John’s Personal Blog- April 2015

Hello My Friends!


April is, well, April. It is getting hotter and I can spend less time outdoors because of the weather. I know that people in the temperate climates feel exactly the opposite- they can now go outdoors after being locked up inside all winter. I would love to trade places with them! April is all about transitions, transitions!

I have had a lot of book events this month, around 10, and the stories that people love to share with me all follow a similar theme- how food gardens connect them to their youth, to memories of loved ones and to a better way of living. There are few things that connect humanity together like food does. I have several book events in and around my hometown next month, something that makes me enormously pleased. How wonderful it will be to spend time with friends I have never met, who share so many of the same experiences that I have, who feel like I do about sustainable food growing and who want to make the world a better place for those who will come after them. Although they hold admiration for me because I did research and wrote a book about it, the truth is that they are my heroes because they are really living it in their communities!

I was at Walt Disney World this past week! I was asked to come to Disney to give a talk about urban food gardens and their value. Before the talk, I was invited to participate in a purple martin (a migratory bird) banding effort that was being done on the Disney backlot. It was amazing to touch birds that spent half of the year in the Amazon before they returned to Orlando to breed. As birds were captured and banded, they were checked for health. Then, excited volunteers were allowed to turn them loose. It was thrilling! But, equally exciting was the commitment to the health and welfare of these and other birds on Disney property. It didn’t stop there.

While touring the Flower and Garden Festival displays, I saw a definite and profound change in focus. The last time I had been there, perhaps a decade ago, the displays contained an uncountable number of inedible flowers and decorative plants. Food plants were rare, except those that were bred exclusively for show but were of questionable palatability. This time, food plants shared the stage, reflecting the shift in society’s interest in local food production and acceptance of community gardens. These food plants were no less showy than their flower garden rivals! There were giant artichoke plants with large, purple thistle-like flowers and silvery pointed leaves that shimmered in the sunlight. There were large leaf lettuces and Swiss chard with beautifully-colored and ruffled leaves. Tasseled corn plants bolted from containers and sweet potato vines flowed from urns. It didn’t stop there. Even “The Land”, the ride through Disney’s greenhouse research center, had changed. It now features a broader range of native food plants, heirloom varieties and edible flowers than ever before. Urban agriculture is returning to us and the new incarnation is stunningly beautiful!

As I mention in my book, change always happens. What is important is how that change is guided so that our children and the generation after them will have everything they need to live. I have to say, I am encouraged by this change!

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