Wendell Berry: Why planting a garden is the best place to start in caring for the environment


Picture: A front yard garden in Millwood from last summer.

Following up on my previous post from Wendell Berry's book "A Continuous Harmony," Berry suggests that there is no better place to start getting personally involved in the "cure of the environment" than by starting a garden. Here's his logic:

A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world. He is producing something to eat, which makes him somewhat independent of the grocery business, but he is also enlarging, for himself, the meaning of food and the pleasure of eating. The food he grows will be fresher, more nutritious, less contaminated by poisons and preservatives and dyes than what he can buy at a store. He is reducing the trash problem; a garden is not a disposable container, and it will digest and reuse its own wastes. If he enjoys working in his garden, then he is less dependent on an automobile or a merchant for his pleasure...

A person who undertakes to grow a garden at home, by practices that will preserve rather than exploit the economy of the soil, has set his mind decisively against what is wrong with us. He is helping himself in a way that dignifies him and that is rich in meaning and pleasure. But he is doing something else that is more important; He is making vital contact with the soil and the weather on which his life depends. He will no longer look upon rain as a traffic impediment, or upon the sun as a holiday decoration. And his sense of humanity's dependence on the world will have grown precise enough, one would hope, to be politically clarifying and useful...

We will see that beauty and utility are alike dependent upon the health of the world...We will see that war and oppression and pollution are not separate issues, but are aspects of the same issue...We will know that no person is free except in the freedom of other persons, and that our only freedom is to know and faithfully occupy our place - a much humbler place than we have been taught to think - in the order of creation.