TOWNER, N.D. — I grew up with a garden, not that I was always appreciative of the fact or thrilled with the idea of pulling weeds or picking beans. I did like the tilling. Like most young boys, the tiller with its noisy gas motor and the ability to power pulverize dirt and old plants and weeds had its allure.
Mom was a gardener, as was her mother before her. I remember Dad spending some time in the garden, too, and it never seemed strange for me to see my cowboy father step off a horse and walk into the garden to hoe between the rows or pick a hat full of fresh tomatoes to take to the house and enjoy.
Dad would make a few improvements — a fence to keep the livestock out, a black plastic pipe with holes drilled through it to irrigate our sand, a special hoe that would slice off the creeping jenny with ease as they tried to take over our vegetables.
Mom did most of the planting, and while picking weeds wasn’t anyone’s favorite activity, it was easy to get us all to pick the produce after the seed, soil, sun and water worked their magic. Picking peas and eating them right in the garden was, and still is, a favorite garden activity.
I was fortunate to find a partner who likes to garden. My wife is a dedicated gardener and doesn’t ask too much of me as co-gardener — I still like to do the tilling, I haul the homegrown fertilizer from the cattle feedlot, I find old tin buckets and mesh corral panels that can help protect the plants when they’re little or give them something to climb on as they grow.
And I weed. Voluntarily. Apparently, that willingness comes as part of the aging process. I walk right past the garden when I go from the house to the horse corral, and, most times, I’ll take a stroll up the garden rows and yank a few pesky weeds.
I know that if I do that, the bounty will be better toward fall. I do like that we can eat from our garden. I like the fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, carrots — you name it, and I like it. I have a couple of odd summer sandwich favorites — radish sandwiches and onion sandwiches — just bread and butter, salt and pepper, and a trip to the garden. Just don’t eat a radish sandwich and expect a good night kiss from anyone.
A lot of us in agriculture are incredulous at the thought of school children who don’t know where their food comes from.
I figure a good start is making sure our own kids know how food grows. We raise our own beef. We point out the fields of wheat, corn, canola and soybeans as we drive and tell them how they find their way to our grocery cart in some form or fashion. We grow our garden and they try vegetables they might not otherwise be excited to try because they got to watch it grow, picked it and brought it to the kitchen.
I don’t suppose our garden adds anything to more than one-tenth of our meals in any given year, but it’s a pretty important and tasty one-tenth. It exemplifies the biblical lesson of “as you sow, so shall you reap.” It teaches us the relationship between labor and reward, and reminds us of the power of sun, soil and rain. And those are good things to know as we thank other farmers around the world for the remaining nine-tenths of my family’s meals.
But I may be the only one in our family who’s thankful for my radish sandwiches.