One of my favorite childhood memories was playing hide-and-seek in my grandparents' backyard. It was shaded with dozens of fruit trees, including tangerine, orange, persimmon and two different types of avocado. Not only was it serene and temperate, but it always smelled of citrus. I vividly remember helping my grandfather pick fruit from the yard, and then making homemade orange juice (always with lots of pulp) and guacamole.
I grew up in Riverside, California, about an hour east of Los Angeles. My family had a modestly sized backyard, but it was large enough for several small gardens. We even had orange, lemon and lime trees. Over the summer I would pick lemons and set up lemonade stands in our driveway. To my mother this was evidence that I was a young entrepreneur. In hindsight, I like to think it was the attempt of a seven-year-old to lead a sustainable lifestyle.
Although I frequently revisit the memory of my grandparents' garden and my attempt at gardening in my youth, I’ve thought a lot more about these lately after reporting on the Wild Roots garden at Northwestern. The mission of the garden is to encourage education of gardening and sustainability among students, and to donate any produce from the garden to the school cafeteria in the Norris Center.
At first, I was intrigued by the idea of dedicating so much work and time into a garden, and profiting from it in a healthy and sustainable way. It’s less expensive than buying produce at a local supermarket, and you know exactly where your food is coming from, which dramatically reduces the carbon footprint of your fruits and veggies.
But, what resonated with me the most was how fulfilling it was for the students to invest their time into the garden, watch it grow, and be able to give that hard work back to the Northwestern community. That sense of accomplishment seems greater than just watching a seed turn into a tomato. Instead, that seed and hard work become a tomato that gets donated back to campus that another student can enjoy.
The Wild Roots garden makes me wish that I had the lawn space (or any lawn at all) to put down some roots of my own and plant a garden. An apartment, sans balcony, is certainly not the most ideal venue for a garden, but I think I will start small by just buying some potted herbs. If I can start by being sustainable in this small way I would consider it a success. But also, it seems like a nice way to take after my grandfather.
After doing my reporting this quarter, it didn’t take long to see that recycling and sustainability are a means to a much more responsible lifestyle. They’re good for the environment and community. Speaking with some of the members of the students who tend the Wild Roots garden has made me see how fulfilling it can be as well.
As a child, I never saw the connection of how meaningful it must have been for my grandfather to enjoy the result of his hard labor, but also to provide for his family with the produce of the garden. I see it now.
- blog authored by Lauren Padia