Connecting to the land at the Community Garden

By Connor Rockett

I ended my last post talking about the importance of hands-on interaction with the land. It was this type of engagement with nature, which was built into the lives of our ancestors through farming and a deeper, less transient connection to place, that caused them to understand their dependence on the land and the meaning of a healthy, thoughtful relationship with it. That they articulated the importance of this relationship through their cultural production demonstrates that their ideas about nature were authentic and valuable and that our modern willingness to manipulate and degrade nature for the sake of production at all costs should not be taken for granted or seen as the way we have always operated with respect to our environment.

Since our industrial economy has alienated us from the land and told us that we can live above nature, we have largely forgotten how to relate to our surroundings in a way that is healthy and long-lasting. Alienation from the land, the fact that, for many of us, our way of living is (seemingly) separated from it, has made us blind to our dependence on it. Only through the observed and looming environmental catastrophes have more and more of us started to recognize that ecosystemic health cannot be wholly divorced from human health; that the two are linked in a complex relationship. But if, in the industrial economy, it takes loss of life and untold suffering to recognize this dependence, then it is already too late and we cannot say that we have a way to live, in the sense of staying alive. We have to build a different economy that causes us to live in accordance with this dependence. Such an economy will both nourish our bodies and spirits and allow us to survive on Earth.

The theme of building that land-friendly economy has been the focus of the last two blog posts and that is what I am leading up to in this one. Since the vast majority of us do not have an attentive engagement with the land, as our ancestors did, we struggle to understand it and to feel connected to it. Relearning this understanding of the land and reconnecting to it are, in my opinion, important for us collectively to be able to envision how a land-friendly economy should function and to know why we should have one. When many of us have the necessary understanding of and connection to the land, we can move towards a land-friendly economy as a community. Since no single one of us is able to, or should, decide on how to reshape our way of living, efforts to spread understanding and connection to the land are the basis for democratic, community-wide action to build a land-friendly economy.

I was lucky to contribute to the Land Trust’s efforts to foster hands-on understanding and affection for the land this week at the Tom Settlemire Community Garden when working with volunteers from Apogee Adventures. The volunteers and staff from BTLT divided up to tackle various tasks at the garden. I worked with two volunteers and, while we were weeding the strawberry rows, one of them said “I’m glad to be getting my hands dirty, it feels like I’m actually doing something.” That experience of investment and fulfillment in working the garden is just the type of engagement that will be the basis for orienting communities towards a more land-friendly way of life. It was clear from the vibrant and flourishing plots throughout the garden that those who work them have invested a great deal of love and care into them. Again, that is the type of interaction with the land, both educational and loving, that is needed to deepen our connection to it and I’m so glad to see that happening at the community garden.