We're used to thinking we need to exercise off our food, but what if we thought differently -- that food was where movement comes from? Did you know you can grow your own movement? Are COVID gardens a thing? Katy Bowman talks with Victory Garden historian Dr. Rose Hayden-Smith about the rising gardening movement and how these times compare and contrast with WW1 and 2-era gardening, as well as offers ways to cross-train in the garden!
00:04:53 - New interview with Rose Hayden-Smith – Jump to section
00:08:55 - Similarities and Differences - Victory Gardens and Covid Gardens - Jump to section
00:15:41 - Favorite Resources and Books on Food Systems– Jump to section
00:22:22 - Katy's 2018 interview with Rose – Jump to section
00:30:53 - Rose and Katy's tips from 2018– Jump to section
00:48:20 - Katy's Articles and Essays on Gardening - Jump to section
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THE SHOW:
More about Rose Hayden-Smith
Books, Websites and Programs Recommended by Katy and Rose
Katy's blog post Grow Your Own Movement (with embedded video)
Sign up for Katy’s newsletter at NutritiousMovement.com
Hello! I am Katy Bowman and this is the Move Your DNA podcast. I am a biomechanist and the author of Move Your DNA and seven other books on movement. And on this show, we talk about how movement works on the cellular level, how to move more, and how to move more of your parts, as well as how movement works between bodies and in the world, also known as movement ecology. All bodies are welcome here; let's get moving!
Friends, I don’t know if this is happening where you live, but where I live in Western Washington state, and in many places in the US, there's this resurgence in gardening. Just look at Instagram! I keep wondering why. Why now? What is it about these historic COVID times that has made everyone clamber for soil and starts and seeds? Maybe it’s the free time right at the beginning of spring or maybe it’s this widespread uncertainty and insecurity when it comes to our health, and our safety. The weaknesses in our food systems are being revealed as the conditions they developed under are shifting. Whatever the reasons, people are moved to start growing.
Now, I promise this is not and will never be a gardening podcast. I’m a newbie when it comes to working in the garden, even though I come from farming folk. This is and always will be a show about movement. But this show about movement also covers sedentary culture. And it’s the sedentary culture container we’re all trying to move inside of.
So what is it about a sedentary culture that has our individual bodies moving hardly at all, while at the same time, our footprint is distributed all over the globe? What we are all collectively experiencing now—the spillover of a virus to humans, and how that virus is moving around the world, and how our bodies are able to handle being in a relationship with this virus—also relates to how we move and how we don’t move.
Of all the systems humans depend on, it’s the food system we all use multiple times each day. And for most of us, that food system is a sedentary one. When you consider how much we all used to move for our food, how little we move for our food now is sort of mind-boggling. The food system has always been critical, and yet not all of us are even aware of what the food system is, or are just starting to learn about it now that there are problems with it.
There are many people who have been working diligently to point out the flaws in the food system for the rest of us, including who is and who isn’t being served well by the system—humans and non-human critters alike. I’ll point you towards some of these resources in the show as well as in the show notes. But today, I’m going to focus on this idea that moving your body more for your own food is the solution to so many issues, and that moving a little bit more for what you eat can be started easily, no matter your physical or gardening abilities.
On today’s show I have a new interview with Victory Garden historian Dr. Rose Hayden-Smith about the current gardening resurgence, also highlights from our older interview, and an article I wrote last year called Grow Your Own Movement as well as tips specifically on how to keep your garden moves sustainable for your body. And I’m also going to include an essay called Kitchen Movement from my book Movement Matters (which, if you haven’t read or listened to it, you should!).
So get your gloves on and get ready to get down and dirty with Gardening Movement.
First up, I am talking to Dr. Rose Hayden-Smith. She is an author, educator, and advocate for a sustainable food system. She is University of California emeritus. Dr. Hayden-Smith leverages the power of social technologies in her research as a historian, to tell stories, share information, start conversations, and engage with a wide range of people interested in the food system. She believes in the power of gardens to transform the world. And I first interviewed Rose in 2018 and I’ll be sharing parts of that interview, where we discuss gardening, how to get started, the history of Victory Gardens, as well as garden movement tips. But I wanted first to get Rose’s take on our current situation, and what she thinks about how things are changing.
ROSE: Thank you for having me today Katy. It's always such a pleasure to chat with you.
KATY: Well, I can talk to you for hours but I wanted to talk to you again specifically because I’m wondering if COVID GARDENS are something we’ll look back on in history as we do VICTORY GARDENS—these periods of time where gardening is different than it was just before. But before we compare them, can you define a victory garden in a sentence or two, for our listeners new to this term?
ROSE: Sure. Victory gardens were gardens that emerged in World War One and World War Two, not just in the United States but in the U.K. and Canada, and in many other countries. And essentially they provided an opportunity for people to take pressure off the food system so that we could be mobilizing troops and allies and also as sort of a civic engagement, moral building. And also a way to teach people how to grow their own food.
KATY: So I've seen these increases locally and I've been reading about an increase in gardening. Is that truely a thing? Are you seeing something similar?
ROSE: It is unprecedented in my 30 years or so of experience as a garden based educator, the interest I'm seeing. I mean we saw a lot of interest in the last economic downturn and also as a result of - you know Michelle Obama was such a garden advocate - and we saw a lot of increased interest during that period. This is, in my experience, unprecedented. And I think we're going to look back on this as a period that was a turning point in terms of people embracing a gardening ethos and people are doing it for so many different reasons. Right? They're anxious about the food supply. A lot of people are doing it for climate change purposes. People are using it for the home classroom. A lot of people are doing it just because it's restorative and to sort of connect with nature. I think there are a couple of things that are really interesting to me at this moment. They're not just gardening, right? I mean people are baking bread. People are sewing. And this sort of going back to lost arts and embracing self-sufficiency, I think it's really significant. Another thing that is very different about this moment and that's driving it, is social technology. So in World War one and World War two you had these posters that were mass media that were encouraging people to garden and do food conservation and food preservation. And now we have Instagram. And one of the things that I like to point out to people is that in our last gardening surge, you know, during this economic downturn in the late, about 12 years ago now, you know, social technologies like Facebook were relatively new. And in fact Instagram wasn't even a thing yet. And so the social technologies are driving this. So if you're on Instagram or Facebook, you're seeing images of people gardening and things like that. And I can also tell you too that my colleagues in the cooperative extension service who run master gardener programs, they're getting slammed in a really good way with interest.
ROSE: Those are great questions. And so when this movement started in World War One, this sort of organized effort, they were initially called Liberty Gardens and were renamed Victory Gardens. And then in World War Two they were called Victory Gardens. So the parallel, the strong parallel I see between Covid gardens or pandemic gardens, whatever people are calling them, is actually more strongly with World War One than with World War Two. Because World War One these programs that encouraged school, home, community, workplace gardens, they really were driven in part by anxiety about the food system. Because the food system in World War One in the United States was not the way that it is now with a national highway system that was hauling food all over. It wasn't organized in that way. So that was a real concern. And also it was within the context of a time of great uncertainty where there was also a pandemic where there were no medical solutions in terms of therapeutic drugs, right? World War One, no antivirals, no antibiotics to address this influenza pandemic. So I think lots of similarities with World War One, so I think that I'm hearing all sorts of names of what people are calling them. There definitely is a movement of a large group of people probably most frequently calling them Victory Gardens. I am also hearing pandemic gardens. I would also say, too, that I've been chatting a lot with faith communities, right, who are looking at this. Because there are a lot of churches that have land. And places where gardens could be done. And one of the things I'm hearing from churches is they're going to be calling their gardening efforts "Good News Gardens." I've also heard "Hope Gardens." I think that it doesn't even matter what we call them as long as people are doing it to the best of their ability and moving forward after this that we provide the resources that people need to garden, any technical assistance that they need, that we help people overcome barriers in communities to gardening. You know, primarily being access to land, right? I mean who gets to garden? In many ways it's - you have to have privilege to garden because you have to have land. And you have to have resources. And so that's why my biggest hope, moving forward, is that we make this something that people can readily do and that we really make an effort to incorporate this sort of essential life skill education. Not just gardening - the whole range of things so that we are providing education for kids and spiraling it up through the curriculum to adults. Right? So that people can do this activity.
KATY: What makes you hopeful right now?
ROSE: Well, one of the things that makes me really hopefully is just the way that I'm seeing people not only interested in it but trying to support one another. Especially given the constraints, right? Oregon State University has some really terrific online learning resources for vegetable gardening. So I'm just seeing a lot of interest through extension programs. And that gives me hope.
KATY: There's definitely been a lot of seed and starter sharing as I'm just driving around my own town I'm finding people are just putting their abundance out with signs "Free. Take it and plant." And that's just beautiful. It's a beautiful thing right now.
ROSE: It's a wonderful thing. And I think also too, it's raising awareness in a number of important areas. The whole situation. First of all people, I think, are becoming much more aware about seeds, right? And seed saving. And that's a really important thing for people to think about going forward. That seed saving is a really valuable skill. And we should also be supporting organizations that are involved in that work. Then the other thing, too, that I think is really - this whole crisis is giving people a better awareness of the larger food system and the people who work in it. And so you're seeing a lot of national news stories about workers in packing houses and agricultural laborers and grocery store clerks and the people who prepare and deliver food. And I think that having an increased awareness has really also increased people's appreciation for those who work in the food system and the food supply chain.
ROSE: Well, I like to read Civil Eats which I think is really wonderful. There is another web based publication that I really like a lot called The Counter (like a lunch counter - The Counter). I think those are very good. I would also say, too, I subscribe to the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. And the Los Angeles Times, right before the pandemic hit, even went back to a full on sort of food section in print every Thursday. And those are publications, newspapers, that I think are doing... and there are many more... a really good job covering the food system. Also Fern News does a really excellent job of covering food system issues and in fact one of their reporters has been doing a very ambitious mapping project of the Covid-19 outbreak in meat packing plants. Very good journalism there.
KATY: And you turned me on, I think it was you, to Food Tank. I signed up for their emails and I really love their articles.
ROSE: Food Tank is fantastic. And another thing that I love about Food Tank is that they sponsor all these live events. And they're absolutely wonderful. They get so many different kinds of people in the food system to the table to talk about things. And then they also have really good written content. And so I am a huge fan of Food Tank and have loved getting to learn from so many different people that they bring to the conversation.
KATY: What about books? Have you ever read The Wizard and the Prophet? That book really opened my eyes to so much of how how the world eats is related to what was happening in emerging science in the 30s and the 40s and I was wondering if you had read that? And then also any other books like that that would kind of give a historical perspective as well as maybe some nudges toward a particular path going forward?
ROSE: Well, I think that The Wizard and the Prophet is one of the best food systems books I've ever read. Ever. And it just does such a remarkable job of laying out the science and the history of that science. And also how government research has also been involved in the food system and in what we eat. And that's one of my favorite books for the history. I've got, you know, so many books that I could recommend. And I have to tell you I also recommend people pick up a copy of my book or see if their library has it electronically right now. Because it also contains a really good history of the food system. There're a couple of good books that I could recommend particularly about the citrus industry and the rise of the citrus industry in California and there are just so many wonderful books. Michael Pollan’s books are always relevant, right? And the sort of advice that he lays out. One of most beautiful books that I've read recently is Braided Sweetgrass.
KATY: Oh yes, of course.
ROSE: That is such an incredible book about ecology. I am really looking forward to reading a book that will be coming out in June by a woman named Kathryn Aalto. And Katie writes a lot about the natural world and how people connect to it. Her last book, which was a New York Times bestseller, was actually about the sort of, almost like the botany and the landscape of Winnie The Pooh's hundred acre woods. And this book that she's got coming out right now is actually about women nature writers. And I'm really excited to read that. And I think that that, it's not really about food systems, but it's really about ecology which I also think is pretty connected.
KATY: That is a great list. And we all seem to have a little bit more time to read right now. And I would just throw in one more. Another eye opening book for me was Farming While Black by Leah Penniman. And we'll put links to these in the show notes, but just a really great book about the barriers to gardening, to nutritious food, and then all of the other things that come with that. So, thank you, Rose, for coming on again. I really appreciate your time.
ROSE: Well thank you for having me. And I would also say too about Leah Penniman's work. It's fantastic. And what she's doing and making possible in terms of also sharing knowledge about farming is absolutely inspiring.
KATY: I find your work inspiring as well. And I thank you for coming on to the show. And hopefully inspiring others out there listening. And I will connect you to them and we look forward to what you've got coming next.
ROSE: Ok. Thank you Katy!
KATY: Thanks Rose! All right. That was Rose and I in May 2020. But I first interviewed Rose in 2018, for a show called Taking Action in the Garden. Here is part of that interview, which includes tips from both Rose and I on getting started in the garden!
KATY: Well, thank you very much for listening and just so you listeners out there know, I've known Rose for a long time. I feel like time has just maybe flown by but I feel like we're somewhere around 15 years, maybe 12 to 15 years, with my Ventura time in California.
ROSE: Yeah. I would say at least 15 years.
KATY: Yeah. And I haven't aged a day.
KATY: Neither one of us has. And I've been following your work for a long time. And so I know Rose personally just as someone who used to come move at our old studio there, but Rose is an academic. And she has an amazing book which we're going to talk about. It's called Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs of World War 1. I love academics and I Iove technical reading especially when it's really accessible and not jargon-heavy. So when I wanted to talk about action orientated items that get people moving in ways that they hadn't thought of, gardening and food consumption is a big part of that.
And so it just occurred to me that Rose, you have such a unique perspective on food, food systems, that I just want to put your voice out here. So thank you for coming on.
ROSE: Yeah. Thank you again for having me. I'm thrilled.
KATY: Before I left twitter your personal account, I don't know if it's your UC account, but you have this hashtag, the #foodobserver. And I loved it because I feel like it sums up what I do. I'm a movement observer just as much as I'm a movement instructor. And I see movement and how it works everywhere. I see how various systems that are maybe off other people's radar as being movement related - as related to movement. So what does food observer mean to you?
ROSE: Well, so that's really interesting about that question. So, my personal twitter handle is @victorygrower, which is a riff off my interest and passion for the victory garden movement and the radical notion that we should have gardens everywhere and that everyone should be gardening. So @ucfoodobserver is my account that I created for the University of California, a digital platform called the U.C.Food Observer, in support of the University's global food initiative. And it's been really wonderful to be able to, as an academic, observe what's going on in the food system and basically curate content and then create original content that's designed to connect people with information and perspectives and ideas about all the topics that would involve the food system. Not only in the US, but internationally. Whether it's... well you know. Food touches everything.
ROSE: And we're all stakeholders in the food system because most of us eat - several times a day. And it's political. It's social. It's historical. It's cultural. It's economic. Food is involved in all of these things.
KATY: Yeah. We had a guest on, Philip Brass, whose work with the first nations in Canada, he has this statement where food is the spine or the axis of a culture. And I just was thinking about that - that indigenous perspective as I was reading your book because Sowing the Seeds of Victory is really about using gardens as a political strategy. As a patriotic strategy. Which I just thought was, "Wow, that is such a unique ..." it was just a different perspective than I was used to hearing it. And it could be the circles that I move in but, gardening is becoming a thing - a new thing. And I have to just kind of laugh when I say that because from the historical perspective it's the opposite. We only see it as a new thing because of this brief window of human history where we haven't had - each one of us pulling the food off the land - cultivating it, you know, hunter/gathering in some way. I've seen gardening coming up in various magazines as a new way to get fit. Just get a garden and do these exercises. And I've seen farmers discuss starting farm fit programs to help people get complex exercise while helping them out with the labor that they really struggle to be able to do, especially on smaller farms. There's gardening as part of social justice initiatives. I'm thinking of Ron Finley, his personal story.
KATY: He grew up in a food prison. Growing food is like printing money is his statement. And then a couple months ago I read, there was Paul Quinn College. And it was a financially struggling institution and they decided to give up their football team, rip up their football field, and start an organic garden. I just want to read this to set the complexity of what we're talking about.
"9 years ago when the historically black college on the South side of Dallas was in financial crisis and had a 1% graduation rate, a new president turned everything over, including the football field. There's more than one field of dreams, all right? Why should we tie everyone's future to athletic success? When Paul Quinn college decided to convert its football field into an organic farm, eyebrows were raised, but the move symbolized the college's dedication to a team of a different kind. A team of individuals and organizations fighting to end food insecurity and injustice in the United States. Located in a federally recognized food desert, the farm has produced and provided more than 30,000 pounds of organic produce since its inception in March 2010. No less than 10% of this produce has been donated to neighborhood charitable organizations. The rest supports community members, the college, and restaurants and grocers throughout Dallas. In addition to providing fresh, healthy, affordable food options for its surrounding residents, the farm strives to improve communities through the Metroplex by providing hands-on educational experiences for youth and adults alike to promote healthy eating, improved food access, and environmental stewardship."
This is what I have seen in the last few years. Rose, what have you seen that convinces you that gardens have the power to transform the world?
ROSE: Well, I've traveled a lot, not only in the United States but internationally. And gardens are a thing. And I think work like what Ron Finley is doing with the sort of radical nature of gardening in public or community spaces is really important. In the time that I've been working with gardens, we've seen the school garden movement just absolutely explode. And, you know, gardens are the first step, right? So you get a school garden and then maybe you get a farm to school program. And you get nutrition education in the classrooms. And so I'm seeing a lot of interest in gardens and a lot of interest in heirloom varieties. Which I find really hopeful in terms of people learning more about biodiversity and environmental health. And also, again, just sort of about food trailways. So I'm seeing a lot of interest in gardening and you know I look, for example, at the master gardener program in the state of California. And there are over 6,000 active master gardeners in California out there working with communities and these classes are packed across the United States. The master gardener classes are just packed. People are hungry for knowledge and people are also seeing gardening as a means of civic engagement. Which I think is absolutely critical and wonderful. It's really collaborative.
ROSE: Well my first item is to get started. And that can be a small action. And I am inspired by the victory garden models of World War OnTwo and World War 2. Not the war part at all, but the gardening part. Gardens were front and center. Everywhere. And so the first action I'd like people to do is to start gardening and to make the garden visible. If you live in an area where you can garden year-round, garden in your front yard. I had, for a long time, a raised bed at the top of my driveway. Start a garden in your school. Start a garden on your median strip. For me, making it visible is not only a way to increase interactions with people about gardening and spark conversations, but it also is a demonstration of your commitment to garden.
KATY: What was the motivation in the World War One and World War Two programs to display your garden? Was it simply just to show that you were doing your part.
ROSE: Yes, it was absolutely. It was to show that you were committed. That you were doing your part. And sort of an acknowledgment of the collective nature of the effort, which was really important.
KATY: So I try to come up with a tip to match every one of our expert's tips. And I am not an expert gardener, as I said earlier in the show, but if you get our newsletter, my community movement challenge this last summer was to go out, right now, or at least sometime in the next week, and find out where your community gardens are already located. Maybe you have to look online. Maybe you have to call your local gardening supply store. Find out where they are, what their address is, and create an event, either just yourself or with your family and friends, and create a community garden walk. Like actually get yourself into a garden. You don't have to do any gardening yet, but get yourself there by walking to your community garden, putting your feet upon that soil. Once you see them and are aware that they are there, maybe they're accepting volunteers or renting plots. You're much more likely to get some growing started.
ROSE: I agree. That's a wonderful way to do it. And the knowledge and the expertise that's resident in community gardens is really helpful for people who might just be starting out gardening.
KATY: And a fun fact here. I live in a retirement community. And it's considered a low mobility area just because of the demographic. But we have low-mobility community gardens. Meaning the whole garden has been scaled up so that you can do it comfortably without needing to bend too much or if they're all wheelchair friendly. So if you are thinking about creating a community garden, remember you can diversify the shape of your community gardens to meet the needs of more people who might want to be coming out there. Ok. Next Tip
ROSE: So my next tip is if you live in a part of the country where outdoor gardening is more challenging during winter months, I actually have two tips within this one tip. One tip is to try container gardening inside. And maybe with herbs and greens and if you're gardening with kids, you can make a windowsill garden. And that's really easy to do. You get a recycled Ziploc bag. Put a bit of moistened soil with maybe some carrot seeds, and then tape it to a sunny window. And that's a really easy thing that you can do. The other thing that for people who are really ambitious, is to pick up a copy of one of Eliot Coleman's books about sort of extending your growing season. And the sort of gardening strategies and how-tos about how to maybe grow three seasons out of the year, even in climates that are colder.
KATY: I like that. We are fortunate to live in this weird microclimate that's got a really long growing season. But there's a couple limitations that I hear people protesting is: one is lack of space. So I think that your tip pertains not even to winter challenges but space challenges, right? I can do all the same things that you just said if space is my issue.
ROSE: Absolutely. Container gardens are absolutely wonderful. And I always have a couple of container gardens going on even though I don't have terrible space constraints. And I think that the pace is a big issue. But you can make a container garden with materials that you probably already have around your home or that you can get at a thrift store or pretty inexpensively. But they're also the containers or gardens are becoming much more high tech and I'm always amazed when I go on to a gardening website to see the sort of vertical tools that have been developed for people to grow vertically and it's really amazing to me what sort of containers are available now to sort of facilitate and help you adapt to small spaces.
KATY: Those are great tips. I was just thinking too. I have a pretty big container garden even though I have lots of space. I use some of my land space. But I just like containers. I can only get tomatoes to grow in this region because I built a small greenhouse made out of trash in the front of my house. And I find that it's easier for me to tend to things where I'm passing them already to get to other places. So my container garden is between me and where my washer and dryer is and between I and my car is. And so it's in a high traffic area and I just end up weeding small bits of time, watering small bits of time. So don't be daunted if you live in an urban setting or don't have lots of space. It's still possible.
ROSE: It is. And in fact, one of the best methods that I've used consistently over the years is the square foot gardening model, which is also a great model to use with kids or if you're in a classroom setting. Where everyone gets a square foot. But one of the things that I've always done with container gardens too is that the scale of it might be that for a child that's learning about responsibility, they can be in charge of a container garden. And that's also a really rewarding exercise for them.
KATY: I could just keep talking about your second tip. My second tip is just, I think there are two hurdles to overcome when it comes to gardening. There's overcoming a lack of knowledge or experience but for many people, of course, I'm not a gardener again and I'm like in a body world, people will say that they can't bend, their hands don't grip very well, their knees hurt. So the idea of gardening, which it is, it's a physical activity, feels out of reach. It's another hurdle to overcome. So I would say to learn some great gardening form. Learn how to lift and carry well. Learn how to bend well. Learn a few hand stretches, how to play with your tools and your tool grip so that your time in the garden is not only nourishing you in the sense of the green space and the food that might come forth from it, but also your body is being moved well while you're doing it. I wrote a couple articles on this and I will put them into the show notes including a kind of general how to bend well using more of your hips and less of your spine and knees. I will link to that so you can go practice it later. Rose, what's your final tip?
ROSE: I'm going to come back to something that you said which is a really critical point which is that a challenge for people who want to garden who maybe haven't gardened before is information. And there's a lot of information out there but sometimes it's hard to find. And I really want to encourage people who are interested in gardening, wherever they live, to visit their extension master gardener website. There is an extension master gardener program in every state and it's even gone international now. And this was a program, it starts out at the USDA, it's managed by the Land Grant University in every state. And it sort of rose up as a result of the environmental movement. It actually started in Washington State in 1972 and just caught on fire across the United States. And you will find the best gardening information for your region, your climate, your considerations and it's science-based. It's really, really wonderful. The websites are packed full of information. And then the master gardener programs also do helplines. They do events in communities at nurseries, at farmers markets to provide information and absolutely wonderful programs. And then the tip within that tip is that if you have kids and you want to garden with kids, I really encourage you to run over to the Junior Master Gardener website. And the junior master gardener program is one of my dear friends at Texas A&M University. It's an international program. And they have got books and tips and all sorts of things for gardening with kids. An absolutely wonderful website.
KATY: I guess my tip is somewhat similar although there's less of a system behind it. And it's just find a mentor. It doesn't have to be anyone who is a master or you don't only have to have a master gardener. I have found for me - so I would say I probably mentor a movement for many of you listening, but when it comes to all the other things that I want to do, I need someone who is already doing it better than me, more than me. And it doesn't have to be the person that's doing it the best, it just needs to be someone who has some experience or some tidbit that I can physically participate in. So when I say find a mentor, I usually mean that as a little bit different than finding an expert. Because a mentor is usually someone who you can move shoulder to shoulder with because sometimes when a person is doing the thing that they've figured out how to do and then they write about it, they're leaving out steps that they might not even realize they're doing. So I've just found through great neighbors. I have a neighbor and I swear she's a master gardener. She says she's not. She says she's just learned through trial and error. But she'll always come over and she's maybe 5 years older than me but she kind of talks with the wisdom of a person who’s 107. I've found a bunch of winter squash plants that were already on the half dead but I got them for almost no money at our local farm store. So I was like, I'm going to throw these in the ground. And she walks by and she's like, "Oh, squash hate wet feet." And I was like, it was just a little line of wisdom. And squash hate wet feet is way easier for my brain to grasp a hold of than to try to memorize all the things that plants need. So there's something to this just casual interaction. I mean it's not a parable by any means, but there's ... they're like memes. They're almost like memes. So I have found that learning for me has definitely been a hybrid of reading the books and the texts and then having someone else filter five simple lines. And then if you have a community of people that each have their own version of "squash hate wet feet" then pretty soon I have this kind of strange reference system in my own head about what to water and what not to water. So find a mentor or seven who are all doing something slightly different in your area and see what happens.
ROSE: I think that is absolutely great. I learn more from other gardeners. It's amazing. And people come from different regions and different cultural traditions and people will also start giving you seeds, which is wonderful.
KATY: And just talking. If you are friends or you build friendships with various people then I might not have to remember my chart of what to plant. I have two friends who are gardening and they'll be like, "Hey did you get your garlic in the ground." And I'm like, "Oh right, garlic, it's got to be there in November. I totally forgot." But they did it. And so it's just these casual lifestyle reminders that fit into the flow of life. And so, just like I have recently friended a fisherman who is going to start taking me out, friend some gardeners and just see what happens. Well, Rose, I really appreciate you coming on. Is there anything else? Any other bits of wisdom or memes you would like to share with us before you go?
ROSE: Well you know if your library has a copy of my book, please go grab it. It's really an interesting book. It's got a lot - it's not purely history. It's also got my kind of seven political planks about gardening and the food system in there. And another thing, too, that is in there that I think is pretty relevant right now, is I have a whole section on poster art and those wonderful, incredible food posters of World War One and World War Two and propaganda. The propaganda that was used to promote gardening in World War One and World War Two was positive for the most part. But it's really interesting to learn more about those posters. Probably you've seen those posters online and to learn more about the history of those posters, like the food commandments poster, is really fascinating.
KATY: You know this book is such a great book if you homeschool especially. I mean it's great for anyone but if you are thinking about trying to do a food unit on the history of food. There's so much nutrition and that's fine. But this is a whole different perspective. It's to really understand the food system and how we got to where we are today but there's this poster: Food: 1) Buy it with thought, 2) Cook it with care, 3) use less wheat and meat, 4) buy local foods, 5) serve just enough, 6) use what is left. And it just ends or concludes
with "don't waste it." And this is from 1919. And when we talk about what we're spending money on as far as trying to get education across and figure out what's the best parameters, these simple guidelines have been around for so long and I don't know if we necessarily need to produce more guidelines or we just need to start heeding the ones that we have. And I think that that change, that personal change in behavior is so much more challenging than a call for just, "well do we really need to buy it with thought? Let's just do more research on what thoughtful buying does." I feel like we're in that loop of just wanting something that maybe is never coming that really mandates that we make certain or better choices for the food system and for all. So anyway, I highly recommend it. You can find more about Rose Hayden-Smith at UCFoodObserver.com or on Facebook and Twitter. @UCFoodobserver. And you can find Rose's book: Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs During World War 1 at your local library. And if it's a keeper for you, buy a copy from Mcfarland who is the publisher. I love buying from the publisher. Or of course, you can probably find it on Amazon.
KATY: Thanks for being a guest!
ROSE: Thanks so much for having me. I look forward to talking again. And happy gardening.
I hope you all get a chance to check out Rose’s work, and to start a little … how about "The Time is Now” Garden of your own.
Grow Your Own Movement
I want to begin this essay, which is about getting exercise in the garden, by stressing that the idea of getting fit in the garden needs to take a back seat to the ideas fashioned and championed by Ron Finley, of the Ron Finley Project. Ron Finley has a new “Master Class” being advertised on YouTube (anyone? anyone know what YouTube is?) and I recommend checking it out. It's all about how easy it is to get started growing something. His work specifically addresses those whose socioeconomic environment is a barrier to basic nutrition, fresh, nourishing food, actual gardening space and knowledge of how to produce food autonomously. I encourage everyone to watch the film Can You Dig This featuring the Ron Finley Project to get an idea of the impact that growing things can have on a community, to donate to the project if you're able , and to follow Ron Finley and the RFP on social media.
With Ron Finley’s approach and ideas in the front seat, I, sitting in the back seat, believe it’s also essential to point out that the dietary nutrients every body requires can be stacked, permaculture-style, with the movement nutrients we also all require if we just “grow some $#it” (as suggested by Ron Finley himself). Gardening is a solution to a lack of nutrition and a lack of movement. Two birds, one stone, do you get what I am saying? I can imagine you nodding your head right now. Good, thanks. These days, many think of movement as a sort of penance for having eaten. It's a way to get rid of the food we’ve ingested. But what if we flip that notion on its head and see how movement is the way to get food? Movement (the stuff we require) is what MAKES the food we need. Right now a lot of that movement is outsourced to farmers, laborers, and machinery, and we can reclaim some of that movement. We can develop a new relationship that frames both food and movement as positives.
So garden moves (these movements found in community gardens, container and patio gardens, kids’ gardens, indoor gardens, and backyard gardens) are squats, bends, pulls, lifts, carries, and smaller movements like picking, shelling, and separating, that, in the end, are converted into food. (And P.S. If you’re more of a flower gardener, then you’re still feeding pollinators, who in turn help feed all of us - so it's the same deal!) The garden is an excellent personal trainer. And if you're giving the garden everything it needs, you can’t help but cross-train.
Do you wish that you could grow something but feel your body is too stiff or sore to get started? I understand completely, and this is really why I do what I do. I like to show how we can use movement to target areas that don’t move well. It’s a bonus when you can relate opening up of a new part of your body to opening up an experience you’d like to have; like how stretching your calf muscles can get you bending your knees in the garden with ease. I also have many friends and farmers who feel the aches and pains after a day in the garden. And even after all that movement, they still ask me for specific corrective moves to ease a spot here or there. I have videos of some moves in the blog version of this article, and you can find them in the show notes of this episode.
Once you've learned to stack food with movement, you can add a third nutrient that I call “Vitamin Community.” Adding friends to your growing time meets another human need for what I’ll quickly sum up as togetherness. You can read more on that in Movement Matters. Join others already growing or gleaning and stack your social and/or your volunteering time with your garden moves. Invite others to come work with you, or ask someone else if you can help. We have local farmers here who throw weeding parties, where they provide lunch and a green space for the kids to play in their group while the grownups catch up, and talk about local issues, and just hang out, getting our nature time - all while weeding (and did I mention - There’s always weeding?). This is different than spreading weeding moves over a body, as using different positions and tools will do. This way of sharing the weeding work spreads the weeding moves over a greater number of the bodies that will benefit from the harvest. That's like six birds with one stone, which, yes, is a good shot but it's also sort of gruesome. So, I’m gonna stick to the idea of #movementpermaculture instead. Thanks.
Not every day can be group gardening day, so if you're worried about being lonely out there, take me with you! Listen to more Move Your DNA podcast episodes or any of my three audiobooks because there is going to be weeding, friends. I’m just saying. There’s going to be weeding for sure.
Next, these are some tips for keeping your body feeling good while you’re doing your gardening work. And they’re from an article I wrote for Experience Life Magazine called Cross Training in the Garden.
Tip one: Alternate your tasks. Do five minutes of weeding, and then five minutes of watering, and then five minutes of pruning, and so on, cycling through tasks so you’re not in the same body shape for too long. So, it's like circuit training, but with dirt.
Tip Two: Change your position during tasks. You know those stretches you struggle to fit into your day or those yoga poses you’d love to see off the mat? Try squatting, or straddle standing, lunging or v-sitting while you’re weeding.
Tip Three: Mix up your grip. Hold the trowel with the other hand, or reverse the way you stack your hands when you're shoveling, to strengthen yourself on the left and the right. Yes, the job feels and might even be less efficient, but in the larger picture, it’s not that efficient to work one side of your body a lot more than the other.
Tip Four: Use different tools for the same job. If you’re digging up a new bed, switch between a large shovel and a small trowel. The task you’re completing is the same, but you’ll be using different parts of your body in different ways, so you’re less likely to get fatigued in one area.
Tip Five: Carry stuff. Carry water in buckets, or haul your loads of plants, sod, compost, etc., in your arms. And sure, one wheelbarrow trip can make it easier. Which is another way of saying one wheelbarrow trip can use less movement to bring a load, but if the load’s too big for your arms, try taking more trips across the yard before you resort to a wheelbarrow. And speaking of those trips ...
Tip Six: Vary your carry. Always hold on one side of your body? You need to MIX IT UP. (And I’m not only talking fertilizer.)
Tip Seven: Find your hips. No matter what you’ve heard, bending at the spine is fine. But only being able to bend from the spine, not having much movement at the hips and doing lots of repetitive spine-bending can leave you feeling achy. To say this another way, you want to make sure that your lower back isn't the only tool that you have in your gardening toolbox. Go to the show notes, check out this embedded YouTube video that has a quick bending form makeover for more butt, more hips, more posterior side of your body and less back use.
Tip Eight: Vary your landscape. Grow some tall things. Go for some seven foot pea varieties to naturally fit in stretching and reaching sessions as you set up trellises, prune, or harvest. And again, I'm gonna jump outside of the article to say that when you're setting up a garden trying to grow movement you're gonna want a lot of different plant shapes because each one of those plant shapes moves you uniquely. So I like to look for tall things. And we're trying to figure out what other tall things could we grow just to add in the reaching. And we came up with taller plant ideas where those plants wouldn't have necessarily made it into the garden if we weren't thinking about not only the dietary nutrients from our garden but the mechanical ones as well.
Tip nine: Don’t let gardening be your only movement for the day. One of the reasons many get stiff after a day in the garden is that it's our one long, dynamic movement session per week. See if you can incorporate more movement throughout your life. Add small walks throughout the day - walk part of the way to work or to grab your morning coffee. Sit on the floor more often (rather than on the furniture) to keep your hips and knees supple throughout the week, and carry more items to keep your arms strong enough to schlep soil.
Tip ten: Invite your friends to help! Adding a bit of community is my favorite way to cross-train, because it broadens the impact of my movement beyond my personal physical benefits. Now my movement is social time! And I’m not only spreading my toes in the dirt, I’m spreading the love. And, eventually, the zucchini.
Today's show closes with an essay taken from the Food Moves section of my award-winning book Movement Matters: Essays on Movement Science, Movement Ecology, and The Nature of Movement.
Although we’ve been able to outsource the work necessary to meet some of our biological needs, we haven’t been able to outsource all of it. Because humans evolved performing the same general movements at the same general frequencies for thousands of years, and because these movements are part of what determines and maintains our structure, these general, traditional movements could be considered an essential part of our anatomy, in that our bodies would be different without them. Movement is a renewable resource, but unlike other commodities, it renews through use; your future movement is made possible by movements you’re doing today. And so, as we spend less and less of our movement on our personal food consumption, we are essentially spending tomorrow’s movement on the luxury of being still today. In five, ten, or twenty years, if you decide you want to start moving more for your health or happiness, you may find that your knees no longer feel good when you climb hills, that your hips creak and protest when you walk, that your feet can’t support you without increasingly structured shoes. And even if you’ve spent your food-procuring movement on non-food movements, someone, somewhere, is doing the movements necessary to make your food, or fueling the machines that do the work, or cutting the forests or mining the earth to make the machines or fuel. The privilege of being able to outsource essential movements for preferred ones creates a burden on others and on the planet. We’ve been told we can vote with our dollars to support more ethical business practices, but what if we also performed simple movements to consume less overall? When you move your body more, directly for your food, it not only serves your own body but also makes you, personally, less of a contributor to the problems of unnecessary oil consumption, slave labor, mistreatment of farm workers, production of unnecessary items, and the destruction of the planet. Our historical outsourcing of movement over and over again for hundreds of years has led us to where we are right now with respect to the amount of movement you and I need to do in order to eat. Where we once spent hours each day exchanging the movements involved in walking, running, bending, squatting, carrying, pounding, rubbing, lifting, digging, and mashing for a day’s worth of calories, we spend almost no movement (and lots of money on fuel) to drive to a store and wander the aisles to buy overly packaged food—foraged, planted, picked, dug, processed, and flown or driven there by other people. One could argue that movement for food is no longer essential, but I guess that depends on your definition of essential. You have an eating requirement, you have a movement requirement, and you have a requirement not to place copious work on others in your tribe if you want that tribe to succeed—after all, their success is also yours. You have a need, one could say, to pull your own weight when it comes to food. I’m not saying you have to give up your coconut flour and almond milk, but what if you looked at engaging with your food mechanically as a way to not only increase your movement but also decrease your reliance on electricity or the food industry, even if only in a small way? You can grow some of your own food (it’s hard to be still in a garden) or forage, even just a tiny bit. Buying nuts in their shells and spending an hour or so sitting on the ground (or squatting) to crack them open with rocks is a movement- filled lesson in “how food grows” for little ones. Swap out one electrical device for an old-fashioned equivalent where no electricity is needed! Not because you’re a Luddite, but because you’ve listed “move more” and “consume less fossil fuel” as goals. (Somebody’s grandmother used to beat egg whites into a meringue with a fork. You gonna get whipped by somebody’s grandmother because your arms get too tired?) Walk to the local grocery store (do I have to say “bring your own bags”?) or learn how to butcher your own meat, make your own jerky, fruit leather, wine, beer, or bread. Pick your own vegetables. Lay your own eggs. Just kidding about the eggs. Or you can do none of these things. Simply learning to recognize your own choices in the matter and to see how you relate to the bigger picture can be impactful. Awareness, after all, is its own nutrient.
Again that was the essay Kitchen Movement from my book Movement Matters which, I'm sort of bragging now, won an indie gold award for best essays in 2017. You can find the book on Audible.com and the paperback on my website or wherever fine books are sold.
Thanks everyone - for spending a little time with me today—we covered a lot of ground. You get it? I can see you nodding. Until next time, friends, GROW SOMETHING, even if it’s just an intention.
This has been Move Your DNA with Katy Bowman, a podcast about movement. Hopefully you find the general information in this podcast informative and helpful. But it is not intended to replace medical advise and should not be used as such.