the circadian rhythm to the sunflower. I recall a poignant discovery… though all beings self-create, they cannot do so without relationship.

By observing plant species which thrive naturally throughout the seasons, I better understand my sense of sub-tropical place and how I might plant and maintain an important section of my food source and how this could directly connect with honoring the environment and ecology of my region, resources, and community. Perennial species such as Moringa, Katuk, Okinawa Spinach, Longevity Spinach, Purslane, and Malabar Spinach offer a polyculture that builds soil, accumulates nutrients, hosts beneficial insects, offers ground cover, and reduces water consumption. In experimenting with polyculture/permaculture/eco-agriculture, I have a layered appreciation for an organic process which possibly demonstrates a pure interdependency inherently meeting the system’s fundamental needs and avoiding toxins such as pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and other dangers present in industrial food sourcing.

Although my family and I still purchase industrial grocery products, we have shifted our awareness and food palates towards the more varied harvests of our organic garden. The annual and perennial vegetables’ earth rich flavors, pungent aromas, and variety of textures permeate the senses, and perhaps literally our cells. Sometimes, I think we may metabolize the primordial life of sunshine, clouds, and earth. Could it be that living beings and elements which imbue, integrate, and inspire food may also transfer a shared, cellular instinct?

Might this be perception? Perhaps Microbiologist Lynn Margulis has drawn a blueprint in her theory Symbiotic Earth, “All living beings, not just plants and animals perceive. To survive an organic being must perceive – it must seek and at least recognize food and avoid environmental danger.” As I perceive my own connection to the community and school gardens, I am compelled to take special care of the plants, providing the best environment for their health and survival for all those who partake in the harvest.

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