Planting Kale

June 14, 2013

A few weeks ago I was talking with a parent at the school where I work. We had finally had a chance to work in our gardens and were comparing notes.

Laura made the comment that she didn’t know what people did before the internet….how would they have known how and where to plant the kale seedlings? Shade? Sun? Part shade?

Then she paused and said, “Well, I guess if she were alive, my grandmother would have been able to tell me how to plant kale.”

I felt a little pang. A sense of sorrow and loss.


While the internet in all it’s cyber wizardry is wonderful and brings people closer (sort of), and makes the world smaller (sort of), and provides information about everything (real or imagined), it seems to also be responsible for the loss of person to person collective knowledge or information sharing. As in the kale. Are any of us learning about gardening and growing our own food from people who genuinely depended on growing their own food, or are we reclaiming a lost skill that is dying, almost dead, or dead?

Do you garden, grow your own food? Whether yes or no, do you care where your food comes from? If it’s been genetically altered? Organic?

Going back to grandma, what did you or have you learned from your grandmother? Or grandfather? My own grandparents didn’t know a darned thing about growing food. However, they did remember the Depression and food rationing. I learned a great deal about plants, all kinds, from my step mother. She also taught me how to cook.  She taught me about herbs and plants that could be used medicinally. I’m sure it’s a false sense of security, but I feel like I could grow food to supplement my family’s needs if it was ever required. Maybe even enough to share.

That begs the question, is that a valuable skill? I mean really, it seems more and more people barely know how to cook…so why bother growing food? What would they do with it?

“The first supermarket supposedly appeared on the American landscape in 1946. That is not very long ago. Until then, where was all the food? Dear folks, the food was in homes, gardens, local fields, and forests. It was near kitchens, near tables, near bedsides. It was in the pantry, the cellar, the backyard.”
Joel Salatin

Anyway…I still have that pang of sorrow even after a few weeks. I admire Laura for even thinking about her grandmother and what she might have been able to learn from her.  I wonder how many of us really know what we could learn from our parents or grandparents if we just began a discussion. I wonder what we are at risk of never knowing if we don’t have the discussion?